Counsellors are certain to be familiar with the ailments caused by stress and burnout. These increasingly pervasive issues can play significantly negative roles in lives, prompting individuals to seek help. When offering support to clients, counsellors are likely to encourage breaks, reducing the obligations and lessening the pressures being experienced, enabling individuals to care for themselves more effectively.
An issue, however, arises when counsellors feel unable to take their own advice. There are a number of factors that can lead to becoming overwhelmed or burned out within a professional counselling environment, especially since there tends toward an inclination to place other’s potential needs over one’s own.
It may seem difficult to step away from a role within mental health support. Often professionals experience a sense of obligations that arises from the sensitivity of their client’s circumstances or the progress that has been made. However, it is possible. And, it is important.
Here are the essential steps to take when establishing and taking time off from your role as a mental health professional.
Inform Clients In Advance
It is fundamentally important that clients are notified of any planned absence as far in advance as possible. This can be done via digital communication but is best addressed, or at least followed up, with a face-to-face conversation so as to properly measure the client’s response.
In addition to notice, it is also important to remind clients where necessary. This should be done incrementally, making note of your upcoming break every few weeks.
Setting up an out of office auto-responder is remarkably helpful. It serves to remind clients who may have forgotten your planned break and can assure them that their communication has nonetheless been received. Additionally, out of office responses can also contain information and contact details of other services.
For example, if you feel that there might be a degree of risk in your absence or that a client might require emergency support, the information of established support centres and initiatives can be shared. Depending on the circumstances, it may also be useful to establish the situation with such other support services in advance, making them aware of why they might be contacted. See here for a list of crisis helplines that you can share with your clients if appropriate.
Address Open Responsibilities
Being able to temporarily step away from a professional role necessitates the tasks to be completed. If responsibilities are left open, such as invoicing or scheduling, it can not only prevent a mind from being able to switch off but it can also lead to issues in the workplace, leading to a sense of dread when returning. Be sure to establish time prior to absence that is entirely dedicated to addressing tasks.
Disconnect From Your Role
Physically stepping away from the workplace is no longer enough to distantiate from a professional role. To be able to take care of yourself and truly take a break, all forms of contact must be shut down. This eliminates both the possibility that your time away might be interrupted by an email or phone call and deters the curiosity you might experience leading you to check in on clients or responsibilities.
Know The Value
You may find yourself, even with the understanding of suitable protocol, unable to feel comfortable when taking a break. However, it is essential to remember that one cannot support others without supporting themselves. Making time for your own self-care as a mental health professional is necessary to the wellbeing of your clients, ensuring that the support and advice you provide is offered from a place of health, compassion, and measured insight.
If you or someone you know is struggling, get in touch. We work with mental health professionals in all sectors and we’re here to help.