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Understanding Therapist Anxiety for Counsellors

As you work within your counselling space, you may sense an underlying tension that grows when left unaddressed. This is called therapist anxiety, and it’s the accumulated emotional stress that builds up when carrying out your essential role. Counselling work isn’t easy – you’re exposed to the deep emotional turmoil and trauma that others carry. 

Facing these challenges with your clients can be incredibly daunting and draining, and it’s natural to feel overwhelmed from time to time. Remind yourself that just as you are dedicated to helping others, it’s important to help yourself too. Remember to give back some of that caring attention to your own struggles and challenges. After all, you’re also human!

There are a few factors that can intensify your therapist anxiety. Some are:

1. Personal issues

These can impact the way you maintain your emotional well-being and ability to cope with challenges of your profession.

2. Complex cases

Treating clients with challenging mental health conditions or multiple issues can demand a lot of work and critical thinking.

3. Ethical concerns

Ensuring that you are abiding by the law and moral rights of our clients can be tricky under certain circumstances. And in ethics sometimes there are no “right” answers, only tough choices to make.

4. Transference and countertransference

The relationship dynamics can trigger unresolved personal issues, increasing anxiety and difficulty to be in control of your emotions during the session.

5. Poor boundaries

Managing professional boundaries while showing empathy and care can be challenging when faced with clients who have different expectations of your role. This can increase the emotional strain to maintain a good therapeutic relationship.

6. High workloads

Having large caseloads will increase stress and reduce the time you have to provide each client with the attention that they deserve. It also heightens the pressure to do well, meet expectations, and risk burnout.

In the face of these challenges, it’s crucial to emphasise the importance of self-care, which is not a luxury but a necessity. Engaging in activities that rejuvenate your body and mind can replenish your emotional resources, whether it is spending quality time with family or friends, exercising, practising mindfulness, or partaking in hobbies you enjoy. At work, seek supervision and consultation with experienced professionals and colleagues for their valuable guidance and support. Remember, you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Seeking help is for everyone, and especially so important for mental health supporters.

Some other ways that can help reduce your therapist anxiety is:

1. Personal therapy

Spend some time in therapy sessions to have a dedicated space where you can process your emotions and experiences. Improve your self-awareness and stress coping strategies to boost confidence and resilience.

2. Continuing education

Keeping up with the latest research and understanding of effective therapeutic techniques can greatly benefit your toolbox of resources. Gain a better understanding of various approaches to help combat against complex challenges.

3. Peer supervision and support

Connecting with fellow mental health professionals can provide immense validation and normalise the emotions counsellors may be facing. It alleviates the feeling of isolation and self-doubt. Sharing experiences can also be a great source of venting, releasing emotional frustrations without the fear of judgement.

Counselling leads to meaningful and positive impact. Strive to maintain your commitment to providing compassionate and effective care, while also recognizing the importance of dedicating time to nurture your own well-being.