Advice for Affiliates

As a compassionate behavioral and mental health care provider, you incorporate many modalities to treat your clients. For those clients seeking recovery from addiction or substance use, one lesser-known, relatively new model is Motivational Interviewing (MI). Developed in the early 1980s, MI requires an approach based on collaboration, understanding, and empathy. 

What is Motivational Interviewing?
Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a technique commonly used in the treatment of clients with addiction or substance use. This style of treatment can be thought of as an evidence-based conversation that truly encourages behavior change from within and guides clients toward a specific end goal (in this case recovery from addition). 

Motivational Interviewing is highly collaborative. Through approachable dialogue, the client is encouraged to explore their desire for change, receiving kindness, compassion, and acceptance both from their counselor and from themselves. 

This style of treatment is not meant to manipulate, coerce, or “get people to change” as in an intervention. Motivational Interviewing is an on-going conversation between clinician and client that takes time, practice, and the client’s own self-awareness.

Essential Processes of Motivational Interviewing
There are four main processes to successful Motivational Interviewing or “keeping the conversation going.” During the “conversation” (Motivational Interviewing treatment), the clinician must always be: 

  • Engaging. The foundation to MI: actively listening, reflecting on, and affirming a client’s experience and perspective. 
  • Focusing. Steering dialogue toward the end goal of positive change.
  • Evoking. Helping clients build on their “why.”
  • Planning. The “how” to the process of change for a client.

Signs Motivational Interviewing May Benefit a Client 
Although not an exhaustive list, a client may benefit from MI if the following is present:

  • Ambivalence: having mixed feelings about change
  • Low confidence: doubting their ability to change
  • Apathy: low desire or uncertain if they want to change 

Is this tool aligned with my treatment style and will it be beneficial to my clients?
Be honest with yourself if this tool may be right for you, your clients, and your practice. Not every clinician or behavioral health provider is a good fit for motivational interviewing, just like not every client will be a good fit for this type of treatment.

The following are important characteristics in clinicians for the success of Motivational Interviewing:

  • Partnership and collaboration. Clinicians guide toward change, not force it.
  • Acceptance. Clinicians are non-judgmental and actively seek to understand their client’s perspective and life experiences. 
  • Compassion. Clinicians express unending empathy and promote their client’s wellbeing in a selfless way.
  • Patience and understanding. Clinicians actively listen, ask meaningful questions, and provide affirmations to build up client confidence

Behavioral and mental health providers should consider if Motivational Interviewing would be an impactful approach for those clients who are willing and wanting to change. It is proven to be a successful, client-centered approach to encouraging change, promoting resilience, and building confidence particularly in those seeking recovery. 

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Your mental and emotional health directly affects your ability to provide quality care to your clients. Healthcare professionals in various industries—and mostly due to factors of the coronavirus pandemic—are feeling guilt, shame and exhaustion, all symptoms of burnout. But are you experiencing something more complicated?

What is Burnout?

First, let’s discuss what burnout is. Burnout is a non-medical diagnosis characterized as a specific type of work-related stress. Burnout causes physical or emotional exhaustion (or both) that typically includes a feeling that you’ve lost your personal identity and sense of accomplishment.
Experts don’t know the cause of burnout, but some believe that depression and other individual factors may be involved.

Signs of Burnout

One person may experience burnout entirely differently from another. Take a few moments to consider these work scenarios to see if you’re experiencing burnout:

  • You feel pessimistic, critical and/or irritable
  • You feel unmotivated, easily distracted, and less productive
  • You don’t feel satisfied by your achievements or your work
  • Your sleep habits have changed (extreme fatigue, insomnia, sleep disturbances)
  • You’re experiencing headaches, stomach aches or other physical ailments
  • You’re using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to not feel at all
  • You no longer have energy for the people or things you enjoy

Possible Reasons You May Experience Burnout

Again, reasons of burnout will be different for each individual. Common factors include:

  • Lack of support
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Toxic or dysfunctional workplace environment
  • Lack of work/life balance

You may also be experiencing a heavy workload, excessive or long hours, or having little control over your work or schedule. Unfortunately, if you work in a helping profession, you may be more susceptible to burnout. If you suspect burnout, discuss your feelings and possible options with your supervisor or an HR resource.

You can also seek the advice of a healthcare professional to help address and alleviate any physical or emotional effects that are troubling you. Without intervention, burnout could lead to excessive stress, sleep issues, substance misuse, high blood pressure and higher risk of other health-related conditions.

Identifying with typical job burnout may not be sufficient for those in the helping professions, particularly in the years of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is where moral injury is increasingly getting brought into the conversation.

What is Moral Injury?

Moral injury involves the stressful social, psychological, and/or spiritual effects of having witnessed or participated in behaviors that go against a person’s core beliefs and values.

The term was developed in the 1990s to describe the moral conflicts military professionals were feeling after returning from war zones. Later, it was used to describe healthcare professionals facing similar distressing environments.

In a healthcare setting, burnout is described as a type of “chronic work stress” while moral injury is explained as the “suffering that occurs in response to moral adversity.” Having our beliefs or ethics repeatedly dishonored at our workplace can create undue psychological injury including disrupting how we feel about our individual selves and how we show up in the world.

What does moral injury look like in the helping professions?

Moral injury can occur in any profession but is on the rise in the healthcare industry. Here are some examples of what that may look like:

Feeling a sense of responsibility to make decisions that entail conflicting morals, ethics and values. For example, taking on more clients to meet the needs of your community, despite the caseload size exceeding your typical self-care standard.

Doing something that goes against your beliefs (referred to as an act of commission). Behavioral health care workers may be faced with situations where they need to decide how best to prioritize clients in need of a session (e.g., which clients receive less/more frequent sessions and how to best use limited time when multiple clients need help or when many are waiting for services).

Failing to do something in line with your beliefs (referred to as an act of omission). Moral injury can also develop in behavioral health care workers when they feel unable to provide the type of care requested by the client (e.g., in person session) for sake of their own safety or their families.

Witnessing or learning about an act that goes against your ethics and beliefs.Some may feel guilt and shame because they felt numb in the face of suffering and death. Behavioral health care workers may also witness what they perceive to be unjustifiable or unfair acts or policies that they feel powerless to confront.

Experiencing betrayal by someone you trust. A person who experiences betrayal may also feel anger, resentment, and/or diminished confidence in peers, leaders or organizations.

In behavioral health and mental health professions specifically, moral injury is a common occurrence. However, neither moral injury nor burnout is the fault of an individual, and self-care alone will not eliminate them. If you’re experiencing or have experienced moral injury, consider the following:

  • If you don’t already, attend therapy sessions regularly
  • Connect with colleagues who feel or have felt similarly
  • Take the time to self-reflect often (journal, prayer, meditation, etc.)
  • Stay connected to your true self, beliefs and values
  • Align your personal values with your business’ values
  • If you’re not self-employed, look for a workplace that prioritizes care over quotas and encourages a work/life balance

Clinicians, therapists, and other behavioral health workers are in their line of work because they truly want to help others—but remember that being an impactful, successful, and respected healthcare professional doesn’t need to come at a personal cost.

Self-care for moral injury can be particularly challenging for people working in behavioral health care given that those in the field strongly value caring for others and may prioritize the needs of others over their own. It is often only in conversations with others that we can hear a different, more helpful way to think about or make meaning from morally distressing situations.

On the positive side, there is also evidence that indicates after potentially morally injurious experiences some people develop a redefined meaning in life and, with time and support, begin to incorporate the experience into growth or helping others. Further, some develop new insights about how to help the systems in which they work or that can help them grow in their own work or lives.

Behavioral health care workers, their colleagues, and leaders can use strategies to take care of themselves and each other both during and after potential morally injurious situations, to support recovery and growth.

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Thinking about opening your own private practice? Way to go! Health Affiliates Maine is proud to help behavioral health professionals as they venture into entrepreneurship, making that potentially overwhelming experience a little easier to navigate.

Signs You’re Ready to Run Your Own Business

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. However, odds are that if you’ve been thinking about it, you know deep down that you can do this! Here are some signs to look out for when considering if the time is right to strike out on your own:

  • You can think of better, more efficient ways of doing things
  • Your values no longer align with your employer’s or company’s values
  • You feel limited at your current position
  • You want more freedom and flexibility in your lifestyle
  • There’s a strong market or need for your unique services and abilities
  • You’ve outlined or thought about a business plan
  • You have support or know where to find it, such as creating a network of colleagues
  • You believe in yourself and are excited by the idea of owning your own business

Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

Although not everyone wants to run their own business (and that’s okay!), there also isn’t only “one type” of person who would be successful at it. Here’s a list of a few common attributes in entrepreneurs:

  • You’re passionate
  • You’re independent
  • You’re organized
  • You’re not risk-averse
  • You’re resilient
  • You’re not afraid to go it alone or ask for help

If you don’t immediately identify with any of those characteristics, it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t run your own practice if you wanted to. We suggest taking time to reflect inward on why you want your own business, what you would offer and how you would start taking steps to get there.

Feeling ready to open your own private practice? Take a look at five ways you can marketyour new business. Marketing yourself and your business may sound unnecessary (you already have clients!) but it’s important for maintaining your professional relationships, attracting potential clients, and keeping your new business relevant.

How Not to Become Overwhelmed When Starting a Business

We won’t lie—your private practice won’t happen overnight, and you’ll likely face challenges and hard decisions along the way. When you feel overwhelmed or stressed, try the following:

  • Take a walk or do an exercise workout
  • Try yoga or mediation to calm your nervous system
  • Turn on “do not disturb” on all your devices to limit distractions
  • Consider reaching out to someone in your network for advice or support
  • Mark a day on your calendar that’s just for you (take yourself out to lunch, do errands, go shopping, go the spa, anything to distract yourself from overwhelm and allow yourself to reset)

When running your own private practice, there will be days when you’re firing on all cylinders and other days when you may question your business decisions. Both are normal and a part of being an entrepreneur! Take a few moments to remember your why. Why did you leave your previous employer? Why did you want to be your own boss? Why did you decide to serve clients your way? These answers will remind you of the vision you have for your private practice and will re-inspire you.

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Running your own practice allows you to determine your caseload, clients, and your schedule so that your business aligns with your principles. However, if you’ve had your private practice for a while (or even if you’re just starting out) you may have experienced seasons of isolation or loneliness.

Being a solo entrepreneur has its advantages, but having workplace relationships can offer needed support, camaraderie, and guidance. We know you can go it alone, but you don’t have to for your practice to be successful! Consider our advice on building your community:

Attend trainings, workshops, and other CE opportunities. They will keep you learning and up to date with best practice standards and clinical intervention methods which will benefit your practice. They will also connect you with other mental health professionals that you can bounce thoughts and ideas off with.

Join professional organizations from local, regional, and national chapters. Reach out to small business owners via email, connect with mental health professionals with a similar niche and network during events. Don’t be afraid to make and maintain connections.

Offer consulting services to local businesses and organizations. Think employeeworkshops on interpersonal communications or HR topics such as diversity and inclusion among peers. This will grow your public speaking skills, grow your business, and expand your network and opportunities for referrals.

Submit advice to a local publication or website. Perhaps there’s an expert’s section where readers submit questions looking for professional advice or maybe it’s a monthly column with a guest speaker. Think of the audience of the publication and offer a proposed article that would benefit them.

Teach a class or workshop at a childcare center, community college or corporate event. Important and common topics are stress management, establishing boundaries, and effective communication.

Lean on one another and use colleagues for support. If there’s an individual needing help, but at the moment you are unable to take on new clients, refer them to another in your network. And let them do the same for you!

You started your private practice to serve clients your way. But when you have a community of colleagues lifting you up, your wellbeing, your clients, and your practice will thrive.

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We know that your time is important to you, but are you using it to your advantage? When running your own practice, it’s easy to let time—and your ability to leverage it—get the better of you. To keep your business running smoothly, your clients’ appointments scheduled, and all your paperwork submitted on time, you need to incorporate a time management strategy.

Scheduling. Schedule your week so that each day has an equal (or nearly equal) amount of tasks and appointments that you can commit to. It’s also not realistic to schedule every hour of your work day to be productive. Plan some time each day for distractions, breaks, or small moments of whatever brings you joy. These moments of “non-productivity” can oftentimes be moments of great inspiration and renewal.

Boundaries. Although you want to “do it all” and often try, the effort most likely leaves you feeling defeated, stressed, and uninspired. In order to do your best work and serve the clients who depend on us, it’s necessary to work on creating boundaries. Create office hours and stick to them. Resist answering emails or phone calls immediately (and certainly not if you’re on vacation!). When you respect your time, others will too. 

Chunking or Grouping. It may be a silly name, but chunking or grouping is simply putting all of your tasks together by type of task or project. Then dedicate chunks of time on your calendar to work on that specific set of tasks. This helps to eliminate the dreaded multi-tasking that we all try to do (but which never truly works).

Incorporating self-care. Let’s nip this in the bud now—self-care isn’t selfish and it doesn’t “take up time.” Incorporating self-care into your schedule helps to create a work-life balance, clear your mind or make you feel better, which all ultimately helps you work more effectively and to a higher standard.

Task prioritization. During those times where it seems like you have a thousand things to do and not enough time to do them, task prioritization is the answer. There are several different methods out there, so finding which one works best for you may take some trial and error.

The ABCDE method is simple yet effective. Make a list of all your tasks and responsibilities. Then sort them using the parameters below. You can use this method for daily, weekly and monthly tasks.

  • A – highest priority tasks
  • B – medium priority tasks
  • C – low priority tasks
  • D – delegate tasks to another person
  • E – eliminate task

The GTD or “Getting Things Done” method is slightly more complex but worth the effort. After you have established all of your tasks, you then sort them using a “decision tree” to put them in their proper place.

With each task, ask yourself:

  • Is this task actionable?
    • No? Throw in the trash or file for later if it’s a reference or a resource
    • Yes? Determine which “pile” it should belong in.
      • Right away: If you can complete the task in under two minutes
      • Waiting for: if you’ve delegated the task to someone else
      • Next action: if you don’t have to finish actions with multiple tasks right away
      • Calendar: if your task has a deadline, always add it to the calendar

 

It may take a while to figure out which tools work best for you, but when it comes to running your own practice, efficient tools of time management are the secret key. As you manage your time within your business, remember that it’s all about balance and growth. Recognize what works for you today and realize that it may change as your business changes.

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As a nation and throughout Maine communities, there is an ever-increasing need for mental health services. To continue providing quality care during the pandemic, many clinicians, agencies, and mental health workers quickly pivoted from their normal day-to-day operations to include an underused technology—telehealth. The following are three benefits of telehealth services to consider in order to better reach your clients and grow your practice.

Access. If patients have access to a phone, computer and/or WiFi internet, telehealth services may be a great option for continuity of care. Clients who live in a rural setting, don’t have reliable transportation, or have limited mobility, can utilize telehealth right from the comfort of their home without the need or cost to travel. Telehealth sessions may also offer more availability when scheduling, and provide access to health care for those who may be vulnerable to isolation.

Flexibility. Telehealth offers flexibility for both patients and clinicians. With remote and hybrid learning options becoming more prevalent at schools, telehealth may assist those with childcare challenges. With work-from-home policies becoming more popular among organizations, patients and clinicians may be able to schedule their sessions during a part of the day where they couldn’t before. Telehealth services may also be convenient during inclement weather and reaching those with emergency healthcare needs.

Savings. Providing telehealth services to your patients can save time and money. Patients will save money on transportation, childcare costs, and potential health insurance costs and will save time commuting and waiting in the office. As a clinician, you may realize these same benefits, in addition to lower overhead costs, patient retention/new clients, and the ability to be productive in other areas of your practice’s growth.

To get started with telehealth options in your practice, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Find a HIPAA compliant platform. A free, HIPAA-compliant option that we often recommend is Doxy.me. There is also a list available here, with popular options including certain subscriptions from Zoom, Skype for Business, Webex and Microsoft teams.
  • Establish a BAA (business associate agreement) with your chosen platform vendor. This agreement describes each party’s responsibilities and safeguards used and can enable and ensure HIPAA compliancy.
  • Private space. Make sure you and your clients have a safe, private place to conduct your session.
  • Secure network. It’s best to ensure that your internet connection is private and secure and you’re able to use encryption where possible.
  • Informed Consent Form. You may already use this form at your practice, but it’s wise to include specific instructions, guidelines, and boundaries regarding telehealth.

Providing telehealth services may seem daunting for some clinicians because of lack of technical familiarity, concern regarding quality of clinical care with telehealth versus in- person sessions, or simply being overwhelmed with where to begin. It’s important to note that each clinician and client relationship is unique, and some patients may or may not like this method of providing care. Telehealth is not meant to replace in-person sessions, rather supplement an already existing method of care.

At Health Affiliates Maine, it’s part of our mission to expand access to health care and increase the quality of life for all Mainers. Although not a requirement for affiliation, many of our affiliates are finding that offering telehealth services has greatly impacted their practice in a profound way.

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This class meets the requirements for Domain 1, Behavioral, Psychological and Rehabilitation Intervention Models of the Maine MHRT/Community curriculum.

  • Tickets: $300
  • Location: Online Event
  • Presented By: Mary Gagnon, LMFT
  • Registration: Register Online
  • Refund Policy: Refunds up to 7 days before event

Do I Need This Training?

The MHRT/C certification is a Maine-based certification for mental health professionals wishing to work directly in patient care. Consider this MHRT/C training if:

  • You wish to work in Maine as a case worker, in a group home, or community support work
  • You currently do not have a college degree that included all accredited coursework
  • You need continuing education credits relating to ethics and professional conduct
  • You are working towards a provisional or full MHRT/C and need priority domain training

About this Event

This course will examine the knowledge, attitudes, and skills Mental Health Technicians need to establish rapport, communicate effectively and respectfully, and work collaboratively with consumers regarding their care to support recovery, with awareness of changing needs across the lifespan.

The following training objectives will be studied:

  1. Explain the concept of community inclusion and the use of natural supports to enhance recovery.
  2. Relate human development theory, including the interaction of social, psychosocial development across the lifespan./li>
  3. Give examples of evidence‐based models and approaches that integrate treatment and rehabilitation.
  4. Demonstrate general knowledge of the current diagnostic manual and be able to name basic diagnostic categories.
  5. Define the treatment complexities for co‐occurring disorders and addictions within vulnerable populations.
  6. Identify community resources to assist in the recovery process for individuals who have co‐occurring mental health and substance use disorders.
  7. Recognize the consumer’s development and life stage, and where they are in relation to the Stages of Change Model, in order to develop individualized treatment plans.
  8. Be aware of common strengths‐based assessments, including instruments that identify or screen for co‐occurring disorders and/or trauma history, and tools that evaluate the level of care needs.
  9. Demonstrate a collaborative, person‐centered, recovery‐oriented, shared decision‐making approach to working with consumers. Identify strengths and challenges and how to incorporate natural supports into individualized treatment plans.
  10. Describe common factors of effective helping strategies when working with consumers, e.g., therapeutic relationship, empowerment, consumer choice, and respect for the consumer.
  11. Demonstrate active listening skills, basic interviewing skills, and demonstrate respect for the consumer at all times.
  12. Illustrate an understanding of crisis planning, advance directives, crisis intervention strategies, and use of a warm line.

Course Expectations

1. Attendance:

Students must attend each day of class and receive an 80% or above on the final exam to earn a certificate of completion.

2. Make‐up work:

Students must attend all classes as stated above and complete and submit any missed assignments.

3. Class size:

The standardized MHRT/C curricula are interactive. The recommendation is that classes have no fewer than 6 participants and no more than 20./p>

4. Class participation guidelines:

  1. Students will arrive on time and stay until the end
  2. Students will demonstrate respect for others.
  3. Use first person language, such as “I” messages. [For example, “I didn’t understand his response to my question” as opposed to “He overreacted to my question.”] This allows students to take responsibility for their feelings and experiences rather than blame them on someone else.
  4. Cell phones should be placed on vibrate or silenced at all times during the class.
  5. Students are expected to participate in all activities.

5. Course evaluations

Participants will receive a link to complete an online evaluation the last day of their training.

About the Presenter:

Mary Gagnon, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Training and Clinical Development Specialist for Health Affiliates Maine. Mary has worked in private practice as well as a variety of community mental health settings throughout her career. Her most recent work at Health Affiliates Maine includes oversight of clinicians in private practice and development and facilitation of trainings for schools and conferences throughout the state. She is a certified trainer for Domains 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 for the MHRT/C Non-Academic Curriculum.

Register Online

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Discovering life’s joyful moments fuels our creativity, our purpose, and our overall wellbeing. Although it can be challenging to allow ourselves to truly appreciate what brings us joy daily, it’s well worth the effort as all aspects of our lives can benefit.

Be present. Joy is experienced in the present moment. It’s normal to think about the past or plan for the future (and in some cases it’s necessary). Try allowing yourself to soak in smaller moments that resonate with you throughout your day. The smell of coffee brewing, a cherished hug from your child, or the way your body feels after a long stretch. Whatever it is, relish it as it’s happening in the moment.

Search for meaning. We tend to get caught up in our to-dos and responsibilities making us forget or push aside meaning and purpose in our lives. During the 2020 quarantine, people had the opportunity to slow down, recognize what’s truly important to them and re-direct their lives accordingly. Dismiss what you should do and dig deep for what you want to do— and do it!

Make time for a passion. Prioritize time for activities that you love. Joy can be found when pursuing something you’re passionate about and can also help you better understand yourself and what may bring more meaning into your life. Bonus points if you go outside of your comfort zone – for a challenge and personal growth. Both will excite and motivate you.

Seek authenticity. Particularly on social media, we can get lost in comparisons and lose sight of our true selves. Ask yourself: am I living how I genuinely want to live? Am I pleasing others rather than myself? Choose to live in a way that feels right to your authentic self. This includes surrounding yourself with positive people. We subconsciously absorb the energy of those around us so choose carefully who you spend your time with.

Connect with nature. Studies have proven that when we spend more time outdoors, we experience less anxiety and reduce our stress levels. When in nature, we not only gain the benefits of fresh air, but we also tend to slow down, be present, and reconnect with a higher power/our spirituality.

As helpers, we provide this feedback to our clients every day. At the end of a frenzied day, it can be daunting to think about putting to practice our own teachings. However, when we choose to prioritize ourselves by finding joy and relishing in it, we know that these efforts can reduce stress and anxiety, boost our immune system, reconnect with life’s meaning and add significance to our life. If you’re having a difficult time finding the positive in your life, do just one simple thing each day only for you. Even if for five short minutes—you’ve earned it. We all deserve to feel life’s joys!

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Mental health can and should be a daily practice, taken into consideration more often than “when something is wrong” or when going through a particularly difficult time. Taking care of your mental health is a preventative form of care and by incorporating daily rituals and practices into your life, you can give your mental health the attention it deserves.

Here are nine things you can do to take care of yourself so you can take care of others:

Take a mental health day. You know yourself best. If you feel that you need a break, take one. If you don’t have vacation or paid time off, consider taking mini breaks throughout the day to renew your energy and spirit. It’s okay to slow down and not feel rushed to cross everything off the to-do list at once.

Switch up your evening routine. Try winding down in a different way than you typically do if you’re feeling particularly stressed or “off.” Think about what relaxes you and adopt that into your routine: reading a book, taking a long bath, chatting with a friend.

Adopt a vacation mentality. Put your phone setting on do not disturb between 9pm-7am. Go swimming instead of sweating at the gym. Walk in the park with a friend during lunch. Ignore emails after you’ve clocked out for the day/week. Whatever you do on vacation that feels relaxing and rejuvenating, try bringing some of that into your daily life.

Meditate for five minutes every day. Perhaps you’ve heard this advice before, but the science doesn’t lie! Meditation eases stress and anxiety, calms your nervous system, helps with memory and so much more. There’s no need to put pressure on yourself to gain some important insight or enlightenment. Sit quietly, focused on your breathing with no judgment of the thoughts in your head. With regular practice, you’ll begin to feel the benefits.

Be mindful of what you eat and drink. It’s a common coping mechanism to comfort our emotions with food, drink or other substances. We all have different nutritional and lifestyle choices, but we suggest being extra mindful when experiencing stress, anxiety or depression as sugar, junk foods and alcohol will make you feel worse (even if you feel better temporarily).

Consider reaching out for professional help. There is no barometer, specific feeling or event that warrants a person to “need” or want professional counseling. We all have varying life circumstances and coping strategies. If you feel like you “shouldn’t be this upset” or that “others have it worse” we suggest allowing yourself permission to seek help. We all deserve it.

Prioritize rest. Our culture values the “hustle” and though hustle has it’s time and place, we also need rest. You know your body and mind best—if you need a morning off work, take it. If you need a long weekend alone, take it. If you need to sleep in just a little bit longer, sleep in! The to-do list is not going anywhere and you’ll need your physical and emotional health in top shape to do your best.

Write down as many inspiring messages as you can. They can be lyrics, affirmations, reminders to move your body, drink water, have gratitude—any message that uplifts you. Keep them close by, such as in a desk drawer, a large jar or your phone’s notebook app. If you need a pick-me-up, reach for one. Alternatively, download an app that sends positive affirmations to your phone daily. It’s proven that we bring to life the thoughts that we tell ourselves (even unconsciously), so let yourself think positive thoughts!

When we feel that we are in control of our thoughts, feelings and emotions we’re bound to continue the work that allows us to feel that way. However, if you think you may need professional help, reach out. Everyone needs help at some point in life. It takes courage and strength to recognize when help is needed and seek it out.

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As mental health professionals, you may suggest the importance of self-care to your clients, but do you have a difficult time implementing a practice in your own life? During the last year specifically there’s been an increase in demand for mental health services as individuals are navigating the effects of the pandemic. It’s essential as a counselor, therapist or clinician that you recognize any signs of stress or fatigue and implement self-care into your daily routine.

This may differ from person to person, but look for the following:

  • Losing your sense of humor
  • Problems developing at home
  • Having low or no energy
  • Becoming irritated with clients
  • Other physical and mental signs of stress include change of appetite, trouble
    sleeping, feelings of overwhelm or that things can never seem to go right

Consistently as a mental health professional, you give so much of yourself to your clients. This has every potential to leave you feeling emotionally depleted if there is an absence of other forms of support or self-fulfilling activities. Further, the cumulative stressor of an ongoing pandemic has been a shared trauma experienced by both client and clinician concurrently. This has presented us with an environmental parallel process while engaging with our clients. As such, it becomes increasingly more vital for us, as helpers, to ensure that we find ways in which to enrich our lives outside of session as a way of practicing self-care.

Outside of your career, you’ll want to be sure that your relationships are not “one-way streets.” It may be second nature for you to always listen and always give, but your personal relationships need full participation and commitment from all parties.

Why is practicing self-care important for mental health professionals?
When mental health professionals do not consider their emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing as a priority, their outlook on their careers or the profession itself can change which may lead to severe stress or burnout.

Here are ways to implement talking the talk and walking the walk:

  • Join a peer group
  • Consider attending counseling
  • Create boundaries with clients
  • Set office hours (and stick to them!)
  • Take vacations/holidays

How can mental health professionals incorporate self-care into their daily practice?
Nurturing your wellbeing looks different for everyone and also may differ in the various stages of your life. Look for moments within your day-to-day to reflect and care for yourself. Make it a part of your routine and non-negotiable on your calendar.

Small acts of daily self-care include:

  • Go for a walk
  • Meditate, pray or practice mindfulness
  • Journal or write down thoughts and feelings as they arise
  • Nourish yourself with water, movement/exercise and nutritious foods
  • Set priorities on your to-do list ensuring there’s time for yourself

It may feel difficult or selfish at first to make yourself a priority. However, when you take proper care of your wellbeing, you’ll be able to increase the quality of care, impact more lives, and serve your clients better. That starts with taking care of yourself on a consistent, guilt-free daily basis.

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