Balancing Professional and Personal Lives through Self-Care

Module Sections:

Establishing a Common Ground

Concepts of Self-Care

What is Self-Care?

The University of Texas Dallas (UTD) student counseling center provides a practical concept of defining self care, "a way of living that incorporates behaviors that help you to be refreshed, replenish your personal motivation, and grow as a person. It's the equivalent of keeping your car filled with gas so that you are ready to "motor" when you want to go somewhere!"

Some people may consider self care as selfishness and meant for people who have little consideration for others around them. It is important to note that taking care of your needs lays in a balanced, steady place on the middle of a continuum, with intense selfishness on one end, and extreme sacrificing what you need or want for others' sake on the other end ( UTD, 2008).

Extreme Selfishness Blue Arrow Extreme Scarificing

Self-care strengthens your resiliency, reducing your susceptibility to burnout. Self-care includes more than making healthy lifestyle choices. It includes:

  1. Staying true to your values
  2. Self-compassion
  3. Having healthy boundaries
  4. Being attuned to your needs

Self-neglect takes a toll on your health, relationships, and your effectiveness. Caring for ourselves helps keep us balanced, flexible, and happy. Being balanced helps us work at our most effective level, and the result is that clients benefit. Carroll, Gilroy, & Murra (1999) argue that self-care fits with our ethical responsibility to protect clients and can be seen as a moral imperative. By nurturing yourself you will be able to keep up strength, resolve, motivation and inner resources to continue to give to your clients.

Importance of self care

Self Care includes an understanding of yourself as an adult and a professional, being able to request and obtain support from family and friends, professional growth and maturity, having support from associates, and physical activities that replenish the body and mind. There are certain principles that therapists help their clients acquire. These include:

  1. Beneficence
  2. Non-malfeasance
  3. Fidelity
  4. Autonomy
  5. Justice
  6. Self care

But when a therapist or any professional does not practice self care they are not allowing themselves to develop the same principles they help their clients with. The paradox of therapy is to help others and not ourselves (Macci, O'Conner, Garrett, 2006).

When therapists practice self care they are more likely to avoid caring and emotional exhaustion, they are able to prolong professional longevity, are more effective with clients, create and sustain an active individually designed development method, and validate professional competence and self worth (Skovholt et al, 2001).

Therapists who do not practice self care find themselves less confident in their ability to provide their clients with the help they need. This leads them to depression and a sense of worthlessness. Practicing self care is also important to the therapist to avoid legal and ethical liabilities, avoid isolation, and being able to separate work from the therapist's family and social spheres, causing less strain and stress (Zur, 2003).

When the therapist is able to be more effective and interested in their work they are more likely to build their competence and self worth. Besides the need to make the therapist healthy in mind and body, the legality and ethical liabilities take another strain on the therapist. This can affect the stature of the professional's reputation if legal or ethical practices are called out.

There are three main components to help the therapist stay physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy:

  1. Self awareness, recognition
  2. Self regulation, managing
  3. Balance, finding your foundation

(McKay, YR?)

Self care is a lifelong issue that should be practiced especially in the helping profession but also in any job. If you are not able to help yourself you will not be effective enough to help anyone else. If the three key components are being met then you have a better chance to be more successful in your profession. Without all three components you are still in an unstable state. You have to have all three. For instance having self awareness and self regulation without finding your foundation will not balance the triangle. As a home therapist you have to be consistent in practicing self care and hit every different category; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, just like the three components if one is neglected the you will continue to be ineffective and unhealthy.