How Therapists and Counselors can Support their Well-being While Helping Others

Counselors and therapists have all arrived in the field in their own way. Some were drawn to help others because they had an adult in their own life who supported them when they needed it. Others want to be the support person they never had in their own lives. While others were the “go-to” person their friends called during hard times and found it natural to pursue this field.

What is Your Why?

Do you know why you decided to pursue the field of therapy and counseling? Thinking about the answer to this can help you refocus on what motivated you in the first place. However, on the other hand, it could trip you up. Every single person is influenced by their past experiences in both negative and positive ways. 

Thinking about our past can help us gain an understanding of why certain situations activate our own stress response. In other words, this can help you identify your own personal triggers that perhaps you were previously unaware of. It is possible that our stress responses can be activated by events that are completely unrelated to our own histories, such as a patient sharing a horrible experience that they endured.

6 Steps to Creating a Personal Support Plan

The question is how do you respond when your stress response is activated? Establishing a support system for yourself is key. It allows you to self-regulate, so that you can keep on doing the helpful and great work that you do each and every day.  

1 | Create a List

Start by listing two or three things you have observed that activate your stress response. For example, is it a particular situation or place? Starting that list can help you identify what triggers your stress response and helps you become more aware of your own history.

2 | Identify Contacts

Identify two people that you can contact during a time of personal dysregulation. This could be a family member, friend, or even a supervisor. 

3 | List Strategies

Next, list some strategies that you have found to be calming and regulating. Some great examples of brain-based strategies include grounding exercises, taking a walk, participating in a hobby, or using a fidget toy.

4 | Journal It

Briefly journal between sessions with patients or students. Put down the things you are processing. Getting it out on paper can be helpful–even if it is just a minute or two of journaling.

5 | Clinical Supervision

If you don’t already receive it, consider pursuing clinical supervision. Clinical supervision helps ensure that you continue to increase your skills as a counselor or therapist, which in turn increases the effectiveness of your treatments for others.  

6 | Invest in Therapy

Finally, invest in your own therapy. Whether it’s things you need to work through from your past, current personal issues, or the disturbing and upsetting things you hear about from your own patients, talking about it with someone else can help you. 

Key Takeaways

Remember, when you are at your best, you can better help others! Investing time and care into yourself can help you navigate stress in healthier ways so that you are able to more effectively help your patients or students.