Compassion burnout in therapy

This is an interesting area that I have wanted to write about for a long time and involves a lot of stuff around self-care as a therapist. As well as working as therapist I am also a mental health nurse and have personally experienced compassion burn out during my working life. I feel this is a very common phenomenon that occurs when working with people so I thought I would write about some common tips and strategies that could prove to be useful to someone experiencing this. Common symptoms can be feelings of being despondent, increased anxiety and increased negativity.

  • Enlightened self interest: This is a big one. It is OK to put your needs before others. You can not provide adequate care and therapy if your personal needs are not met. It is very easy to portray this to clients and something that we do regularly, but it can be something that is very hard to practice ourselves.

  • Have supervision: This is important as a therapist. I have found having a supervisor that I see monthly to be beneficial as it gives me an objective standpoint when working with difficult cases and giving me the confidence to know that the treatment plan that I have is working or not.

  • Get a hobby: This was said to me in my first lecture during therapy training and I stand by it. Having a hobby comes under the category of self-care in a big way and it is important that it is invested in and this could be anything. There have been some studies that artistic pursuits and craft activities have been linked to having the same effect as mindfulness meditation.

  • Self hypnosis or mindfulness: Having a self hypnosis and/or a mindfulness practice can prove to be very beneficial for maintaining one's psychological health and will allow the therapist to replenish their energy.

  • Boundaries: Boundaries are essential to have ideal psychological health and to limit the effects of compassion burnout. We need time away from clients and therapy work to spend with loved ones and even if we are passionate about our work having that time away can be very helpful.

  • Expectations with clients: Not all clients will get better, this is a fact. You can lead a horse to water but can not make it drink. Keeping the expectations realistic when working with clients is helpful. Please do not get me wrong it is important to keep a positive outlook when working with clients but ultimately the client is responsible for their emotional well being and we as therapists give them the tools to do this.

This is only scratching the surface of the topic but I hope this proves to be helpful.

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