Therapy for people in helping professions
Most people in helping professions do the work they do because they need to make a difference in the world. It isn’t optional. Helpers tend to find it baffling that other people seem to need little more from their jobs than a paycheck. Helpers are teachers, nurses, doctors, veterinarians, deacons, diversity trainers, environmental non-profit workers, homeless outreach workers, grant writers, classroom aides, EMTs, managers of behavioral health programs and everyone else who finds their meaning and purpose through being of service to others.
People in other professions will often tell helpers that the work they do is “nobel” or “altruistic,” but helpers usually feel that they aren’t just doing this work for the people they help—they are doing this work for themselves as well. Most helpers can’t imagine what they would do if they weren’t doing this.
But working in helping professions has hazards. People who help others professionally are prone to burnout, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. They are deeply compassionate people by nature and their compassion can drive them to overextend themselves. They sometimes witness the worst of what people are capable of doing; they see things like children and animals being abused or elderly and infirm people abandoned by their families.
They head into the work with the best of intentions, but too often wind up over-worked, underpaid, strung out on stress and, sometimes, battling their own symptoms of trauma.
I help people in helping professions regain their sense of sanity and balance.
Together, we address problems like
- difficulty setting or maintaining boundaries
- difficulty advocating for oneself
- feeling guilty when you need help from someone else
- feeling guilty about getting paid
- difficulty balancing your needs with the needs of others
- insufficient support networks
- undervaluing yourself
- feelings of inadequacy in your work
- feelings of wanting to escape or do other work
- feeling chronically irritable
- feeling chronically angry
- feeling depressed
- difficulty identifying how you feel
- a lack of romantic relationships or close friendships because of too much time spent working
- difficulty connecting with friends, family and partners who aren’t doing the same type of work
- decreased creativity
- feeling that you no longer care about the people you are trying to help
- general stress that has sometimes led to physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, digestive problems, muscle tension, night sweats and loss of sexual desire
- if you work with traumatized populations or directly witness trauma yourself, you may also need to address vicarious trauma symptoms like hypervigilance, nightmares, insomnia and feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and overwhelm (sometimes experienced as feeling cold, hard or numb)
It’s hard for most professional helpers to allow themselves to receive help from others, but it’s also often essential. If you see yourself in the above list, you may benefit from therapy to help you regain perspective and restore a sense of well-being.
This is important for you and important for the people with whom you work; if you are suffering, you may not be serving your clients, patients, students, etc. as well as you would like.
I can help you establish healthy boundaries, address negative feelings, reconnect with your personal life and restore or discover a positive work-life balance.
If you’re ready for a new way to approach your work and life, I encourage you to call me to schedule an initial appointment. I can be reached at 415-261-2989. You can also email me or send me a text. I look forward to hearing from you soon.