Balancing Professional and Personal Lives through Self-Care

Module Sections:

Developing a Personal Self-Care Plan

C. Developing a personal self-care plan-Prochaska's Transtheoretical Model of Change

A Self-Care Plan

Having an effective, personalized self-care plan can help you stay present to the joys and rewards of practice. Given the specific hazards associated with the profession and the ethical obligations to protect the public, Porter (1995 as cited in Nicely, 2004) argues that three primary functions are served by having an effective self-care program:

  1. Protection of the therapist by reducing occupational hazards such as burnout
  2. Enhancement of therapy by modeling healthy behavior
  3. Protection of the client by reducing risks of ethical violations

A comprehensive self-care plan covers several conceptual levels: a broad direction that acknowledges your deeply held values and personal mission, self-care strategies that provide broad guidance across situations, and specific self-care techniques that you use every day.

Your self-care plan should begin with reflection on your personal values and keep you connected to your purpose. These values guide your life and your work, and culminate a personal mission statement. For example, the values of freedom, vitality, authenticity, and growth might coincide with a personal mission statement "to practice psychotherapy with compassion, dignity, and skill in order to promote growth in clients." Some of the strategies, derived from Prochaska's Transtheoretical Model of Change, you might consider are:

  1. Self-awareness: increasing information about yourself through consciousness raising activities that facilitate the development of insight, spiritual growth, etc.
  2. Counter-conditioning: consider ways of being different from the ways therapists are conditioned to be in the world. For example, consider a "My Greatest Moments in Therapy" journal to complement the common standard of focusing exclusively on solving client problems and treatment difficulties. Consider exercise to counter the effects of sitting most of the day.
  3. Self-liberation: make the choice to change and take personal responsibility for the self-care program you want. Acknowledge and accept the burden to replenish yourself both professionally and personally.
  4. Appreciate the rewards: refocus on the rewards associated with clinical work that bring you life and vitality. Look for ways to create a greater sense of freedom and independence in your work.

A personal self-care plan is integral to effectively coping with the unique hazards associated with your profession. A comprehensive plan, as outlined in this module, can tie specific rejuvenating activities to your higher purpose and personal values. Approaching your work from a deep sense of meaning, expressed in your core values, keeps you in touch with the unique joys and rewards of practicing psychotherapy.


Eckstein (2001) provided simple and practical measures in integrating a plan of action as: Identify self-care behaviors in each of the five dimensions (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and social) of yourself. For example if you identify "more energy" is important in improving your health and self care, then what behaviors can you consider in the five dimensions to create more energy? Then choose one behavior that can have the most positive effect on "more energy": for example exercise. Now think about the first action to take with that behavior (eg. Walking three to four times a week). The next step is to find support with this plan (eg. Walk with a friend every Saturday). Remember to keep this simple and "doable" and identify your warning signs to getting out of balance such as skipping exercise for example.