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Addressing Therapist Burnout

Burned out from long hours of listening to the suffering of your clients? Feeling like it's too much? Are you distracting yourself to avoid the unpleasant intensity in your body and emotions? Are there moments of apathy and disengagement with your clients? Has the sense that you're not making a significant difference in your clients' lives undercut the meaningfulness of your work and identity?

From a clairvoyant perspective, burnout is the expression of an energy system that is bogged down and stagnant. Stress has accumulated. Self-regulation and presence has diminished. The energies bogging down your energy system can be an accumulation of client stress along with what their stress triggers in your past. Identifying and clearing up your triggers and your clients' stress in your space is one way of regaining your presence, self-regulation capacities and engagement with your work.

Here is a quick active imagination meditation to differentiate yourself energetically and psychologically from your clients. I'll run you through it first and then explain it afterwards.

Notice how you feel about your work and clients in your body. Imagine a huge rose out in front of you. Intend that it magnetizes out of you any of your clients energy. Give it a few moments and notice what that is like. When it's done pulling their energy out of your space, pop it like you would a soap bubble. Notice how you feel now in your body about your work and clients. Repeat if desired.

The rose is a symbol often associated with love and generally good qualities. You put it out in front of you to create some psychological space between you and it. When it magnetizes clients' energies out of your space you are dis-identifying with their states of mind and stress. Their energy goes out in front of you into the rose creating psychological space between their emotional energy and your energy system. The symbol of the rose is used to hold their energy. When you get open and curious about what will come out of your space into the rose, you are letting unconscious processes proceed according to your intention, thus allowing energies that you were previously unconscious to show up consciously. Waiting until the rose is done collecting energy is a practice of staying open to more unconscious energies to become conscious. Popping the rose is about releasing the emotional charge of those energies it collected. You then become more emotionally differentiated from your client. Popping the rose is just one way of destroying it. You can blow it up, disintegrate it, or any other fun way. You are ultimately destroying the attachment to the emotional energy of your client, which is liberating for both yourself and your client. You are less merged and have more access to your own wisdom now. Your body may relax a little as the emotional charge held in the muscles releases.

Now that you know more about the meditation, let's do it again. Think of a client that you'd like to differentiate from. When you think of them, your associations about them show up energetically as well as in body sensation and emotion. Notice how you feel thinking of them. Put out a rose in front of you. Let it pull out their energy. Then pop it or blow it up. Notice how your experience thinking of your client changes. Do the exercise again if you'd like.

Stress with clients, like secondary trauma, transference and countertransference, is one aspect of therapist burnout. You can use the above exercise quickly after seeing clients to prevent a buildup of transference stress. Sometimes though it's overwhelming to do a meditation and relieving to just receive support instead of only giving support. During a reading, we can go deeper into the inner workings of how client energies accumulate in your system, find the roots of why it happens, and connect to the wise parts of you that can effortlessly uproot and heal the causative factors of your burnout. We can also go over more active imagination tools to help stay emotionally regulated, present, and engaged with those who rely on your support.


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