Challenges to Therapist Self-Care with In-Home Work

Module Sections:

Friendships, Relationships, Humor


  • Each support network forms a barrier against the counselor's stresses, thus providing protection from possible impairment (Witmer & Young, 1996). Positive social support is a factor that positively correlates with protection against a therapist's tendency to internalize the negativity that may accompany a caseload with high intensity and high trauma issues. It seems that regardless of the profession, time away from the demands of work is essential to relieving stress and preventing burnout or impairment. Friendships within and outside of the work environment contribute to this sense of balance. Consider how easy it is to "talk shop" with colleagues outside of the work environment (The reference here assumes confidentiality is maintained for all clients.) regarding the stresses of the job. Having time to relax with colleagues is helpful to some clinicians. Others prefer to keep their professional and personal relationships separate and not develop friendships with colleagues outside of the office. As each therapist considers what is best for their own self-care, the critical point is to maintain healthy, supportive relationships inside and outside of the office.

Collegial Relationships

  • According to Reid et al. (1999), a study of 30 mental health professionals found that contact with colleagues was one of the major rewards of the job and acted as a buffer against stress. "Colleagues are pretty important in being able to sit down and say exactly how you are at the time when it's happening and it's nearly always possible to do that in the office..."(p. 310). Home-based therapists must be more creative regarding access to colleagues because of the lack of time spent in the office. It is, therefore, important for the HBFT clinician to actively seek out collegial support through ongoing discussions with supervisors, agency administrators, and fellow clinicians to create opportunities for accessing this support.
  • Reflection: How do your relationships balance the isolation factor of home-based work, (especially personal relationships)?

Sense of Humor

  • Using humor inside and outside of the office is often an effective way of reducing anxiety, frustration and stress. The levity of humor provides a temporary respite from stress and establishes a connection with others.
  • Reflection: Think about one way you involve humor in your work environment and its impact upon you and the others around you.

Audio Companion: Challenges to Therapist Self-Care