5 Signs of Therapist Burnout

burnout black woman

So you’ve come home after a long day. But you don’t just feel tired; you feel drained, sore, overwhelmed, and burdened. And not just for one day, but almost every day. If this is the case, you may have burnout. 

What is Therapist Burnout?

Burnout is when you feel emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted due to extreme and prolonged stress. Therapist burnout occurs when you are constantly faced with chronic stressors, day after day, without being able to reset and recharge. When you’re not able to recover from these continuous stressors, you begin to shut down emotionally, mentally, and even physically. As a result, you may notice signs of exhaustion, apathy, or negativity toward your work, and practicing endless empathy and patience feels impossible.

Signs of Therapist Burnout.

It’s not easy to recognize when you’re experiencing burnout, even as a mental health professional. Because of your passion for your job, you may overlook the signs of burnout in its early stages and focus on your clients. But, not addressing the symptoms as early as possible may lead to anxiety, depression, and stress-related illnesses. To better recognize therapist burnout, here are some common signs to look out for:

1) Being Mentally and/or Physically Exhausted.

If you feel mentally or physically exhausted daily, it’s a clear indication that you are overworking yourself. Unfortunately, being overworked can cause you to experience chronic emotional exhaustion, even if your job does not require intense labor.

2) A Decline in Empathy.

Having a hard time feeling compassionate about your clients is another sign of burnout. You may have difficulty relating to your clients as well as you used to, which can cause you to feel dejected. It may not seem fair or logical for therapists to lose their sense of empathy, but it’s a common sign of therapist burnout.

3) Constantly Distracted During Sessions.

Not being able to concentrate during sessions is a sign that you may be stressed. Being distracted is normal, but if it happens too often, it can lead to anxiety. If you are unable to focus on your clients, therapist burnout may be the cause.

4) Physical Illness.

Along with fatigue, sickness can also step in when you have burnout. Because you are under constant stress, your body does not get the time to recuperate. As a result, you may experience headaches, intestinal issues, inflammation, high blood sugar, ulcers, or high blood pressure. If you start to have recurrent physical problems, you may be in the early stages of therapist burnout.

5) A Loss of Purpose.

Have you lost the optimism you once had when you just started working as a licensed therapist? Or do you regret becoming a therapist and wonder if you should be doing something else with your life? If so, it is also another sign that you may be burned out. Unfortunately, this sign often shows up early in burnout, but it does not have to be permanent if you take measures to deal with your stress.

How do you Avoid Therapist Burnout?

While burnout is prevalent among therapists, you can prevent it. Here are a few tips to help you avoid therapist burnout:

1) Prioritize your own needs.

Self-care is essential not only to avoid burnout but for your overall well-being. When you put your needs first, you allow yourself to heal and re-energize so you can perform at your best. Also, you’re in a better position to attend to the needs of others as it comes from a place of inner abundance.

2) Maintain a work-life balance.

A therapist’s job can be very mentally and physically demanding, so drawing a line between our professional and personal lives is essential. Each day we are presented with many different issues from numerous clients, which can be draining. That’s why we must have ways to take care of our mental and physical health. Start by identifying the signs of burnout, setting boundaries while maintaining flexibility, taking a break, and practicing time management.

3) Exercise regularly.

Exercise isn’t only beneficial for losing weight or keeping fit. Exercise can also help reduce the effects of stress, emotional exhaustion, and burnout-related distress. Even when getting in a sweaty workout at the gym is not realistic, even standing up, moving around, or stretching can help.

4) Get enough sleep.

Sleep helps regulate you emotionally, making stress easier to manage or let go of. However, not getting enough sleep or struggling to fall asleep can worsen burnout. Additionally, those with burnout tend to feel like they have no control over their sleeping schedule. Feeling like you’re not in control, whether it’s not being able to step back at work or set boundaries with a loved one, can negatively impact your well-being. To practice control over your life, sleeping at the same time every night is a good start.

While therapist burnout is very common among mental health professionals, it is preventable. As soon as you notice the early signs of burnout, don’t hesitate to find ways to avoid it.

And remember, taking care of yourself and protecting your well-being is essential for living a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Therapists, here’s a resource for you to avoid burnout! We’ve created a Reflective Therapist Journal to help you process your sessions.



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