Some ways to avoid burnout when working as a therapist

 

I’ll briefly mention a few different things that – in my experience – helps with avoiding burnout when working as a therapist.

The obvious one is to reduce the number of clients to a manageable level, and perhaps outsource the non-therapy parts of the process.

Another important factor is which modalities we use. Staying at the story-level tends to create burnout and may also not be the best approach for trauma clients. (I realize that, in some settings, the modalities we use is not a choice.)

It helps to keep the story-level interactions to a minimum and focus on approaches that work on other levels. For instance, dismantling how the mind creates its own experience of the trauma or emotional issue (inquiry, cognitive therapy), somatic work (releasing trauma from the body), energy work (Vortex Healing, Craniosacral etc.), or even heart-centered practices (ho’oponopno, tonglen). Forms of mindfulness can also be helpful if done in a trauma-informed way.

Burnout typically means we are burnt out from having our own emotional issues and struggles with the world (clients and their stories) triggered. This means it’s important for us to notice what’s triggered in us, take it seriously, and address it. Often, there are some recurrent issues which means that taking of these can help us a lot. And it often helps to have someone else facilitating us in identifying and working on these issues.

What type of issues may be triggered in us? It may be unresolved issues brought alive by similar issues in our clients, being overly invested with a helper role and wanting to “fix” the client, not feeling good enough or up to the task, having guilt, sadness, or anxiety come up, or feeling traumatized through exposure to the trauma of the clients (usually because it triggers existing issues in us).

In all of these cases, our own stressful beliefs and emotional issues are triggered by working with clients, the clients do us a favor by helping us see what’s left in us to work on, and the situation requires us to go deeper and address our own issues so we don’t burn out.

One recipe for burnout is to have way too many clients, do everything ourselves, stay at a (stressful) story level with the clients, and not address the issues triggered in ourselves. And a recipe for avoiding burnout is to do the reverse.

There is obviously something else that’s important when it comes to burnout, and that’s our work situation and social and economic factors. If we work for someone else, we may not be able to reduce the number of clients or schedule in enough breaks. We may also not be able to chose which modalities we use (which may mean we are stuck with talk therapy). And if we work independently, the way society is set up and functions may require us to have more clients than we feel is appropriate for financial reasons.

Read More

Mindfulness to deal with burnout?

 
I usually don’t write about mainstream psychology here since it’s covered well many other places. But the topic of burnout has been on my mind lately as I have helped with a thesis on the topic and it illustrates a more general point. In the mindfulness world, mindfulness is sometimes promoted as an antidote to burnout. And that’s true enough. It can certainly help individuals to be more resilient and reduce the chances of burnout. At the same time, mindfulness is an individual solution to a more systemic problem. In most cases of workplace burnout, the problems lies with the structures and the system. It has to do with how the business is organized and operated. It has to do with the owner and management. And beyond that, it has to do with how we have organized ourselves collectively. It has to do with our current social and economic system, and especially the very obvious downsides to neoliberalism. Beyond that again, it has to do with our most basic worldview. We currently have a worldview that separates humans from nature, values the material over the immaterial, the human over rest of life, and too often values profit over people. As individuals we function in a larger social and ecological system, and that’s where most of the causes and solutions to burnout – and a range of other apparently individual problems – lie. Read More