Compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and caregiver burnout are common among helping professionals, including psychotherapists. Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, who coined the word burnout, defines it as ‘‘the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results” (source).
Many of us come into the field with devotion to helping others and idealized expectations about our ability influence other’s lives. Once we enter the field we come face-to-face with the realization of our own impotence – that we can’t take away our client’s pain or help them quickly solve the complex situations they face. Have you felt an “extinction of motivation or incentive” in your clinical work? I sure have.
After having been in the mental health field for twenty years, most of those years in a private practice setting, I’ve learned a few things about the importance of self-care. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my own experience and from the experiences of private practice therapists I’ve worked with in my consulting practice.
Guest Post: Hollie L. Hancock, M.S., CMHC
Reflect on how well you take care of your own needs. Help me learn more by filling out a counselor self-care practices questionnaire.
While attending an ethics conference last week, I took the opportunity to solicit participation from my fellow counselors and psychotherapists for my dissertation research. As I described the study, and as the words “counselor self-care” crossed my lips, a loud and obvious laugh erupted from various corners of the large ballroom where the conference was being held. From the front of the room I saw people looking at one another, laughing, and rolling their eyes; I even read the lips of one man in the front row as he said to the woman next to him, “Yeah, right!”
Honestly, I was not surprised. In fact, I almost expected this type of response. The laughter, snickers, and side-ways comments are exactly the reason I am researching counselor and psychotherapist self-care practices.
Tell me about your practice…
I am a solo practitioner with an office in beautiful Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. I opened my private practice a year ago. As an experienced child, adolescent and family therapist, I understand how difficult it can be to find resources and help for children and adolescents who are suffering from emotional and behavioral issues. In my private practice I specialize in working with children 6+ and adolescents who are experiencing difficulty in their functioning and ability to navigate life’s challenges and relationships. I enjoy seeing children and families learn how to respectfully express their emotions and improve communication. Children and adolescent’s unique situations are addressed with a deep understanding of today’s youth and their specific challenges.
I am an Accredited Standard Triple P Provider (Level 4 & 5). Triple P is an evidence-based multi-level family intervention and parenting support strategy which is designed to reduce the prevalence of behavioral and emotional problems in children and adolescents.
What’s the big deal about giving a few extra minutes to your clients? After all, we are in this field to help others and we are generous souls by nature, right? Yes, we are. However, an on-going pattern of giving away a few minutes each session adds up over a year’s time.
Let’s say you see 10 clients for 50 minute sessions per week= 500 minutes. If you go over 10 minutes with each client you’re doing 600 minutes of therapy and only being paid for 500 minutes. That means you’re giving away 100 minutes of therapy every week. After one year of giving away 100 minutes every week you are giving away 5200 minutes of free therapy. 5200 minutes is the equivalent of 104 free 50 minute sessions every year. If you charge $115 per session your practice is giving away $11, 960 of free therapy a year!
Guest post by Kimberly Sandstrom, MFTI
In the first post on this topic, my goal was to bring awareness to our community about the hazards of posting personally about clients. Although our clients may not see our personal posts (see Julie Hanks Digital Dual Relationship Dilemmas), our own personal communities will, and our reputation is built on that community.
I’m a mother of four children. My first two children were born during my educational journey and my last two were born while I was in private practice. Being in private practice provides many perks for balancing work and family life. The flexibility of being my own boss has been wonderful. However, taking time off for extended periods of time, like maternity leave, can prove to be tricky. Unlike working for an agency, in private you don’t get paid leave in private practice, you still have expenses to pay even when you’re not seeing clients, and you have unpredictable income as you “wind down” to take time off and then build your client load back up after taking family leave. Becoming pregnant while in private practice and planning for the new addition in your family requires some extra planning, coordinating, and saving.
You may be surprised to learn that “moderation in all things” applies to moods, too. June Gruber, a professor of psychology at Yale University compares happiness to food. We need it, but too much of it can actually cause problems. While happiness is associated with many positives like a stronger immune response, longer life, and ability to endure painful experiences, it also has a “darker side”.
With a business license, professional license, and big dreams, I opened a private practice ten years ago. Having never taken a business, marketing, or management course, I have learned “on the job” how to be a small business owner. Hopefully, you can learn from what I accidentally did right and intentionally apply them as you build your private practice.
Today marks the 10 years since of the founding of my private practice Wasatch Family Therapy, LLC. I started out as a solo practitioner with big dreams of creating an exceptional therapy clinic that not only provides excellent clinical services, but also provides therapists the opportunity to create their “dream practice” in a nurturing work environment that supports personal growth and strong family relationships.
As I take a step back and reflect on this ten year journey, many tender emotions surface. I am grateful for willing clients who have allowed me to walk with them during life crises and transitions. I am touched by the generosity of the professional relationships that I’ve cultivated during this period of time. I am amazed at the personal and professional growth that I’ve experienced. I’ve learned invaluable lessons about leadership, boundaries, and business. I’ve developed skills in marketing, supervising, web design, social media, mentoring, public relations, human resources, interior decorating, negotiating contracts, consulting…
One of the most common questions that private practice therapists ask me is “How do I get off of insurance panels?” This question just came up today in my Private Practice Toolbox Facebook Group so I thought it would be a great topic for a blog post.
The thought of letting go of the comfort of being on insurance panels can create a lot of anxiety for private practice therapists. After all, if we don’t have clients, we don’t get paid. Find comfort in knowing this equation. You only need about half the number of clients in a self-pay practice to make the same income (or more) than you made in an insurance based practice. Once I realized this fact, I felt a lot more comfortable resigning from insurance panels. Let’s do the math…