Preventing Compassion Fatigue and Burnout: Tips for Behavioral Health Providers

“Blessed are those who see beauty where others see nothing.”

 “Caring for others begins with caring for our self.”

While there are many positive aspects to helping others, there are also risks associated with always giving our attention and energy to the consumers we treat. Listening to others as they share their stories, including those involving traumatic and tragic experiences, comes at a cost. That cost can be professional burn out. Burnout is associated with feelings of hopelessness and difficulties in dealing with work or doing your job effectively. It results from secondary exposure to extremely stressful events, i.e., repeatedly hearing stories about the traumatic things that have happened to other people.

As behavioral health providers, we spend all of our professional lives focusing on others and energizing them towards their goals. We too often forget to show the same gentleness and compassion to ourselves. When we ignore our own wellness, everyone we work with is affected. If we are not emotionally well and physically rested, we have less to offer our clients, our friends and our families.

When our needs are not met, we are also even more vulnerable to vicarious trauma and workplace burnout. In other words, the job starts getting the best of us and there is nothing left at the end of the day.

Professional burnout reduces our ability to properly care for clients. We lose out on the gifts of helping others that led us to this field in the first place. With this in mind, set self-care as a priority. In the field of helping others, self-care is not a luxury; self-care is ethically required of all of us.

Self-care is an essential best practice for helping professionals. It includes monitoring these aspects of your professional life and seeking remedies and resources as appropriate.

How can we promote our own overall wellness as helping professionals? Here are questions we must ask of ourselves:

  • How often do we seek out our own therapy? (Every therapist needs a therapist.)
  • What creates stress in our life, and how do we manage that?
  • How often do we care for ourselves physically, and in what ways?
  • How do we care for ourselves emotionally?
  • How often do we connect with friends outside the therapist community?
  • How often do we connect with colleagues for support and consultation?
  • How do we seek out spiritual connections?
  • How do we balance and take breaks throughout the day?

At the end of the day, we know we make a difference. Work to make a difference for yourself each day too. People count on you, so set self-care on your high priority “to do list” every single day.

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