4 Occupational Hazards for Therapists and Other Professionals
4 Occupational hazards for Therapists
What you should keep an eye out for
I used to work as the Community Outreach and Program Manager for After School All-Stars Las Vegas. Fun fact it was one of my favorite jobs of all time! In this position, one of the programs we did was take the kids to interview local CEO’s this was a treat to me. I would take notes and hang on every word they offered. A specific interview that sticks out in my mind is when we had the opportunity to have a conversation with a local Doctor and owner of multiple Radiology and Diagnostic labs in town. He discussed how he'd worked 100 hours a week while in school and in his early career. I am not a doctor so I could be remembering this wrong but he mentions having to wear a heavy lead vest to prevent side effects from the exposure to radiology machines. He reported having back problems after all the hours spent and over the years wearing this vest that was meant to protect him. Fast forward I am no longer with ASASLV :( but I still love them. Great nonprofit to support… shameless plug. Anyway, fast forward a few years and I am constantly reminded of this conversation.
I think to myself now what are the common occupational hazards that I and many other Counselors face? Every profession has a set of unique occupational hazards. Today I want to discuss the first few that come to mind for me. If I am missing any please feel free to leave a comment with the prominent hazards you think of, experience, or hear about. I would love to hear from you.
This is a word often thrown around in the mental health community among therapists, psychologists and, social workers alike. Which makes sense, because if you think about it, it can be quite scary. Unnoticed and untreated it can lead to some serious issues. It can be defined as Exhaustion physically and/or emotionally due to prolonged stress and it can mess you all the way up. Do you know what the typical signs of burnout are? Can you tell the difference between stress and the more serious issue of burnout? Do you have checks and balances in place to help you prevent or combat burnout if it were to occur? These are some of the questions I will go in greater depth about in a future blog.
Issues due to inactivity
We literally sit down most of the day. Because of this, I would always say to myself “ I am never gonna retire because all I do is sit down. How hard could that be?” In all actually, for me, it is really hard haha. I find myself getting antsy and needing to get up and walk around. When I used to work at Juvenile detention Center Half the job was walking to each unit to see my kids and the other half was sitting at my desk writing notes, reports and other administrative work. We know there are serious implications for sitting for too long. There is a book called Deskbound by Kelly Starrett, I haven’t read it but I hear it is good. We know inactivity can lead to plenty of health concerns. It is imperative to integrate and include a health routine into your regimen to counter the effects of sedentary work.
As Counselors, we hear trauma story after trauma story. We also make it a point to practice openness and empathy with our clients as they share their deepest darkest thoughts, feelings, and actions. This leaves us susceptible to the buildup of trauma collecting over time. Trauma that is not our but trauma none the less. We have to stay open for our clients but also have a system to sort and empty ourselves of the things we hear. This is particularly important for those working with certain populations and specialties high in trauma related work. What kind of things do you do to keep up your own mental health?
Now the other factors I expected to come up and experience at some point in my career. This, I was not prepared for. I don’t know about anyone else but my attitude is changing over time. I see why some clients say they want to see a young therapist. Young meaning professionally not necessarily age-related. I had a client tell me this just a few weeks ago that she wanted to see a counselor who wasn’t jaded yet. In my mind I was like “little does she know I already am.“ Haha, It isn’t too bad for me but It is something I have to keep in check. After working with x amount of couples and individuals with similar issues you begin to believe certain things about people in general. Part of me wonders can relationships really work, can anyone really be happy, obviously I believe so because I am still working in a field that supports that notion, but the thoughts come up. After working at Juvy I have trust issues and lock my car doors when I never did before. Now there probably needs to be a healthy balance between being on one end of the spectrum or the other.
If we know what possible hazards await us in this line of work the question might become “what do I do now?” We talk about self-care, diet, exercise, therapy, mindfulness and all of these things are great ways of combating these hazards. However, I think it best to take a preventative approach to your career. The question you should ask yourself beforehand is how to prevent getting to the breaking point as opposed to reacting when it is much harder to combat. What do you think? I would love to chat with you in the comments section discussing how you feel about this topic.
I hope my blogs are a helpful source of information. That they might help you to find comfort and solace in knowing that you’re not alone. That you matter and someone’s thinking about you. Submit blog topics and questions you'd like me to address here and subscribe below to stay updated. Until next time my friend.