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Amy_Rosechandler May 4, 2016


Clients who experience periods of crisis or intense emotional distress may benefit from having a plan to respond in a healthy way.  Working with clients in a collaborative and creative way may produce more useful and meaningful plans.  Clients are more likely to follow through and benefit from this type of planning if the process is unique to them.  Creating a self-care kit is one way clients can respond to and plan for a time of crisis. By utilizing a self-care kit clients can learn and practice new skills. 

What is a self-care kit?

A self-care kit can provide guidance and tools to keep self-care a priority during time of distress. A self-care kit includes activities to self-soothe, and tools for healthy ways of distracting.  Clients can create personally meaningful and unique kit that is specific to their needs.  

What a self-care plan is not:

A self-care plan is not just ‘me time’, or simply taking a little time each day to spend to yourself.  A famous activist, Audrey Lorde once said ““Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation”.  Regular self-care routines, such as journaling, engaging in meditation or prayer, exercise or even something like massage are just plain important for our mental health.  In addition to these regular self-care routines, a self-care kit is used during crisis or distress as a way to tend to our needs when we are feeling overwhelmed and we need to use a variety of resources to sooth ourselves to get through the moment.  

When I work with clients who might benefit from a self-care plan, we take time to discuss these three areas:

  1. When to use a self-care kit:

This section describes stressors, signs or events that might warrant use of the self-care kit. These are times when our stressors might overwhelm our ability to cope by using our routine resources.

Help clients listen to their instincts on this one- try not to judge, compare with others, or count on a client’s desire to cope more effectively with certain stressors. Start by naming the real and recurring stressors or triggers in the client’s life. Try and notice patterns.

2. Steps to take for self care:

This section is about naming the things that really provide comfort to clients during times of distress.  These are usually things outside of client’s normal, daily routine.  

If clients are struggling to think of skills and tools, help them name some things they enjoy doing, things that bring joy/pleasure, and things they are good at.  

Include things that will indulge the 5 senses: feeling, hearing, smelling, seeing and tasting.  Incorporate aspects of a client’s personality and values-spirituality, connection or inner-reflection.  

3. Resources to use for the self-care kit:

Name people, places or things that can help to deliver self-care.  Help clients visualize people or places that comfort them.  Include activities, images or soothing objects that may be needed in the self-care kit.  Design the self-care kit by using a small box, such as a shoe box. Make sure the self-care kit is easily accessible.  

How to implement the self-care kit:

Once a client has created a self-care kit, don’t forget to help them keep it accessible.  Some of my clients keep it on top of their fridge on in their bedroom.  Help clients think ahead about what might get in the way of implementing the self care kit- help clients think about the obstacles and try to reduce them or prevent them through planning.

Three things to keep in mind about creating a self-care kit:

Mindfully:  Intentionally focusing on doing one-thing at a time, or mindfulness, has a lot of great scientific research behind it, as far as benefits like relaxation and stress reduction, even help toward coping with pain.  Mindfully practicing self-care means focusing on your self-care moment by moment and just doing one thing at a time.  

Personally: Self care can incorporate lots of different tools that should be personal to clients-it will work better that way! Brainstorm with clients about ways to incorporate special knowledge from their culture about how to manage stress, include skills clients knew as a child or that were passed down in the family.  

Clients may have to change different tools around to find what really works best.  

Creatively: We all have creative ways of expressing ourselves-even if we aren’t master artists! We can encourage clients to express creatively (through writing, poetry, music, dance, visual art, etc) as a way to take a step toward empowerment, to speak up, or stand up for their rights.  

Keep it going! Self-care kits are more effective when clients follow through with using them when needed.  Check in with clients to see how they are making use of the self-care kit.  Help clients adjust and make changes with the kit until it fits their needs and works for them.  

Amy Rosechandler, MS, LMHC is a counselor in Rochester, NY working with teens and adults at a local university counseling center and in her own private practice, Clarity Mental Health Counseling.  Amy adores group counseling, youth development, and strengths based approaches to therapy. 

Read more about Amy at


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