Setting up In Practice: 8 Important Steps to Looking After Yourself in the Work
There is a serious danger in this work that the practitioner’s needs become eclipsed by the needs of her clients. This is particularly so in the early years, when a therapist may not have enough clients and takes on everything that comes their way for fear that there will never be any more.It can also be a problem for those who are well established when they encounter particular clients.
However, there also some easy ways to look after yourself so that you have what you want to give:
- Look after your own needs, and balance them with the needs of those you seek to help. You cannot give what you don’t have, or what you don’t allow others to give you. You can’t help everyone, and you are not the only support your clients will have. There’s a reason they ask on airplanes that you put on your own air-mask before attending to the needs of others!
- Pay attention to the impact the work is having on you, and take steps to manage it. For example, if you are strongly impacted by clients’ energy, you may wish to spend some time arranging the chairs in the room at a distance that suits you. If you find yourself carrying feelings of others, you might want to have longer breaks between clients to allow you space to recover.
- Respect what you have to offer your client, and place a fair value on your work in terms of your fee. Your qualification took time and a lot of energy and money to acquire. You don’t have to work for nothing unless you want to. Many would not see this as self-care, but valuing yourself financially makes an important statement about your willingness to allow those you help to appreciate you, and keeps a balance in the relationship.
- Give space to your own needs and desires. One of the great upsides to being self-employed is that you make your own rules. If you want to take long holidays, or never work weekends, that’s your choice.
- Be clear about your own values and boundaries, including how you deal with fees, cancellations and no-shows. You get to choose the policies that are right for you. Stand up for what you choose. If you find these type of issues difficult to handle, a “prop” in the form of a written contract can make it easier.
- Attend to the practical stuff such as exercising, taking appropriate breaks and rests, eating well and practising disciplines that help you to manage the stress and impact of the work. Breathing deeply and slowly for a few minutes is like a mini break, without the caffeine. This sounds basic, but it’s worth repeating!
- Give yourself a free choice when it comes to deciding whether you want to work with someone or not, and support yourself in your choice. It’s okay to say “no.” If you can’t say “no,” then the “yes” has little meaning, and in the long term, you’ll feel resentful. Get to know what you like and don’t like in the work, and as you gradually move more towards what suits you better, the work will be less stressful.
- Allow others to support you. Keep in contact with colleagues and friends. Create a network of people who can understand what you do, and what you are dealing with. Spend time with people who are easy and comforting to be around.
It’s worth taking the trouble to take care of yourself. You’ll be less likely to suffer from stress related illness, compassion fatigue or burn out. You are, after all, the most valuable asset in your practice!
If you find self-care a challenge, I’d love to help you. Contact me here to make an appointment or to avail of a free 20 minute consultation.