If you’re a psychologist or therapist and have just got your license, you might be pretty excited and also nervous about the experience that lies ahead. The field of mental health can be rewarding but also stressful if you find yourself stumbling over the initial period when you are getting your feet warm.
This article is aimed more at those who are starting their own private practice, but many of the tips here would apply to psychologists and therapists in every situation. So, here are five useful tips that can make the start of your mental health journey a more secure and comfortable one.
1. Dealing with Insurance and Staying Organized With Your Clients
If you have just started a private practice, your initial concern would be if you will find enough clients.
However, as you start putting the word out and building a reputation, this issue quickly disappears and is replaced by a new one. With a constantly changing schedule of clients and meetings, it can be difficult to manage insurance and billing.
In order to deal with this, you could invest in a mental health billing service. A billing service can free up a lot of time to the extent that you don’t even have to think about it anymore.
A service like this helps out not just with the insurance claiming side of things but also with scheduling appointments, automatic reminders to clients’ progress notes, and payment processing.
As you can imagine, this reduces a lot of stress for a therapist as handling logistics eats into both time and energy that is better spent elsewhere.
A second alternative is finding or creating a template on an excel spreadsheet, which can also help you keep track of things.
2. Be Comfortable in Setting Boundaries
As you spend more time with your clients, one thing that will start to occur is deeper relationships with them. If you are new to the practice, it is easy to get carried away when your clients start to contact you outside of planned sessions.
They may start texting you about their day, and in the beginning, it can seem pretty innocuous. Simple texts like “Hey, I tried what you suggested, and it really works!”
Of course, something like that deserves acknowledgment, but the issue starts when the client expects more. They might start using messages or phone calls to vent about their day and blur the lines between where their therapy session ends and where an informal friendship begins.
If you notice such a trend developing, gently but firmly let them know that they are welcome to contact you in an emergency, but if the topic is less urgent, it can be discussed the next time you meet with them.
3. Invest Time and Effort Toward Self-Care
Even a little bit of research will show you that burnout is one of the most frequent side effects of working in this field.
Counseling someone can be an emotionally draining role, and witnessing the trauma of others and needing to be empathetic to every single client you face can burn you out quickly if you aren’t careful.
Therapists often take on a savior role and believe that they are responsible for healing the people who come to them.
They forget one of the core tenets of counseling which is that you don’t provide a solution to your client.
You help the client find a solution to his problem.
Even with this awareness, it is normal to feel overly invested in the lives of our clients. For this reason, deliberately investing in self-care can be one of the most important decisions you make.
This can involve:
A. Taking Up a Hobby or Passion
Spending time with a hobby reduces stress as you engage in a pleasurable and absorbing activity that takes the mind off of daily stressors. Hobbies can serve as an outlet for pent-up emotions and can give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Hobbies that are creative or involve physical activity can also help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Hobbies can also be a way to connect with others who share similar interests, which can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Additionally, hobbies can help to promote mindfulness and a sense of peace as you live “in the moment,” which can help reduce overall stress levels.
B. Taking Periodic Breaks and Vacations
Many people believe that therapists ought to take more breaks and vacations (to the extent possible). We all need a break from intense activities. Dealing with strong or extreme emotions from clients can be particularly taxing on mental health professionals.
Take a day off and relax, go watch a movie with friends, and take two days off if you need to. You may feel like you are cutting into your productivity, but burnout can often ruin entire careers and has made several people switch to other fields. Take care of your mind and body wisely.
C. Seeking Counseling For Yourself
Therapists are people as well. They go through moments of doubt, depression, and anxiety themselves.
Imposter syndrome can be very common for a lot of new therapists, and it can be helpful to see a psychologist or therapist for your own personal growth and development.
The benefit to this is that it also ends up being a learning experience, and the insights into the therapy process can be applied to your own clients.
The initial phase for new therapists can be scary and confusing. Lack of experience in being organized and setting boundaries with your clients can cause your stress levels to add up, leading to burnout.
Knowing that you have the freedom and the right to take breaks is imperative to remain an effective counselor.
Work-life balance is no laughing matter. Keeping your mind and body fresh by meditating or engaging in hobbies can slow things down and help you get your bearings and settle in more securely.