PACT Clinicians Share How They Avoid Burnout

for therapists Oct 10, 2023

In place of a blog article this month, we’re sharing a question that a PACT community member posted in the Google Group recently, along with several responses. Both the question and the responses were thoughtful and authentic, and we wanted our larger PACT community to have the benefit of reading them. 

The question of how to maintain enthusiasm for your work as a therapist and avoid burnout is an important one, and we hope some of these responses will resonate with you. 

Also, if you’re a PACT-trained therapist and you’re not yet a member of the PACT Google Group, request to join today! You’ll find valuable information and become part of a vibrant community of dedicated PACT therapists seeking to do their best work. 

Question: How Do PACT Couple Therapists Find Grounding and Maintain Enthusiasm for the Work?

I am a new therapist. I graduated last summer and got off the ground in a private group super quickly. All throughout my practicum and PACT training I have LOVED working with couples. I see 20-25 a week, and I truly believe in the power of secure-functioning relationships and their capacity to positively impact every area of our lives. 

I have recently noticed a bit of burnout, a tendency to overwork in session, and that watching some of my couples break up has bummed me out. Logically, I know this is ridiculous. People break up, relationships are hard, and not everyone wants to function securely or even operate differently...which is their choice. More importantly, I am not in control of people's lives, nor do I want to be. 

I know that while I do not have the answers or the best path, I do feel like PACT is the most sensible and easy-to-integrate orientation I have worked with, and it suits my style. I am feeling a bit discouraged lately...everyone comes to therapy so late...yadda yadda.

I am just wondering how my fellow couple folks find some grounding, maintain enthusiasm, and perspective and are able to create some distance from the outcome of relationships. 

Thanks all, 

Falon Hooks, MA, t-LMFT, PACT Level 2 Therapist

Answers: Connect with Other Couple Therapists, Focus on Self Care, and Find Balance

I host a free monthly PACT therapist discussion group on the third Monday of each month from 10:00–11:00 am Pacific time. All training levels are welcome. I usually post a reminder in the [Google Group]. I'm also part of a weekly peer consultation and leaderless process group. Both of these keep me (relatively) sane.
~Margaret Martin, LCSW, PACT Certified Therapist

It is an ongoing practice. Support from my mentors and colleagues is vital to me. I also have to be mindful of how many couples I see a week, as well as their level of complexity or crisis. It always helps to have a range of different kinds of couples I'm seeing at any given time. I also like to supervise therapists, write, teach, and share this information in other ways outside of my couple clients. I spend time in nature to replenish, as well as with friends, and I exercise, do yoga, eat well, get regular sleep...the list goes on! I prioritize taking consistent care of my body, mind, and spirit. And most of all, spending time with my own husband and children helps reorient me to what I have cultivated deeply within my own life – that it is possible to create strong, secure, and fulfilling long term relationships, regardless of where we come from. 
~Ellen Boeder, MA, LPC, PACT Certified Therapist

I don't overbook myself, I have a regular workout regimen, I eat well, I get a good amount of sleep, I spend quality time with friends and family, I listen to podcasts, I walk my dog.
~Julie Rappaport, MA, LPC, PACT Certified therapist

What helps me is to not only work with couples but also individuals. Also, I don't think people always have "a choice" to function securely. Their nervous system might be so agitated (trauma, attachment wounds, etc.) that it might be impossible for them at this point in their lives to function securely in a partner relationship. So, they break up, maybe go to individual therapy, get into another relationship, try couple therapy again, and then are ready to do the work. Our lives are a long journey and so are theirs. And the fact that they break up or terminate doesn't mean you haven't helped them.
~Christiane Dettinger, LCSW, CST, MSW, PACT Level 1 Therapist

Balance, balance, balance. Make time for work and play. So important to be able to take off your couples therapist hat at the end of the day. My suggestions: connect with your partner often, spend time with friends, be hands-on with your kids, cuddle your fur babies, and preserve a bubble of time everyday that is yours to feel good in – whether that’s yoga, mindfulness practices, or other self-care activities. Also, I can't stress enough how important it is to connect with other couple therapists who can validate your experiences and offer support and suggestions. Consider joining a PACT consultation group or seek out individual consultation with a seasoned PACT couple therapist.
~Beth O'Brien, Ph.D., PACT Certified Therapist

Have some good old balance! I have at times had an extremely heavy caseload with couples, and I found it just tipped the scales into too much work and not enough time for play and my relationships with family and my partner. Finding the balance can be tricky but is very important.
~Melissa Ferrari, Dip. of C & C, Advanced Dip in Transactional Analysis, PACT Certified Therapist


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