Self-Care for Professionals

Being a GP, social-worker, counsellor, therapist or teacher has always been personally demanding. Many people working on the front-line in health and social care have regular supervision from an experienced professional who can help them reflect on their own work practice so that they can improve how they help others, and manage their own well-being and feelings of stress and anxiety. In some professions having supervision is not only ‘best practice’, it is a requirement for membership of the professional body in question.

It’s not just about developing new skills or having another professional with whom to talk through difficult cases. All professionals recognise their responsibility for self-care, that is, developing awareness of and monitoring your own mental and physical well-being, for example to avoid stress, anxiety and depression which can get in the way of effective practice, and ultimately lead to burnout. Not all health and social care professionals have access to regular supervision. It’s common practice for social-workers, therapists and counsellors in the UK for example, but not so for GPs, teachers or lecturers.

Additionally, we know that radical changes in the UK health, social care and education sectors (for example the GP contract, GP commissioning, the transition to Academy status in schools) present many new challenges, and can reduce job satisfaction and increase workload, and increase the corresponding stress and anxiety experienced by professionals in these fields, regardless of their age and experience. The resulting burnout is not age-related. Research suggests that there are three main components to burnout: emotional exhaustion (including poor concentration, insomnia, loss of libido and depression), depersonalisation (of patients, clients and students) and job dissatisfaction. As if these weren’t bad enough, there is evidence that professionals experiencing burnout often become indecisive, apathetic, forgetful, withdrawn, and take refuge in drink and drugs. However, there is now growing evidence from the new science of positive psychology* that the well-being of professionals in such roles is linked  not only to their effective performance and job satisfaction, but also to the well-being of their patients, clients and students.

Looking after your mental well-being is therefore essential if you work in these demanding professions. New research from positive psychology suggests that the science of strengths, happiness and well-being can be used to prevent professional burnout by increasing individual well-being, hope and optimism, developing resilience and reconnecting with personal values and life purpose.

“An excellent day. I got so much from this workshop both for my own well-being and my clients'” (Therapist, Cambridgeshire)

Bridget Grenville-Cleave (MSc MAPP, Assoc CIPD) offers positive psychology-based self-care and CPD workshops specifically for professional people working in health, social-care and education. She is one of the UK’s leading Positive Psychology experts, a founder member of the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology and the International Positive Psychology Association and has a background in organisational change and organisational development. For the past three years Bridget has been involved in developing and delivering the popular Positive Psychology Masterclass to professionals from the UK, Europe and Australia, and runs a range of training in Positive Psychology for professionals from a wide variety of sectors, as well as offering bespoke organisational consulting, coaching and speaking.

For more information, contact Bridget on +44 (0)7740 635756 or email Bridget@workmad.co.uk

*What is Positive Psychology?

Positive Psychology is the ground-breaking study of what makes us feel good, function well and flourish. Its research findings enable professionals in the health, social care and education sectors to work more effectively and at the same time promote our individual well-being, provide the tools to be more resilient in the face of change, disappointment and adversity, and help us reconnect with the passion that drives our professional calling, job and life satisfaction. Applying its simple, evidence-based strategies has been shown to help us become more effective at work, enjoy life more and enable us to persevere in difficult times.

References

Huby, G., Gerry M., McKinstry, B., et al. (2002). Morale among general practitioners: qualitative study exploring relations between partnership arrangements, personal style, and workload.; BMJ, 325 (7356):140. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC117234/

Kirwan, M., Armstrong D. (1995). Investigation of burnout in a sample of British general practitioners. Br J Gen Pract., 45(394):259-60. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1239232/pdf/brjgenprac00020-0039.pdf

Mateen, F.J., Dorji, C. (2009). Health-care worker burnout and the mental health imperative. Lancet, 374(9690):595-7. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2809%2961483-5/fulltext#article_upsell

Image (Happy Doctor) courtesy of Lisa Brewster