Nourish to Flourish
Friday, September 28, 2018
Posted by: Karen Hardin
by Mary C. Stockton, PhD
The Colleague Assistance Program of the Ohio Psychological Association
Like the proverbial cobbler, whose family members may not have shoes despite the fact that they are a necessity, psychologists do not always benefit from the products of their trade. Perhaps this is an age-old problem. It’s been said that in a blacksmith’s home the knives are wooden, and in a potter’s house the water jug is chipped.
Americans are stressed, and psychologists are not immune. We often fulfill many demands, dealing with people in distress and intense emotional crisis, sometimes with limited resources or too many work hours. Professional isolation, inadequate peer consultation, the demands of managed care, lack of autonomy, and vicarious trauma are other variables that can lead to burnout. Stress can have serious consequences for both psychologists and those around them. A failure to get help can be fraught with risk.
Why do psychologists not get the help they need? It can be hard to identify a qualified, available mental health professional with whom you don’t already have a collegial relationship. Even for mental health professionals, shame and the stigma around mental
illness can create reluctance to seek psychological services. Our altruism, independence, and industriousness get the best of us when we overlook our own needs in favor of working to meet the needs of others.
We need to remember that we are merely human. We all experience loss and distress. Sometimes we need professional help for emotional distress, to resolve significant experiences, or to obtain help in making difficult decisions. Personal psychotherapy can
help us to meet our own needs so that we may better maintain healthy relationships with clients. Ultimately, self-care becomes one way to give our clients the best of ourselves, rather than what is leftover when we are depleted or running on empty. Finally,
the APA reminds us that avoidance of ethical violations and malpractice are other reasons to get help. Self-care can be a responsibility and an opportunity.
The Colleague Assistance Program of the Ohio Psychological Association is working to promote health and self-care among psychologists, to provide better access to personal psychotherapy, and to empower psychologists to better care for each other. Unlike the proverbial cobbler, blacksmith, and potter, we can all work together to reap the full benefits of our profession.
For confidential information about whether the OPA-CAP program might benefit you, please call (614) 224-0034.
Dr. Stockton is a clinical psychologist in Wooster, Ohio and a volunteer with the OPA Colleague Assistance Program (OPA-CAP).