Tips for Self-Care
Keeping Psychologists Healthy: Is Self-Care Important?
Self-care is obviously needed but often ignored. Balance drives a healthy self-care regime. Balancing a healthy mind and body enhances our personal and professional lives. Psychologists are not immune to the effects of a busy career and life’s demands. If we follow our own advice, everyone benefits. Maintaining a sense of balance also assists in honoring our professional guild and Principle A of APA’s Code of Ethics.*
In the Interest of Self-Care, It Is Important to Remember that Balance
- is especially important given our unique occupational vulnerabilities,
- enables us to be more present and effective with our clients, and
- encourages more rewards in all aspects of our lives.
Listening to What We Offer Our Clients
Maintain awareness of stressors.
Use self-assessment and plan coping strategies.
Maintain participation in consultation, therapy, or treatment when needed.
Take care of yourself—get an adequate amount of sleep, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet, nurture meaningful relationships, and allow for leisure time.
Give priority to your own mental and physical needs by developing and working toward specific goals.
In addition to the above, one of the most important things we can do is maintain connections with our colleagues. Connecting with colleagues on a regular basis can lessen the isolation often experienced in independent practice. Peer mentoring provides reciprocal support and time to discuss and share vulnerabilities and successes. Many possibilities can be created to increase peer contact.
Consider a formal consultation group to review ethical dilemmas, for collegial support, and to explore current developments in the field.
Attend workshops to stay current in professional knowledge and to increase competence in areas of interest.
Strengthen relationships with colleagues.
Appreciate that not unlike those we serve, we will experience professional and personal issues at all stages of our lives, from graduate school or early career through retirement. It is normal and understandable to have such challenges. We should not let stigma keep us from support. Our field is evolving and colleague support can keep us healthy and adaptive.
Tips for Balance in the Workplace
Assess and readjust your caseload.
Set healthy boundaries for yourself and the clients you serve.
Vary professional activities to prevent isolation and burnout.
Consider occasional self-assessments to gauge your own level of well-being.
State and local colleague assistance programs (CAPs) can provide support. Visit their websites for valuable resources on self-assessments, self-care, and effective coping strategies. For further information and resources visit the APA website.
* “Be aware of the possible affect of [our] physical and mental health on [our] ability to help those with whom [we] work.” APA 2002, page 3.
By the APA Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance (ACCA), July 2010
Barnett, J.E., Baker, E.K., Elman, N.S., & Schoener, G.R. (2007). In pursuit of wellness: The self-care imperative. Professional Psychology: Research and practice, 38, 603-612.
Bridgeman, D.L. (2010) Colleague Assistance Toolkit: Tools of Engagement for Psychologists for APA’s Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance (ACCA), a 21 page resource for developing a colleague assistance program and articles relevant to all psychologists personally & professional from graduate school phase through retirement. APA or California Psychological Association
Bridgeman, D.L. (2009) Balance, Boundaries & Benevolence: The Complexities of Psychologists’ Self-Care, Coping & Wellness, an informal self-assessment. California Psychological Association
Coster, J.S., & Schwebel, M. (1997). Well-functioning in professional psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and practice, 28, 5-13.
Elman, N.S., Illfelder-Kaye, J., & Robiner, W.N. (2005). Professional development: Training for professionalism as a foundation for competent practice in psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and practice, 36, 367-375.
Kaslow, N.J., Rubin, N.J., Forrest, L., et al. (2007). Recognizing, assessing, and intervening with problems of professional competence. Professional Psychology: Research and practice, 38, 479-492.
Kramen-Kahn, B., & Hansen, N.D. (1998). Rafting the rapids: Occupational hazards, rewards, and coping strategies of psychotherapists. Professional Psychology: Research and practice, 29, 130-134.
Leigh, I.W., Smith, I.L., Bebeau, M.J., et al. (2007). Competence assessment models. Professional Psychology: Research and practice, 38, 463-473.
Skovholt, T. (2001) The Resilient Practitioner: Burnout prevention & self-care strategies for counselors, therapists, teachers, & health care professionals. Allyn & Bacon.
Smith, P. L., & Moss, S.B. (2009). Psychological Impairment: What is it, how can it be prevented, & what can be done to address it? Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 16 (1), 1-15.
Stvanovic, P., & Rupert, P.A. (2004). Career-sustaining behaviors: Satisfactions, and stresses of professional psychologists. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 41, 301-309.
Stevanovic, P. & Rupert, P. (2009) Work-Family Spillover & Life Satisfaction Among Professional Psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and practice, 40, 1, 62-68.