Your job as a mental health professional is a major part of your identity, but it’s not everything. Your work is important to you, but it is also important that you make time for the other relationships in your life. Allowing your work to infiltrate these relationships can cause discord and is often offensive to family and friends. When you leave the office, it is important to leave the stresses of the job behind and be fully present, not just physically but mentally as well.
When you leave work, as hard as it may be, be sure to actually leave work behind. You need time to relax and unplug from the stresses of a busy career. At the end of the day, you need a break. After spending the day as a mental health professional, going home and using these same practices on the people closest to you can be exhausting and can cause your family to feel ‘over-analyzed’. Failure to take time away from work will only leave you feeling drained and burnt out.
The techniques you use in counseling are effective, but using these techniques on family and friends can cause hurt feelings and will easily turn people around you off. Focus on relating to your friends and family as a mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, or friend, not as a counselor. Be conscious of accepting the people around you for who they are without trying to change them.
Be willing to be open and vulnerable with the people closest to you. You may act as a sounding board all day, listening and advising your clients, but with family and friends it is different. Don’t be afraid to share your problems or concerns. Talk openly about the challenges you are facing and the struggles that have you feeling down. Don’t forget to share your successes with them as well.
Conversely, be willing to listen without passing judgment or trying to “fix” things. Take time to relate to the people you care about, and you cannot do it as a mental health provider, but only as a friend and confidant. Taking time away from your job will benefit your career in the long run, and it will help you maintain the relationships that matter most.