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.