Those of you who specialize or have had training in substance abuse likely know what the above capitalized letters reference, those without such training may not and it is a shame as they have so much to offer not only our clients who are battling with addiction but most everyone we treat not to mention ourselves. HALT stands for never letting yourself get too: Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. PPT’s remind us that we need to examine and monitor the People, Places and Things that we get or are involved with. Are they helpful or harmful to us?
Though very popular with those involved in substance abuse counseling and or 12 step programs, I cannot recall hearing them used out of that context. I think this can be a mistake as regardless of the issues we are dealing with, be it depression, anxiety, anger, adjustment etc. there are key elements in these memory devices that cannot only help our clients but also help the clinician in helping clients.
I use these memory devices often in my therapy practice to be sure but recently used them in my personal life as well. I found myself feeling burnt out a bit, tired, questioning my personal and professional accomplishments; wondering if all my hard work was worth it and if I was making any impact at all. This feeling built up over several days, possibly weeks, before I recognized it. I found myself outwardly acting the same to others but inwardly having a harder and harder time acting pleasant. At times I just wanted to leave my office or the farm and take a long and lonely drive “to clear my head.” I found myself daydreaming about finding a successor at work and spending my days on the farm working the land and making repairs. I guess it was my version of running away to a deserted island where I could “find peace” and be away from the world. This started me to examine myself and what was really going on with me. I discovered that though I had fallen short on a few of my goals such as being a graduate professor on a part time basis for a limited residency or distance learning/ on line program and though I had contributed to three text books I had yet to write my own book on a solo basis, that I really had done a good deal with my life. Unfortunately this great deal had taken a great deal of time. I allowed myself to go back to working 7 days a week for 10-14 hours each day. My world had become a cycle of working until exhaustion, getting some sleep and repeating. To top it off I was in the midst of a diet and just finished my treatment for Lyme Disease. To put it plainly I allowed myself to be in varying stages of being too Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. Hungry in the sense of dieting and I do love good home cooking (and it is canning season), Angry, because I was growing more and more frustrated but doing nothing to let it vent or dissipate, Lonely because I was missing out on recharge time with friends and family. Movie nights became a distant memory as had just hanging out with folks. In fact, I have had movie passes since Christmas that have just been collecting dust, though there have been many movies that I wanted to see. I was Tired due to a chronic lack of sleep and over work.
Recognizing the problem was just the first step; acting on the issue is very important. I looked at my schedule and decided it was time to cut certain things out, to set better boundaries on my work load and get some balance back into my life. In fact, I decided to take a weekend trip to Amish country so I could get some canning supplies and enjoy the sights. Perhaps they will teach me ways to better manage my time? I am also spending more time with my pets and family.
As clinical professionals, it is important that we continue to educate not only our clients but ourselves. In order to move forward, sometimes we need to remember to HALT!
Warren Corson III (Doc Warren) is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of a community counseling agency in central CT (www.docwarren.org).