008: Burnout Reframe: Embracing Change as a Therapist

November 1, 2023
Joy After Burnout Podcast Cover Art

Early in my career, I was like a curious explorer, eager to try different roles and jobs. I ventured into various fields, gaining valuable experiences along the way. As I stepped into the realm of therapy, the possibilities seemed endless. I had the opportunity to work with diverse populations, from children to adults, and I embraced the chance to make a difference in their lives.

The early years were marked by a sense of openness and flexibility. I immersed myself in different modalities of treatment, trying to find my footing and discover where my true passion lay. With each practicum rotation, internship, and postdoctoral residency, I adapted to the unique demands and challenges of each setting. Some experiences were assigned to me, like the year-long internship site I matched with, even though it wasn’t my initial preference. Little did I know that these seemingly random assignments would profoundly shape my professional journey.

However, as time went on, the path began to narrow. I found myself gravitating toward specific areas of specialization, honing my skills and deepening my knowledge. It was during this process of narrowing that I encountered moments of self-reflection and realization. I discovered that while I excelled in certain aspects of therapy, there were other areas that didn’t resonate with me. Writing reports, for example, was a task I had a knack for but grew to dislike.

But perhaps the most significant turning point came when I faced the daunting reality of vicarious trauma. I had always believed that I could handle the emotional toll of my work, confident that I could compartmentalize and not let it seep into my personal life. However, it was a heart-wrenching case involving the tragic loss of an infant that shattered my illusion. The weight of the trauma began to take its toll, infiltrating my thoughts and emotions. It became clear that I needed to confront this vicarious burden and embark on my own journey of healing and self-care.

Reflecting on my career transitions, I am reminded of the intricacies of the human experience. We start our professional journeys with wide-eyed curiosity and a willingness to explore the unknown. But as we gain experience and accumulate knowledge, our path naturally becomes more focused and defined. It is a natural evolution, influenced by our own stories, challenges, and the decisions we make along the way.

In navigating the spiritual implications of vicarious trauma, it is crucial to recognize its profound impact on our beliefs and well-being. It is an occupational hazard that we may not fully comprehend until we experience it firsthand. The moments of doubt, the intrusive thoughts, and the toll it takes on our day-to-day lives can leave us questioning our own resilience and faith.

Yet, in the midst of these struggles, there is a sacred nature to our work as therapists. Our personal stories, intertwined with the stories of those we serve, shape us and guide us towards greater compassion and understanding. It is through our own healing journey that we can continue to support others with authenticity and empathy.

As therapists, we must not forget the importance of self-care and self-reflection. It is only by tending to our own spiritual well-being that we can truly be present for our clients. Acknowledging the evolving nature of our career, the impact of vicarious trauma, and the sacredness of our calling can help us navigate the complexities of our profession with resilience and grace.

In the end, our personal stories are woven into the very fabric of our therapeutic practice. They remind us of our humanity, the transformative power of empathy, and the unwavering commitment to our clients’ well-being. May we continue to embrace these stories, honor our own journeys, and find solace in the sacred nature of our work as therapists.

In conclusion, my journey as a therapist began with a broad exploration of possibilities, gradually narrowing down as I specialized and honed my skills. Along the way, I encountered vicarious trauma, and career transitions challenged my sense of self and spiritual beliefs. However, through introspection and self-compassion, I found that change was not an antithesis to my identity as a therapist. It was a necessary and transformative part of my growth. By embracing the sacred nature of therapy and acknowledging the interconnectedness of my experiences, I continue to navigate my career path with authenticity, empathy, and a deep commitment to the well-being of those I serve.

Changing gears as a therapist: How diverse experiences, vicarious trauma, and . 🚀 #CareerShift

Are you a therapist feeling stuck and longing for change in your career? 🤔 Let’s talk about navigating those career shifts, just like I did. I embarked on a journey filled with curiosity, diverse experiences, and self-discovery. From working with children to adults and exploring various treatment modalities, my path was a winding one.

But here’s the catch: as time went on, my focus narrowed, and I encountered the challenges of specialization and vicarious trauma. I questioned how change fit into my role as a therapist. 🤷‍♂️

Here’s what I realized: Embracing change doesn’t betray our therapeutic identity; it’s an essential part of our growth and the ability to serve others authentically. My own journey of healing and self-discovery informed my practice, deepening my connection with clients.

Now, I’m navigating career transitions with self-awareness and resilience, embracing the transformative power that lies within these challenges. 💪

If you’re finding it hard to make a career change or feel stuck in your therapist journey, take a moment to read this enlightening article. It shares my personal experiences and insights that might just inspire your own transformative journey. 🚀

Let’s embark on this path together, embracing the sacred nature of therapy and honoring our interconnected experiences. Your journey to a more fulfilling career starts now! 💚 #TherapistJourney #CareerChange #TherapeuticTransformation #EmbraceChange

Speaker A: Hey, therapist. I wanted to let you know about a free resource that I’ve developed for you, introducing the Before You Quit guide. This is a free resource I wish I had when I was in the throes of Burnout. So it’s going to include focused journal props on areas of struggle and burnout in clinical practice, identification of depleting experiences in your practice and in your life. And then we’ll hopefully identify some actionable items for change. If you’re feeling depleted in your role, please give yourself the gift of slowing down and assessing what’s really going on with your career turmoil. As a therapist, I know it can be confusing, isolating, and totally overwhelming. So grab your freebie. The link for that is in the show notes. Thanks.

Speaker B: This is the Finding Joy After Burnout podcast, a podcast for therapists and mental health professionals. Together, we unravel Burnout and find our road back to joy. Here’s your host, Dr. Jen Blanchett.

Speaker A: You. Hey, therapist. Today on the program, I’m going to talk a little bit about why change is hard. So if you’re a therapist who’s looking to change, maybe you can’t do one on one anymore or you just can’t do therapy in the way you’ve been doing it. I have some ideas in this topic, so let’s dig in. Okay. So why is change hardest? Therapist, that is the topic. So if you’re looking at this on video, I have an image of a cat in an astronaut outfit, actually. And so this was me. I’m not a cat, but this is me as a new therapist or someone who wanted to come into therapy. When I started this career, I really thought about all the different things that I could do in my career. Maybe I could be a professor, maybe I could change the world, maybe I could do all the things. So I think I just want to tap into that place that we’re in when we started careers, that there are so many different directions that we can get into and all of the multitude of directions can feel creative, exciting, and like, it’s unknown, but we’re excited about it. I think contrasting that with what many therapists talk about with me lately is that figuring out change in their career feels pretty scary, limiting, and like there’s no options. So let’s dig into some of this content. So just some science for us, why it might be hard for us to change, right? So some research indicates that as the years pass, we become more drawn to structure, routine, and things that are familiar. If you’re a therapist seeking change, it’s crucial to understand the shift. Therapists looking to change their practice, it’s essential to recognize our natural pull to stability. So we are. Naturally, as we age, we are. So I saw this funny reel. Maybe it’s the Holderness family. Anyway, so they were talking about the reel was about millennials and how they were welcoming in millennials to becoming an adult. So I’m kind of on that millennial Gen X line where I was right on the cusp. So my brother is definitely like Gen X. He’s about four years older than me, in his late 40s. I’m in my early I’m kind of on that cusp of millennials. So I think, interestingly enough, this reel was kind of about drinking soda water and having a warm, cozy beverage versus going out to the club and partying. And then we’re kind of pulling millennials into that stability, into the safety that it feels like we need to create as an adult. A lot of us are parents. That’s the reason why some of that stability exists too. So the dilemma of change is that we might start to ask ourselves some of these questions how can we embrace change while embodying the quality of safety, stability, and consistency that we also associate with our roles as therapists? I’ll just let that one kind of sink in for a minute. So as therapists, we create stability in our therapeutic relationship. We create safety. We create the environment that clients could open up, that they could explore really difficult and traumatic things that have occurred in their life. And also thinking of, like, what if you’re truly done with being a therapist? What if that’s just over? And for me, that was a hard, stark reality that I had to sit with. And I don’t know if I fully have answered that question. I don’t know if I’m totally done at the time of this recording being done with therapy work altogether, the sacred nature of therapy is inherent. So it’s rewarding to see that AHA moment that our clients feel when real change happens. When we see that shift happen in therapy, it’s beautiful. It’s lovely. We want that for all of our clients. We do soul focused work. So our work is really talking about the depths of our humanity. For me, it was also tied to that feeling of having a calling on my life, having a mission in my life, that it was really tied to something deep within myself. And so those things, if you’re changing this deep calling, that it felt like, this is what I’m supposed to do. Because when we’re 20, whatever we were when we started this process, we could see our whole lives, right? We could see our whole lives. That when we’re 43, in my case, that that would still fit for my life at my age. So it’s just interesting to think that from the time we are in our early 20s or whenever you started this career journey that even 1520 years later, that we can predict that we’d still enjoy the career may not really work for us. So therapists are some of the most risk, adverse people I know. If you have therapist friends, you know that we move pretty slow. We’re not a group that’s like, sure, I’m going to change everything all at once. Doesn’t really happen with our group of people. So qualities that we like are stability, love our warm, cozy offices with smooshy couches and places where we can really inhabit a space. We think deliberately through emotional decisions, and we encourage our clients to do so. We think, tell them, you don’t have to make a decision right now. You could choose to think about it, write a letter, all the options, right? So it’s no wonder that we don’t embody some of those traits that we tell clients to do and that we are more likely to do ourselves. We live ethical and socially conscious lives. So the therapists I know are really just ethical and wonderful people and they don’t want to create any harm for the people that they serve. Some consequences of not making the changes we need in our professional life, those could be shame, inadequacy, hurt, isolation, anxiety, stagnation, physical ailments, lack of appreciation and resentment sometimes towards clients. Also want to talk about why maybe some top five reasons why change is hard. So for me, having so many chips in the psychology counseling boat and Sunk Cost Fallacy so I talk a lot about Sunk Cost Fallacy on the podcast and in my content. It’s basically that you’ve invested too much in a thing to feel like you can stop that thing. So if you’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars into your education, into trainings, it seems like you have to keep going because the investment is too high to leave that particular career or that investment. It kind of is with anything, a financial investment. They also talk about some cost fallacy as well. Age in Time we aren’t alone in the desire for stability as humans. So as we age in our careers, as we age as humans, we long for stability. Again, like I said, due to our training, most of us are risk adverse to a fault. Stability and safety are important, but they can come at a price, which is stagnation and regret. So we don’t think about that price, that’s that stability that we create in a therapeutic relationship. It is important we don’t think about ourselves and what we need and how that stagnation and how regret of not figuring out what we really need in our careers and in our lives, how important that is. Therapy is sacred and it feels part of our identity just saying those words. I’m a therapist. People know what that is. People respect our work. People even say things like, oh, well, you’re probably trying to figure me out right now. My favorite thing to say to that was, are you paying me? Because if not, I’m not doing that ethically. We’re taught to protect our clients from harm in the relationship. We can feel leaving, quitting or changing our roles is abandonment. And I will quote one of my guests, Judy, who says, you can’t abandon your adult clients. They are adults. We are not their parents and for the children, if you’re a child therapist, they have parents, they have other people in that role. And of course we’re going to make those ethical decisions. We’re going to give them referrals, we’re going to give time, closure, and that is not professional abandonment. But we can internalize and feel that sensation of abandonment in our bodies and feel like we are doing that to our clients. But that is a feeling and a thought. That is not actually what we’re doing. I have six on here, so maybe I’ll change my slide. So we are silos in private practice many times we don’t talk to other professionals to understand the emotional toll of our work and our deep need for change professionally, financially, personally, et cetera. So it’s important that we go outside of that silo of private practice or even the therapy room. Often thought of other professionals like doctors or nurses who often do co treatment together. So in a nurse and a doctor, they see each other’s work together. In many instances, physical therapists often will co treat in a common space together. For therapists, it’s not as common for us to do co treatment together. So I think that it’s important distinction in our profession. We’re more prone to isolation even if we’re say in a group practice or working with other people, because we just typically have our client and us in that therapy room. Okay, so I’m calling this section of these reframe episodes the reframe. So I am an EMDR certified clinician and consultant in training. So I’m taking a little liberty. This is not EMDR, this is just my own personal framework for how I go through my own thought and body work when I’m doing it on my own. Okay, but I think it’s a useful tool, especially if you’re an EMDR therapist. We don’t often think about using our own tools that we have in our toolbox on ourselves, not taking away the need for personal therapy because that is also important. And I have my personal therapist and I love that individual. They’re wonderful. There’s my caveats. Here we are. So I’m going to take you through one of my reframes. So I’m going to bring up the image. And for me, I’m thinking about what image comes to mind when you think about leaving therapy. For me, the worst part of my image was telling clients, and particularly I thought about a very difficult termination, such a termination session where the client had a lot of AB reaction in that particular session. And not to go into the details of anything clinically or to protect that client’s confidentiality, but I can just say they had a definite reaction and they were not very pleasant in their response to me. And that was not necessarily about me, but just important for me to work through. So for me it was a very difficult termination session with that client. Even that word that we call it a termination session with a client. Can we say a goodbye session? We’ll just say a goodbye session. I like that better. So the image I have is that client’s face in that session. Goodbye session. I’m going to change it in my wording soon, but we’ll work on that. In my mind, my negative cognition or my negative thought was I’m abandoning my clients. I’ll never figure it out. I’ll never figure my career out was my thought. My body sensation was tightness in my chest. My emotion was fear and shame. And I rated, I didn’t put this in here, but in EMDR we do a subjective unit of disturbance. And so that’s like zero to ten. Like zero is no disturbance and ten is the highest disturbance you can imagine. And so I think at the time it was like a two to a four. So it was a pretty low disturbance. Which is even helpful for you to write all this out and write down your disturbance. Because oftentimes we feel like it’s an eight. Like we’re at an eight with whatever we’re feeling. But when we actually write it down, we check our body and we’re like, oh, actually it’s like a two or a three, but we think it’s that eight or nine or it’s going to completely overtake us because we don’t take the time to really go all the way through that particular situation. So what I did there is I just let my channels of association come up. So I just let the feeling, the associations with that just come up. And in EMDR, we do bilateral stimulation. I just walk through it. So I have a big island in my kitchen. So I literally just walked around my island in my kitchen. And every minute or so I would write down what came up. So about 1 minute I would write down. So some of my associations that came up with this particular image were I feel embarrassed by my new podcast idea. The one I’m on right now, feeling like it’s a failure. I feel like clients will be mad with me. And so I would continue to walk around my kitchen and each one would come up. I didn’t write them all down, but I just wrote down some of the notes from that particular one that I did. So I walked around for maybe a few minutes and I kind of came to a place where the sud kind of felt like it’s kind of like a zero or a one. So there’s no disturbance in my body when I bring that up. And so then I come up with a positive cognition. What do I feel now when I think of that image and what I felt at the time was, it’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to want something else. So I write down that positive cognition. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to want something else. If this was like I do these kind of quickly on my own. But if this was if we’re actually thinking of steps in EMDR, if you’re in a session with your therapist or something, you can do a body scan. And sometimes I’ll do that. Let’s just check top of my head all the way to the bottom of my toes. Do I notice any disturbance from that particular image when I have that image up? For me, I didn’t feel any disturbance at the time, and so I just went through that. And so now when I think of that situation, I have that positive cognition. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to want something else. And so that’s always different to the person. What’s going to come up for you when you go through the actual image that pops in your mind or the situation you’re kind of thinking about. So I encourage you, if you feel comfortable, to kind of think through the particular situation you’re worried about. I always say there’s like one person in your mind that you’re worried about their reaction to whatever it is. And for me, there’s probably like two or three people that I think of when that vulnerable part of me wants to do something brave. So think about what that is. What is that situation? Who are the people you’re worried about that are going to respond and maybe work on those emotions, those channels of association that come up? And maybe in future episodes, I might put this little frame, this reframe format into a document for you. I’m still working that out, maybe on how to kind of frame it up in a really sticky way to be helpful. But also, many of I think people don’t realize that EMDR has a lot of similarities in some ways to CBT, we just incorporate the body. We use bilateral stimulation. So you likely have many tools as a therapist that you can utilize. So whether that be a thought record, do a thought record on it, that’s a great tool to use to help yourself through these different career decisions instead of just letting them rent space in your mind over and over again. Because we’re all guilty of that. That’s human, that’s natural. So thanks for listening to this episode today on why change is hard. I hope you’ve gotten something out of this. Thanks.

Speaker B: Thank you for listening to the Joy After Burnout podcast. Be the first to hear new episodes by following the podcast in your podcast player. This is an informational podcast only. Any information expressed by the host or guest is not a substitute for legal, medical, or financial advice.


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