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Therapists are more familiar with burnout than most. As this mental health struggle grows alongside stressful work changes, more and more therapists are guiding their patients through the process of healing. But how many mental health professionals are dealing with burnout themselves?

It’s often ill-advised to pathologize or diagnose yourself in this profession, but recognizing the struggle is important for continuing to help others.

Why Are Mental Health Professionals At Risk?

‘Psychic Poisoning’

Carl Jung, the notable psychologist he was, recognized that psychologists and therapists were at higher risk of mental stress and fatigue. This is due to the nature of being in close contact with patients that are in pain, grieving, or traumatized. He believed that mental health professionals can be ‘infected’ with their patient’s struggles – a so-called ‘psychic poisoning.’

‘Vicarious Trauma’

Connected to this, those who focus their work on trauma-informed treatment can experience ‘vicarious traumatization.’ This is the result of empathic engagement with the traumatic material connected to patients. Being empathic and sympathetic is important in therapy, but can pose its own unique risks to the professional.

Being Built-up or Knocked Down

When receiving mental health treatment, many patients develop a complicated relationship with their therapist. Some find themselves elevating the therapist on a pedestal – while others vilify or resent the presence. Others erratically bounce between these feelings. This can be stressful and difficult to manage for the therapist, causing doubts or mental stress.

Recovery Isn’t Linear

Therapy isn’t a profession with a clear finish line. Being mentally healthy is a long, often never-ending process. This can be discouraging to many in the field, and be a cause of frustration for both patient and therapist.

These are just a few of the major difficulties that mental health professionals face. These are difficult to manage and can cause them to be more at risk of experiencing burnout. But this is not a definite result of the profession by any means. Therapists are well-versed in major methods to avoid burnout, but as a refresher:

  • Take regular vacations, and find healthy ways to disconnect from your work.
  • Utilize professional, support, or other groups that can help you find consultation.
  • Find your passion for work again, or perhaps reevaluate your reasons for working.
  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance

For many, burnout seems unavoidable. For others, it can come out of nowhere. But whether you see yourself as vulnerable or not, every mental health professional should practice what they preach.