Counselors Can Build Resilience to Meet Rising Demand

A spike in requests for care will tax reserves of mental health practitioners.

Posted Nov 03, 2020

Engin Akyurt/Unsplash
Source: Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve heard much about the toll of COVID surges on front-line health workers, specifically the physicians and nurses caring for those hospitalized with the most serious cases. Yet the pandemic has taxed other clinicians, namely mental health professionals, who have faced a spike in requests for care.

To illustrate, polling from the National Council for Behavioral Health shows 52% of behavioral health organizations have seen an increase in demand for their services. The poll also shows that roughly the same percentage of organizations have had to close programs despite this increase, reflecting diminishing capacity and revenue losses.

This scenario will unquestionably strain practitioners who care for those with mental health issues. They will be asked to do much more with far less, even as they face their own personal pandemic-related challenges.

It is crucial that these professionals prioritize their own wellbeing as they brace themselves for a growing number of patients coping with more complex and traumatic issues. Just as we have heard in advance of every airplane flight, crises that result in a loss of oxygen should spur passengers to fasten their own masks before helping others.

One way mental health practitioners can steel themselves for what lies ahead is by boosting their capacity for resilience. Defined as the ability to recover quickly from difficult events, resilience will play a key role in helping us all endure the pandemic, but it is exceptionally vital for clinicians.

While an individual’s resilience is dictated by a combination of factors, including genetics, personal history, environment and situational context, individuals can actively enhance their resilience in several ways, including:

  • Look at adversity as an opportunity to increase confidence and self-efficacyLike the classic “glass is half-empty or half-full” question, there is often a way to flip your negative perspective and make it positive.
  • Avoid being too hard on yourself. Instead of being your own worst critic, consider how you would respond to a friend or loved one in your situation.
  • Build energy through relationships. Strong relationships are critical to emotional resilience. They are a source of support, a built-in sounding board, a way to get a different perspective on work and life.
  • Understand the difference between perfectionism and excellence. The term “work smarter not harder” is an important one. We can learn to maximize our efficiency and productivity.
  • Stay in the present. Many of us worry about what might go wrong in the future and second-guess things we’ve already done. Instead, we should focus more on the here-and-now.
  • Practice self-care. Make your own wellness a priority. Eat healthy. Stay active. Meditate. Read. Pay attention to what activities positively affect your mood and make them part of a routine.

Following these steps can help mental health practitioners not just care for themselves, but also better care for others. It helps regulate our emotions so we can be less reactive and more responsive, allowing us to access compassion for ourselves as much as our clients or patients.