Practically Yours: Self-Care Tips for Counsellors – Mental Health

Posted by: Derrick Shirley on May 10, 2011 9:03 am

How do we maintain good mental health as we help others with theirs? What are some best practices for mental and emotional clearing between sessions? Are there any special considerations for counsellors and psychotherapists concerning our own mental health?

This is part two of a six part series that addresses the links between self-care and good health. In part one of this series, I introduced six components of health and discussed physical health (Ivker, Anderson, & Trivieri, 2000). In this post, we will discuss characteristics of good mental health and offer practical applications for counselling practice.

Ivker et al. (2000), summarize mental health as a “condition of peace of mind and contentment”. Memories of the introduction to “The Little House on the Prairie” immediately come to my mind. This was a popular television series from the 1970’s that opened with the three little Ingalls’ girls running happily down a grassy hill. Good mental health may include freeing experiences such as this as well as others. Having a job that you love doing, being optimistic, having a sense of humour, experiencing financial well-being, and/or living your life vision are other characteristics of good mental health according to Ivker.

Ideally, we love what we do. If needed, revisiting our reasons for entering the mental health profession can be helpful for vocational refocusing. We can also introduce different aspects of good mental health into the therapeutic setting. For example, I enjoy when humour naturally enters the counselling context. It offers a wonderful opportunity to explore the power of laughter in relieving stress. But what strategies are most effective for resetting before our next client?

Some therapists go for walks or do some light stretching and yoga poses. We can also journal, listen to music, get a refreshment, do some meditative deep breathing, or even catch a quick nap. After particularly heavy sessions, I may watch a funny YouTube video on my phone before my next session. I encourage you to share some of your resetting practices with us. I also suggest we incorporate these tools into our personal daily routines. Watch a funny video in the morning, ask the question “What good can come out of this situation?” to encourage optimism, or run down a grassy hill like Laura Ingalls did, just for fun.

If needed, seek the advice and counsel of other therapists or coaches if you feel that peace of mind and contentment are lacking in your life and in your practice. Working with a different clientele may also inspire you in different ways. After years of working with children and youth, when I began executive coaching, the experience was enlivening. If you would like more information on some of my own self-care activities or would like to receive my daily self-care tips, please visit www.Practically-Yours.com .

Whatever your activity, good mental health is equally as important for counsellors as it is for clients.

Practically Yours,

Derrick Shirley, MSc.

(Note: The views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the CCPA.)

Ivker, R.S., Anderson, R.A., & Trivieri, L. Jr. (2000). “The self-care guide to holistic medicine: creating optimal health.” Penguin Putnam Inc., New York.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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