We’ve all been there. Our work is satisfying, fulfilling, and…not always easy.
In Section C of the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics:
“…In addition, counselors engage in self-care activities to maintain and promote their own emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being to best meet their professional responsibilities…”
(If you abide by a different code of ethics with anther organization, check yours. We are willing to bet that you’ll find something similar. )
It’s right there, in black and white, folks. It’s an ethical responsibility that we have to ourselves, and our clients. Think about walking your talk here.
Ok, now take a breath…and find some lovely self-compassion in that breath… Maybe you haven’t been that great about taking care of yourself? It’s important to ask why.
In an article for Counseling Today online, Lynne Shallcross outlines what might be going on for you: http://ct.counseling.org/2011/01/taking-care-of-yourself-as-a-counselor/
Compassion Fatigue:Also called “vicarious traumatization” or secondary traumatization (Figley, 1995). The emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events. It differs from burn-out, but can co-exist. Compassion Fatigue can occur due to exposure on one case or can be due to a “cumulative” level of trauma.
Burnout: Cumulative process marked by emotional exhaustion and withdrawal associated with increased workload and institutional stress, NOT trauma-related.
So what can we do about it? Making changes, as we experience first-hand, is not easy. It’s a practice that takes time, like building a muscle.
What if you were able to begin a self-care practice that truly resonated with you? And what if you could enter that practice through the creative arts therapies? Sound intriguing?
That’s what our workshop, The Ethics of Self-Care: An Art-Based Approach aims to do.
Art Therapy for Self-Care? Yes. Art Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapy offer a wealth of tools to help you find a sustainable, dynamic, generally awesome self-care practice.
Creativity is generative.
We believe that a self-care practice must resonate with an individual in order for it to truly be sustainable. You’ve gotta want to do it, people! It’s not one-size-fits all–we are dynamic humans, so there’s not one list of self-care activities that will take care of all needs. To find what resonates, we offer a journal writing process to explore values and flesh out what self-care practices may be most meaningful and doable. Then, participants engage in creating a mandala that is very much a visual assessment and tool for self-care practice.
A creative practice might be something that shows up loud and clear in the discovery process! If so, we have ideas for you! Everything from poetry, journal writing, and mind-mapping, to visual self-compassion, and creative ritual!
Most importantly, our profession is all about giving and helping others to heal and find their way in the world. You get to do that too! It’s ok for you to have needs, and creating a self-care practice that can truly be integrated into your life is not only vital to our well-being, but it’s necessary to the ethical code that we uphold.
Something to try to get you started:
Do some journal writing to discover your core values:
•Who is your mentor, or a person you respect most in your life? What do you believe their core values are?
•If you could strengthen one quality in yourself, what would it be?
•If you could pass on a message about values to your children or children in your community, what would it be?
•From those journal prompts, start a list of your own values.
•From that list, choose the ones the support your self-care, i.e. solitude, being in nature, community.
•Ask yourself if you are regularly engaging in self-care experiences that correspond to your values.
•What is one thing that you could do this week that would support your self-care?