Lately there’s a lot of talk in the media about the Great Resignation. During the COVID pandemic, many people took the time to reevaluate what they want from their work life – and what they don’t want. Some, particularly those of us in the healthcare industry, probably didn’t have the time to ponder that because we were too overwhelmed! But now that we are all moving forward into whatever comes next, many people are ready to make some changes.
Today I have a message for all my fellow therapists and other colleagues in the healing professions: It’s time to feel better. And you don’t have to leave the field for that to happen. (Unless your soul is calling you to explore something new – if so, then go for it! Do YOU!) It’s not surprising that a sizable portion of the people handing in their resignations are in healthcare. Even before the pandemic, many of us felt trapped and overwhelmed by our caseloads, our schedules and our perceived lack of ability to do anything to change it. Even before the demand for our services skyrocketed in 2020, many of us were already breaking under the weight of feeling responsible for managing our practices and trying to figure out the answer to the question of work/life balance.
It’s easy to blame it on the system. We all know the healthcare system is broken in many ways. But here’s the thing. We are participants in the system. And just like any system, we get to decide how we are willing and not willing to interact with it.
If we’re really honest with ourselves, many of us became therapists because we’re trying to figure out our own stuff. I once heard a talk by Janina Fisher, a very wise and experienced expert in trauma, who said that for 30 years in speaking to groups of therapists she has asked the audience if anyone here does not identify as having experienced early attachment trauma and still became a therapist to please come see her afterward. She said that in all that time only a handful of people has ever come forward. We are wounded healers. And like our clients, we have our own ways we’ve learned to cope in the world.
Here’s where some of you might get your hackles up. There is a strong ribbon of martyrdom that runs through the mental health field. Many of us bring our woundedness into our work life and have learned to cope by collapsing into a victim mentality and codependence. “That’s just the way it is, there’s nothing we can do about it.” “If I don’t help them, who will?” I don’t say this to blame. I say this to challenge us all to have better boundaries with ourselves.
If you are choosing to overload your schedule, and then notice yourself feeling resentful and burned out, you get to choose something different. If you are still working for an agency when you really want to start your own practice, you get to choose something different. If you are already in private practice, but you are not charging what you need in order to support your desired lifestyle, then you get to choose something different. If you are routinely allowing your clients to dictate your schedule and your income, then you get to choose something different.
It’s time to stop being codependent with our clients and our practices. It’s time to stop blaming the system. It’s time to have the life and work you want. It’s time to stop practicing “self-care” and start practicing wellness. It’s time to feel better. Let the rest of 2021 be different for you.