10 Therapists On How They Practice Self-Care



mhw2017

Health

They try to practice what they preach, but it’s not always
easy.

Posted on October 08, 2017, 14:01 GMT

Therapists spend so much
time helping other people with their mental health, it kind
of begs the question: how do they look after their
own?

Like, on the one hand, they’re obviously well-equipped with
the mental health know-how to look after themselves, but on
the other, spending all day sitting with people and their
mental health problems can’t be easy.

To get some answers, BuzzFeed Health asked 10 therapists what
self-care means to them. Here’s what they shared:

Cathryn Laverly / Unsplash

1.

I keep thinking about how different self-care would be
depending on what therapist you ask.
My coworker who has
three children to go home to is going to have a different
version of self-care than my coworker who runs her own side
business on top of a full-time job. For some, self-care means
quality time with family, unwinding to mindless television at
the end of a long day, planning vacation times, participating
in social activities outside of work, all offering a
different reward.

For myself, I have always found most of my self-care — my
refueling — in more introverted activities. I do my best when
I get to listen to meditations that ground me on a daily
basis, step out into nature, spend time taking care of my own
personal to do list, etc.”

—Beth Rue, MSS, LSW, primary rherapist at Summit
Behavioral Health

2.

“I think a lot of helping professionals find it second-nature
to guide and support others on their life journeys while we
can easily lose ourselves in the mix. What helps me
immediately during and after an emotionally challenging day
is to use humor to lighten things up for myself. Sometimes
that means cracking jokes with colleagues to lessen the
stress felt that day, or having a light-hearted and humorous
conversation with someone who ‘gets me’ and my sense of
humor, or watching a show or film I know I will get a kick
out of to make myself laugh. Laughing out loud is a
powerful antidote to emotional distress that always helps me
lift my spirit.

—Gabriela Parra, LCSW,
California-based clinical social worker

3.

“Most important to me is being aware of what’s going on for
me at any given time. Being honest with myself about where I
am emotionally, and what might make me more sensitive or less
objective than usual — what might make me not be able to do
my best work. I accept that I am human and may have
humanly imperfect reactions to things, but I have to stay on
top of them to keep them from getting in the way.

I also like to create a buffer between work and home: taking
some time after my sessions just to decompress and clear my
mind, even if brief, before I immediately sail into
Mom/Wife/Friend mode with the people in my life. And of
course, above all, I have to keep taking care of myself:
practice what I preach in terms of having hobbies, being
active, getting outdoor time, prioritizing sleep (this one
can be tough!) and staying social with the people whose
company I enjoy.”

—Andrea Bonior, PhD,
clinical psychologist and author of Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic
Theories, and How They Inform Your World

4.

“I try to take care of myself physically by going to the gym
regularly and exercising. Working out gives me a
tremendous boost in how I feel physically and mentally.
I
also practice what I preach, which is not to compare myself
to others. It is important not to project onto other people
thoughts that their lives are so much better than my life or
that I have am not successful because I have not accomplished
what others may have achieved.”

—Marc Romano, PsyD, director of medical services at Delphi Behavioral
Health

5.

“Quite similar to self-care for everyone else. A
multi-vitamin is incredibly important for self-care for me.
Work-wise, mixing my daily tasks with learning and
upgrading my skills.
Going for an evening walk is really
important for me too. I take my child to the park for a run
around and then put her in the stroller and do my own walk.”

—Alice Boyes, PhD,
former clinical psychologist and author of The
Anxiety Toolkit

6.

“A go-to for me in order to decompress and recharge is
getting out in nature. Nature-therapy, as I like to call
it, allows me to be in the moment, check in with myself,
connect with the world around me, and get some much needed
fresh air.
The benefits of spending time in nature are
unbe-leaf-able (!) as it is a proven way to calm the mind and
body!”

—Joanna
Boyd, MCP, RCC, Vancouver, Canada-based clinical
counsellor

7.

“For me, self-care means being fully engaged with a client
when we’re together, giving all I can through my attention,
care, and planning, and then letting them return to their
life when the day is done as I turn my attention back to my
own needs. Many years ago I realized that taking my work home
stemmed from a lack of trust. I felt I didn’t give enough in
the sessions and needed to worry to make up for it. But this
wasn’t true. I found that I needed to trust that I’m
giving all I can to my clients, trust that they are capable
of healthy growth and self-care, and trust in the therapeutic
process; that our collaboration is a force for good.

Of course, there are exceptional cases that require work
beyond the session, and I often think of my clients when I’m
off the clock, but I’m able to enjoy my down time more when I
embrace trust. When I have trust in myself, my clients, and
therapy, I can pivot to enjoy time with my family, working
out, playing in my rock band, and continuing my weekly quest
to create the world’s best spaghetti sauce.”

—Ryan Howes, PhD,
clinical psychologist and professor at Fuller Graduate School
of Psychology

8.

“Much of my self-care involves activities that help me to
feel calm, strong, and connected – all important things in my
line of work. I spend a lot of quiet time in nature, which
helps me to slow things down and calm both my body and my
mind. I also really love group fitness classes, which help me
to feel strong both inside and out, and ready to support my
clients through the most challenging of moments. Perhaps
most importantly, I spend time with friends and family, with
whom I feel loved and supported
. When things become
difficult or overwhelming, they help me find perspective,
sometimes simply with a much needed laugh.”

—Amanda Zayde, PsyD, New
York City-based clinical psychologist

9.

“It’s so important for us to practice what we preach! Namely,
having a balanced life that includes time with friends and
family, getting a good night’s sleep and eating well,
exercising, and doing things just for me (e.g., reading a
good summer novel, cheering on my Tennessee Titans games,
etc.). It’s also incredibly valuable to have a trusted
mentor or two to seek guidance from when things have been
particularly stressful.

—Simon Rego, PsyD, chief
psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein
College of Medicine

10.

“I try to practice exactly what I recommend my clients: at
least a few minutes of daily mindfulness practice, a daily
gratitude minute, regular exercise (like 4-5 times/week), and
time with people. There are so many incredible benefits to
learning to enter the moment, turn towards the positive,
develop a sense of accomplishment, and experience
connections.

People do ask me about the difficulty of sitting with
people in pain. Of course I empathize and it is hard to hear
about how deeply some of my clients are struggling.
That
said, I find my job to be an opportunity. I totally believe
evidence-based tools can change people’s lives so generally
feel lucky and hopeful that people are courageous and that
the science of psychology has evolved in a significant way.”

—Jennifer L. Taitz,
PsyD, New York City-based clinical psychologist

By the way, if you’re feeling curious about therapy
yourself, you can learn more about how to start here, since pretty much
everyone can benefit from talking to a professional. For more
information on free and affordable mental health care
options, check out this guide.

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