HOW MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS CAN DEAL WITH LONELINESS
As a mental health therapist, you may have experience helping other individuals who are struggling with loneliness and isolation. But you may not readily recognize these emotions when they unfold. It is most at times difficult to direct a helping lens to yourself. You may also reason that since you come in contact with people daily, you can’t be lonely. But loneliness shows up in diverse forms. It doesn’t just occur when you spend time all alone.
You can also experience loneliness when you are around people but lack a community life or sense of belonging. That is the reason it’s possible to feel isolated in a crowd, even though you may find it difficult to name these feelings. Maybe you originally resorted to private practice work because you delight in working alone. If you happened to be an introvert, for instance, you may have seen that a busy group practice wasn’t desirable for you. But irrespective of the decisions that resulted in private practice, you may end up experiencing feelings of loneliness or isolation.
Loneliness and isolation are common in private practice work. Truly speaking, research from 2018 shows that doctors and individuals working in scientific fields feel lonelier among working professionals in the United States. In general, individuals with graduate degrees seem to experience higher levels of loneliness compared to people with high school diplomas or bachelor’s degrees. It does not matter how much you delight in helping clients, the truth remains that providing therapy can consume your emotional reserves. Of course, your clients are people, but within the treatment relationship, they are not peers. They’re individuals you want to help.
Your relationship and interactions with them can feel unequal since you occupy a position of greater power and influence. So, while you may spend your day with these individuals, you have no social connection with them. Instead, you are lavishing your emotion and energy on the bond you create to help them. They cannot return the favor, so while you may get a sense of satisfaction and reward from helping, at the end of the day, this emotional expenditure can heighten the feelings of isolation.
STEPS TO DEAL WITH THIS LONELINESS
If you don’t expect loneliness, you may not have a good plan to deal with it. But it’s important to come up with strategies to avoid loneliness before its impact strikes. A review of research on loneliness reveals that some people respond to loneliness by further backing out from social networks. This can increase the negative effects of loneliness, and with time, you may find it even more difficult to connect with people again. As a mental health professional, you can engage in certain strategies to avoid loneliness, even if you continue with a private practice and don’t come in contact with many people in your day-to-day life.
Enlarge your social network
If you maintain the connection with colleagues in your profession, you will have a person to reach out to if you found yourself with the need on how to best help a patient, or even if you just desire to talk to someone like-minded. Begin a network by reaching out to local therapists. If you were working in a group practice, meet with your former co-workers and have a date with them. Social media is another excellent way to connect with people. Search for mental health therapists near you to build an in-person working relationship, but don’t avoid long-distance connections. It’s still possible to develop a thriving working relationship via email.
Consistent conference participation can be expensive, but try to attend a workshop as often as you can. Professional opportunities aid in building new connections with colleagues who can provide guidance or even exchange client referrals with you in the future. Start by looking for a workshop or a local conference. You’ll still bear the cost of the event, but you will avoid spending money on travel or lodgings. Workshops also offer continuing enlightenment, an important part of expanding your knowledge and skill as a health care professional.
Develop a consultation group
Once you’ve created a network of colleagues, try creating a meeting group with your colleagues. You can start one in your locality or communicate via secure video chat if local meetings will not work out. Peer consultation groups are important for mental health professionals since these will serve as a good medium to talk through challenges that show up in therapy, including ethical concerns and client therapy requirements you aren’t sure how to handle.
These groups also help you to discuss the emotional implications of your work with individuals who understand what you’re going through. According to research, therapists who take part in consultation groups are less likely to experience isolation and stress. Working with colleagues also exposes you to new information and offers you the privilege to talk through diverse perspectives or approaches to help a client. This can aid to prevent stagnation and heighten your effectiveness as a care provider. In other words, discussing with other professionals helps you to continue providing the best care possible. Becoming an excellent therapy member is one quick way to build a connection with other therapists. As a member, you’ll enjoy access to consistent educational events and publication opportunities, you’ll also become part of a huge community of trained, passionate mental health professionals.
Try joining a group practice
If you abandoned a group practice to begin your own therapy business, you possibly had many reasons for that. When isolation is the only issue you’re facing, chances are that some of the solutions stated above will help. But if you’re experiencing multiple challenges in your work, or if you’ve only offered your therapy services privately, you may consider working with at least one other colleague or joining a team of therapists. If you’re interested, try connecting with a group in your area or colleagues who work in a group practice for more information (and potential opportunities).
Let your free time count
Connecting with family, friends, and other loved ones may not help adequately resolve workplace isolation or loneliness, but it can aid in you maintaining important connections in your personal life. This will protect you by reducing the impact of loneliness at work and aid you in maintaining emotional wellness.
You must Strengthen Existing Relationships
You may already have individuals in your life that you could get to know better or connections with a family that could be intensified. If this is the case, why not reach out to friends more often, fix a date with them, and look for other ways to enjoy your existing relationships and deepen bonds? If you lack the inspiration to reach out to your loved ones, it may be helpful to begin slowly. Come develop just one supportive friend or family member who you could consider hooking up with. It's also reassuring to know that deepened social support has great benefits for your mental health.
Get a Pet
Pets, especially cats and dogs, provide so many benefits, and fighting loneliness is one of them. Rescuing a pet mixes the benefits of companionship and altruism, and dispels loneliness in several ways. It will connect you with other individuals—walking a dog exposes you to a community of other dog-walkers, and a cute dog on a leash usually attracts people. In addition, pets offer unconditional love, which can be a great relief from loneliness.
Take care of yourself
Finally, when you have the feeling of loneliness, be sure you're doing what you can to take care of yourself in other ways. Self-care is always a great idea, especially when you are feeling lonely. Consuming nutritious food, exercising, and getting enough sleep will make you feel better in the long run. Join a running club or take a workout class for social interaction and exercise.