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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Being a Better Counselor

Being a substance abuse counselor comes with a great deal of responsibility. Responsibility to clients, the facility for which you work (or your employees if you are a manager or self-employed) and even to yourself. The stresses of the year can build up and reach fever pitch. Counselors that have been at it for years or decades with little regard for their own mental and emotional health can find themselves at a breaking point. What was once an exciting job helping others can quickly become a chore that not only stresses the counselor, but makes treatment less effective. To welcome 2019, we want to take a moment to review some tips to avoid burnout and start the new year refreshed.

  1. Get some much needed me-time. Counselors need time devoted to their health and wellbeing too. Because we are professionals, it’s easy to think that we do or at least should have everything put together. But ultimately, we’re human and that means we’re fallible, emotional and often fragile. A long year of counseling others while also working on our own problems and shortcomings can be draining. Just as you might suggest decompression techniques to a client, give yourself that same advice.
  2. Redouble your effort to be more effective at work rather than to simply work harder. Sure, hard work is a necessary part of being a counselor, but how well we work is just as important as how much we work. We all know the 80/20 rule – we spend 80% of our time managing just 20% of our needs. While it’s not easy to overcome, it can’t hurt to try.
  3. Re-evaluate your personal priorities. Just because you’ve put in crazy hours your entire working life doesn’t mean that’s still the best way forward for you. In fact, our priorities can change – marriage, health issues, new family members, death of someone dear to us, financial considerations – there’s never a bad time to take stock in your life but a fresh year can offer fresh perspective.
  4. For some counselors, moving ahead in their career may be a priority for the new year. While you may have the industry and clinical experience, furthering your education is a great way to stay abreast of the most important trends in counseling, as well as to get the education or designations needed to get the new, better job. Of course, this is where we can be of most help.
  5. Double down on empathy. Empathy is such an important part of counseling. And while many of us still do care, it is often difficult to make that show in our day to day interactions with clients. It’s always important to remember what got us into counseling in the first place. Now is a good time to break out thank you notes from former clients or even check on a client or two. During this time, many clients are particularly vulnerable and an empathetic call from the counselor may be exactly what they need to work through a difficult time of their lives.

As counselors we know how important refreshment and renewal can be, no matter what time of year. Taking the time to prioritize our important needs makes us better counselors for our clients and generally better human beings. As we go into 2019, now is a great time to figure out your priorities and take good care yourself.