It is inevitable that we all will experience distress at some point in our lives whether in our personal lives or in our professional lives or both. Mental health professionals are often at a higher risk of experiencing symptoms of distress, more specifically, symptoms of burnout. Symptoms of burnout can include feelings of emotional depletion, a reduced sense of satisfaction or fulfillment in your work, personal symptoms of distress such as irritability, substance use, or fatigue, and a loss of empathy (Carter & Barnett, 2014, pp. 29–30). It is not uncommon for these professionals to focus on the needs of the client and neglect their own needs. For these reasons, mental health professionals are urged to employ self-care strategies and interventions such as taking regularly scheduled breaks and/or vacations, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries for yourself and the clients you work with, developing a self-care plan, and actively strive to maintain a healthy life/work balance (Carter & Barnett, 2014; APA, 2014). Graduate programs often remind and educate future mental health professionals on how to practice self-care, but as we move further along in our careers it can be easy to forget.
Some aspects of the mental health profession that can contribute to burnout are our work setting, the type of client we are treating, lack of progress with a particular client, long work hours, perhaps being on call, client emergencies, crises or suicide attempts, aggressive clients, professional isolation, fear of malpractice claims, ethical complaints, or licensure board complaints, paperwork, administrative responsibilities, lack of resources, receiving negative feedback, insurance and reimbursements, and not feeling appreciated (Barnett, 2014). Barnett (2014) noted the impact from personal lives that can also contribute to burnout such as family, relationships, health, finances, mental health, etc. It is not only important for our own wellbeing to attend to our self-care