Therapists: 3 Tips for Preventing Burnout

A woman with her hands folded in front of her face, facing burnout.
Chelsea Buzzitta, MA, LLP

Chelsea Buzzitta, MA, LLP

Chelsea Buzzitta is a Master’s level Limited Licensed Psychologist.

Therapist burnout consists of three components: emotional exhaustion (i.e., feeling overextended, feeling unable to meet workplace demands), depersonalization of clients (i.e., distancing yourself from clients to prevent emotional fatigue, loss of empathy), and feelings of ineffectiveness or lack of personal accomplishment (i.e., feelings of self-doubt, loss of motivation). Burnout can also be associated with physical symptoms like headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

The demand for mental health services has grown immensely over the past couple of years. Therapists are often stretching themselves thin to meet this demand, meanwhile they are having to cope with stressful times themselves. Psychotherapy is also emotionally draining by nature, making psychotherapists especially susceptible to the effects of stress and burnout.

As a therapist, protecting yourself against burnout is imperative for your sustainability, your own mental health, and your ability to serve your clients well. Here are 3 important components of burnout prevention:

1. Structure your work so it works for you

Experiencing burnout does not indicate that you’re in the wrong profession or you’re not a good therapist. In fact, research shows that passion for your job and a sense of meaning in your career aren’t enough to protect against burnout when challenges at work feel insurmountable.

Keeping your workload manageable and practicing healthy boundaries at work is the first line of defense against burnout. This might mean practices like:

  • Maintaining healthy boundaries with clients around scheduling (i.e., not scheduling outside of your predetermined work hours) and communication outside of therapy (i.e., only communicating with clients for scheduling purposes).
  • Planning time off periodically for vacation or just to take a break.
  • Scheduling your day so it works for you. Block out time for a lunch break, try to avoid scheduling challenging clients back-to-back, leave time for finishing progress notes, etc.
  • Outsource time-demanding administrative tasks like billing, scheduling, marketing, insurance credentialing and re-attestation, or join a group practice that offers these services

2. Cultivate social connectedness with colleagues

Especially in private practice, therapists may find their work to be isolating. Staying connected to colleagues is an important antidote to burnout for therapists. Here are some ways to stay connected to a professional network:

  • Case conferences
  • Peer support groups
  • Consultation groups
  • Supervision
  • Continuing education
  • Psychotherapy conferences

3. Prioritize your own self-care

Practicing self-care is imperative to protecting yourself against burnout. Effective self-care looks different from person to person as everyone’s needs are different. Some common self-care practices might include:

  • Seeking your own therapy
  • Scheduling movement into your day
  • Staying hydrated and nourished
  • Prioritizing sleep
  • Doing something fun

Learn more about a career with Great Lakes Psychology Group here.

Chelsea Buzzitta, MA, LLP

Chelsea Buzzitta, MA, LLP

Chelsea Buzzitta completed her education and training in clinical psychology at Michigan State University (B.S., M.A.), and she has had additional training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFCT). Chelsea works collaboratively with children, adolescents, adults, and couples facing a wide range of difficulties.

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