Counselor burnout is defined by its symptoms: feelings of exhaustion and detachment and dehumanization when dealing with clients. For some, feelings of depression and inadequacy may be present. In addition to burnout, compassion fatigue is also common among helping professionals. Compassion fatigue occurs when the helper is traumatized by his or her efforts to be compassionate towards the individual they are helping who is suffering from trauma.
As helping professionals who listen to and support clients in difficult circumstances, often on a daily basis, there is a high risk for professional burnout. Working long hours, vicarious trauma, and empathy fatigue are all things that are part of working in a helping profession and can lead to burnout.
We are going to walk through five ways you and your team can avoid burnout and compassion fatigue in your helping profession.
- Celebrate Victories
Celebrating victories is essential in helping organizations. One practical way you can inspire one another is by spending a few minutes on a daily basis discussing positive conversations, encounters and accomplishments. This is best when done at the end of each work day.
- Discuss Client Cases
Sharing client stories and seeking the advice and wisdom of co-workers or other individuals in your field helps both you and the clients you serve succeed. You, as a helper, are able to transfer some of the responsibility and feeling of “aloneness” in functioning in and among a community of other helpers. Dialoguing with others may also offer a new perspective on your client’s situation and care plan.
- Find Renewal
At times, it is difficult to say, ‘I need some time for myself.’ As someone who is used to helping others it may feel selfish. It takes strength and self-control to know what you need and ask for it.Developing healthy coping mechanisms is essential to the success of your ability to be a helper and encourager at work and in your personal life. Compartmentalizing work life and home life is important in developing resiliency as a helper. After a difficult day, take time to personally process by yourself or with a coworker before leaving work.
In addition to compartmentalizing work life and home life, take time to do one thing for yourself each day. This may sound simple, but self-care can easily be neglected. Read a book, exercise or take time for a new hobby.
- Seek Help When Needed
When burnout takes hold, an impairment in one’s ability to be fully present for clients may occur. In this case, merely discussing client cases with peers and engaging in peer supervision may not be enough. Individuals who are experiencing this level of burnout are encouraged to seek professional counseling to help move beyond impairment and find more specific coping mechanisms. Informing your supervisor of how you feel will give them an opportunity to be informed and potentially make changes to your work environment. Your supervisor may also have suggestions and referrals as you seek help.
- Remember the Goal
Last, and most important, remember the goal. Be reminded that God has led you to where you are in your profession for a specific purpose and He will sustain you. With each interaction and each conversation, you are planting a seed; a seed you may never see come to fruition. You may never see God’s saving work in the life of your client. You may never know if they made a life affirming decision for their child, but you can be encouraged knowing that you spoke words of truth and hope while they were visiting your center. You were able to plant a seed.
Burnout occurs when we as individuals feel we are in-control when, in fact, we are not. Be encouraged because Christ claimed the ultimate victory when His Son Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world. Rejoice knowing that God is sovereign and death is defeated. Engaging in personal or staff led Bible reading and prayer will help remind you of Gospel truths and will serve as an encouragement for you and your team each day.