How to Overcome Burnout as a Psychologist, Therapist, or Counselor

Therapist WellnessStress + Burnout

How to Overcome Burnout as a Psychologist, Therapist, or Counselor

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Published: Sep 18 2023

Have you ever wondered how to respond when someone asks, "How are you doing?

We often find ourselves answering with a smile and a generic "I'm fine" or "I'm good," even when we're not. But let's be honest, if it's a close friend or partner asking, we might admit to feeling tired or stressed. 

Research has shown that burnout affects a significant percentage of mental health professionals

As professionals in the field of psychology, therapy, or counseling, it's not uncommon for us to experience fatigue, stress, and overwork. 

Research has shown that burnout affects a significant percentage of mental health professionals, with estimates ranging from 21% to 61%, and even higher during the pandemic. Although the numbers have decreased to 45% in 2022, burnout remains a persistent challenge in our profession.

The problem arises when burnout becomes chronic, deeply impacting our well-being. It's ironic that in a field dedicated to supporting others, many of us fail to prioritize our own mental health. We become so engrossed in helping our clients find strength and peace that we often neglect our own self-care and work-life balance as a therapist.

Fortunately, chronic burnout isn’t insurmountable. There are numerous strategies to overcome it, some of which you may already be familiar with and recommend to your own clients.

With a few valuable tips for therapist burnout, from my experience as a Psychologist, we’ll have you overcoming chronic burnout in no time.

How Do I Know if I’m Experiencing Chronic Burnout as a Therapist?

Before we dive into effective strategies for overcoming burnout, let's identify the signs and symptoms

Take a moment for introspection and ask yourself if you often feel empty, lost, and unmotivated. Do you struggle to balance your responsibilities? Are you searching for ways to reignite your passion and energy? 

If you resonate with any of these feelings, you might already be experiencing chronic burnout. If so, you're not alone. In a study, nearly 65% of mental health professionals reported high levels of emotional exhaustion (Acker, 2012).

While there are common signs of burnout in mental health professionals to be aware of, keep in mind that it can manifest differently for each person. 

Here are some signs you may already be burning the candle at both ends:

  • Emotional exhaustion: You feel emotionally drained and depleted, lacking the energy to cope with everyday challenges.
  • Depersonalization or cynicism: Negative or cynical attitudes towards clients, colleagues, or the profession itself start to emerge.
  • Reduced personal accomplishment: You experience a decreased sense of personal achievement or competence in your work or personal pursuits.
  • Physical and mental fatigue: Persistent physical fatigue, low energy levels, and difficulties concentrating or remembering become more prominent.
  • Decreased job satisfaction: You feel a significant decline in satisfaction and fulfillment derived from your work.
  • Increased irritability and impatience: Uncharacteristic irritability, impatience, or a short temper start to surface.
  • Withdrawal and isolation: You find yourself withdrawing from socializing with colleagues or feeling disconnected even when in the company of others.
  • Increased absenteeism and procrastination: Frequent absences from work or difficulty initiating and completing tasks become noticeable.
  • Decreased self-care: Neglecting self-care routines, hobbies, or activities that were once enjoyed.
  • Poor mental and physical health: Manifestations such as gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, insomnia, concentration issues, and a weakened immune system become apparent.
  • Mismanaged work-life balance as a therapist: Work-related stress spills over into your personal life, straining relationships and disrupting work-life balance.

Find Relief with our Top Tips for Therapist Burnout

It's important to understand that burnout prevention and management approaches can vary from person to person. Just as the signs of burnout can differ, what works for one therapist or psychologist may not be as effective for others

Identifying and adopting strategies that suit our individual needs and adapting to them as necessary will be beneficial in the long run. A little bit of trial and error to find what works best for you may be involved. 

In our opinion, there's no harm in implementing as many of the following tips as possible. After all, the more we can lighten our load and make our jobs easier, the less stressed and burned out we're likely to feel. So let's explore these strategies and embrace them in our quest for a healthier and more fulfilling professional life.

How To Recover From Burnout By Using Technology to Your Advantage 

Imagine leaving the office at the end of the day without the burden of administrative tasks and paperwork. 

Practice management apps and software can be valuable tools for psychologists and therapists, particularly those running private practices. By leveraging automation, you can save time, reduce stress, and beat burnout

There are numerous apps available, including tools provided by Clarity Cooperative, designed to simplify your practice operations.

Here are some of our fantastic tools that have been tried, tested, and proven effective by your fellow mental health practitioners:

  • Progress Notes Generator: Simplify your patient progress documentation with customizable templates, reducing guesswork and saving you valuable time.
  • Good Faith Estimates Calculator: Increase transparency in pricing and avoid surprises that could disrupt your practice or lead to compliance issues with the No Surprises Act.
  • Expense Tracker and Calculator: Gain greater clarity on your cash flow, ensuring you're well-prepared for tax season and eliminating the stress of disorganized expenses.
  • Out-of-Network Insurance Calculator: Navigate the complexities of out-of-network benefits with ease, ensuring you have a clear understanding and making the reimbursement process less stressful.
  • Private Practice Fee Calculator: Expand your services to more people in need without compromising your worth or feeling underpaid.

As therapists ourselves, we created these tools based on our own experiences, with the belief that they would be invaluable in helping fellow therapists thrive in their practices.

Self-Care Practices to Beat Chronic Burnout as A Therapist

 About 84.3% of psychotherapists have reported undergoing personal therapy themselves at some point (Norcross & Guy, 2007). Taking care of ourselves and our mental health is non-negotiable, especially since we're in the helping profession. Engaging in regular self-care activities like exercise, meditation, pursuing hobbies, and spending time with loved ones can work wonders in recharging our batteries and reducing stress levels. It's not just a luxury; it's an absolute necessity.

Let’s start by making a commitment to prioritize self-care and make time for ourselves. Everyone's self-care routine can be different, and that's perfectly okay. Whether it's fitting in daily exercise, finding moments of tranquility through meditation, or indulging in hobbies that bring us joy, it's all about finding what works best for us.

How To Recover From Burnout By Practicing Mindfulness and Self-Reflection

Incorporating mindfulness techniques into our daily routines can help us stay present, reduce anxiety, and cultivate self-awareness. Not only that, it promotes overall mental well-being. 

Mindfulness isn’t just a buzzword; it's a scientifically proven method for improving positivity and overall sense of wellness. 

Don't hesitate to explore various mindfulness practices such as starting a meditation or self-reflection journal, taking contemplative walks, practicing yoga, or even considering therapy to deepen your self-awareness journey. Embracing mindfulness can truly transform our lives for the better. 

Find Work-Life Balance as A Therapist by Setting Boundaries

Establishing clear boundaries with clients and maintaining a healthy work-life balance is an absolute necessity for our well-being. Think of boundaries as a safety net for our wellness – they protect and support us.

Boundaries are an issue that many people struggle with, not just in the mental health profession. With the rise of technology, and telehealth becoming more popular, many therapists have begun to work from home. When the work and personal space becomes blended into one, it can be challenging to separate the two.

Even if you do work from home, making a conscious effort to separate work hours from personal time will help in maintaining balance. One way to establish this boundary is by setting specific limits on your working hours, or keeping your work to a dedicated space, unless there are unavoidable emergencies.

In addition, avoid overbooking yourself and embrace the concept of enjoying your weekends and time off whenever you need it. You deserve to recharge and enjoy your life outside of work too. 

Seek Supervision and Consultation to Gain More Tips for Therapist Burnout

Regular supervision or consultation with experienced professionals can be an incredible source of support and guidance for therapists and psychologists. It's like having a superhero support system by your side.

These check-ins with experienced professionals offer invaluable opportunities to receive guidance, find support, and create a safe space for processing challenging cases or personal struggles. Having supportive mentors by your side can help whether you're dealing with a difficult client or simply ensuring your own mental well-being.

Balancing Caseload By Implementing Burnout Strategies for Therapists

Maintaining a balanced caseload can help in preventing overwhelming stress and exhaustion. Regularly assessing and adjusting your caseload ensures a workload that is manageable and sustainable. Consider both the number and complexity of clients you take on, while also prioritizing your own mental health and personal time.

check-ins with experienced professionals offer invaluable opportunities to receive guidance, find support, and create a safe space for processing challenging cases

Remember, just because there may be an empty slot in your calendar doesn't mean you have to fill it with clients. Sometimes, it's more beneficial to use that time for decompressing and recharging to prevent chronic burnout.

When finding the right balance, be sure to practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and acceptance. Recognize that although you have a strong desire to help, you also have limitations. Embracing self-compassion allows you to set healthy boundaries and prioritize yourself while still providing quality care to your clients.

Developing a Support Network Helps Maintain Work-Life Balance as A Therapist

In our profession, we emphasize the value of building a supportive network. Simply knowing that you're not alone can be incredibly empowering when it comes to overcoming chronic burnout and facing the challenges of our work.

Having a group of like-minded colleagues provides a sense of community and belonging. It offers a space where we can share experiences, seek advice, and find the emotional support we all need. While we can confide in our partners, friends, or loved ones, having conversations with individuals who fully understand the weight of our profession and have likely experienced similar situations can make a tremendous difference.

A robust support network can also contribute to establishing better workplace practices. Your colleagues can offer insights that help improve workflow, enhance communication within your team, and even present new opportunities for professional development. This support system ensures that you don't feel left behind or lacking in your field of work.

By fostering a positive work environment that recognizes and addresses the challenges specific to our profession, we create a foundation for reducing burnout and promoting overall well-being. Together, we can uplift one another and build a stronger professional community.

The Bottom Line

Clarity Cooperative is a quick and easy way to join a supportive community network of mental health practitioners. We also offer a wealth of resources to help you become the best version of yourself as a private practice therapist. 

Sign up for our Pro subscription with a risk-free 30 day trial today and experience everything our community has to offer.

Show Sources

Acker, G. M. (2012). Burnout among mental health care providers. Journal of Social Work, 12(5), 475-490.,of%20being%20all%20dried%20up.

Norcross, J. C., & Guy, J. D. (2007). Leaving it at the office: A guide to psychotherapist self-care. Guilford Press.,help%20people%20cope%20with%20pain

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