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Therapist Self-Care Compassion Fatigue & Secondary Traumatic Stress
Domestic Violence continuing education social worker CEUs

Section 9
Getting Unstuck; Learning
to Heal the Healer

CEU Question 9 | CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Domestic Violence
Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

Q:  I’ve been a therapist at a community mental health center for six years and I feel burned out—tired, unmotivated, questioning my ability to effect change. What should I do?tea Therapist Self Care for Domestic Violence social work continuing ed

A: Before therapists can get control of burnout, they must get control of their attitudes about self-care and self-worth. How many therapists take time to take stock of how well their personal lives are going? Too often, they live life in fast forward, working long hours and nights to accommodate clients’ needs, while ignoring their own. Let’s face it, therapists dispense advice to clients about making time for themselves that they themselves don’t take. So here are some tips on what therapists can do to treat themselves better and avoid or overcome burnout.

Self-Assessment. Take a personal inventory of your risk for burnout. Do you: 1) see multiple clients without taking a break (not even a bathroom break); 2) feel inadequately trained or like you stay with the same old stuff when it doesn’t work; 3) feel isolated; 4) have unrealistic expectations; and 5) put your clients’ needs before your own? And the most important self-assessment question of all, are you happy? If the answer is no, it’s time to determine a course of action by following some of the steps below.

Prepare a Mission Statement
. Many therapists who experience burnout feel as if they’ve lost their way and that nothing they do is good enough. Developing a mission statement that encapsulates the passion and conviction that led you into therapy to begin with can help you rediscover the personal meaning in your work And knowing why you do what you do is a great boost to self-appreciation, self-acknowledgment and self-validation.

For example, after lots of thought about my passion and conviction, I wrote that my mission is: “to promote social justice through consciousness-raising of such issues as race, class, gender, sexual and orientation. Toward this end, I strive to empower clients to be self-knowledgeable, self-accepting and self-loving, so that they can make a claim for themselves in relationships.”

Commit to Self-Care. Recognize the sacredness of taking care of you. Choose something positive that works for you.

Exercise; do mental exercise, such as self-reflection and meditation; have a cup of really good coffee; sit down to breakfast; pay yourself compliments or listen to your favorite music. Center yourself before taking on the challenges of the day. One of the most successful women in America, Oprah Winfrey, doesn’t leave home without feeding her spirit. She watches the sunrise with a cup of her favorite coffee as she contemplates her day. I listen to gospel music as I walk for an hour on my treadmill.
Don’t stay in bed hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock. Get up and take charge of your life. Ask yourself what you would do if you were in love with the most wonderful person in the world—you—and then do it.

Shoulds cause us to lose sight of our own needs. I don’t have an open-door policy at work, although some colleagues think they should. Keeping my door closed lets me focus on my own priorities and give my undivided attention to those I schedule appointments with. The closed door also reminds me of the importance of my own needs.

Another aspect of self-care is quiet time. Every therapist needs intentional silence at least once a day. Close your door for 15 minutes of silence each day. Wiggle your toes and burn a scented candle.

Take regular breaks. If you work on the 50-minute hour, don’t let clients use up your 10-minute transition period writing checks or asking last-minute questions. Ask them to make out checks ahead of time. Or stop 20 minutes before the hour so they can have their 10-minute check-writing ritual and you can have your break.

Make time for lunch. I don’t have a specific lunch time every day, but I plan special lunch dates with “moi.” Having a three-course lunch in a wonderful restaurant is an automatic deposit in my self-worth bank account.

Meditate or pray throughout the day. Take a few minutes to repeat a prayer at your desk or to relax with the soothing image of blue-green water in Aruba and the warmth of the sun. Another way of lightening your mood is to write a letter of self-appreciation or self-affirmations that you can pull out when you need to recharge.

Stay connected with friends. Isolation is a major cause of therapist burnout. Two black female therapists I know in Philadelphia recognized their need for sister-therapist support, given the added stressors of racism and sexism in the workplace, and formed a black women therapist support group. I have a buddy system with a therapist. We call on each other when we’re feeling down on the job or need advice on a given case. Personal connections help you deal with work stress, so it doesn’t become a private hell.

Since men are often socialized to keep silent about their troubles, male therapists might find it more difficult to seek support. Try journaling. It frees you from keeping thoughts and feelings concealed inside of you and connects you to a deeper part of yourself.

Do something special for yourself before you go to bed each night. I end my day with a steaming-hot cup of Earl Grey tea. I associate hot tea with my grandmother and the special feeling of home and love that I got from her, so I go to sleep surrounded by her loving presence.

Structure and organize yourself with a schedule. Create a schedule that helps you manage your time effectively and incorporates self-care into each day. For example, if you see clients at different locations, plan to see those in the same area of town on the same day. That will save you excess physical and mental fatigue and allow you to be more productive.

Burnout leads to unjust relationships. It’s not selfish to make your needs a priority. It’s just. Don’t be afraid to switch the order of your priorities and make you first and the client second. Decide in advance how many nights you’re willing to work. When you’ve filled all those evening hours, refer clients or establish a waiting list. But don’t sacrifice your needs by breaking your own rule.

You deserve a life, too.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.

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Personal Reflection Exercise #2
The preceding section contained information about getting unstuck and learning to heal the healer. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 9
What is the most important self-assessment question? Record the letter of the correct answer the CEU Answer Booklet.

 
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The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
New Law Makes It Easier To Seek Murder Charges For Domestic Violence - July 11, 2017
A domestic violence bill named for a woman who was shot and killed by her boyfriend is now law. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the measure known as Britny's Law on Tuesday.
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A bill in the State Senate rules committee would help families of domestic violence homicide victims seek first degree murder charges.
Human Trafficking In North Carolina - August 11, 2016
North Carolina is among the top 10 states with the highest number of reported human trafficking cases , according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center . Experts say the number of major interstates that cross through the state, the large agricultural population, and the state’s strategic location along the East Coast contribute to the issue. Host Frank Stasio talks with legal experts, victim services advocates, and a law enforcement officer about human trafficking in the state. Victim-services advocates Karen Arias of Western North Carolina Human Trafficking Rapid Response Team and Mamie Adams , coordinator of Working to End Sex Trafficking in North Carolina, discuss the experiences and challenges faced by trafficking survivors in the state. Major Richard Hoffman of the Raleigh Police Department talks about the role of law enforcement in investigating and stopping human trafficking, and his work on trafficking cases. And Caitlin Ryland from Legal Aid of North Carolina talks
‘The State Of Things’ Producer Picks: A Look Back At 2015 With Anita Rao - December 22, 2015
The year is coming to an end, and “The State of Things” staff is taking a moment to reflect on some of the year’s most memorable conversations. Producer Anita Rao’s favorite segments include a conversation commemorating Yusor Abu-Salha , one of the three Muslim students shot and killed in Chapel Hill in February. Rao also chose a piece that explores body image, fat shaming, and the social history of women’s bodies . She also picked a segment that shares the stories of three Latina women who work as house cleaners in Durham , and one that looks at how domestic violence impacted one couple’s life and relationship . She ends the hour talking about a conversation with Avett Brothers’ Cellist Joe Kwon . Host Frank Stasio talks with Producer Anita Rao about her favorite conversations of the year.
Marine Turned Entrepreneur Uses Technology To Reduce Violence - November 30, 2015
This is a rebroadcast of a program that aired earlier this year . CJ Scarlet is an entrepreneur who believes that technology can curb violence. She founded the company 10 for Humanity that aims to use emerging technology to reduce acts of crime and violence by 10 percent in the next decade, starting with the Tiger Eye Sensor , a wearable personal security device that will record video footage and call the police when a wearer yells “help.” Scarlet’s personal and professional experiences have informed the design and implementation of this sensor. She survived multiple assaults in her adolescence and early adulthood and has worked with victims of crime and assault for two decades, as a victims advocate and as the director of victim’s issues at the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office . She is full of unexpected stories, ranging from her experience as a firefighter to her day-to-day life as a photojournalist for the Marine Corps. Host Frank Stasio talks to CJ Scarlet about her life,

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