As we have been exploring how to help clients stay resourced over the holidays, it is also important, as therapists, to stay resourced also. It is easy in this profession to forget about one’s own needs but still expect our client’s to maintain theirs. Listening and working with client’s issues and traumas all day long, can take a toll on one’s own psyche… emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.
As EMDR therapists, we work with trauma states verbally and non-verbally, which sometimes can be exhausting if we are not aware of our own energy levels. It is important to recognize if you are under stress in your own life and acknowledge and work with it consciously to stay grounded and present. Containing one’s own issues as a therapist is a critical skill to be able to be “present” for your client. Some therapists find that they start “checking out” during sessions because they become bored, distracted, anxious, irritated, etc. Containment is a skill that must be practiced and maintained during sessions and deal with the stressors at a more appropriate time.
You might be just fine in your life, but end the day after seeing clients feeling very stressed, overwhelmed and too attached to your client’s issues or traumas. If this persists, you might be experiencing secondary PTSD symptoms, where the client’s traumas are traumatizing you. This is very common in trauma work and needs to be recognized as quickly as possible to be dealt with. If gone unchecked, it can lead to many symptoms that can lead a therapist to feel burned out and not wanting to do therapy any longer.
Here are some signs that you might be stressed or having secondary PTSD symptoms:
· Having trouble falling asleep
· Trouble staying asleep
· Having trouble waking up.
· Turning to substances to not feel
· Feeling disconnected from work
· Feeling disconnected from client’s issues
· Bored during sessions
· Anxious during sessions
· Impatient with the process
· Feeling overwhelmed by client’s issues
· Can’t “turn off” client’s issues once they are out of your office
· Isolating from friends – can’t listen to their problems
· Feel like can’t keep up with basic routines
Having a Self-Care plan is essential in order to maintain balance in your health emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. It is also important if you are feeling burned out, to stop and come up with a plan to rejuvenate in order to not have full blown burn out. Here are some ideas to think about:
· Start meditating
· Start a gratitude journal
· Find your favorite way to exercise: walking, biking, hiking, lifting weights
· Take dance classes
· Take an art class
· Time some personal time off from your practice
· Get into therapy
· Get into a consultation group
· Find what brings you joy
Knowing that the holidays can be stressful for many people, as therapists, we are not immune to the letting go of self-care and letting the stress run our lives. Take a moment to check in — how are you doing today? Do you need more personal time? If you say yes, then give yourself one of the best gifts ever this year: Take time to take care of YOU