Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Life is Not the Same as a Therapist

I recently met a psychiatrist who told me that life as a psychiatrist was just like life as any other professional.


I was floored.


I’m a mental health therapist and an art therapist, and my life is not just like life as any other professional.


I’ve had many jobs: cleaner, ghost writer, volunteer coordinator, painting instructor, and more.


What’s different about being a therapist?


The emotional weight.

Illustration by Art Therapist Jackie Schuld of the emotional, mental, and energetic demands of being a therapist.
"Energetic Input During Therapy" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

I sit with distressed individuals, carefully modulate myself, maintain intense presence, listen to some of their most painful thoughts and experiences, and help guide them to reconnect with themselves.


I love the work I do. But it is work. Emotional and mental work.


I could work eight hours as a cleaner and not feel emotionally drained or mentally wiped out.


I cannot say that as a therapist.


If I go above three clients in a day, I have to tap into my emotional/mental reserves. I rely on my coping skills and other strategies to restore balance.


If I go above five clients in a day, I’m of little use after work. My emotional and mental reserves are empty and I just want to sit alone in a nice dark, quiet place where I don’t have to modulate myself or be present in any capacity.


This is the part of being a therapist that others don’t see.


I’m not here to argue if one profession is more taxing than another. Every job has its unique challenges.


One of the main challenges of being a therapist is the emotional and mental taxation.


It’s why burnout is so rampant in mental health organizations. Employers fill their therapists’ schedules with 6, 7, or 8 clients a day. The organizations want to help as many clients as possible and lose sight that therapists are people too.


Therapists have limitations. They cannot operate at an exhausting level of emotional and mental demand, which is why most therapists leave mental health organizations.


As a private practice owner, I am fortunate that I can structure my practice according to my mental and emotional needs. I see 3 clients a day, four days a week (you can read about how I switched to this schedule here).


In order to honor my needs and still make a liveable income, I set my fees accordingly.


I acknowledge that the therapy profession has unique demands and I take care of myself accordingly. I structure my practice so I can show up rested, energized, and fully present for every client. I meet my needs so that at the end of the work day, I can also go home energized, present, and emotionally available.

 

If you're an exhausted therapist, I'd love to help. I provide consultation for therapists who want to create private practices that honor that their needs.


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