Counselor perceptions of self-care: techniques and strategies
Stender, Joellen Lora
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Counselors are impacted by the work they do in various ways. The literature over the last century has focused on the concept of counselor impairment, most recently, burnout and vicarious trauma. These topics highlight the potential negative impact that this work has on clinicians. There have been many instruments to measure the negative effects of this work on the helper; however fewer studies have explored the positive and rewarding aspects of this work in addition to providing proactive and preventative measures to avoid burnout. The study presented here was a qualitative exploration that attempted to review the individual perceptions of self-care among counselors. The study aims were to provide working definitions of self-care as well as to describe specific techniques that clinicians utilize to foster their unique self-care practices. The study also explored the most meaningful aspects of the work these clinicians do, and reviewed advice they would recommend to newer clinicians in the field. Twelve master's level clinicians who currently work in the counseling field participated in semi-structured interviews regarding their perceptions of self-care. The interview transcripts were analyzed for themes and the results of these analyses are discussed. The most significant finding of this study was the various strategies and techniques that were utilized by clinicians, which appeared to prevent or mitigate the negative effects of their work. The study found that the negative implications of counseling can be acknowledged and prevented in most cases, through awareness, reflection and action by means of self-care. Implications for practice, limitations of the study, and directions for future research are also discussed.