self care for therapists



Self-care Is Not Just For Our Clients

Once, a counselor told me: “counselors are great at telling our clients to practice self-care but bad at practicing it ourselves.” I have found that to be very true. Earlier in the week, after sessions full of encouraging clients that they should prepare but not panic about COVID-19, I found myself having difficulty sitting mindfully in the unknown.

“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent.
Caring for myself is an act of survival.”— Audre Lorde

Why Mental Health Professionals Need To Practice Self-Care

Professionals should know that self-care is not just spa days and vacations. True self care that we can practice on a daily basis does not cost anything. Just because we don’t have the budget to get a massage every month (although I find it helps a lot if I do!) it does not mean we cannot practice self-care.

Self-care is taking an active role in our own good health and mental well being. This is important on a daily basis but especially during times of physical illness or stress.

Self care is not selfish

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” — Maya Angelou

nourish to flourish






Practice What You Teach

Working with people at difficult times in their lives can be extremely stressful. Stress is often called “the silent killer” because it contributes to many underlying health conditions that can go unnoticed. Stress is often what leads us to overeat, under exercise, zone out as a way of relaxing, and mentally check out of our personal lives in a way that can become unhealthy. It can lead to heart disease, obesity, depression, anxiety, GI problems, and many other chronic health concerns. One of the best ways to combat stress is to practice self-care.

Daily self-care involves taking care of our physical and mental needs in a loving way. It means putting ourselves first in a way that many counselors and therapists may find difficult at first.

Some people, often women, feel that taking care of themselves is selfish. This could not be further from the truth! We can’t take care of others if we are not first healthy ourselves.

Daily Self-Care Includes Things Like:


Eating and Choosing Healthy Foods

I have seen many a therapist grab something full of sugar because they have run over on their sessions and don’t have time to eat lunch. Some people will go all day without eating which puts physical stress on the body! We might encourage clients to eat healthy but then drive through a fast food restaurant on the way home because we are too exhausted to cook. We might pack a lunch for our children but not for ourselves. If the office break room is filled with donuts and cookies, it’s too easy to relieve your stress by snacking on sweets after a tough session. Overeating can be another response to stress that leads to us feeling bad both physically and mentally.

Self-care involving food means making time to eat and preparing healthy meals for ourselves. Some people prefer to meal prep for the week while others might prefer buying healthy frozen meals that fit better with their schedule. Whatever works best for you, eating a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low in sugar is a form of self-care.


Moving Your Body

Experts agree that our modern lives are not good for our bodies. Working as a counselor or therapist often means sitting for 8+ hours a day at work, plus commute time. We might crash and watch Netflix at the end of the day because we are exhausted. Lack of movement is leading to many of our health problems. Even people who regularly exercise are likely more sedentary than is ideal!

Not everyone likes exercise. Maybe you love going to the gym five times a week or going out for a run every morning, if so – that’s great! If you don’t like exercise or just the idea of exercise seems intimidating replace it with the idea of moving. Do you love to dance to music in your living room? Do it! Does your dog enjoy walks? Take him out for a long walk a couple times a week. If you have an Apple watch or Fitbit you can set it to remind you to stand up and walk around once every hour. Instead of sitting at your desk between sessions, get up and move or stretch. Small changes can make a big difference. Mental health professionals need to remember that symptoms of burnout can be difficult to spot before they become severe.


Saying “No”

Do you allow your clients to text you after hours? Are you on call 24/7 rather than paying for an answering service? Do you bill your clients for after hours calls? Have you found that it’s difficult to respect your boundaries around time so you are constantly running behind? Is your specialty a type of therapy or client that requires a lot of emotional energy such as trauma counseling or Borderline Personality Disorder?

If you are not respecting boundaries around your time and energy, you are not practicing good self-care. We also have demands on our time away from work with children’s activities, professional associations, boards we may serve on, church, and more. Saying “no” to the activities you truly do not want to do, but feel obligated to, is self-care in itself. It also gives you precious time to focus on an activity you truly enjoy. If you hate taking notes say “no” to serving as secretary of a professional organization. If you genuinely love helping at your child’s school that is a much better task to agree to. Figure out how much time you have and say yes only to thinks you truly want to do. Sound impossible? Tiny Buddha has some great tips on how to stop saying yes.

Researchers focusing on practitioner burnout for a 2012 journal article found that as many as 2 out of every 3 mental health workers “may be experiencing high levels of burnout.” Inability to say “no” at work or in other areas of our lives may contribute to burn out.


Doing At Least One Thing You Enjoy Every Day

Does this sound unrealistic? Then you need to make a change. Time is our greatest resource and once it is gone we never get it back. If all of your time is spent working, running errands, cleaning up, taking care of family/kids, and sleeping, where is the room for joy? We are made for more than just completing all the tasks on our to-do list.

It might be watching a television program you enjoy, taking a long bath, listening to your favorite music, but if you can’t find just 30 minutes a day to do something for yourself that is a sign that you’re not practicing self-care.

These are just a few ways that you can begin to make self-care a bigger priority in your life.

You Deserve The Same Energy You Give To Others

It may be counter-intuitive that a time of so much uncertainty is the most important time to practice better self-care. However, when you are out of your routine – working from home, the kids not in school, self-quarantined, it is actually the perfect time to disrupt the status quo by doing something different. The time and energy that you give others is important, but just as important is giving that same time and energy to yourself. We are trying to prevent getting sick, and taking care of yourself is one of the best things you can do to prevent illness.


What are some ways that you practice self-care?
Please share in the comments below!

mental health professionals and self care

A version of this post for clients and patients is available on the Inspired Happiness Blog.


“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, Including you.”

– Anne Lamott


Stacey Aldridge LCSW

Stacey Aldridge, LCSW

Stacey is a therapist in private practice in the Jackson, MS area. She practices self-care by meal prepping every Sunday, spending time with her dogs, and playing the game “Gardenscapes” on her phone. If you are interested in learning more about Stacey’s practice please visit her website.

Best podcasts for counselors and therapists

Can a Podcast Help Me with My Professional Therapy Practice?

So you’ve heard about podcasts and you’re like, what the heck are those? Or perhaps you love podcasts but you’ve only been listening to true crime or your favorite comedian’s podcast. If you want to branch out into something that can benefit your professional life podcasts are easy and free! Here’s a quick roundup of my favorite professional interest podcasts for social workers , counselors and mental health professionals.


So you've heard about podcasts and you're like, what the heck are those? Or perhaps you love podcasts but you've only been listening to true crime or your favorite comedian's podcast. If you want to branch out into something that can benefit your professional life podcasts are easy and free! Here's a quick roundup of my favorite professional interest podcasts for social workers , counselors and mental health professionals.

If you have an iPhone, there is an app called “Podcasts” installed when you get the phone. For android you may have google podcasts app or you may need to go to the app store to download one. Some popular podcast apps include:

  • Apple Podcasts
  • Spotify
  • Stitcher
  • iHeartRadio
  • ScoutFM

Podcasts are free and you do not need to buy an app in order to listen. While people may use terms like “download” when talking about them you don’t have to do anything except press play on a podcast that interests you, in the podcast app of your choice.


Podcasts Are a Free Way to Learn New Things That Can Advance Your Career

I love podcasts. When I was doing home visits, I drove a lot which gave me lots of time to listen to podcasts. The first podcast I heard was the extremely popular true crime “Dirty John” podcast which became a television show available on Netflix! The more I drove, the more podcasts I needed because sometimes you get bored of one subject or burnt out on a topic so you need  variety. If you already know what a podcast is and how to access them, skip the next paragraph and go straight to my recommendations!


What is a Podcast and Where Do I Get It?

A podcast is like a radio program but without the radio. Like FM or AM talk radio, podcasts allow people to bring you content but unlike traditional radio anyone with a microphone and some editing software can create one. This means there are great ones and also a few bad quality ones.

If you have a cellular phone (and come on, who doesn’t?) you probably already have a podcast app on your phone.

Top 5 Best Podcasts for Therapists, Counselors, and Social workers

1. The Private Practice Startup with Dr. Kate Campbell and Katie Lemieux

You can actually listen directly on their website for this one! Dr. Kate Campbell and Katie Lemieux, are both LMFTs with six figure private pay therapy practices. They have a new episode each week about everything related to private practice. If you have ever wondered, how do I start a private practice? Where do I begin? They have you covered. They talk to professionals from different fields like marketing, website design, as well as other clinicians to answer questions you may have about private practice. Even if you’re years away from embarking on that journey I highly recommend checking out their podcast episodes. You don’t have to listen to all of them or in any particular order, just pick the topics that interest you.

mental illness happy hour

2. Mental Illness Happy Hour with Paul Gilmartin

Recommended to me by several people who have mental illness diagnoses, Mental Illness Happy Hour is a weekly podcast by people with a mental illness for people with a mental illness. If you visit their website you might recognize host Paul Gilmartin from the TBS television show Dinner & a Movie. Paul is a comedian and has been diagnosed with depression in addition to being  a recovering alcoholic. Paul interviews different guests every week and the podcast has been praised by Psychology Today and the New York Times. If you have to have a mental illness diagnosis, having a sense of humor definitely helps!

10 percent happier with dan harris

3. The Ten Percent Happier Podcast

Another familiar face (or voice) Dan Harris from Good Morning America brings a follow-up to his book Ten Percent Happier with this podcast! I also recommend the book if you have not checked it out. Dan is insightful and brutally honest about accepting who he is and learning to live with anxiety and self-criticism by integrating mindfulness into his life. He is definitely no “new age hippie type” and he was suspicious of meditation at first which I think makes his experience all the more relatable! Because he is a top journalist on a popular television show, Dan is able to bring famous guests like Brene Brown, Joseph Goldstein, and Jack Kornfield to the podcast.

Therapy for Black Girls Podcast

4. Therapy for Black Girls

Psychologist Dr. Joy Harden Bradford has created a space for black women to talk about mental health in an effort to de-stigmatize therapy. This is especially important because women of color, especially black women, are often expected to be strong, supporting everyone else around them with little support for themselves. Dr. Harden Bradford covers topics like procrastination, domestic violence, friendship, grief and more! You do not need to be a black woman to enjoy this podcast, if you work with black women as clients and you want to hear more about their experience from their point of view, check it out! There is a whole community under the Therapy for Black Girls umbrella including a therapist directory on Dr. Harden Bradford’s website.

Rated LGBT Radio podcast

5. Rated LGBT Radio

A weekly podcast about topics relating to the LGBT community, covering things like social justice, politics, homophobia, and more. People from the LGBT community share their experiences and opinions on a variety of issues. Just like my last pick, Therapy for Black Girls, you do not need to be LGBTQIA to enjoy this podcast. As social workers and mental health professionals we work with a variety of populations and it’s important to listen to the experiences of different communities in order to better serve them.

Bonus podcast: NASW Social Work Talks Podcast over 42 episodes of social work related content directly from the National Association of Social Workers.


What are some of your favorite podcasts about mental health or professional interest for social workers, therapists, and counselors? Comment and let me know!


Stacey Aldridge LCSW
Stacey Aldridge, LCSW
Stacey is a podcast enthusiast and Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in the Jackson, MS area.


Are Mental Health Professionals Immune From Racism?

Recently I read a very disturbing article on PsychCentral  entitled: “What’s In A Name? It May Determine If You Can Get Therapy” by Janice Wood. I was already familiar with the 2003 study that found those with black-sounding names were less likely to receive call-backs for job interviews than those with white-sounding names but I never dreamed that might be a factor in receiving mental health services!

Can A Counselor Be Racist?

A very small scale (but still disheartening) study by the University of Vermont published in The Counseling Psychologist found that while callback rates for black-sounding and white-sounding names were the same, clinicians were more likely to tell those with black-sounding names that their case loads were full and that they would not be able to see them. They found “Allison” was invited to speak to the therapist 12% more often than “Lakisha.”


What Is Institutional Racism?

Institutional racism is the: “…societal patterns that have the net effect of imposing oppressive or otherwise negative conditions against identifiable groups on the basis of race or ethnicity.” –Tom Head*, Civil Liberties,

Rather than the individual prejudice of one person, or in this case one clinician, institutional racism has to do with the prevailing ideas a society has about a race or ethnicity that lead to widespread negative ideas that can be so insidious we do not recognize them.


While callback rates for black-sounding and white-sounding names were the same, clinicians were more likely to tell those with black-sounding names that their case loads were full.





What Can Professionals Do About Institutional Racism?

I doubt that any one clinician says to themselves: “I won’t call Lakisha back” or “I don’t want a black client” but they may have preconceived notions about the class of a potential client based on race.

For example, they may assume that “Lakisha” has Medicaid or insurance with a lower reimbursement rate than “Allison.” Self-pay only clinicians might assume “Allison” can afford their advertised rate but “Lakisha” will want sliding scale. The may assume that “Lakisha” works a menial job with less flexibility to attend daytime appointments than “Allison” might.

While they might not realize that these stereotypes and assumptions are racist – they are. In fact, NAMI the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that African American males “are more likely to receive a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia when expressing symptoms related to mood disorders or PTSD.” In fact, African Americans as a whole are over-diagnosed with Schizophrenia according to William B. Lawson, MD, PhD, professor and chair of psychiatry at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, DC. [1]

Mental Health Professionals Must Be Overtly Anti-Racism

It is troubling that in 2016 an individual in need of mental health services might continue to suffer because of their race. It is especially upsetting when you take into consideration that “according to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population.” [2]

It is important that we, as professionals, strive to provide the same quality of care to all those who seek our services. We must speak out if we see institutional racism in our workplaces. It is equally important for people of color who are seeking mental health services feel empowered to advocate for themselves.

If you feel you have experienced discrimination in your search for mental health treatment you can learn more about self advocacy at For more on Racial Disparities in Mental Health Treatment visit SocialWork at Simmons’ blog.

* You will have to forgive me quoting an old friend. He just happens to be one of the most-read authors covering civil liberties on the internet!

Stacey is a therapist in private practice in the Jackson, MS area. She believes that mental health professionals should be at the forefront of promoting anti-racism and social justice.

Learn More about Stacey.







Stacey Aldridge LCSW

Stacey Aldridge, LCSW