Counselor Self-Care During COVID-19
Self-care is defined as anything that we do in order to take care of ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically. However due to the coronavirus pandemic self-care maybe difficult due to being confined to your home.
During the pandemic counselors are assisting others with their needs and being a listening ear for their clients. Amid helping others it is easy for counselors to forget their needs. For counselors it is imperative to engage in self-care behaviors especially during the pandemic because of the level of stress that comes along with being a therapist.
Mental health providers are responsible for caring for and improving the mental health of others. Counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists are privy to the most personal thoughts and experiences of their clients. During COVID-19 the world is trying to learn how exist in a manner different than what it was before.
Some adults have been granted the opportunity to work from home, kids are going to school virtually and in some places face masks are required to enter the facility. While these things might not seem as bad there is another side of COVID that those that provide mental health treatment are faced with every day.
Unemployment rates are at an all time high, businesses are closing, homes are in foreclosure, sporting events are being cancelled, activities that allowed for socialization have been cancelled, the fight for equal rights among people of color and the upcoming election have contributed to an influx in stress, anxiety, and depression for people.
Mental health providers have also had to adapt to the rapidly changing world. Mental health providers that were used to working in an office space had to rely on distance counseling in order to continue to serve their clients. Building rapport, expressing empathy and guaranteeing confidentiality via a computer monitor can be difficult.
According to Friedman (2017), counselors experience a great deal of stress as we walk through the human experience with each of our clients, doing our best to be compassionate, nonjudgmental, unbiased, culturally competent, loving, and fully present. Self-care is important to the counseling process because if a counselor is not taking care of themselves, they will not be able to assist the client on their journey.
Because of the emotional strain involved in caring for others, people in helping professions can experience counselor burnout , compassion fatigue, and even Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder (STSD) as a result of setting aside their own self-care needs when helping others (Figley 2002; Collins and Long 2003; Linton and O’Halloran 2000; Bruns et al. 2014).
Signs of burnout might be hard to recognize for counselors because given the stress that comes along with quarantining and COVID they can ignore the signs. For counselors to engage in self-care they must carve out time in their schedules to address their needs.
Counselor’s should take at least an hour a day to read, exercise or engage in some leisure activity or hobby they enjoy. Hou and Skovholt (2020) found that highly resilient therapists are drawn to strong interpersonal relationships, actively engage with self, possess a core values and beliefs framework and desire to learn and grow.
As therapist encourage their clients to have a strong support system, therapist need a strong support system as well. For counselors to be effective they must address their self-care needs. Engaging in mindfulness practices, having a strong support system with good interpersonal relationships contributes to having a strong sense of belonging and increases the ability to be resilient.
It is imperative to the field of counseling that the discussion of self-care is a dialogue that is encouraged and continued in order to improve and insure counselors can live up to the code of ethics which govern us as well as generate a culture of awareness of the importance of self-care and its impact on the field of counseling.