Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Burnout

Issac Boose, Director Pine Grove Next Step

There are a number of causes that contribute to burnout in the counseling profession. Counselor empathy is an often overlooked contributor to counselor burnout. Traditional coping techniques as well as the concept of emotional awareness can be used to promote the overall health and wellbeing of counselors.

Many things can contribute to counselor burnout, but three main categories are: lifestyle features, individual personality characteristics and job structure. Lifestyle features comprise such things as working hard with little balance. Most individuals would agree that a strong work ethic is commendable; however, if a counselor does not balance work with self-care they can often set themselves up for burnout. An ambitious counselor may set out with good intentions to do their very best for their clients, but end up losing themselves in the process. Counselors may not readily recognize the signs of burnout because many counselors reject the notion that they may need help or support from others.

Counselors are trained to focus their attention on the needs of others and helping others may be a deeply ingrained personality characteristic of the counselor as well. If this is the case the counselor may begin to experience stress from helping their clients without recognizing it This lack of self-awareness might cause counselors to focus more of their attention on what they do best, which is to help others instead of helping themselves.

The personal characteristic of counselor empathy is often overlooked as possible cause of counselor burnout. Counselors are unique individuals. They often bare witness to the pain and suffering of others daily and not everyone is capable of doing this. Imagine all the trauma, abuse and grief that counselors have to sort through hourly during a work day. The average person is not able to do this and cope with the challenges of life. For this reason, counselors should be encouraged to become self-aware and to practice self-care – the same principles we teach to their clients.

Counselors should learn to listen to their bodies and relax when they need to. Counselors should also develop and maintain a social support system they can turn to for help when help is needed. It is also very important for counselors to recognize the need for physical, mental and spiritual health. Above all else, counselors should seek help for personal issues if they are unable to work through them on their own in a timely manner. This can be a challenge for many in the counseling profession. Counselors can also practice emotional awareness as a means of self-care. Emotional awareness is a concept of Gary Zukav. Zukav encourages individuals to accept their emotions and not run from them. He states that as human beings we may believe that we should only experience certain emotions and avoid others. By doing this we miss the point according to Zukav, because our emotions bring us valuable information and they help us learn. If we are able to experience our emotions without running from them we are on our way to becoming authentically empowered individuals.

By recognizing the causes of burnout; practicing self-care techniques and becoming emotionally aware, counselor can better prepare themselves to help others as well as themselves.

Issac L. Boose is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist as well as a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor. He presently works as the director of Pine Grove Next Step and has been a part of the Next Step team since December 2004. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland European Division and a Masters Degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Mississippi. He is an active member of the Mississippi Association of Addiction Professional. His experience in the counseling profession includes working with school-aged children as a school based counselor, counseling senior citizens in a hospital setting, community mental health counseling and residential alcohol and drug counseling. While working within these settings he has provided couples, family, group and individual therapy.

Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services is an extension of Forrest General Hospital, located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Pine Grove’s world renowned programs focus on treating gender specific chemical addiction including a specialized track for co-occurring eating disorders. Additionally, Pine Grove offers a focused substance abuse healing program for adults age 55 and over. Other Pine Grove specialty programs include a dedicated professional’s treatment curriculum and a comprehensive evaluation center. Pine Grove also features a program for patients with sexual and intimacy disorder issues. Pine Grove was established in 1984 and has provided nationally and internationally recognized health care for over 30 years.

Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.