Corona Anxiety: Why Therapists Need Therapy Themselves
With the coronavirus pandemic unfolding, the anxiety amongst people has reached new heights. Many have lost their jobs, and some are sick and in grief. While some are self-isolating at home, others are braving through contaminated areas to get to work. But, almost everyone is dealing with anxiety and fear.
To cope with such extreme emotions, people are turning to therapists and mental health professionals.
In the quest for helping people cope with coronavirus anxiety, therapists are overwhelmed. So, who is helping the helper?
As therapists, you have to ask, "what about me?" and "how do I self-care?".
Self-awareness & self-care
For a therapist, self-awareness is one of the most crucial tools. You should know and be aware of your personal issues before working on other people's problems.
Your concerns shouldn't make you under- or over-react to your client's problems. Only when you are willing to work on yourself, you will be able to work on your client.
In this time of crisis, therapists sit for hours listening to people, helping them make sense of the situation, and try their best to help clients heal. But, therapists absorb anxiety, panic, and fear from all sides.
Be familiar with your feelings first. You recommend exercise, nutrition, rest, healthy relationships, and other therapeutic lifestyle changes to your client. Which means you must be willing to follow the same in your life. Personal therapy is for both you as well as your client.
Taking care of yourself as a counselor is pivotal since it increases your competence.
The nature of a therapist's work and the workplace is hectic. There is a lot of professional stress:
- Overbooking clients
- Working late hours
- Repetitive talks
- Suicidal patients
- Insurance problems
- Financial difficulty
- Disagreement with co-workers
There have been instances when therapists have spent a lot of time managing the grief and anxiety of their clients over coronavirus, only to see their own family member or friend succumb to the infection.
Your emotional instability will prevent you from analyzing and empathizing with your client.
If you have trouble dealing with your own problems, then how can you expect to be the healer? Instead, you will end up projecting your issues on to the clients.
Bring some humor and positivity in your life. Seek the support of friends, family, co-workers, and other networks. A change in your life and the work environment will help you recover from burnout.
Imagine you are listening to your clients' sufferings and grief every day and are unable to help them or resolve their problems. This helplessness or inability to "rescue" them might bring out feelings of depression, anxiety, or make you feel emotionally reserved.
With the coronavirus pandemic becoming prevalent, there is so much death, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty in people that it makes one feel helpless.
What about therapy for therapists?
If you go to therapy yourself, then it shows that you believe in what you are telling your clients. It will help to figure out self-care techniques, how prone you are to burnout, unhindered compassion, and how to come up with effective coping mechanisms, which you would recommend to your clients as well.
Secondary traumatic stress
Most people have gotten their world turn upside down and are both mentally and physically affected by the pandemic. Therapists are going through the same trauma as their clients.
Because of this, therapists are vulnerable to vicarious or secondary traumatization as they can relate to the trauma shared by their clients.
Talking to other therapists will help you deal with the trauma and increase your ability to continue treating your clients.
A noteworthy negative impact or experience in a therapists' life can compromise their ability to care for the client. In some cases, therapists can cause harm to the client.
For example, a therapist with trauma issues can direct the clients’ focus away from their own trauma because the therapist chooses not to or is unable to talk about trauma.
The significant distress in therapists' life associated with the job can often make them feel safe and comfortable since they know what to expect. A change in this environment is moving out of your comfort zone. Take ownership and work on the changes you want to see.
Since wellbeing is etched in the practice of therapy, it should come naturally to all therapists. But this isn't the case. The profession itself is a flawed design where the therapist is predisposed to take care of the client, always.
This other-centered nature may make the therapists feel like they are less deserving of the support.
Therapists seeking therapy is no big deal. Clients can handle more than they think, and so can you.