Self-Care Strategies Essay

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Self-Care Strategies

Self-care is a widely acknowledged aspect of Counseling. Through research, studies and hard-earned self-knowledge, experts have defined personal attributes, strategies such as mentoring, and qualities that can lead to development of the therapeutic self. Due to differing experiences and results, experts may differently name those attributes, strategies and qualities but all are focused on taking care of the self as the counselor takes care of his/her clients and other people in his/her personal and professional life.

Which attributes of the self-care do you think are most important to success in the counseling relationship?

The most effective approach to self-care involves understanding the "Five Areas of Wellness" discussed by Dr. Eugenia Curet in Mental Health and Self-Care for Counselors, and ensuring that each of those areas is satisfied with one or more specific activities. The "Five Areas" are: Cognitive; Emotional; Physical; Spiritual and Social (Curet, 2010). The Cognitive area can be satisfied by non-counseling-related activities such as journaling, hobbies, pleasurable reading, meditation, volunteering and attending the theater. The Emotional area can be satisfied by allowing one's own emotional freedom by laughing and crying, talking with friends, having supportive discussions with colleagues and seeing a counselor. The Physical area can be satisfied by eating healthy meals, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. The Spiritual area can be satisfied by reflection/meditation, gardening and other outdoor activities and connecting to a spiritual community of some kind. The Social area can be satisfied by work-related mentoring and non-work-related positive relationships (Curet, 2010).

Discuss the concept of supervision/mentoring as applied to personal theory development. Do you agree that this is a necessary step? Why or why not?

A "mentor," who is usually an older, more experienced person working in the "mentee's" chosen field, can: coach the mentee regarding the mentee's personal life and work; help the mentee establish and maintain one or more professional networks; assist the mentee with new opportunities for training and publication; help the mentee with his/her professional presentations and research; otherwise support the mentee as needed (Dittmann, 2005). In fact, the mentoring relationship is potentially so valuable that experts recommend establishing a mentorship while the mentee is still in school so the mentee can begin benefiting from the relationship during his/her education, then transition into his/her professional life (Dittmann, 2005).

Several steps are recommended for establishing a rewarding mentorship and the initial steps are often conducted by the mentee. First, the mentee should find a potential mentor who would be a "good match" for the mentee. This "good match" is often a person who is already accomplished in a professional area to which the mentee aspires. Experts recommend reviewing resumes of faculty members at the mentee's school or of local practicing counselors. The "good match" may also consist of "personality traits, values, interests, working styles and amount of time they devote to proteges" that would be compatible with the mentee (Dittmann, 2005). As experts point out, the "good match" is not necessarily a perfect match of career area, traits, values, interests and working styles; rather, the "good match" is one built on mutual respect for skills and values (Dittmann, 2005). The second step in establishing a valuable mentorship is initiation of the relationship. It appears that the mentee bears most of the burden for initiating the relationship by, for example: requesting an appointment with the potential mentor; explaining his/her personal and professional goals to the potential mentor; explaining the mentee's need for guidance; asking questions of the potential mentor about his/her successes; asking whether the potential mentor is willing to provide one or more types of support needed by the mentee (Dittmann, 2005). If the potential mentor agrees to the mentoring relationship, the mentor and mentee then take the third step, which consists of setting expectations for their relationship. In this step, the mentor and mentee reach a mutual agreement on: the short-term and long-term goals of the relationship; the mentorship's duration; meeting times and frequency; other forms and times of acceptable contact; any potential concerns. Some mentors and mentees even draw up formal written and signed instruments containing their entire understanding of the relationship (Dittmann, 2005). The fourth step in the mentoring relationship consists of periodic re-evaluation of the relationship to see whether it should be altered due to such factors as: the mentee's graduation from school; assessing whether goals are being met and whether they should be changed; whether any concerns have arisen in the relationship that should be addressed. The results may be relationship alterations ranging from minor to significant. Ideally, the mentoring relationship is able to continue, and as the mentee gains in skills and experience, the relationship can be transformed into one of mutual admiration and ongoing "collegial" support (Dittmann, 2005).

Thus far, this work has described the ideal mentorship; however, problems can arise within the relationship that must be addressed and may, in fact, result in the end of the mentoring relationship. According to Sticky situations in mentorships, "67% of clinical psychology students surveyed in a 2000 study of mentoring relationships reported problems in their mentorships" (Chamberlin, 2005). Despite the ideally beneficial nature of mentorships, there may be significant difficulties caused by such problems as: clashes of personalities between the mentor and mentee; incompatible styles of working; conflicting expectations; too little encouragement; too much criticism; poor interpersonal communication; or inescapable problems caused by "a troubled mentor or mentee" (Chamberlin, 2005). There are at least three steps in dealing with these problems. First, the problem should be clearly identified, probably by a face-to-face meeting with respectful-not-aggressive communication between the mentor and mentee. After the problem is identified, the second step of seeking help occurs. During this step, experts encourage the mentee to "Never worry alone. If the situation doesn't feel right, find someone to talk to about it" (Chamberlin, 2005). It may be possible to mend the mentor/mentee relationship; however, if the problems are insurmountable or pose too difficult a problem, the mentee should take the third step of ending the relationship and finding another mentor. Experts suggest that to end a mentorship relationship, "Give notice as you would do in a job…Thank them and explain that your interests have changed, and keep it as impersonal as possible," to avoid hurt feelings (Chamberlin, 2005). The mentee should probably follow the four steps outlined above to establish a new relationship with another mentor.

The question of whether a mentoring relationship is "a necessary step" is difficult to answer. Certainly the mentoring relationship can be highly beneficial due to the coaching, assistance in establishing and maintaining professional networks, assisting with new opportunities for training and publications, assisting with professional presentations and research, and providing other support as needed. However, there are probably students and professional counselors who successfully negotiate life and work without a mentoring relationship. Consequently, one could reasonably conclude that the mentoring relationship is not "a necessary step" but is highly desirable for educational, professional and personal development.

Discuss the personal qualities that contribute to the development of a "therapeutic-self."

Experts have developed sometimes different-sounding personal qualities contributing to the development of a "therapeutic self," possibly based on their own hard-earned knowledge. For example, the American Counseling Association employs a self-assessment questionnaire that appears to cover some major qualities (Saakvitne, Pearlman & Staff of TSI/CAAP, 1996). It appears that the therapeutic self develops from personal qualities of: Physical Self-Care, by eating regularly, exercising, obtaining regular preventive and required medical care, taking time off, getting massages, engaging in fun physical activities, taking the time to be sexual, getting enough sleep, wearing clothes that you like and making time away from telephones; Psychological Self-Care, such as making time for self-reflection, engaging in psychotherapy for yourself, writing in a journal, reading literature that is not related to work, engaging in activities in which you are not in charge and not an expert, decreasing your life's stress, revealing different aspects of yourself, listening to your own inner experiences, using your intelligence in a different area, practice receiving from others, being curious, and sometimes saying "no" to additional responsibilities; Emotional Self-Care, such as spending time with someone you enjoy, keeping contact with people who are important to you, praising yourself, loving yourself, rereading favorite books and reviewing favorite movies, identifying and seeking comforting aspects of life, allowing yourself to cry and laugh and be angry, and playing with children; Spiritual Self-Care by making time for self-reflection and nature, finding a spiritual connection or community, being open to inspiration, embracing your optimism and hope, fostering your awareness of nonmaterial things and values, accepting "not knowing," identifying and prioritizing what is meaningful to you, mediating, praying, singing, spending time with children, experiencing awe, using inspirational resources, and actively supporting your beliefs; Workplace or Professional Self-Care, such as taking breaks during the day, chatting with coworkers, preserving quiet time to get work done, identifying interesting and rewarding work-related projects, setting limits with clients and coworkers, balancing your caseload, creating a comfortable and comforting workplace, getting supervision/consultation, negotiating your needs and wants with your…[continue]

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