As therapists, we’re big-hearted professionals who chose this career to help people, to give of ourselves and give back to the community. But we often don’t think about how we can sustain that giving, especially when we’re faced with all of the challenges unique to our field.
It can be difficult to maintain this career when we’re weighed down with low (or no) pay, leaders and clinicians who are stretched too thin, and environments that fail to nurture high quality clinical work. But, we’re givers, right? This profession is not about getting. It can seem selfish to ask for what you need. Right?!?!
The “giving” mindset is a good one, but it’s incomplete. If we want to keep our profession viable, we must take care of ourselves and each other.
Here are 5 concrete ways we can do this:
- Get paid (and pay your employees). For some of you, I know you’re thinking, “duh.” However, too many pre-licensed and newly licensed clinicians are working in unpaid positions. Too many experienced clinicians are still underpaid or grappling with a sliding scale. Gussy up your resume, identify paying gigs, and interview with confidence. Practice asking for your full fee without flinching. Working for extended periods of time without adequate pay can lead to you feeling resentful, taken advantage of, and unable to continue. And, I know, I can already hear the comments – “There aren’t enough paying gigs, there aren’t enough clients, what are you talking about, Katie!?!” I’ll talk more about this later in my point about advocating for the profession. However, many positions go unfilled because organizations have difficulty finding the right candidates. Private clients are seeking services and not receiving calls back. We need to work together to find the right people for the right jobs!
- Practice “Giving” To Yourself as Well as Others – Too many of us will work ourselves to the bone for the work we love and the clients we care about. “But I don’t have time to take care of myself!” This is not true! We cannot constantly run at full speed and expect that we can sustain it (or provide high quality care for very long).
Our profession has pretty clear guidelines on what is considered a true “crisis” and requires emergency response from us and our treatment partners. However, we don’t need to respond to every concern as though it reaches this threshold. We must lock in our self-care practices and hold them sacred, so we can keep ourselves healthy and capable of doing this important work. There is an end to the day. There is a time when we have to say no. If we all work to set boundaries and parameters around our work days, create systems that support these parameters, and say “no” to non-crisis “emergencies,” we can shift into a more sustainable work day for all of us.
- Seek Mentorship. Find those people who will nurture you as you take your next steps. During our training period, we’re required to have supervisors. After that point, we’re often left to our own devices to make choices about our career. It can be so beneficial to find mentors who can guide you on ways to position yourself for the career that you want. Look for professionals who are doing what you’d like to do and reach out. We’re all givers, helpers, and healers, so almost every single one of us will make ourselves available to share wisdom. When more in-depth guidance is needed, seek out coaches or consultants who can give you additional insight and practical tools to move you forward with your business or career.
- Nurture the next generation. When you become an established, successful clinician, turn your attention to supporting the growth of the newbies. Become a mentor, take on supervision, and grow your practice to support your community. Learn how to develop a positive, nurturing environment for those who you’re guiding and employing.
- Advocate for our profession. There seems to be a mismatch between the number of paid jobs and the number of clinicians. Too many agencies or small clinics balance their budgets through free or underpaid labor. There is difficulty in getting appropriate reimbursement for all mental health services. There is mental health stigma that keeps people from accessing our services. These are all problems that keep us from the stability and fair pay that other professions enjoy. Join your professional organization, advocate, and help us make appropriate inroads to increase access to mental health services and the reimbursement for those services.
What do you think? How else can we improve our profession?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
To stay in touch with Katie and receive free tips and trainings to create a meaningful and sustainable mental health career, go to www.evolvetothriveconsulting.com/sign-up