Gregory Jantz, Ph.D.
Originally posted 4/21/14
As a professional counselor, you commit every day to being at your very best for your clients. That requires energy, focus, proper rest, time for professional reading, and time to complete continuing education. It’s a big commitment to be at the top of your game, every day, as you work with those who put their trust in you.
It is not uncommon for the pressures of your job – not to mention daily life stressors – to wear on you. No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to get your energy back, can’t seem to get your focus…can’t find your “mojo” that used to define your excellence. You may even begin to exhibit some of the challenges characteristic of your clients.
As you look at the growing industry of counseling and the likely increase in stressors that will accompany it, it is important to ask yourself: What can I do to ensure I keep my energy and focus, keep my life in balance, and stay abreast with the latest counseling research and techniques?
In short, how can you continue to deliver world-class service for those who entrust their lives to you?
Here are five tips to help you manage the daily stressors of working in the mental health field:
1. Undergo a technology audit.
Let’s start with the foundation of your business. If you get bogged down in inefficiencies – can’t locate notes, scattered records, sloppy bookkeeping, sticky-notes everywhere, lack of follow up on outstanding invoices – you will grind your business to a halt before you ever get the chance to take advantage of your growth opportunities.
Speak with a technology professional about ways you can easily and painlessly upgrade your technology. They can provide options for you that meet your requirements and budget. A one-hour consult is frequently free and upgraded systems frequently come with training, if needed. The end result should be a more professional appearance and interaction with your clients, and more free time for you and your staff to do what you do best – provide quality care!
2. Invest in CEUs and professional events for learning and networking.
Continuing education not only helps you maintain your licensing requirements, it also provides the professional stimulation you need to expand your services, your insight, and your industry vocabulary. It encourages professional engagement with fellow colleagues, which breeds a healthy mix of professional-social conversations, promoting business development and cultivating your social/professional network.
When was the last time you went to a conference? How about a local half-day event that provided CEUs? Sure, they can be expensive and time consuming, but many are available that should fit nicely with your budget and schedule. When you attend, bring quality business cards and pass them out to reinforce a meaningful conversation. At an event, be positive and energetic; convey the professionalism and personal quality that defines you and your business. Why not consider attending AACC’s upcoming National Christian Counseling Conference this year?
3. Consider a counselor-specific wellness retreat/program.
Now that you have given a fresh look at some of the fundamentals of your business, begin turning inward. Have the years of dealing with deep, intense issues begun to sap your personal energy? Are you more and more negative and cynical? Are you withdrawing from your spouse, your children, your friends? Maybe you’ve begun to drink too much, or even take too many prescription medications. Or maybe you just lose yourself in work, never slowing down to enjoy the relationships in your life.
Do you know there are highly respected facilities that offer programs designed specifically for professional counselors? Our facility, The Center • A Place of HOPE, in Edmonds, Washington is one of them, for example.
Professional wellness programs enable you to take a full week (or more) away from your personal and professional environment, providing an exclusive opportunity for rejuvenation, revitalization, and spiritual growth. You work with highly qualified peers in your industry, discussing and collaborating on new techniques and procedures. Many facilities, like ours, offer CEUs. Finally, you receive private, individualized care for personal issues you identify prior to your arrival.
You leave refreshed, renewed, invigorated with new learnings and techniques, and reenergized for the next phase of your career.
4. Develop a personal wellness program of diet, proper sleep and exercise.
One of the elements we focus on at our facility in our “whole person” approach is diet, fitness and nutrition. While most of us can diagnose and recommend a better diet and fitness regimen for our clients, many of us do not inculcate our own advice into our daily lives.
A personal favorite resource of mine is the Clean Program from Dr. Alejandro Junger, but there are many good options. Take the time to discuss your wellness program with a professional. Make a plan. Stick with it. Feel great. Do good for your clients!
5. Commit to maintaining balance with your social and family relationships.
The final portion of this “healing the healer” message is to invest in your personal relationships. Some of us do a great job with this, others neglect these relationships in deference to their work. But eventually, the deterioration of relationships can have a devastating effect on your ability to deliver premium care for our clients.
Do you have children? Make it to their special events, as many as you absolutely can attend. Are you married or seriously involved in a relationship? Do little things that show you have taken the time and/or creativity to do something special for them. Do you have good friends with whom you haven’t spent time in a while, or even talked on the phone? Call one a day for the next two weeks during the drive home.
Put the special events in your life on your personal calendar and plan your work around them. Schedule time for a weekend get away with the kids, your spouse, or a friend.
Our industry needs great healers now more than ever. Don’t hesitate to get yourself in the best “shape” of your professional life this year and not just take on the challenge—but take your game to a whole new level by implementing these steps!
“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11).
Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center, a leading treatment center in Edmonds, Washington. He is a world-recognized expert and innovator in the treatment of behavioral disorders and addictions. He is also a leading mental health psychologist, focusing on his renowned whole-person care approach to treatment. His facility is recognized as the #1 Treatment Center for Depression in the U.S.
This article, Throwback Thursday: Healing the Healer: Managing the Daily Stressors of Counseling, first appeared on American Association of Christian Counselors.