Self-Care- an oft neglected aspect in the field of mental health


By A Rozan Helpline Counselor

Do you, as a counselor/psychologist, also feel that you get drained and overwhelmed after dealing with your clients’ serious personal and mental health problems?Ihave been working as a counselor/psychologist for the last 5 years, I have no hesitation in admitting that at times I do feel that my clients’ pain and suffering becomes mine, and I get emotionally exhausted because of it. Getting drained is quite normal and natural so I also need emotional support as my profession does not make me asuper human being.The key is whether as counselors,we are able to identify when and why we feel low. Many counselors have a sense of achievement from their low feelings by justifying that they get drained because they are more dedicated to their profession. I do not challenge their commitment for their work but the problem arises when their stressors ultimately affect their personal and professional lives negatively.

Self-care is about taking care of our own overall wellbeing, as a counselor/psychologist and as a human being. It is one of the fundamental elements to be a professional. As a psychologist we are supposed to provide emotional support to our clients so that they feel emotionally sound but it would not be possible to make our client feel good if we ourselves are preoccupied with stress. We are trained to be sensitive towards the tragic and emotionally difficult life experiences of our clients, our sensitivity tends to lead us to our mental fatigue.We must have some outlets to work on our own emotions and feelings otherwise we will end up exhausting ourselves.

It is essential for a counselor to be a good reflective listener, how can I be able to carefully listen to, understand and respond to my clients’ issues if I am feeling low due to being lost in the thoughts of my previous clients’ miseries or for that matter my own emotional issues. The bottom line is that if we will neglect our own mental, physical and emotional care, we will not be in a position to help our clients effectively.

Fortunately most of us are familiar with the term self-care, even we are the ones who work on this concept with our clients thoroughly but when it comes to us being a counselor, unfortunately, we ignore it. Some may say that it is challenging to practice this concept in our lives as we are very busy professionals, others may be of the opinion that being counselors we can handle our intense issues, stressors and anxieties at our own. Fact of the matter is that we need to take time out of our hectic schedules to meet the need of self-care otherwise we have negative impact on our own selves as a professional and also as a human being.

The question is that why counselors do not apply the concept of self-care on their own selves. Does the answer lie in the fact that in the Pakistani society, taking care of mental health is considered as taboo.People seeking help from a mental health professional are labeled as mad “pagal” or crazy “zehnimareez”. Are we, being a part of this society, also trapped by the same mindset? We need to search for the answers for which we need to be self-aware. We will be finding the answers and learning from experts’ opinions around this topic in the coming blogs.

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