How to Support Mental Health Workers as an Employer

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The field of mental health can be intensive and all-consuming. Counselors, therapists, and caseworkers 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 protect your employees from emotional strain and burnout, reducing employee turnover and ensuring your workers can manage their own mental health while helping others.

Risk: Emotional Overwhelm

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:

Help employees 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.

If your employees are working with trauma survivors, look out for signs of vicarious trauma. Lingering 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: Guilt

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. 

Create separate spaces at work where employees can meditate, read, and reflect after a tough therapy session. 

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.

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. Keep a close eye on your employees and watch for danger signs so you can take action 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 especially important in an environment where employees provide support for vulnerable people. Incentivize mood-boosting activities like exercise and social activities at work.

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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Coffee junkie. Spoonie. Writer about all things chronic illness and mental health. Friend of animals everywhere.

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