How to Support Mental Health Workers as an Employer

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Working in the field of mental health can be intensive and all-consuming. As an employer, you’re incentivized to support your employees by offering readily available support to counselors and therapists, so that they can execute their jobs without the pressures overwhelming them.

Mental-health workers commonly find themselves working in distressing environments, where they deal with clients’ trauma and observe disordered thinking and behavior. This poses a risk to their own mental health.

This guide is designed to help you to protect your employees from emotional strain and burnout, reducing employee turnover.

Risk: Emotional Attachment

Working with people in distress can sometimes cause mental-health workers to take on their emotional trauma and become too emotionally attached. 

How to Help:

Managing the complexity of the issues with which your employee is dealing can be a good way to pace their development. Rather than throwing them in at the deep end if they are just starting out, let them work up to taking on clients and patients with more complex issues over time. 

Shadowing more senior staff members and conducting some sessions under supervision can help to instill your less experienced staff members with confidence and make them feel supported.

Ensure that staff have time to take breaks between sessions, allowing them to process and put the session out of their mind before speaking to their next client.

Risk: Getting Too Close

Having emotionally intimate conversations is the nature of the job. This bears the risks of vicarious trauma, feeling responsible for a client’s distress or being stressed by a circumstance where they must report an issue and potentially break trust.

How to help:

It’s best to build a strong team where employees genuinely care about each other and check in on each other’s well-being. 

Creating separate spaces at work where employees can meditate, read and reflect helps to preserve their state of mind. 

Receiving complaints from clients can pose a very stressful situation for both you and your employee, so it may help to provide counsellors’ insurance cover for security and peace of mind if this ever occurs.

If your employees are working with trauma survivors, look out for signs of vicarious trauma. Lingering feelings of anger or sadness about the client’s situation, trying to help more than is in their capacity to do or emotional numbing can all indicate that help is required.

Risk: Personal Neglect

Those who work in the caring professions are particularly susceptible to burnout. It can be easy to sacrifice too much emotional and physical energy, but the consequences can be serious.

How to help:

Therapists who work with trauma clients have a significantly increased risk of burnout, so it’s wise to have support strategies in place.

Keeping a close eye on your employees and watching for danger signs is important for acting before things become more serious.

Provide sessions where employees have opportunities to share feedback, and recognize that they may not always want to talk about their struggles in a group setting. 

Encourage a good work/life balance – this is always important but not least in an environment where employees are providing support for vulnerable people on a daily basis. Incentivising mood-boosting activities like exercise and social activities at work is also wise.

The well-being of mental-health workers is crucial. By putting strategies in place to protect them, their job satisfaction and happiness can be maximized, instead of compromised.

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I'm Alice and I live with a dizzying assortment of invisible disabilities, including ADHD and fibromyalgia. I write to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental and chronic illnesses of all kinds. 

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