How therapists stay healthy

How therapists stay healthy

I sometimes get asked how I can be okay when I spend so much time listening to other people’s problems and traumatic experiences. 

The truth is, we are human too (shock, I know) and sometimes, we do get sad and are affected by our patients. We do our jobs because we care about people and so it would be odd if we didn’t feel sad about things that our patients endure.

But at the same time, it feels good to listen, to hold a space for people and to hopefully be a catalyst for their change to a better place. We’re not miracle workers and we may sometimes say the wrong thing or react in the wrong way. And that’s okay because it’s all part of therapy. Getting things wrong and repairing them. This can lead to a better and deeper relationship with our patients.

Supervision and therapy

Supervision is an important space for us to discuss our cases. This helps us to check that we’re not off track and also to make sure we’re not transferring our own personal thoughts and feelings onto our clients; it’s important that we remain objective. As a member of the BACP we are required to have supervision twice monthly for a total of 1.5 hours. 

Many of us also have personal therapy. Just because we’re therapists, doesn’t mean we’re always okay. Things happen to us too and we might even be living with a mental health condition. This can often be to the advantage of our patients because it means we really do understand what they might be going through and have practiced strategies that help us to feel okay. 



It’s also important for us to take breaks. This can be tricky because we don’t want to leave our clients for too long – sometimes two weeks can feel like a long time for our clients. But it’s important for our own mental health. We need breaks to relax and reset so that we can return refreshed and motivated to help others.

I’m writing about this now because I’ve just returned from a two-week break travelling in Ecuador with my two young adult children. When I left, I felt ready for a break. I love my work but I was tired and if truth be told, I had a few issues of my own going on that I was working through and spending time doing something utterly different with the two people I love the most, was the perfect remedy. 

Below is a snapshot of the importance of therapists taking breaks:

  • Prevent Burnout: Breaks are essential for therapists to avoid burnout and sustain their ability to provide effective care.
  • Maintain Objectivity: Regular breaks help therapists maintain clear thinking and prevent becoming overly emotionally invested in clients’ issues.
  • Self-Care: Breaks prioritize therapists’ mental and emotional well-being, preventing compassion fatigue and promoting overall health.
  • Renew Energy: Taking breaks allows therapists to recharge, ensuring they have the energy to continue providing quality care.
  • Enhance Focus: Scheduled breaks help therapists stay focused during sessions, preventing distractions and maintaining effectiveness in their work.
  • Reflection and Processing: Breaks provide valuable time for therapists to reflect on sessions, process their emotions, and debrief after challenging encounters.


The here and now

It also raises the point about the importance of mindfulness.; focussing on the here and now and being really present. The places we went to meant that every day, we were looking at things we hadn’t seen before and this included a lot of wildlife and interesting places. 

Watching animals in their natural habitat to me is about as divine as it gets. The excitement of not knowing what you were going to see next and seeing things for the first time was much like being a kid again. 

The beauty of the animals and watching them do simple things: monkey swinging in the trees using their tails as a third arm, playfully searching for food while moving through the jungle. Birds squawking to communicate with each other. Baby monkeys clinging to their mums. Pocket monkeys which give you cute aggression – that feeling of just wanting to squeeze them they’re so cute. And then a majestic Harpy Eagle, lands high up in a tall tree, a mesmerising site you feel utterly priviledged to witness. 

Staying in the here and now is something that most people struggle with. I encourage my clients to practice mindfulness and practice what I preach, although it takes effort and there are times when I fall of the wagon. 

Final thoughts

So you see, behind the scenes, we have to work at staying healthy both in mind and body. We do what we encourage you, our clients, to do. But we’re not perfect, we get it wrong sometimes and like you, experience the complete range of human emotions and difficult events. 

However, we do learn to bracket off our own issues when we’re with you. This is vital because we’re there for you and our attention needs to be with you and what you bring to therapy. After taking therapy, we practice our own self-care, be it watching a good film, eating a nice meal, taking a walk or having a relaxing bath. We recharge and reset so that we’re ready for your next session.


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