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Four Reasons Why Therapist Burnout Is Real

Written by: Julia Alisha Andre, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Dr. Julia A. Andre

Who does not know this feeling of being stressed, with some nuances of anxiety paired with exhaustion and a dip in compassion? I just felt empty, and there was not much to give. Like many other therapists, I kept telling myself it was just a phase; I needed to rest more, or how about doing some more self-care? I mean, I'm a therapist and should know how to handle those feelings and maintain a work-life balance. Only when I started opening up to other colleagues did I realize I am not the only one, and something is going on post-pandemic that can be called collectivistic therapist burnout. Some people left their jobs, moved their lives upside down, or massively scaled down and cherished "back to the basics". Was it the amount of online therapy? No real breaks? Many clients in need of mental health care? Too much switching between clients? Or am I just getting old? It made me think to explore this topic further. 

Woman sitting on couch looking side way.

Your emotional load bucket is finite: The first thing that comes to mind is the nature of the work. It requires a lot of energy to deal with, monitor, and take care of vulnerable clients while also managing your own well-being. Holding space for emotions and challenging coping modes can be exhausting. Additionally, there are few opportunities to share these experiences with others, and all you can do sometimes is share them with your client's note-taking system. On top of that, complex cases, in combination with no peer support or supervision, add to the bucket of being emotionally charged and being one step closer to burnout. 

Not everyone is a good fit! It's important to note that there are cases where a client may not be a good fit for you as a therapist. This can happen when you are assigned clients based on availability, and the client requires treatment in an area outside of your specialization. Additionally, there may be situations where the client's coping mechanisms trigger your own unresolved traumas or schemas. For instance, if the client displays behaviours that remind you of their parent's coping mode during childhood. This could trigger unresolved feelings and emotionally drain extra energy to stay in a professional, healthy mode. 

High workload & administrative burden! We, as therapists, often face numerous administrative tasks such as record-keeping, billing, dealing with insurance companies, and creating client material. This is especially true when you run your private practice or work in a highly bureaucratic institution. Unfortunately, no extra time is usually allocated for these tasks, nor is it compensated. As a result, it is not uncommon for us to squeeze these tasks in between client appointments and end up having a never-ending to-do list. This adds significant pressure on us and makes it challenging to maintain our own mental health.

We need to make unworkable things work! And if that's not enough, people often think we have unlimited invisible superpowers. It can sometimes feel like we are supposed to, especially when you are repeatedly asked to fit in clients despite being fully booked, working for free and fixing all misery in the world, or constantly justifying session fees. On top of that, pay and schedule for continued learning and invest in professional development to keep up with registrations and the latest therapeutic techniques. All this while working with limited resources and being unable to provide adequate client support can lead to demoralization. 

If your buckets are too full for too long, this ultimately leads to so-called empathy or compassion fatigue. I was first introduced to it at university while studying for a multiple-choice exam during my Bachelor's degree. I just found the terminology, let's say, "interesting", and learned the definition to get a high mark. 

However, only now, ten years later, I realize what it actually means and what its essence feels like! Maybe even getting an idea of how it can taste.

Thinking about it, the only way I see is to address therapist burnout through a combination of individual self-care, organizational support, and systemic changes within the mental health field. 

I wish I could tell you that I found the ultimate answer; of course, I cannot, but I would like to introduce the therapy matching platform Open Heart to you, developed by (burned out)-therapists for therapists. The therapist-client matching platform took that pain point into sorrowful consideration, and we started building a next-generation platform, keeping the well-being of therapists in mind and building them up instead of using them. 

Benefits info

If you are interested, please follow us on LinkedIn or sign up on our website as a therapist, and we will contact you shortly. 

If you want to learn more about trauma, follow me on FB, LinkedIn and visit my website.

Dr. Julia A. Andre Brainz Magazine

Dr. Julia A. Andre, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Julia Andre is a pioneer in transforming the traditional weekly trauma psychotherapy model into a highly successful intensive format in Asia, the so-called EMDR Intensives. As a result, healing in days becomes a real possibility, and clients can feel relief much faster than possibly being in therapy for months or years. The economic value and compelling scientific evidence promise a fundamental shift in trauma treatment. She has since dedicated her life to helping others heal their trauma wounds and educating fellow professionals in Asia about the Intensive treatment format—her mission: Healing is possible!



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