Too much stress from business and work? Here is how counselling teaches work-life balance. Considering taking up a psychology and counselling course? Check out Aventis’s management MSC courses here.
Counselors are also experiencing burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people seek therapy to deal with mental health issues and stress related to employment and family relationships.
Becoming a professional mental health counselor can be a rewarding career. The opportunity to help individuals who struggle with home, life or substance abuse with expressing emotions and correcting behaviors in a healthy way draws many talented minds to the field. However, the profession is known to be demanding, both physically and mentally. Practising long clinical hours with any number of different clients who present myriad issues and symptoms can be draining. The personal nature of the relationship between client and counselor also means that emergency visits will need to be arranged or calls will need to be made when not on the clock.
Counselors must be prepared with strategies to preserve the well-being of their own mental and physical health. It’s important to remember that counsellors are people with families, mortgages, and even struggles of their own. Working counsellors need to make time for their own personal lives and achieve a measure of work-life balance that enables them to maintain a successful clinical life and a healthy home life.
Know the signs of burnout
Burnout is not uncommon among mental health professionals who exhaust their mental, emotional, and physical capacities to care for and treat clients on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, research has found that clinical mental health counselors have lower levels of burnout when compared to other mental health disciplines. Awareness of the signs of burnout, such as lack of desire to go to work, decreased motivation, or increased cynicism, will help counselors establish and maintain healthy habits to prevent deep dissatisfaction that can negatively affect clients, career longevity, and familial relationships.
Becoming distracted by personal problems while in a session with a client—and conversely, wondering about a client’s situation—may social function — may be indicative of an imbalance counselors could lead to eventual burnout as counsellors drain their emotional and empathetic stocks.
Get better at saying no
One of the hardest things about sticking to a schedule is actually saying no to others. Sometimes, counsellors need to be able to say no, which can be particularly challenging when working with clients who struggle with excessive dependency and consequently push boundaries. Conversations with clients that establish clear expectations and roles from the beginning of any counseling relationship are reflective of following best practices. One of the many important benefits of monitoring counselor/client boundaries is the increased likelihood that counselors will remain mindful of personal priorities and self-care. Maintaining a healthy respect for boundaries is an investment in the counselor’s personal and professional life.
Boundaries don’t have to be so rigid as to preclude any sort of room for adapting or scheduling tweaking. Building flexible time into your schedule is a best practice that ensures that time is reserved for you. This flex time can be used as you want or shifted to when it’s needed most.
Exercise or meditate
Counsellors are often the first to advise their clients to practice healthier habits. Counselors are also likely to brush sage advice aside when it comes to their own lives. Taking just 15 to 30 minutes a day to exercise or practice some kind of inward reflection, on the other hand, can have a significant impact on mood improvement. Exercise has the double benefit of helping generate gains in physical as well as mental shape. When out for a run, counselors can get some time alone to prepare for their day or think about something that’s been nagging at them with a clearer mind.
Countless other forms of physical exertion are also possibilities to consider—from more intensive efforts like a spin class to less demanding options like swimming, yoga, taking the stairs, and even posture exercises. It’s important to find a type of sustainable exercise that you enjoy.
Meditation fits in here, as well. Although not necessarily an exercise of physical feats, practising mindfulness meditation’s effects can be just as soothing and positive for counsellors, who may recommend such thoughtfulness to their own clients.
Take a vacation
The evidence clearly shows that limited time off is associated with increased burnout risk. These findings apply to the general workforce as well as to counselors. Counsellors should practice what they preach by taking time off. The importance of time away applies to both counselors in independent private practice and those who are employees.
Counselors must be able to separate work from life. How can there be balance when one continually infringes on the other? Counselors and clients have intimate relationships, and separation may not be easy to handle for either. But, all relationships need a little maintenance, and taking a vacation with family or friends can provide a much-needed respite from the confines of the office, but not necessarily the client.
Have a support network
No one is an island, and working professionals need companionship. Having a support network drawn from all spheres of life (family, friends, colleagues, peers, etc.) will ensure a counsellor has someone to depend on and lean on. Counsellors tapping into their peer network and family relationships can also help guard against the aforementioned burnout. Sometimes, counselors need to be on the other side of the proverbial coin and have someone else listen to their own inner thoughts. These informal, or sometimes formal, arrangements can be healthy avenues for expression that help alleviate the burden counselors face. Counsellors looking to network within the field more should consider joining a professional association. Joining a professional association can expose counselors to new professional opportunities, development and support, and interprofessional collaborators who may engage across societal lines.
Practice time management at the University of Roehampton
Time management is needed throughout the professional life of a counselor and especially when pursuing a graduate degree. The University of Roehampton’s counselling students are familiar with the importance of a proper work-life balance. The majority of the students are successful professionals who work full-time, have family responsibilities, and have decided to earn a graduate degree in counseling from an accredited program. When pursuing advanced education, such as a Master of Arts in Counseling and Psychotherapy, taking time to research which online program is most suited to work-life balance is critical to a long, successful, and satisfying career.
Interested individuals can consider the University of Roehampton’s Master of Arts in Counseling and Psychotherapy when looking for options. Contact an enrollment advisor today to learn more about the programme’s curricula and how they could fit in your professional and personal lives.