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How to Avoid Burnout as a Counsellor

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 5 Nov 2016 | comments*Discuss
Counsellor Therapist Professional Care

Providing on-going counselling support to individuals experiencing emotional issues can be draining and exhaustive, if proper steps are not put into place to equip the counsellor, or therapist, with adequate self-care. Without understanding the importance of these preventative measures a counsellor may experience burnout that impacts on personal and professional wellbeing.

What is Burnout?

The physical and/or emotional and mental collapse that is caused by stress and overwork is what is known as burnout. This pattern of long-term exhaustion is generally experienced by those seeking care, but can also affect men and women providing emotional support in a professional capacity. Burnout can build up along with workload or suddenly impact on an individual who has ignored observational changes that include denial, depression and loss of interest.

Burnout affects physical and emotional energy levels over a pro-longed period of time and also impacts on motivation, behaviour and attitude. It can be caused by personal compulsion to prove you are able to take on a stressful workload and/or by the gradual excessive demands of other people.

Warning Signs

As with any stressful experience burnout builds up gradually, collecting symptoms in the process so may not be an obvious diagnosis when examining work related stress issues. Most often someone suffering from burnout will have put their own needs after the needs of others in order to avoid conflict, self-esteem will be low and a general feeling of disengagement will be present.

Loss of productivity and enthusiasm, confusion over sense of control and mastery, resentment and a general feeling of being disconnected from feelings may also be evident. Hostility towards others, anger, guilt and a feeling of powerlessness will also accompany the autonomy. To finish this off there will also be a loss of joy and a sense that everything is meaningless.

High Risk Professions

Men and women working in the care services provide professional support to individuals experiencing emotional, mental and physical difficulties. Providing this level of constant care is demanding and stressful and can encroach upon the personal life of the professional counsellor or therapist if the updating of adequate support measures is ignored. Those working within the caring professions must understand the importance of self-honesty and be willing to seek support or help when workload and responsibilities become too demanding.

Self Support

To avoid potential burnout it is important to be vigilant with regards to personal emotional care. This can be aided by the setting up of a system of support that includes the understanding of professional colleagues and supervisors and by learning to cope with the symptoms of stress that become obvious.

Improving personal lifestyle choices will also help a counsellor or therapist maintain a balanced work and home life, so that stress is kept to a minimum and workload is managed and reduced. Correcting diet and paying careful attention to nutrition and exercise will also help reduce addictive behaviour and negative habits that feed on stress. Making time to relax, away from the work environment, will also greatly improve mood and wellbeing and help to reduce stress.

Building resilience by learning to focus on smaller tasks that require care and attention will also enable an individual to become absorbed and relaxed so that performance pressure is reduced. By setting positive supportive goals burnout can be avoided and/or healed.

Professional Pick-Me-Ups

A counsellor or therapist can benefit greatly from setting up personal empowerment pick-me-ups that can be used in moments of stress, professional performance pressure and when motivation has all but disappeared. By taking extra care of physical and emotional health a counsellor is more able to introduce minor adjustments when stress increases instead of having to concentrate all emotional focus and effort once burnout is reached.

Nourishing personal creativity, using self massage techniques, enjoying gentle stretching exercises and relaxing regularly will improve energy levels, reduce stress and minimise burnout potential.

Learning to switch off from the demands of professional life when away from counselling clients requires effort but is beneficial to all care givers. Disconnecting from technology, setting boundaries and doing activities that are of personal interest will also enable a counsellor to release workload pressure.

Clear and Clarify

Once a counsellor has experienced burnout it is essential that clarification of job responsibility is re-examined. By updating professional role description a counsellor is more able to maintain a constant level of service that does not impact on personal care responses. Understanding the parameters of the job will also help a counsellor or therapist to set boundaries, increase support resources and leverage their support skills.

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F - Your Question:
Thanks for this advice, I think it's useful even just after having listened to another person where you have put energy into giving them a space to speak. Important to let yourself recover and rejuvenate from this too. Glad to know there is a supportive community of listeners out there.

Our Response:
We're glad the advice has been able to help put things into perspective for you.
TheCounsellorsGuide - 7-Nov-16 @ 2:25 PM
Thanks for this advice, I think it's useful even just after having listened to another person where you have put energy into giving them a space to speak. Important to let yourself recover and rejuvenate from this too. Glad to know there is a supportive community of listeners out there.
F - 5-Nov-16 @ 6:46 PM
Thanks so much for this helpful skills. I'm so glad to find your ssite, the question in my heart before now is " who counsel the counsellor? I can always come here to ask you questions. Thanks
Ay - 26-Aug-16 @ 10:14 PM
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