How to Avoid Burnout as a Therapist

You have the exact same day planned. You have your luke-warm at best office coffee stirring within in the communal office space. As you reach for the refrigerator door, with a small glimmer of hope to enjoy your yogurt, it is shot as you discover someone from your group practice has eaten it.

BlogSelf DevelopmentHow to Avoid Burnout as a Therapist

You have the exact same day planned. You have your luke-warm at best office coffee stirring within in the communal office space. As you reach for the refrigerator door, with a small glimmer of hope to enjoy your yogurt, it is shot as you discover someone from your group practice has eaten it. 

Today is your final straw, but unsure about how to make the next steps of getting the life of your dreams. Or is it possible that life has been so closed off that you believe it can’t be attainable and it is now a life of counseling in a “certain” way that is fitting for the manager of the group progress while they continue to take a giant cut of your hard work. 

Burnout is an epidemic in the United States, but especially in mental health, it is a crisis. They say that your mental health is a priority with a group practice, but is it really? Does the occasional pizza party quell an aspect of yourself that so desperately craves, “there has to be something more than this?” If we were to guess, greasy, flimsy, reheated pizza isn’t calming your need for something more.

While private practice might be a bit more work on the front end, it gives you something that group practice could never provide-freedom. It allows you to schedule your appointments in a way that doesn’t interfere with your children’s lives, or you can see the client who may not have had insurance, but you know for a fact that with your methods, you would be able to make a difference. 

How do you define a private practice?

Private practice is for lack of a better term, a private business, and an entrepreneurial opportunity that you would be creating and conducting with total autonomy. You would be in complete control of how your business would be run, who you would help serve, and be given complete freedom. 

By no means do you have to run away from your group practice altogether, as you can begin small by renting a room of an office or other private spaces that you would be able to use to see clients. In addition, you would not be tied down to a contract. With this being said, make sure to check your contract to see if you have a non-compete statement because this might limit your private practice for the time being. 

Once you have checked the legality of everything, this could be the time to take the next big step into the future that you want to accomplish. With the help of JournalOwl, you can create a partnership that helps you market to future clientele and allow you to practice in a unique way unlike any other therapy experience. 

Some of the benefits of a private practice, as said before, are that you will have complete autonomy of your practice. It allows you to help individuals who may not have had the opportunity for therapy in the first place. For instance, young adults like Millenials or Gen Z clients who still live with their parents or are unable to receive good enough insurance with their current jobs may not have had that much access to mental health programs. 

While private practice is not 100% perfect, it will allow you the freedom to travel, spend time with your family, and so much more. We will discuss some of the cons of private practice to fully understand what to expect when beginning a new practice.

Set-backs to a Private Practice

The state you live in will depend on your requirements to accommodate for beginning your private practice. For instance, in North Carolina, you can check out the licensure links here. Each state can have its own rules regarding private practices, so it is essential to know your state’s rules so you will save yourself a headache later. For all things, you need approval from the state boards as they will accept or deny you regarding private practices. 

Similar to nurse practitioners, there could be a real chance that you may not have ultimate freedom. You will need to have a psychologist or a psychiatrist sign off on your work while you are practicing, ensuring there is a level of accountability.

Suppose the state you live in does not require a psychologist or psychiatrist to mentor you. In that case, private practice will allow you to have freedom, and some people have a hard time with complete freedom as it means you have to be incredibly motivated and process excellent time management skills. With this being said, since you will be new to flying, even if you have practiced in the past, you might need to take extra courses or pieces of training to ensure you can fly solo in private practice. 

Speaking of total freedom, everything is up to you. No pressure because you totally got it, but you need to be mindful in a private practice that you will need to develop your own business plan with detailed reports of the type of client you would like to serve, finances to function, and marketing in how to draw more clientele so that you can continue doing what you love. In addition, private practices may not be as ideal for extroverts since you will have limited interaction with fellow peers, and it may be a bit lonely listening to clients without a release of your own needs. 

If the cons do not seem super daunting, let’s begin setting up your private practice. 
In all business ventures, start-ups typically do not have initial aid unless you saved up with your dream or received some support from family. So, the first step will be to meet with your bank to set up a loan. You need to come prepared with a full-proof business plan; as an idea, check out The Practice of Therapy’s guide to use as an idea board, and if you provide your name and email, you can receive a template so that you can formalize your dream. 

While being in the people business, it is not the most exciting thing in the whole world to create a business plan, and setting your intent early will allow you to help more people and receive the max amount for your new private practice. Be kind with your business plan as it will evolve as you continue to dream of different ways for how your business will come together. 

Make sure to include these items:

  • What is your vision for your business? 
  • Create a mission statement. It is crucial to have some time to strive for as you begin to create your dream.
  • What type of people would you like to help in your practice?
  • What are some of the values you want to instill in your practice, and why?
  • Do you have a niche? The more detailed, the better.
  • How many clients are feasible to ensure your financial needs are met, and you will not become burnt out. 
  • What is the minimum and maximum you will pay in rent?
  • What kind of supplies will you need to maintain a business? Computer, books, phone, video camera for virtual care, etc. 
  • What is your dream for the future? What are you setting your sights on and how will you define success?Now that you have a list of questions think of other questions to ask yourself. What are aspects of business that you have difficulty in seeing? 

Is it the quality of your work, financial aspects, or planning marketing campaigns? Your questions will help guide you into a more defined path and plan so that you can move forward with all of your bases covered instead of going to the bank completely blind. 

We have all of our questions. Now what?

Now we have all the answers to our questions, and our plan seems too good to be true, its time for our inner critic gets to come out to play. Typically, we realize the critic is not something we want ALL the time, it can be good for seeing the holes in plans. It is your time to find if the ideas are truly good or if you need to go back to the drawing board to find out whether this is a feasible plan or only acceptable in “make-believe.” 

In researching current market trends, you will find how to access your skills the best and finding functionality that works well with your dreams. For instance, if you love working with teenagers, that may be your target population, but with research, you can find out some of the localized struggles within the area. Is it neglect, drug addiction, or are they self-harming? You are able to have more direction in what kind of niche you would like to pursue. 

Insight makes us wiser and by having a team of supporters review your business plan, it can become a collaborative process.. It helps give a little focus, and it is similar to having someone proofread your material. You may not realize your draft sounds wonky.When you are looking into your market research, as said before, address your age range, specific issues that are the most common in the area, and any disciplines you would like to practice (CBT, behavioral, etc.) The population in the area is a guidebook in success; you find the most common and create a supply to help those in the community. 

  • Gather competitive research to see who and what you’re up against. Create a list of therapy practices in your area and review their websites and social media. Analyze their use of SEO, messaging and how both support their mission statement. 

Now, use this information to develop your company’s key messages, mission statement, and points of differentiation. You can also use it to address possible limitations and research options for outsourcing tasks. For example, will you build your website or use a developer to quickly get it up and running? Should you invest in branding services to ensure consistent brand presentation? You may even decide that you need help with market and competitive research. Fortunately, you can outsource one or all of these tasks. 

What are your specialties? 

When selecting your niche, it is vital to find a group you care for to provide exceptional care. You have received training to treat a large number of conditions, but sometimes it is better to go in-depth than to cast a wide net. 

If you are scratching your head on picking your niche, you need to look at clients you have treated in the past or clients who excited you the most in internships or during your master’s program. It would be best if you had a thoughtful analysis, all while being very honest with yourself.

Questions include:

  • What did I enjoy most about this client or group of clientele?
  • How did I make a difference in this client’s life?
  • Did the client describe their condition in a certain way? What phrases or words did they use?
  • How did you know they were cured, and if not yet healed, what steps would they need to take to achieve mental health?

For the information you provide to the bank/lender, you will address how you specialize in the client’s care and what kind of client you want. It helps gain a better understanding of keeping patients and providing lasting results. You will need to go in-depth because this is what the lender will be most interested in as this is what your business is weighed upon; whether it is a feasible practice. You will add the details of the section into a supplemental addendum.

Some of the more common niches:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic Disorder
  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Personality Disorders
  • Autism
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Depression
  • Hospice/Geriatric
  • Narcissist Survivors
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/ Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Eating disorder (Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Pica, Rumination Disorder, and Avoidant/ Restrictive Food Intake Disorder)
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Bipolar
  • High-Risk Suicide and Self Harm
  • Couples counseling
  • Family counseling

These niches can become more specialized depending on the age group, race, sexual orientation, economic deficiency, and other factors that you choose, whether the niche will be children, teenagers, adults, LGBTQ+, people of color, etc. If you are still confused on which population to specialize in, Dr. Kelly O’Donnell in Global mental health: Finding your niches and networks provides more guidance. 

Use research to answer your questions.

Before creating an actionable business plan, you need information about your competition and clients. While doing research, you’ll also come across data that informs your branding and marketing strategy and gives you insights into pricing your services and choosing a location. 

  • Complete market research to determine what your clients need and want from your practice. Look for information that gives insights into the demographics and psychographics of your ideal clients.
  • You do not want to be the hundredth counselor to practice severe agoraphobia when this issue is not very prevalent in your community. Create a spreadsheet of all the practices in your area with categories like specialties, what you like about their website, what you don’t, and if they have social media, how do they use it to their advantage. Make sure to include their mission statements in your spreadsheet so that you can compare and make sure you are not committing copyright infringement. Do they have a common theme in their social media? Do they rely on more singular posts, videos, or shorter videos called reels? 

After a lot of time and energy provided to make a fool-proof business plan, you are ready to….revise your business plan! Think of your business plan as fine art; each time you add to it, you are getting one step closer to your masterpiece. While you can do a lot, you can contract others to help you create the perfect site, like website designers, content writers to utilize the best SEO keywords to make you the first link, and social media organizers. Find the holes that you have struggled with in your business plan and set an amount in your financial planning that will pay for expert guidance. Outsourcing can be freeing so that you can work on the thing you know you love, like helping others. 

Speaking of outsourcing, bring in the lawyers.

As stated before, you need to work in accordance with the board and law to establish your private practice to ensure you are ticking each of their boxes. Some of the work you can complete on your own, but there are things that will need the assistance of a lawyer. For myself, I am utterly illiterate in the law, which is a miracle as I have not been arrested, but if you struggle like I do, invest in a lawyer who is familiar with the type of private practice you would like to establish. 

  • License requirements for your state and area if there are any differences per county or city. 
  • Is there any problem with where you would like to set up your practice in regards to zoning? You can not have your business in a residentially owned building like your home. 
  • In the initial review, you will need to provide your national provider number (NPI).
  • What kind of business format would be the most beneficial for you? Sole proprietorship, Limited Liability Company, Corporation, or other words, what best protects you if you are sued. 
  • They will help by setting up your liability and malpractice insurance. 
  • In addition, they will be helping you review the Code of Ethics of your messaging and not breaching any of the contents.

Now you are at the bank, what do you do?

If you are not a business person, you need to create a grab. It is similar to how the first paragraph of a news article is the most important as it has the initial push that grabs you into investing your time and energy to read it. It is the same concept with selling a proposition to banks. You address what you provide, who you will help, and how you will accomplish your goal. Most importantly, how you wisely use the resources given to you. 


Unfortunately, money does not grow on trees, but it would make things so much easier. When initially receiving the loan from the bank, you will illustrate how you intend to pay it back, by how much, and how you will make a profit in return. Create a plan for best case scenario and worst case to ensure that regardless you will be successful. Look at current market trends and any anticipated concerns. 

Make sure to include:

  • Your statements regarding your cash flow and potential income. 
  • Outline your costs, such as what you will spend to start up and each month versus how much you will make in return. 
  • List your long-term investments: spaces, people, etc.
  • Expenses that are consistent and might change, a constant charge would be a space to rent. 
  • How much will it be to get you on your feet?
  • Where do you see your financials in one year and five years? How will you expect to grow? 

It is essential to calculate as much as you can. If you feel like you are winging it, welcome to entrepreneurial life. You need to discuss how much you already have saved, if you intend on creating a joint venture with one of your favorite co-workers, and how you anticipate paying the money back if you begin a loan. 

Legally, how will you accomplish your private practice?

This is when it is crucial to have outsourced your lawyer so that you two can collaborate a full-proof idea. You and your lawyer will create an organizational chart, and if you intend on being the only employee for your private practice, it will not take too long. You will need to provide a detailed list if you plan on outsourcing any professionals like social media managers, website designers, accountants, and of course, your lawyer. 

If you intend on having a few employees, you will need to create a more detailed plan. For instance, you will talk about your employee’s current role, responsibilities, and who will be in charge. Make sure to include yourself and to talk about your experience, currently held licenses, and your supporters. 

JournalOwl’s tips for creating a full proof plan 

Organization is a lifesaver when starting and maintaining your private practice. You will need to organize the information to ensure you are up to date and on track to achieve your goals. Spreadsheets are typically very helpful with arranging financial matters like your monthly expenses, profit, and total cost. 

Other ways to assist can be:

  • An Electronic Medical Records software that can include notes, costs, and forms that your patient would need. 
  •  A communication system that is HIPAA compliant that includes calling, video conferencing, and multiple lines. 
  • Billing software or spreadsheet that helps you organize your costs and profit. 

Forms and Other Necessary Documentation

It is important to express all of your expectations at the forefront even prior to a client signing up for their first appointment. In the end, it will save you a lot of heartaches, wasted effort, time, and money. You will need necessary forms for your practice like HIPAA or Code of Ethics agreement and documents to ensure you keep your sanity like cancellation or payment policy. 

Payment Policy

To think about your payment policies, will you accept checks with the possibility of them bouncing? Will they pay through the electronic medical records or more informal like being paid on phone apps. When creating your pricing, I would recommend relating to your niche population for how much you would like to charge, or will it depend on the client? This can be a tricky game because while you might be cutting one client a break, your other clients will be paying more. What about creating a discount program for however many sessions they attend with you?

Cancelation Policy

There is absolutely nothing worse than being stood up. They might have been your only client for the day, and you took off your pajamas to go to the office, and it turns out the client was a no-show. Create clear expectations of what happens if a person is tardy or completely misses a session, such as charging 50% of the session or the total amount if they do not show after the second no-show appointment. What is the deadline for a client to cancel? Will you make it 24 hours before the scheduled meeting, and how will you alert clients prior to their appointments?

Privacy Policy

Privacy policies help protect the client from unwanted attention and allows them to be completely vulnerable with you. In addition, the sensitive information that you share within a session will be protected and only available for your ears only unless they want to hurt others or themselves. You can add your privacy policy in a form that your clients will sign when they initially begin the sessions and have the information on your website near the mission statement because it has equal importance. 

Referral Policy

There could be a possibility that you are not able to connect with the client as you would have liked or when hearing more in-depth about some of the things they are dealing with, it might be best for another therapist to take care of your client. It helps keep you out of trouble for projecting and possibly leading the client down a rocky path and, even worse, getting into legal trouble. 

New Client Checklist

Now that you have all the forms created and checked by your lawyer create a new client checklist to ensure they are aware and have signed the necessary documents. The more information you have on the front end will provide a level of openness and understanding when beginning your relationship with the client.

  1. Intake form
  2. Disclosure policy
  3. Client’s information and other necessary information
  4. Informed consent
  5. If the client has insurance, insurance reimbursement forms
  6. Referral Policy

Final Aspects of Your Presentation 

In a way to motivate, you are in complete control of your practice’s success because you are in charge of all aspects of owning a business, all while helping people meet their mental health goals. It will be difficult starting up, but all good things take time. Create your ideas through a list format and ask yourself the hard questions to figure out precisely what you want to accomplish in your practice.

Nothing is off-limits when dreaming up your business. You must have the mindset of an accountant, the heart of a marketer, and the detailed eye of a lawyer when creating the basics. The more thought and revisions you make to your business plan, the more prepared you will be in the long run, decreasing your chances of a nasty legal battle or being in debt. 

Marketing 101

In discussing your business plan, it was essential to begin your market research as this will help create your marketing plan. You will analyze the clients you want in your practice and learn more about what they like, such as their processing patterns; if we are focusing on teenagers or young adults, it will benefit you to utilize Tiktok or Instagram Reels to reach your prospective clientele. 

Now that you have identified what kind of clientele you would like to pursue, how will you attract and keep clients in regards to exploring longevity? You will need to sit down to really analyze a multi-method approach in taking care of the client as the healing they deserve and require may differ depending on the individual. While one method may not work for one patient, it could be a complete game changer for another. 

Options could include:

  • Going to local events where a variety of people will be there to get the word out.
  • Find a way on your website for people to register for a newsletter or interest to schedule an introductory call. 
  • Reach out to counselors regarding their workload and if there is anyone that needs to be referred.
  • Advertise on print and digital formats. 

Create your materials prior to the meeting with the lender as it can help provide more visualization to your idea, and it provides a leg up in your planning process once they have approved your loan. We would recommend free designing sites like Canva to conceptualize your idea. When speaking with your bank/lender, create a graphic about the audience, the type of clientele you are hoping to attract, and any notes about your budget. In marketing, you need to gauge success. Determine your success rate by month through likes, engagement, and audience accumulation. 

Marketing influences your clientele to buy your services, so it is essential to understand the different aspects like socio and economic factors within your community and target population. In your research, you found local counselors and check who would have the same population and how you would stand out from the competition. 

Private Practice Offerings

With standing out from the competition, label how you create a unique approach or how you might be more economically friendly for your clientele. You could add services like a mobile app through telehealth or having appointments via video conferencing. With JournalOwl, you would be able to shorten your conferencing options that allow the client to have more autonomy. Clients would not have to commit as much time on the front end, making it a more accessible choice for work and assisting their healing in a more interactive format. 

Tips on How to be Marketable

Nowadays, people want instant access and gauge someone from first impressions, and it is vital to have a website that displays professionality and warmth; all in one. The current marketing trends want quick bite-able portions of information, such as creating an infographic teaching about mindfulness or warning signs of a panic attack. 

In addition to instant information, the rise of videos has become increasingly popular throughout social media. It will be essential to create videos of yourself explaining general concepts that relate to your target population. If your target population is teenagers who have anxiety, there is typically a co-morbidity of perfectionism. You can create a video about why someone might develop perfectionism or how to minimize the side effects of perfectionism. 

The most important marketing tactic is to be relatable. People no longer buy the service itself; they need to relate to you. The process can be fun through experimentation and utilizing a mixed-method approach through videos, posts, and tweets. Marketing is all about establishing relationships. People want to find the meaning of WHY businesses are created instead of the output; they want them to have significance and desire a more personalized touch instead of a “reply all” kind of approach. In the current day, conversational marketing has become ever prevalent due to our world become digitized through general consumer behavior and a global pandemic. 

Use Social Media to Your Advantage 

Everyone and their grandmother are on social media now. In social media, influence happens in real-time so that you can instantly see your success (or not so much) with your population. When speaking on social media, it is essential to be authentic but ensure you research the topics to ensure you are using progressive terminology not accidentally offend anyone. 

It is time to keep your mission statement and niche focus close because you will be able to post through specific social media platforms, and it will match with the population’s algorithm. The more they like your content or view it, the more likely your face will pop up when they are mindlessly scrolling. 

How to utilize Social Media: 

  • You create communication within the population and community when you put your most authentic self for display. 
  • People who may not be aware of you get to meet you for the first time through social media and become more interested in your services.
  • You are able to discuss possibly classes, partnership with JournalOwl, and advertise in a wide array of ways.
  • Create live events where people can ask you anything or lead a meditation. 
  • There is a direct relationship between your social media usage and clientele increase. Strangers will be introduced to you with a more likelihood of joining and becoming your client.
  • You can showcase your knowledge and professionalism, thus an image on social media. 
  • Respond to mental health topics where you can be the qualified expert and provide further understanding.

So, while it all sounds fantastic, how do you begin and gauge for success? It directly correlates with how much you post, respond to, and connect with your followers or possible followers. You need to create a content calendar to help organize how many times you need to post, what you will post, what kind of community you are going for.

A content calendar needs to have some diversity in the content you are creating. For example, in targeting your niche, a week’s worth of content if the niche market were individuals who had depression. Monday could be an infographic of what to do when your depression makes life unbearable, like using wet wipes for a shower. Tuesday could be a meditation to help the person be present and have them repeat positive life mantras. Wednesday could be a post about famous people with depression and how they overcame it. Thursday could be the campaign #expresso_no_depresso as a trending campaign to bring awareness to those who have depression and make light about going out in public and getting a treat they enjoy. Friday could be a live answer to questions about depression and explaining the factors that cause depression. 

Main Social Media Sites:

Facebook - Businesses find Facebook advantageous because you can track your insights through engagement, likes, and how many views you receive from your videos. In addition, followers can rate you and comment, which leads their friends to notice your profile which means there is more traction on your website. It is noted as one of the most popular social media sites on the list. 

Instagram - Facebook and Instagram are now interlinked since they are jointly owned. Instagram relies on the visual representation, either through videos or photos. For Facebook or Instagram you can create live events. The emergence of reels, shorter videos similar to TikTok, draws a lot of traffic for your main profile. Still, we recommend that you have at least a week’s worth of content to increase your follower count exponentially. 

Linkedin - Business Facebook. It is imperative to create your profile to showcase your experience and professionalism. Linkedin is more of a highlight reel that would be great to share more text-heavy items like blogs, awards, etc. You can also create more in-depth conversations with your peers and possible customers. 

Twitter - We would suggest as the more informal of all the social media sites; Twitter is a great way to generate conversations in a shorter, more concise manner. Twitter will ebb and flow in regarding popularity, and it is essential to look at what is trending so that you can frame your post to create conversation and be in the know.

TikTok - Use only if your niche is a younger audience. It is a shorter video clip that needs concise and witty communication. It can be accompanied by songs, filters, etc. There are medical and mental health professionals on TikTok who have a substantial following from various ages. Still, if one were to put the average age, it would be younger Millennials and Gen Z. 

Through your market research, you will need to study the average following for mental health counselors. You need to research the viral creators and community creators and find what works for those groups. You will utilize some of those concepts as your muse to create your social media channel. 

Coaching Versus Therapy

At JournalOwl, we understand the stigma of mental health, and while it has made leaps and bounds to mental health awareness. Because of our awareness, we are not as accepting of the term “therapy,” which is one of the reasons why we call  our counselors, coaches.. Most people feel encouraged and are more open to sharing that they have a coach instead of a counselor. 

Therapy and coaching co-exist in the same field of helping clientele but have slightly different ways of accomplishing their goals. A coach is similar to an athletic coach. They determine success through their client's actions and see the end of the tunnel where they want their client to be. They create goals to ensure their clients are on track to create a life they desire, such as financial stability, general healthiness, and personal development. Health Coaches receive extensive training similar to counselors, but their primary method of connecting with clients is the evidence-based approach.

With JournalOwl, you lead the client towards the behaviors they want to eliminate, such as smoking. Through audio files and pre-recorded videos called Template Talks, you are able to guide the client to quit smoking for good. You do not necessarily have to meet with the client in real-time to be able to help them. The opportunity allows the counselor to schedule 15 to 20 clients per week without drowning their schedule, while the average counselor would see 14 clients or less. 

Transitioning to a coaching mentality would alleviate stress from the counselor and create a more streamlined process with the possibility of making $15K in a month dependent on the workload. JournalOwl creates unlimited opportunities by assisting your private practice to gain traction and save up enough of a nest egg to begin your savings.

Importance of Acknowledging Burn Out

Burnout is a widespread term that has increased its popularity through the global pandemic as all people were experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression, and complete uncertainty for the future. The definition of burnout is an extended period of time where the individual experiences emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion through high-stress levels. Most commonly, burnout relates to work pressures which leads to a sense of apathy and general hopelessness for the individual’s current situation. The more the individual is in a stressful environment, the more hopeless they will feel due to their decreased motivation and interest in the things that matter like family, hobbies, or even the job itself. 

The term burnout was first studied and identified in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger. In one of his more recent studies with Dr. Linda Heienmann, they discovered that burnout is directly related to outside factors like an economic crisis or a global pandemic that we faced in 2020. In addition, burnout has increased exponentially from the initial study forty years ago. The classic traits of burnout are apathy, decreased feeling of worth, and emotional exhaustion. Like all disorders, it can range from mild to extreme cases that would result in a melt-down and need psychological help. 

Burnout affects one’s work ethic and destroys an individual’s drive. It will make the individual feel hollow and begin to display side effects similar to depression-like resentment, helplessness, apathy, passivity on things the individual was initially very passionate about, and a more pessimistic outlook on life. 

There are some days that are harder than others that seem to last for an eternity, but if every day feels like you need to raise the dead, it is possible you might be feeling burnt out. If not taken care of, it will begin to be like a sickness that infects all aspects of your life instead of being solely reserved for your professional life. 

We understand that it can be hard to face this reality as a mental health counselor because you want to give and care about your client’s problems, but if you are burnt out, there is no way to care for them and yourself at the same time. 

Please practice kindness with yourself as it is a growing epidemic for experiencing burnout for mental health professionals. Especially after the global pandemic, it will take months for people to get to a level of normalcy on top of the general stressors accompanying counseling of being incredibly empathetic to mirroring the client’s stressors and emotions. It can happen to any counselor if they do not know what to look out for. 

As a counselor, before JournalOwl, you wanted to make an impact for as many people as possible because each person has an emergency of some kind, and you genuinely care for your patients. Trying to meet the needs of other you overwork yourself until you are suffering a caffeine addiction and emotional death. It is no wonder that counselors will become overwhelmed with their large caseload, especially if they are battling general office pressures from a group practice.

Burnout comes in the form of a weighted blanket that is too heavy to move. Here are some things to look out for that cause burnouts; we have included external and genetic predispositions. 

External Causes for Burnout

  • Nothing you do will be good enough 
  • There is no control over your work, or you do not have autonomy in your practice. 
  • Unsure of the direction you need to take from leadership.
  • Tedious work that you do not see the reasoning behind.
  • Toxic co-workers or managers or your fight/flight reaction is readily on guard in your current environment.
  • There are no breaks; your work consumes your life.
  • You have bitten off or given more than you can chew with no help in regards to responsibilities.
  • You do not have support at work or home.
  • Your work has dominated your free time that you do not have time to spend with loved ones.

Internal Factors that Lead to Burnout

  • You must be perfect to be worthy.
  • You do not see yourself through a positive lens. 
  • Control is a necessity for you. If you give work to others, you feel weak. 
  • Goal-Oriented, and readily will call yourself a workaholic.

How do you know the difference between stress or burnout?

They are sometimes the same as burnout is the lack of peace but consistent stress. They are not the exact same definition; stress is a broader term that can qualify for shorter or longer periods of time. Stress in its most basic form is pressure on your emotional state or of your current situation. A stressed person can feel tiredness and will experience tightness/soreness in their shoulders or back. In the end, though, a stressed person can see the light at the end of a tunnel and know that some stress can be a motivating agent for some. 

Burnout is an endless night for the sufferer. Even if they sleep for 12 hours, they are still tired, listless, and feel hollowness. It isn’t because they are cruel, but they are literally too tired to care about other’s needs. A burnout robs the person of hope for a better tomorrow. Burnout is a forest fire that engulfs values, virtues, and a person’s identity where they feel like they can’t escape. At the same time, stress is like excessive rain that puts a damper on the mood, and the person knows you need to get out before they catch a cold. 

As we have looked at the predispositions of a general burnout, there is a reason why the mental health burnout epidemic is as severe as they claimed due to some of the symptoms below. Even worse, people have entirely left the mental health field altogether. Burnout not only affects your mental health but your physical health as well; the 2012 study by Dr. Gary Morse et al. mentioned studies that burnout and emotional exhaustion led to symptoms of gastroenteritis and similar traits to the flu. 

On an emotional scale, you may identify traits below as either the hazard of burnout or currently experiencing burnout. 

  1. You are beyond excited when clients cancel; you feel like you may be able to get caught up or just breathe.
  2. You do not care about the time, and your appointments might not be the entire hour.
  3. You could not care less about what your client was talking about.
  4. A sloth would have an easier time getting out of bed than you in the mornings.
  5. You project on a client. You believe it doesn’t matter what they say; they are wrong; I am the expert.
  6. Feel apathy
  7. You are exhausted during the day, but at night, you can’t sleep.
  8. Firm boundaries that were initially upheld no longer exist. 

When you have realized that you are close to falling into a burnout cycle, it is crucial to put yourself first. While easier said than done, JournalOwl allows you to help others but manage time for yourself so that you do not feel overworked through the self-scheduling opportunity. Instead of a group practice, where you have to meet a quota of patients each day or by the whole week, you can enjoy the freedom of a private practice with your partnership with JournalOwl.

If you are in the pre-stages of burnout, it is beneficial to adjust your schedule. It may seem painfully obvious, but be mindful of your schedule, like scheduling designated breaks for example, 15 minutes per client, or if you know it will be a “harder” day with more emotionally draining clients, adjust and give yourself an hour a half. Working with JournalOwl gives you autonomy to schedule your calendar. However, if you have a type-A personality, you might feel the need to overload yourself, but you can still be successful while not working yourself to death. Create times to exercise, eat in another location instead of your office, and most importantly, do not procrastinate so that you can have a decompression of time and not feel overly stressed by trying to meet a deadline.

It is a bit hypocritical if you are trying to tell your clients to care for themselves when you are not providing care to yourself. You need to pretend like your clients are watching you during the day when you are “off” or act like you are one of your clients; you would be very angry with them if the only thing they ate were a coffee and maybe a Twix bar. Similar to Maslow’s needs, you need to achieve safety and constant supply of food to be your very best self. You deserve and need to eat a well-balanced meal that gives you physical and emotional nourishment.

 While we are on the topic of emotional nourishment, plan for times that make you happy, whether that be a walk around the neighborhood or playing with your kids. Practice an activity that inspires joy because life is much more than working day in and day out. What is a hobby you haven’t done in a while, or if you are too burnt-out to do a hobby, do something small like color or any other activity that is mindless. Some have created new hobbies like boxing or other high action sports to relieve their mind from the stressors at work. 

If you feel brave, silence your phone when you have off-hours because off-hours need to stay off-hours, and that is time for you-time. Make sure your voicemail has a warning message if the patient is having an emergency to call 911; you are not everyone’s savior, and nor do you have to be. Deborah King once quoted, “you can’t pour from an empty cup; take care of yourself first.” 

Once you feel like you are exhibiting side effects of burnout, it is important that coaches have a coach or counselor themselves to be able to vent and collaborate together to find methods in eliminating the person’s feeling of apathy. Coaches begin by finding out the “why” some people want to give until there is nothing left. Once they have identified past behaviors, you will practice cognitive behavioral therapy where the coach will address, and provide alternative behaviors that are not self-sacrificing. 

We believe the best way to solve being burnt out is to heal yourself and your time. You can limit your pressure by joining the JournalOwl team, and you do not have to fully invest your time and energy as all the pressure is up to the client to participate in their goals by journaling their behaviors they would like to change. Clients are responsible for writing their activities during the designated time, and at the time of your appointment, you both review the content together to see the next steps in creating goals. 

In joining JournalOwl, your private practice will begin to have wings or devote your time with JournalOwl. If you would like to join our team, start by creating your very own Coaching Profile. A coaching profile is where clients begin to connect to your name, and this can be an opportunity to boost your pitch. You will talk about the niche population you enjoy working with, your passions, and what makes you human such as hobbies or family life.

About Emily Ruiz, MA

Emily Ruiz is a contributor of JournalOwl with a passion for spreading mental health awareness. She believes that mental health topics are instrumental in creating change. She enjoys writing about PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other arrays of topics by adding an emotional feel to her writing.

Before joining the JournalOwl team, Emily received her Masters in Communication with a focus in healthcare advocacy at East Carolina University in North Carolina. She has assisted organizations teaching social skills to children who are autistic and ADHD and teaching mindfulness to teenagers with BPD and who are high-risk self-harm and suicide. Emily created a training module for a non-profit equestrian therapy, Difference instead of Disability, for her independent study during her master’s program.

Emily and her husband are North Carolina natives who enjoy traveling, exploring, and general shenanigans with one another. They foster and rescue animals in their free time. She enjoys riding horses, theatre, and reading.

Connect with Emily Ruiz, MA


Thursday, July 1, 2021