Being a care provider for those seeking mental health treatment is a rewarding career path. However, like anything worth your time, it is hard work. When you have your own personal struggles, being a pillar of strength for someone else can seem impossible. Just as your clients need help, it is okay for you too. You are only human, which means you will face your fair share of challenges throughout life.
According to the Asian Journal of Psychiatry, “In the current society, people have a common notion that mental health professionals have very strong mental abilities to deal with challenges, so they can’t experience stress, fear, anxiety and depression” …. But, the fact is mental health professionals are also human beings and are not immune to psychiatric illnesses, frustrations, stress, guilt, fear, anxiety, and depression.”
Although it isn’t rare for mental health professionals to have their own struggles, it is crucial to ensure that it doesn’t intrude on client care. While listening to a client, you may find it difficult to separate their problems from your own. You may even want to relate to them by sharing how well you understand them. Your empathetic nature may try to overpower your training.
However, providing effective therapy means offering kindness and support without your own experiences. No matter how personal things get, this is a professional relationship and should remain so. The line between client and care provider can become skewed if you allow your distress to creep into sessions. While you should never ignore your troubles, incorporating them into a professional and delicate relationship is not just unhelpful but unethical.
If your struggles begin to impact your working relationships, not only do you need to take time to focus on yourself, but you may also need to take time away from work. If you become frustrated or impatient with clients, disinterested, or triggered during sessions taking some time away may be your best chance for proper care for you and your client.
As much as you need to put your well-being first, try not to cancel on clients last minute. If you need to change sessions, try to offer as much notice as possible and keep your reasoning vague and straightforward. Let them know you have an unavoidable delay and reschedule or refer your client to a trusted colleague.
Forcing yourself to continue working when in distress could dismantle your bond with your clients. As a therapist or coach, you want to be there for your clients, but you must care for yourself. You can not be available at all hours or at their disposal when you are at your own whits end. You need time to grieve, recover, and focus on your mental health just like anyone else.
When dealing with your own mental health struggles, being a reliable source of guidance for someone else can feel isolating and challenging. You may withdraw from engaging in your work or become overly involved in work to avoid your struggles. Ensuring that your mental health doesn’t impact your clients is vital, but taking care of yourself is just as important, if not more so.
As a mental health professional, there are several ways you can manage your mental health, including:
Bottling up your feelings is common, especially in this profession. Although you most likely know that doing so isn’t practical, offering that advice to someone and taking it yourself can be different. Try to use the coping skills you teach your clients. Make focusing on your mental health a goal. Addressing your problems with loved ones or seeing a therapist is how you work through them. By suppressing your emotions, you are allowing them power over you. That will affect your mood energy levels and even seep into your relationships.
Work through your emotions with meditation or mindfulness. Learn to accept your feelings so that you can begin to cope. Consider, again, taking the advice you give by journaling, exercising, reaching out to loved ones, or using creative activities like art or music as an outlet.
Something you may feel you have no time for is self-care. As a helper, you make taking care of others a priority, but incorporating things you genuinely enjoy into your routine reminds you that you are also a priority. Taking a few minutes each day to focus on something that relaxes you or feels like a positive outlet can help you.
Self-care also means making sure you take care of your physical health. Losing sleep, eating poorly, and not moving your body enough can lead to emotional distress. Nutrition and physical wellness improve your mood and energy levels to help you perform at your highest level.
As a mental health professional, you have to fight the urge to doubt yourself. It is natural to fear that your feelings will impact those around you and make your work life suffer. However, it is essential to accept such emotions as part of life and remind yourself that you can handle them. Just because you may be going through relationship struggles doesn’t mean you can’t help a client going through something similar. Your problems don’t take away from your ability to help.
Doubting yourself only pushes you further into a hole. Trusting yourself, especially in uncertain times, enhances your confidence and improves the experiences that make you good at your job.
As a counselor, you want to ensure you provide your clients with the best care possible. When you are going through your own mental health struggles, it can seem like helping someone else is out of your capabilities. Facing a breakup, loss, or anxiety can pull your attention away from client care and self-care. You may try to ignore your troubles and keep going at your normal pace. Slowing down and taking time to put yourself first is best for you and your client. Try to incorporate the guidance you give clients into your routine. Practice self-care, make nutrition and exercise a priority, and go to therapy. Being a mental health care provider does not make you immune from having your own problems, but it can help you work through them. Here, at SokyaHealth, we provide unique approaches and therapies for mental health concerns and professional coaching. Call us at (877) 840-6956 to learn more.