Courage to Tell the Truth

TRUTH

Recently I witnessed one of my closest friends giver her testimony in front of her church. She talked about how she struggled with some things and how God has used that in her life to help others (she is also a therapist). It took a lot of courage for her to be vulnerable, even with people she knew were supportive and loving in her life. I am thankful I was there to support her.

It got me thinking on the way home about some things.

I used to believe that as a therapist I’m supposed to have it all together all the time. We are taught as therapists to have a professional distance from our clients. We are to limit our self-disclosure with clients about our own struggles. While these limitations are certainly helpful and ethical in the professional setting so that we can be objective with our clients,(because there is nothing worse than dumping your own junk onto your clients) there is a danger that this distance can carry over into the rest of our relationships and become a protective façade that we have it all together all the time. In the beginning of my career somewhere I allowed that lie into my life, and learned how to put on a good face, and somehow believed that when I am vulnerable with my emotions that somehow I am weak. I believed that I have to pretend that I have it all together all the time.

 

The truth is, therapists are people who hurt and go through things just like everyone else. I have been seeing my own therapist for almost 8 years now to deal with my own work/life balance, anxieties and times when I’ve hit burnout. The more I meet with people, work with my clients, supervisees and talk to colleagues, I believe now that there is a purpose for our challenges, whether that purpose is revealed to us or not. God will use them to work through us for the good of others and ourselves.

 

It’s never without a purpose. That’s why I believe being vulnerable with others about our struggles is so healing. I could see the hope, joy, and peace in my friend’s face as she took the courage to share, and how the façade came down in her life and she could be vulnerable with others. It was freeing.

 

For more information on being vulnerable, watch Dr. Brene Brown’s Ted talk on her vulnerability research.

My Body Says Slow Down, but my Mind Says Go!

It’s the day after a medical procedure and I’m still recovering. I have some help the day of but then I’m up and driving around the next day. I feel 75% myself, just sore. It’s been difficult to get rest and entertain my kids and get ready for my birthday party next week. And even though I gave everyone at work notice, it seems I still get client calls and messages. My brain got overwhelmed, and I found myself in a mood. You know the one. The one where I NEED to take care of myself physically and mentally but I can’t seem to turn off the thoughts. Thoughts of the to-do’s, thoughts of cases I need to address, and thoughts of the pressure I’ve felt the last few months. The overwhelm had sunken in and I caught myself spreading myself too thin.

How do I stop when my body is saying stop, slow down, but my mind says, go-go-go? I tried all the tricks, avoiding, talking to my hubby, trying to focus on the here and now, and even giving into some of the to do’s. All signs that I need to put on the breaks and re-adjust some parts of my life so that I can take a step back and look at the bigger picture. It’s crunch time. It feels like forever, but it’s not. There will be an end. Boundaries will be set, and space will be made where it needs to be.

It’s time to focus on what’s in front of me, the little people in my life, my faith, and my family. Serving others is most of what I do and there comes a point where it can overtake your life if you’re not paying attention, and I have to pull back some places and set more boundaries. Allow others help, to take over parts of my to do list (or trim it), and allow others to adjust around me rather than myself adjusting to them all the time. It’s a difficult shift for me. I tend to want to please others, and I’m hard on myself when I say no or if I can’t make everyone happy. I allow false guilt to set in if I’m not paying attention to my thoughts. But the truth is, I will never make everyone happy all the time I am not their source of happiness or healing. I am not the answer to all their problems. I am only a vessel that God allows to work through me. Boundaries allow God to work through me and teach others to rely on Him and to open doors for them. Sometimes my saying no and setting boundaries is leaving space for God to work in someone else’s life just as much as giving Him space to work in mine. It’s a freeing experience, really, to say no to something or set a boundary somewhere because it helps guide you to your goals, so you can let go of the things you need to.

What do you need to let go of when you find yourself needing to slow down? Leave a comment below and let’s support each other’s boundaries.

When Passion Shows Up

I’ll never forget the first time I saw play therapy. When my late supervisor allowed me to observe my first play therapy session I fell in love at first sight. It felt right. It felt natural to me and I loved how it worked with where the child was in their development.

 

That session was a pivotal moment for me. It started a passion that motivated me to pursue my career and specialty as a play therapist and play therapist supervisor. I had so much to learn, but it didn’t stop me from moving towards my goals.

 

I had no idea what kind of challenges lay ahead, including difficult work environments, heavy caseloads, and the level of trauma and complex issues that my young clients face with courage.

 

I have non-therapist friends ask me “how do you work with …(place favorite issues here). What I tell people (and myself when I’m faced with challenges of my job) is that yes, but I get to see a child heal from a trauma, connect with their parent, make new friends, learn how to stop being afraid and live a full life. I get to watch people heal and increase their faith in their God and themselves. I get to spend my day alongside young ones who deal with so much they should be too young for.

 

At the end of the day it’s encouraging work. It’s worth it. Some cases are sad. True. I have to constantly balance my work life, and personal life, true. I have to keep my emotions in check sometimes and my support systems close. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it.

 

What’s your passion? What fuels you? Leave a Comment Below about how you found your passion.

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Therapist Self Care as a New Therapist Working with Traumatized Children.

 

An affectionate couple sitting on the beach alongside copyspace during a pretty sunset
An affectionate couple sitting on the beach alongside copyspace during a pretty sunset

I was prompted this week by a situation to share my experience at a time early in my career when I was struggling with burnout. I hope you find it helpful.

 

I began working with children who are traumatized as an intern during my graduate school program in 2005. I was working a full time job at a mental health agency with severe mentally ill adults while attempting to maintain a 20-30 hour a week internship at a domestic violence shelter. I was burning the candle at both ends. Before I knew it I was losing sleep, not eating regularly, and I had constant thoughts about clients I was serving, including a feelings of guilt over a difficult client situation at my job.

 

I didn’t notice it in the beginning. It didn’t start right a way. It was more of a gradual progression of overwork, and attempting to balance everything on my own. I didn’t know how to ask for help. I didn’t understand the signs that I was burning out on my own.

 

I didn’t know what I didn’t know. It wasn’t my fault. I don’t remember it being talked about a lot in my graduate school classes at the time (I hope things have changed). It happened because I was new to the field still, and also because it wasn’t talked about and it had begun to feel almost normal to me.

 

It wasn’t until a supervisor of mine returned from some time off and sat down with me and told me to seek my own therapy that I realized how stressed out I was and that I needed to make some changes. She was kind, honest, and identified the signs that I was burning out. I will never forget that. I will always value that.

 

How did I know I was burning out?

 

  • Less sleep
  • Constant thoughts and memories of a specific situation
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Feeling stuck like I couldn’t change anything
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Crying easily
  • Feeling isolated
  • Thinking I had to figure everything out on my own
  • Not participating in enjoyable activities
  • Finding it difficult to relax

 

I am sure there are more signs others could add to this list. This is not exhaustive. But that was my experience at the time.

 

Thanks to that experience with my supervisor (and the therapy that followed that meeting) I have since learned how to tell I’m burning out and overworked, and when I need to takes extra steps to care for myself.

 

I now realize that I am not alone in some of the feelings I was having (stress, frustration, feeling stuck, sadness). And I take extra care to surround myself with supportive people in our field and outside our field that I can be honest with and that will be honest with me and hold me accountable to care for myself, go easy on myself, and have empathy for myself when I feel this way.

 

 

There are several things that I do to prevent and/or manage feelings of stress and burnout:

 

  • Be honest about the stress that sometimes comes with our profession and the client content we witness everyday
  • My faith, prayer and spiritual support from my relationship with God;
  • A strong social support system, friends, family, my husband;
  • Seeking outside of the agency supervision or consultation;
  • Participating in my own therapy;
  • Making time to unwind and de-compress from work;
  • Writing and blogging;
  • Reading about successful, healthy businesses and their practices and therapists;
  • Finding the right time to be emotional and allowing the feelings I had to be there;
  • Focusing on what is best for my clients;
  • Maintaining my ethics and professionalism even when things felt fuzzy or grey;
  • Recognizing what I do and do not have control over; and,
  • Knowing when it was time to take a break
  • Taking responsibility for what is mine, and not taking responsibility for other people’s choices.
  • Reading about self-care
  • Trying new ways to relax
  • Taking time off when needed
  • Setting short and long term goals (for career and other areas of my life)
  • Journaling
  • Art (making it and enjoying other’s art).
  • I am also thankful for the many things I learn about myself through this job.
  • Have a variety of clients to vary my day
  • Being genuine with others
  • Listening to the people I trust the most when they tell me to slow down (this is sometimes hard to do)

How can you support a colleague who may be going through a difficult time or dealing with burnout?

  • Be available.
  • Be honest (with love) about your concerns.
  • Be empathetic
  • Offer support and referrals if necessary.
  • Invite them to something fun outside of work (dinner, girls weekend, lunch, or even out for coffee)
  • Send an encouraging note, email or Facebook post.

 

Can you think of other ways you can support a struggling colleague?

 

Let’s share in the comments below section and support each other

If you are a therapist struggling with your work and would like support please visit the Self Care for Therapist Network for information and articles.

I also offer individual and group supervision for play therapists and those seeking licensure as a professional counselor and a FREE Play Therapist Consultation Group for Licensed Mental Health Practitioners who are advanced play therapists. If you are not already in supervision please contact me to make an appointment and have supervision as part of your self-care plan


How Do Parents Refocus and Unwind?

We all hear about self-care. As moms, therapists, and people going through the hustle of every day life. I have found myself thinking about it a lot lately, and I know that when I miss things, like going to church or socializing with other adults I notice I am not as focused as I usually am when  faced with some of the daily challenges of being a parent (meltdowns, fussy babies, you know the real fun stuff).

So, What is it that you do to refocus and unwind?

Answer in the Comments below, and get the self-care conversation going.  Thank you!

6 Steps to Practicing Self Care

girl homeworkMediumHere lately the practice of self care has been on my mind and a focus for me. It’s been especially important recently with a newborn, a 5 year old, a career, and a husband in school. My life is pretty crazy and I can easily get frazzled and worn out if I let it.

To be honest there are days where I struggle to balance my own needs with the needs of others in my life, especially when it involves my kids and my clients. Self care is talked about frequently between myself and my colleagues, and there are even whole professional workshops on it!  The following are things that I do to helps me to practice self care and I hope it will give you some encouragement to take care of yourself as well.

1. Journal.

I was struggling to find time to journal so I downloaded a free journaling app on m iPad which helps me since I’m usually using my iPad anyway (especially when nursing my daughter). Journaling helps me to process my day, what I’m feeling, and areas I struggle with. I use “My Wonderful Days lite.”

2. Read a day to day devotional.

I love in depth, deep devotionals I can dive into, but I don’t always have the time to spend on them so I use a day to day devotional for times where I’m needing to spend prayer/devotional time but I don’t have a lot of time by myself.

3. Ask for help when I need it.

This one is especially difficult for me because I’m an independent person and I’m so used to helping others and doing things myself. But I find that delegating and knowing my limits help ease the pressure.

4. Seek out social interaction.

Social media is great and there are many ways to connect with people via Facebook, twitter, google+ or the social media platform of your choice. However, they cannot replace face to face interaction with people in real life. This can be through church, professional associations, or just calling up a friend to chat and meet for lunch.

5. Set realistic goals for yourself.

When I get overwhelmed I tend to want everything done right now! (Like, I need to clean my house!). but I find when I break it down into smaller steps (My goal today is to finish the dishes) I feel much more accomplished and can focus on one thing at a time.

6. Take time to sit down and unwind, even if it’s only 5 minutes.

I find after a long day of seeing clients, or even days I’m home with my children that taking time to wind down by sitting in my favorite chair, drinking a glass of water or herbal tea (my favorite is tranquil dreams from Teavana) it helps me to sleep better and get re-focused.

These are just a few ways I practice self care in my life. If you have your own tips, please join the conversation and leave a comment below. Let’s support each other on our journey of self care.

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.