Support Structures

Self-care for therapists

I felt disturbed by the way the sessions ended and have reflected a lot on the process. - Therapist

How can I better manage the emotional impact of therapy on myself?

Working as a therapist can be a meaningful and rewarding activity. However, it is also demanding, and can require a range of personal and emotional resources to maintain high levels of safe and effective interpersonal involvement with people who may It really helped me to think about my own feelings about the therapy and how these were affecting my work. - Therapist be experiencing high levels of distress.

This section aims to help therapists consider the impact of therapy on themselves, and to suggest self-care resources and methods. This may reduce the likelihood of therapists behaving in ways that are unhelpful or harmful to clients, as well as safeguarding their well-being. It is important for therapists to maintain and look after the professional and personal aspects of their lives to maintain safe, competent and ethical practice and keep the client at the heart of the process of therapy.

With regard to professional life, Brigid Proctor introduced the idea that good clinical supervision has three main functions:

  • normative (ensuring that the standards being met)
  • formative (focusing on development)
  • restorative (providing support for emotional experience).

Caring for yourself as a therapist involves attending to all three aspects of supervision and taking responsibility for monitoring and maintaining them by creating an environment that supports them.

Suggestions for normative self-care 

  • Have regular clinical supervision that involves direct observation of your practice.
  • Attend conferences and workshops.
  • Subscribe to - and read – journals.
  • Talk to other therapists about therapy.My access to supervision was limited but I decided to approach other, more experienced therapists in my team for advice. - Therapist
  • Know, understand and use the skills and competences required for your work.
  • Have a manageable caseload for the severity and complexity of clients seen.

 Suggestions for formative self-care

  • Identify your professional learning needs.
  • Identify resources that will help you develop.
  • Use clinical supervision to help shape practice.
  • Identify and acknowledge your strengths as a therapist.
  • Identify and acknowledge areas for improvement and development as a therapist.

Suggestions for restorative self-care

  • Use clinical supervision to share your emotional experience of therapy.
  • Be alert to the possibility and effects of transference and countertransference in therapy relationships.
  • Attend to the personal impact of your work, including the possibility of vicarious traumatisation.
  • Be aware that being a therapist does not make you immune from experiencing difficulties in life, such as mental health problems and substance use problems.
  • Seek or consider appropriate referral.
  • Create a safe and supportive space within your work environment by identifying and using sources of informal (e.g. chats with trusted colleagues) and formal support (e.g. staff counselling).
  • Seek out personal therapy.
  • Utilise therapy methods in your own life, where they apply.
  • Make time to reflect on your own practice.