burnout

Strategies for Self-Care: Scheduling Intention

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Self-care is a word we hear a lot in our industry, not just for clients but for professionals as well. How does one define self-care? Is it true that we need to implement self- care in order to prevent burnout? To better understand fatigue, burnout, and the concept of self-care, let’s take a closer look at each of these elements and how they contribute to wellness.

 

Symptoms requiring Self-Care

For many professionals, self-care becomes something to explore when functioning declines. Our clients come to us because their lives are being disrupted and self-care may be needed to recover balance. We are our own worst clients in the idea that we can talk about the importance of self-care to others, but don’t always put it into regular practice for ourselves.  The result of limited or absent self-care is burnout, and burnout can be long lasting or pervasive as it spreads beyond our careers into our personal lives and beyond. In order to explore the impact of burnout for ourselves and our clients, we may find the following list helpful (adapted from Vital Hearts).

  • I don’t know how to relax.
  • I feel irritable more than I’d like.
  • I feel disconnected from my emotions.
  • I’ve isolated from my family.
  • Nothing makes me laugh anymore.
  • I take comfort in sweets.
  • I have no energy to listen to my family when I get home.
  • I escape by sleeping more.
  • I have no empathy at the end of my work day.
  • I’m ignoring my relationships.
  • I can’t seem to disconnect from work.
  • I am experiencing more anxiety.
  • I just want to get away sometimes.
  • I’m angry at my clients for asking so much of me.
  • I feel underappreciated.
  • I can’t read or watch the news anymore.
  • I don’t share my work with my friends, they just don’t get it.
  • I don’t socialize with friends much anymore.
  • I feel restless but don’t want to do anything.
  • I have lost confidence in myself.
  • I feel pessimistic as the result of my job.
  • I feel sadness.
  • I feel drained, I have no energy.
  • I feel angry.
  • My health has declined.
  • I feel like nothing I do makes things better.
  • I can’t concentrate.
  • I cry much easier than I used to.
  • My road rage has gotten worse.

For some, the list above starts the conversation about how much and to what degree life has been impacted by factors of our work as helping professionals.  Burnout untreated can lead to long lasting decline in quality of life and connection to others. Burnout can take away the passion of why you do this work. As we struggle to practice what we recommend to others, how do we change our patterns to support reduction of the negative impact of burnout? Below are some action steps.

 

Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP)

Several organizations in Colorado see the importance of self-care, including the Colorado Mental Wellness Network. Selected by the Colorado Mental Wellness Network and endorsed by SAMHSA, the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) is being utilized with various populations to support health and well-being. Colorado Mental Wellness Network supports change through peer to peer connection and wellness education. Through these efforts, they continue to implement WRAP plans within various communities, including those experiencing homelessness and within Department of Human Services caseworkers. What they found was that empowering individuals to notice wellness as well as health decline could support putting self-care into action. Below is an example of a wellness plan that can be used for both professionals and clients to best support their process of identifying and implementing self-care.

 

WRAP

 

Building in Boundaries

In addition to exploring and customizing self-care for meaningful change, boundaries may need to be re-evaluated to prevent burnout. For many helping professionals, long hours, after-hours texts, emails, or calls, client crisis, and urges to help, prevent successful disconnection from work. Technology makes it easy to check work emails 24 hours a day and calls may come in from various parties regarding client care. If there is flexibility to re-evaluate the schedule of work versus home life, it is encouraged. However, the schedule assigned may not be in your control. If this is the case, other means of implementing boundaries may be needed and can include the following:

  • Put an out of office message on email and voicemail to notify others of when you will respond.
  • Separate work and home phones to leave the work phone off during days off.
  • Identify a crisis coverage person to give to clients during vacations or other scheduled absences.
  • Schedule time off in your calendar(s) to support appropriate boundaries.
  • Schedule windows of self-care, even if just for 20 minutes, during your work week.
  • Be concrete with hours for yourself and your clients as to when and how they can reach you.
  • Find self-care you can commit to and put it in the calendar monthly or weekly.

It is with hope that we can create momentum from the talk of self-care into action steps as we continue in our roles as helping professionals. Modeling self-care is both in the benefit of our clients and ourselves as we navigate the busy world of demands in hope of positive change. May we all begin to develop quality self-care in order to find wellness in the path of hard work!

Streamlining Your Business Process: 7 Tips for Private Practice

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A new year has begun! For many mental health professionals, we are resuming our schedules after holiday travel and hoping to start the year off right! What are your goals for the year? Perhaps you want to streamline your paperwork process to maximize time with clients? Or maybe you want to explore a billing support business to stay on top of your insurance claims and expenses? Perhaps you want to transition to only taking private-pay clients so you aren’t required to identify a diagnosis and can work with clients from a different lens? So how do we stay on top of our thriving practice addressing client needs and interventions while still remaining compliant with the more mundane and time-consuming processes of paperwork and billing?  Below are some tips and tricks to consider in maintaining a balance of both organization and time management!

 

Tip #1: Go Paperless

In today’s day and age, technology continues to enhance our processes of organization and time management. Consider going paperless with your client note system to complete paperwork in less time. Companies like SimplePractice, TherapyPartner, and TherapyNotes offer encrypted, protected and thus confidential note systems that can support your client files electronically as well as connect clients to appointment reminder texts and emails and offer billing services to streamline claims submissions and payment.

 

Tip #2: Set a Schedule

When trying to balance your time with clients and stay on top of paperwork demands, it can help to set a schedule.  Setting aside some time daily or weekly to submit your billing not only helps you complete it when the content is fresh in your mind and getting paid in a timely manner, but can assist you with leaving work truly at work, representing a transition ritual from work to home.

 

Tip #3: Use a List

This may seem strange when we’ve just discussed the benefit of going paperless bur having a to-do list where items can be crossed off when completed can be very satisfying. Consider using a planner or notebook that’s with you at all times. For others, consider using your to-do list in your phone where you can set reminders and due dates for completion. In our busy world, it can be hard to keep track of everything so a list that’s accessible from anywhere at any time can help record thoughts and ideas that come up in our daily living.

 

Tip #4: Creating Connections

Staying on top of trainings, webinars, books and other materials can help you streamline your niche and business practices. There any many great materials out there but we especially love Simon Sinek’s Start with Why in discovering what drives us as helping professionals and business owners. Joining an online community for mental health professionals can also be helpful in asking in-the-moment questions about business practices.  We suggest checking out The Private Practice Startup and Building Brilliance as two online communities that offer tips, tricks, and offer access to a community of like-minded individuals.

 

Tip #5: Have a Business Plan

Working as hard as you do, it helps to have a business plan to create a sense of direction. Is your goal to have 20 clients per week consistently? Do you want to expand to include other insurance panels to serve more clients? Perhaps you want to identify a stream of secondary income? By creating and reviewing your business plan on a regular basis, you can check in on both short and long-term goals of being your own business. Templates for creating a business plan can be found online.

 

Tip #6: Have an Accountability Buddy

Even with a business plan, life can sometimes get in the way of tracking where we are headed. Combine that with how private practice can feel isolating at times and we can find ourselves procrastinating or drowning in the details. Connecting with a colleague and identifying one another as our accountability buddy can help hold us to our goals as well as remain connected within our community. Engaging your accountability buddy can help inspire your process, define your goals, brainstorm strategies to achieve those goals, and celebrate your successes along the way.

 

Tip #7: Take Time Off

Being a business owner can take a lot of our time and energy. Don’t forget to take time off to prevent burnout and allow creativity to flow from s different headspace in another environment. We know that being our own business means we can potentially work 24/7 not only in serving clients but the behind-the-scenes responsibilities. Time off can support us in being grounded, compassionate clinicians as well as focused, driven business owners who can enjoy the results of our hard work and remain inspired to continue to serve the populations we value most.

Bolstering Boundaries: Exploring Needs in Community Practice

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She calls at 10pm, he gives you a present, they ask for a hug, she asks for a ride.  How do we navigate the gray area that is clinical practice in community or home settings? Mental health professionals have found several benefits to working with clients in their homes or communities, including more consistent access to resources by meeting clients in alternate settings. Perhaps the client can’t get to an office due to transportation limitations or anxiety preventing them from feeling comfortable in your office? Could the family dynamic be better observed in the home to support current treatment goals?

Boundaries continue to be important in conveying professional roles and limitations to clients, including interaction with their therapist outside of scheduled sessions. Boundaries can look different to each individual, including being physical, such as proximity and touch, or emotional, such as how much we disclose about ourselves to clients in our effort to build rapport. Boundaries are necessary to prevent burnout, which can manifest as fatigue, avoidance, and increased irritability and concern of clients taking advantage of us when boundaries are inconsistent.

 

Self-Exploration

Can you ask yourself how you would respond to the following questions?

  • Do you feel taken advantage of by those you care about?
  • Do you tend to meet other’s needs before your own?
  • Do you say yes to avoid a confrontation?
  • Do you worry about the loss of a relationship if you say no?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you may want to look further at your boundaries and their limits in supporting your well-being. Many mental health professionals are inspired to help and serve others, sometimes at the risk of our own health. It would benefit each of us to explore and strengthen our boundaries to allow the most supportive interaction between us as providers and the clients we serve.

 

Bolstering Boundaries

So how do we navigate implementing boundaries? Has your agency supported you in providing expectations of your role in writing to your client? Does your disclosure statement clearly identify your limits in communication outside of scheduled sessions? Can your voicemail redirect callers after hours to a crisis service? These are just a few examples of boundaries in the mental health workplace that can provide the consistency we are seeking in implementing healthy boundaries with our clients. Just as when we guide clients in developing boundaries of their own, new expectations take work to implement and remain consistent. Anticipate push-back from those who are used to old patterns, as they may struggle to accept the change. Remain firm with new boundaries to allow adjustment and acknowledge any anxiety or fear that can come with implementing new boundaries. Lastly, consider putting boundaries or expectations in writing to discuss with your client so that they may have a copy for future reference and can consider signing a copy for your records.

 

Support from Others

Implementing boundaries can be easier with the support of supervisors, consultants, and colleagues. Consider reaching out for support around implementing boundaries with a client, as many professionals have experienced similar concerns and have had to navigate the discomfort of boundary setting in their own work. Would they take the same steps you are considering when reinforcing boundaries? Can they support you when your feelings of guilt or anxiety attempt to derail the boundaries you’ve created? It can be helpful to share your boundary goals so others can support you and you can do the same for them.  

 

Burnout

Burnout can be the result of poor or unhealthy boundaries. Can you relate to any of the following symptoms of burnout?

  • I don’t know how to relax.
  • My road rage has gotten worse.
  • I feel disconnected from my emotions.
  • I escape into eating sweets.
  • I’m ignoring my relationships.
  • I can’t seem to disconnect from work.
  • I’m self-critical.

These are just a few symptoms of burnout that other professionals have reported as signs of their fatigue and ongoing challenge in the workplace. Boundaries can help address burnout along with communication, exploring your values or what drives you, and creating a wellness plan. The Professional Helper Healing Training: Supporting Boundaries to Prevent Burnout is one training in Denver, CO that supports professionals in these tasks and there are others! For more information, visit us at catalystcounselingpllc.com and search professional workshops.