Working as a mental health professional is rewarding, but it certainly isn’t easy! Like any job, being a therapist comes with its fair share of trials and tribulations. Want to know what those trials and tribulations are? Here are four common challenges that therapists face both on and off the job.
Caring for Their Own Mental Health
A therapist’s job is to help people heal from their past trauma. But to help people heal, you first need to understand their trauma—and many clients have harrowing stories that are hard to listen to. Being constantly exposed to the horrors of the world can take a huge toll on your mental health. It can make you feel sad, listless, and powerless, contributing to conditions like depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
Therapists need to take care of their mental health to help clients with theirs. By practicing self-care when you need it, you can manage your mental wellness and help your clients maintain theirs at the same time.
Creating an Open Space for All
People come from all sorts of backgrounds. With some clients, you’ll have an easy time understanding their concerns and empathizing with them. With clients who’ve lived different lives than you, it’s harder. It’s crucial to set your judgments aside and create an open environment where clients from all walks of life feel comfortable and understood. Therapists have to look at situations from their client’s point of view as opposed to their own, which is easier said than done.
Setting and Maintaining Boundaries
Setting and maintaining boundaries with clients is another common challenge that therapists face. Do you let your clients email or call you when you’re not on the clock? Should you hug an inconsolable client? Should you treat your client like a friend to help establish a relationship and encourage them to open up, or do you keep everything strictly professional? Ultimately, the choice comes down to your preferences and your organization’s policies. It’s important to set boundaries that you and your client are comfortable with and can reasonably maintain.
Encouraging Reluctant Clients
Some clients might be shy and take some time to get used to you. Others are embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty and fear judgment. Others have deep trauma that they’ve repressed and are afraid to remember and relive.
Getting people to open up to you about their deepest fears and insecurities takes time and requires a deep level of trust. Therapists need to know how to form connections with their clients and gently coax them into opening up so they can receive the affirmation and assistance they need.