Avoiding Burnout For Substance Abuse Counselors Podcast
Watching For Signs of Burnout
Burnout could happen to any type of counselor, therapist, social worker or anyone that has to deal with people that have problems that effect them or others physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
We are going to cover what a substance abuse counselor is faced with and the things that could cause them to burnout. We will cover ways to avoid a burnout and recover from one.
A substance abuse counselor should face the fact that they are going to be dealing with clients who have been through some hard times. They are going to have to listen to everything that the clients have been through and at times, it will be heart-wrenching.
Some of these clients may have committed some terrible acts of violence like, child abuse, sexual abuse, all types of domestic violence and other things. These things may provoke a counselor to become angry, judgmental, bias or maybe even despise the client.
This can be a tough time for a counselor to have to sit in front of a client and listen to how they committed such acts to another human being, especially in cases where children are involved. This can rile a counselor’s emotions in a negative way, so much so that inside it can cause the counselor to develop a resentment, become hateful, or show anger towards their client.
After a counselor has been through all of this, the client may have family and friends that the counselor will have to deal with. An addict can easily destroy the well-being and lifestyle of family and friends. To add to it all, the counselor will have to try and help them as well.
Substance abuse counselors work with more than one client at a time. Most of a substance abuse counselor’s life is wrapped up in this type of environment. So, you can see that having to counsel clients, families and friends can take a mental, emotional and physical toll on a counselor and in time, can cause them to burnout.
When a person enters into a treatment program regardless of whether they are going to be an in-patient or out-patient and they were either pressured, court mandated or they are there on a voluntary basis, they will have to follow a treatment plan.
The counselor has to establish a treatment plan according to the strengths and weaknesses of the client along with other types of therapy that will fit their needs like, psycho-education, cognitive-behavioral therapy, group sessions, setting short and long term goals and so on.
Being a substance abuse counselor is a stressful and demanding job. The counselor will see a majority of the people that they treat relapse within one year of their discharge which can be very disappointing. With many of their clients falling back into their addiction, it can hurt a counselor’s self-esteem or cause them deep emotional pain.
Many counselors are former addicts themselves. They have been there before and know what it’s all about, but it seems a little different when the shoe is on the other foot. Now they have to face a client who is probably going to lie to them, try to manipulate them and/or not be so receptive to treatment.
A counselor knows how to give a client the tools and education needed to help them recover from addiction and prevent relapses, but what does a counselor do to keep them self from burning out?
Overcoming Human Nature
As human beings, we have a nature that is both positive and negative. In other words, we can like or dislike, love or hate, walk in the dark or the light and do this all by choice.
What if you could overcome your negative thoughts and dark emotions? Find spiritual strength, inner peace and freedom from being involved with so much darkness? Would you be able to show signs of a burnout or experience a burnout? Believe it or not “No”, you wouldn’t be able to even come close to a burnout.
Clients generally are not positive people, they are lost. Somewhere along the line they turned down the wrong road and they need help to get back on the right road. A client needs you to be positive, they need you to care about them, listen to them and show them compassion.
You may see some of your clients as being mean, nasty, degenerates, evil, despicable or whatever. That is not the right way for a counselor to be towards their clients or any person for that matter.
When a counselor views a client in this manner, they totally overlook any kind of goodness that that person has inside of them. In turn, this could affect how a counselor works with their client. After all, if all you can see is their weaknesses, how can you help the client find their strengths?
The counselor may not give the client all the attention they deserve, they may think that there is no hope for their client or just about any other negative thoughts that may come to mind. This can cause the counselor to deprive their client of the proper treatment they deserve and can limit their ability to fulfill their client’s needs. Remember that, two negatives don’t make a positive.
When a person looks at the character defects of others and labels them by this, they are placing them self above them which is a form of pride. When a person tries to see or find the goodness in people and they don’t put a person down because of their defects this is called practicing humility.
Everyone has faults that need to be corrected whether they are character defects, our thought process or the way we behave. One can take the time to evaluate them self, but they may not be able see all that needs to be attended to. One reason is because of the way we think.
Everyone wants to think of themselves as good people. If we see something that we may think is wrong with our self, we start to analyze it and in some cases will try to justify it as being either not that bad or it’s OK. This is called deceiving yourself or lying to yourself. We can continue on this path building up darkness within ourselves that will at times cause habitual negative responses and override the good side of our reasoning.
Take the time to evaluate yourself honestly and sincerely to see where you are. You may find that you could use an adjustment to your thought process, your emotions and how you see people in general.
Try to Break the Boredom of Repetition
Boredom can cause stress and it can come from repetition which is nothing more than you looking at your tasks as doing the same thing over and over again. Take for instance your job, you may have been doing the same thing for years and it is starting to take its toll on you because there is nothing exciting or challenging about what you do. Repetition can be broken by changing your outlook on the way you think and see things.
Most of the time you could sub-consciously do your routine task while thinking about something else. For instance, a counselor has a lot of paperwork to fill out regarding the progress of their clients. One thing you might dwell on while filling out these reports is to evaluate your client and think about adjustments to their treatment plan that may be needed or come up with a new technique.
Driving Yourself Into a Burnout
A counselor can actually drive them self right into a burnout. Some of the factors resulting into a burnout would be; always thinking the worse, not thinking positive, not working efficiently, letting their emotions overtake them, not enough rest, trying too hard, mental and/or physical fatigue and pride.
Overtime, any of these things can run a counselor down and cause mental, emotional and physical distress. A counselor should take the time to look inside them self and see if any of these things are evident. If so, they need to find out the cause and work out a remedy to get rid of it just as they would teach a client relapse prevention techniques.
A counselor needs to do their part in protecting them self from all the darkness that they have to deal with on a daily basis. They could do things like, practicing self-awareness, emptying your mind by writing your thoughts down which is a technique called journaling and basically anything that a counselor can find that will help them.
Spiritual growth is a positive way to overcome the dark side of human nature. Our thought process always seems to want to see the negative side of things. It always wants to stay in a low and never progressing towards a positive outcome. This is where worries, fears, doubts, depression, anxiety and disappointments come from.
As long as you have hope and faith and you are doing everything you can for your clients, there is no reason why you should suffer from any of these dark emotions. Statistically speaking, there will be a good number of clients that will relapse inside of their first year after discharge. This is not something to get disappointed about, accept it.
It may not be their time yet. They may have to hit a worse bottom before their heart can be hurting enough to give them the strength and awareness that they need to overcome their addiction.
Spiritual growth will gradually increase your knowledge and wisdom that will help you to counsel your clients better and you will be able to contemplate more clearly and in a positive way without having negative thoughts trying to obscure your mind.
You will have better insight to help your clients with their needs like, customizing specific techniques and the ability to pass on even greater knowledge and wisdom to them.
We have to learn what our strengths and weaknesses are so that we know where we are at mentally, spiritually and emotionally. By strengthening our weaknesses, we will be better equipped to handle most situations that come our way and it will help us to avoid a burnout.
Most people have heard of the 12 Steps of AA. These 12 steps are an excellent way to spiritual growth. If you take one step at a time and work it through completely and honestly, you should have a spiritual awakening.
Even if you are not in recovery from an addiction, the 12 steps can help you to overcome the dark side of human nature and bring you peace, joy, gratitude and freedom. Here are 12 Articles that have the same outline and are based on the 12 steps. These were rewritten for people that don’t have an addiction.
Gratitude is a key to prosperity. Being grateful for all things will keep you from seeing things in a negative way and is a vital part of spiritual growth. Be grateful for each and every client that you meet, you have the opportunity to help them put an end to their suffering from addiction and their lifestyle.
You have the tools that can help change their life for the better. Even if you are only doing a certain part for the client like, screening and intake or an assessment or you may be the case manager. Say a prayer for them, don’t look down on them.
Acceptance will help you to stay emotionally calm. A counselor can get emotionally involved with their client which could bring them down and keep them there, especially if more than one client is involved.
This is not a good place to be, it can cause a great deal of harm to the counselor. This is what builds up inside a counselor and eventually it can cause the counselor to burnout.
Solomon was one of the greatest kings that ever lived. The reason behind that is because all that was on his heart was gaining wisdom from God so that he could be a good king for the people. He was a humble man that knew he needed God’s help. As you may know, God loved him for his humility and blessed him with all he needed and more and the people loved him and they prospered as well.
We have to humble ourselves and realize that we are not perfect and that we are not any better than anyone else regardless of what they may have done. We need to place them above us, not below us. By following Solomon’s example, we can gain knowledge and wisdom to use that will better help us to serve people’s needs.
Human nature has two forms of pride, one is low and the other is high with humility being in the middle. Low pride is full of the negative and dark emotions, thoughts and behaviors that follow. High pride is when one wants recognition, to be noticed, wants to be honored, wants people to notice their good deeds and so forth.
Practicing Equanimity will help keep pride out and humility active. A person that practices equanimity does not get angry, they don’t think bad things about their fellowman, they try to see and bring out the goodness in them.
They don’t care about being thanked or honored in any way, they are not worldly and they have no ambitions towards worldly things. Instead of taking the glory for them self as pride would have you do, they give God the glory.
They love their fellowman and all they care about is trying to do the will of God. They live a life in peace, joy, happiness and freedom from the burdens of this world.
True freedom isn’t about doing what you want, it’s about not being affected by any of the darkness that surrounds us in this world.
You can talk to all the therapists in the world and still not receive the help you need to find that inner peace. No one can free you from what goes on inside you except you and help from a Higher Power.
If you want peace of mind and freedom from the darkness that you are experiencing spiritually, mentally, emotionally and what you encounter on a daily basis, then it is going to take a lot of work on your part.
You can keep on living your life battling the corrupt part of your human nature and losing from time to time or you can overcome it and live a life in peace, free from all darkness that can bring you down. Give it a try, what have you got to lose?
“May God Bless You and Help You To Gain That Inner Peace and Freedom We All Long For”
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