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Michele Kerulis Mar 23, 2018

The Why and How of Wellness for Counselors

Wellness is a multidimensional concept in which an individual maintains well-being in several domains. Counselors interact with these domains on a regular basis as we promote comprehensive health. It is imperative for counselors to embrace and engage more fully in the concept of wellness in their personal and professional lives. My personal definition of wellness was formulated through my research as I identified the need to understand our individualized ingredients to create a recipe for wellness that includes physical health, psychological calm, spiritual awareness, and social connection. We each determine the amount of the ingredients which can change depending on life circumstances. Learning about the why and how of wellness will help counselors understand our own recipes for wellness and help us maintain well-being through wonderful and challenging times.

Why counselors should care about wellness

As experts and models for others, counselors must have a thorough understanding of the concept of wellness and engage with it fully, both personally and professionally. Many theories of wellness have been introduced into our field, such as the Indivisible Self, an evidence-based model that encompasses 17 dimensions of wellness divided into five categories: creative, coping, social, essential, and physical (Meyers, Luecht, & Sweeney 2004). Another view offered by Roscoe (2009), summarized nine models of wellness with eight common dimensions: social, emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, psychological, occupational, and environmental (some models also include financial wellness).

Models such as these are important to help counselors better understand the comprehensive nature of wellness and the need to embrace it within ourselves. By doing so, we will be better equipped to provide much-needed expertise and guidance to those we support.  

Benefits for self and the community

Similar to the models mentioned previously, the Building and Maintaining Wellness Toolkit uses a multi-dimensional approach to address topics that support the individual needs of counselors and the communities we operate within. Using an interpersonal focus, the toolkit includes:

  • Wellness in the community, relating to “connection, purpose, and accountability.” 
  • Wellness in the family, involving “communication, personal responsibility, and creativity.”
  • Wellness in romantic relationships, which is about “autonomy, equality, and intention.”
  • Wellness in creativity, relating to “compassion, preparation, and community.” 
  • Wellness at work, involving “purpose, energy, and relationships.”
  • Wellness at school looking at “adjusting attitudes, accessing resources, and recruiting mentors.”

By using tools such as these to embrace wellness in a comprehensive and holistic manner, counselors create great benefit for ourselves, our families, and the communities we care about.

How to practice wellness

Counselors can achieve wellness through balance which requires adjusting time and effort to achieve it. Such balancing may cause a ripple effect — positive or negative — as priorities are refined. This ongoing dynamic requires a delicate dance that counselors know well, and learning to master it can ultimately lead to the wellness we seek.

An important component of this process involves the ability to examine personal strengths within the dimensions of wellness which can help counselors decide how to balance their energies across multiple systems. Here are some options examining personal strengths within dimensions of wellness: 

  • Social Wellness includes engaging in positive interactions with others, effectively communicating with others, contributing to the community, cooperating, and respecting others. Explore your social wellness through the University of California’s Six-Week Wellness Challenge.
  • Emotional and Psychological Wellness includes being aware of and in control of emotional reactions, having positive perceptions about life, and possessing the ability to be flexible. You can find a nice summary of emotional wellness at
  • Physical Wellness, which includes consuming a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and complying with physician recommendations. You can see how your physical wellness measures up through the Exercise is Medicine Campaign.
  • Intellectual Wellness includes using your mind for creative activities, stimulating the brain, and learning new skills. One great way to do that is through Mind Games.
  • Spiritual Wellness, which includes attempting to understand one’s place and purpose, taking goal-driven actions, and examining religious and spiritual beliefs. A yoga class, attending a retreat, or talking with colleagues about life purpose are all ways to gain insight into your own spirituality.
  • Occupational Wellness, which includes satisfaction in the work environment, commitment to career, and doing meaningful work —paid and unpaid.
  • Financial Wellness, which includes understanding one’s financial situation, learning the language of finances, making long-term financial plans, and setting realistic financial goals. This short quiz by Infinite Wellness Solutions can help you get started.
  • Environmental Wellness, which includes showing respect for our external world and society. The Natural Resources Defense Council provides tips on how you can take daily, environmentally friendly actions.

With the many challenges counselors face on a regular basis, achieving wellness may seem easier said than done. By embracing a consistent, multidimensional approach, many personal and professional benefits can result. I encourage you to prioritize wellness even when it is not easy. Wellness, like other lifestyle aspects, can be strengthened with time and practice.


Roscoe, L. J. (2009). Wellness: A review of theory and measurement for counselors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 87, 216 – 226. doi

Meyers, J. E., Luecht, R. M., & Sweeney, T. J. (2004). The factor structure of wellness: Re-examining theoretical and empirical modules underlying the Wellness Evaluation of Lifestyle (WEL) and the Five-Factor Wel. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 36, 194 – 208.

Dr. Michele Kerulis is faculty with Counseling@Northwestern and specializes in counseling athletes, lifestyle, and wellness. Dr. Kerulis is the Midwest Region Representative to the ACA Governing Council and an award winning clinician. Tweet @michelekerulis 

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