Surviving or Thriving: Promoting a Culture of Therapist Self-Care

Saturday, March 5, 2011: 10:40 AM-12:10 PM
Point Hilton at Squaw Peak
Therapist self-care may seem like an unaffordable luxury or another time-consuming chore. When ignored, self-neglect may lead to burn-out, negligence, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and more. Self-care practices are imperative to compliance with ethics codes and to the provision of state-of-the-art services. The demands of our profession (e.g., vicarious trauma, long hours, maintenance of confidentiality, ongoing liability, etc.) call for therapists to address areas of self-neglect. Explore the ethics of self-care, uncover barriers to self-care practices, develop a realistic individualized self-care plan, and take part in the paradigm shift toward therapist well-being in psychological services settings.
Content Outline
  1. Introduction
    1. Presenters
    2. From Surviving to Thriving
  2. Ethics  and Imperatives of Self Care
    1. Multidisciplinary Professional Guidelines
    2. Damage to Clients, Therapists, and Our Profession
  3. Roadblocks and Thoroughfares
    1. Personal Life
    2. Professional Practice
    3. Clients
    4. Community
    5. Multicultural Considerations
  4. Real Life Resolutions
    1. What Is Well-Being?
    2. Caring Cultures in The Workplace
    3. Wellness Regimen
  5. Next Steps
The Ethics Code of the American Psychological Association (2003) requires that psychologists do not engage in professional activities when personal problems might interfere with competence.  Further, the ethics code requires that psychologists take actions to address these problems or consider termination of duties.  The impact of neglect on clinicians is significant long before it may reach the notice of ethical boards: loss of enthusiasm, exhaustion, anxiety, clinical depression, addictions, stress-related illnesses, and suicide are some of the documented outcomes of therapist self-neglect.  The impact on clients is wide-ranging including ethical and boundary violations, irritability with clients, making mistakes, and dehumanizing vulnerable clients.  Yet barriers to self-care exist even within a profession promoting wellness.  Shame often prevents novice and seasoned therapists from seeking the help of supervisors, therapists, and peers.  With a focus on others’ mental health problems, subsequent healing, and maintenance of well-being, therapists often develop a blind spot hiding one’s own needs and relative weaknesses.  Stigma within the profession has polarized the categories of client and therapist, defining who may ask for help.  Surprisingly, most clinicians report that self-care was not taught in graduate programs. 

Treatment of eating disorders is particularly challenging.  Clients often present with serious psychopathology including suicidality and personality disorders; the threat of litigation is ever-present; and, while the positives of a cohesive treatment community are many, one negative aspect is that it may be difficult to express problems to colleagues due to confidentiality concerns.  Tools, resources, support, and reframing of the self-care problem are essential to moving the profession toward the ever-evolving wellness ideal.

Following this presentation participants will be able to explore and explain the ethics of the self-care imperative; identify difficulties impacting professional well-being; and will emerge from the workshop with a written plan of specific, personal and practical wellness initiatives to increase the ability to thrive as an eating disorder professional.

Primary Presenter:
Jonna M. Fries, PsyD

Dr. Jonna Fries has been an enthusiastic member of IAEDP for five years. A postdoctoral intern at University Counseling Services at California State University, Northridge, Dr. Fries provides counseling services to students and consulting services to a peer education program, Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating. Dr. Fries presented this summer at the American Psychological Association with a video illustrating her work with Integrative Body Psychotherapy. Dr. Fries is also an adjunct faculty member of the Chicago School of Psychology. She has developed a group therapy treatment manual with a multicultural perspective for those with BED, obesity, and body image distress.

Nancy Anderson Dolan, BA, Psychology

Nancy Anderson Dolan began supporting people in therapy in 1979, volunteering while she studied for her Psychology degree. 30 years later, Anderson Dolan has worked with diverse populations, all the while addressing issues of trama, addiction and disordered eating within other programs and eating disorder treatment centers. An obsessive learner, she has trained in a wide variety of areas including trauma, addiction, brain chemistry opimization with Robertson Wellness Institute, as well as extensive speaker training. She also brings her personal 20+ of recovery from compulsive eating. Currently, the Alberta Provincal Health Services has contracted Anderson Dolan to provide the only food addiction information offering in the province.

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