Sunday, April 8, 2012

Respite and Balance

All of our human systems must be fed adequately to function optimally. If we don't sufficiently feed our health and well-being, those aspects of ourselves will suffer.

It's important to find strategies that are personally realistic and effective, and as described by Stebnicki (2007), "developing opportunities for self-care strategies should begin during the supervisee's clinical experiences" (p. 334). Respite from the challenge of any job is essential and the strategy I will work toward using in the future (Harrison & Westwood, 2009; Trippany, White Kress, & Wilcoxon, 2004). Taking a walk, a day off, a vacation take us away from routine habits and pitfalls. Separating from one's work is important, especially when carrying an especially challenging caseload. Although, checking in on oneself is equally important, "checking out" or separating from the daily routine prevents or at least, ameliorates the challenges of mental health counseling.

The strategy that has worked for me is integrating a system of spiritual balance into my daily life (Cummins, Massey, & Jones, 2007; Stebnicki, 2007). Specifically, this includes meditation. Similar to taking a walk or getting a breath of fresh air, meditation allows me to separate, even briefly from human pressures and the ones that will inevitably be a part of counseling. Like sleep after a long and difficult day, meditation restores balance and feeds my sense of well-being. It helps me to "be real" and present, and helps me maintain an unlavished mind.

Maintaining balance is a sort of reality check. As in secondary trauma, well being is modified by its environment. If we're constantly surrounded by unhealth, our own health can succumb to illness. As central to maintaining a healthy self, awareness of oneself and one's tendencies is helpful. Like waking up with a sore throat is a foreboding notice of illness, we have to be aware of the symptoms of mental distress.

Cummins, P. N., Massey, L., & Jones, A. (2007). Keeping ourselves well: Strategies for promoting and maintaining counselor wellness. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development, 46(1), 35–49.

Harrison, R. L., & Westwood, M. J. (2009). Preventing vicarious traumatization of mental health therapists: Identifying protective practices. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, and Training, 46(2), 203–219.

Trippany, R. L., White Kress, V. E., & Wilcoxon, S. A. (2004). Preventing vicarious trauma: What counselors should know when working with trauma survivors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 82(1), 31–37.

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