During my graduate classes all my professors talked about self –care. It was a term I had not heard before. I would sit in class and think “who needs self-care? It sounds like something for people who are weak in mind, who can’t handle what is put in front of them." I also thought “I won’t need self-care I can handle my clients.” Well that line of thinking came back to bite me in the butt.
Soon after graduation I began working for a non-profit organization that housed several programs one of which was the program I worked in Outreach Counseling. I would like to qualify my next few thoughts with the fact that I was new to counseling and very excited to practice my new skills which I knew would fix any client with any problem. I also believe as new counselors we need that mind set. You can always tell “a shiny brand new counselor” they are filled with ideas and not easily deterred. That was me. So a year into my job and I was beginning to suffer. Who new that people were so complicated and that they can literally suck the life out of you.
I may not be shiny brand new any more but there are times when the fire ignites bright within me and I feel undeterred. So what do I do for self-care? MASSAGE-oh if I could go every day I would. I get a massage at least twice a month. I also run and walk with my new puppy. I have a child that makes me sit in a raked pile of leaves and look in the sky and a husband who makes me laugh. I am also fortunate to have parents who live in another city two hours away so I go and visit for the weekend because sometimes different scenery makes all the difference.
I have learned that by practicing self-care you are not being selfish. You are simply maintaining the fire that burns deep in order to be a better parent, friend and counselor.
Julie North is an in home family counselor in a rural county in South-Central Michigan. She has a private practice and is currently being trained in TF-CBT and complex trauma therapies.