For Psychotherapists

  • Clinician Burn-out
  • Healing Faith
  • Love Addiction for the Successful Therapist
  • Psychology in th 2000´s

Clinician Burn-Out

Suicide. Divorce. Drugs. Child abuse. Clinicians are transported daily into the horrors of the nightly news.  Throw in managed care, fear of lawsuits, and fierce competition, and even good providers succumb to burn-out. Would you recognize burn-out in your own life? Let's take a look at this destructive, and unfortunately popular, phenomenon.


            You're more at risk if you are:  Type A, perfectionistic, first born, unable to set appropriate boundaries and say "no" when the day is full, unskilled at delegating or asking for help, or continuously giving emotional support without refueling with supportive relationships. Burn-out usually occurs slowly, manifesting itself physically through fatigue, depressed immune functioning, or symptoms such as backaches which force you to slow down. Feelings of being overwhelmed or out of control, reduction in motivation, quality or quantity of work, or a false belief that you're accomplishing less can indicate burn-out.



            Examining your initial professional goals may be the most important weapon in preventing burn-out. Did you desire a small, stable, well-respected practice and more time with your family? Or did you dream of 'Oprah' and book deals? Burn-out is inevitable when your day is swallowed up by everything except that which is most important to you. Secondly, consider seeing a variety of clients, instead of over-specializing into boredom. You may even design your schedule to scatter difficult clients amongst those you find more enjoyable. Educating your office staff on scheduling diversity makes for a more pleasant and productive day.             

             Remain teachable. Seeking new information energizes your mind and provides increasingly better care. Practice what you preach about healthy living, assertiveness, and stress management.  Many helping professionals give to the point of having nothing left, and clients quickly detect hollow, hypocritical words. Then there's managed care. Scrambling for more time, more clients, and less paperwork has become a large part of a clinician's day. If you have no business training, hire and delegate. Or take a local business or marketing course. Ensure efficient marketing efforts by periodically evaluating what produces results. If you've lost your sense of purpose and energy for private practice, segue into corporate training, writing, administration, etc.

                Finally, remember the balance. Play some each day. Work some. Laugh and cry some. Learn to paint if you're left brained, or accounting if you're right. Burn-out feeds on fear and ignorance, but can be eliminated by realizing there are always options. 

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Healing Faith

“God bless us, everyone.”  -- Tiny Tim

”In God we trust.”  -- The money in your wallet

I dare take on one of two subjects our mothers told us not to discuss in polite company, unless you want an argument. Religion.  Can a religious faith help a person heal physically, mentally, or socially?  And if so, might health-care professionals be responsible for including this facet into treatment of physical, mental, and emotional illness?

Healthcare professionals are charged with educating clients on tools we may not even utilize ourselves, if we know they will help.  (Ask any physician who smokes, and he or she will advise you against it.) We are also called to speak the uncomfortable, challenging harmful ideas and beliefs. I find it interesting that therapists will “preach” a right way of thinking through cognitive-behavioral interventions, physicians advocate a positive self-care through sleep, diet, exercise, and medication options, but many helping professionals run from addressing possible benefits of faith with our clients as a taboo subject.

Post-Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution served to distance science from the Church that, as the keeper of dogma and orthodoxy, was invested in restraining new knowledge.  This led to a splitting of the human being into soul, cared for by religion, and the body/mind cared for by science.

Recently scientists have started reclaiming access to the spiritual world, by studying the connection between faith and physical, mental, emotional, and social health.  Some of their findings are summarized below.

A strong faith has been associated with:

  • increased life expectancy
  • lower rates of cardiac disease, pulmonary tuberculosis, pulmonary emphysema, cirrhosis of the liver, and cancer (especially lung, bladder, and colon)
  • greater marital and overall life satisfaction
  • increased self-esteem and social support, and lower suicide rates
  • reduced drug use, including nicotine, in adults and adolescents
  • improved adjustment and coping skills
  • reduced overall psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, death anxiety, depression, isolation, and hostility
  • reduced blood pressure
  • less vaginal infections/diseases, and cervical cancer

There are several studies indicating that intercessory prayer actually affects physical health, such as surgery complications, life-threatening events, and recovery rates. A few experiments indicate prayer even stimulates plant growth.  There are also some interesting, but small-subject studies, suggesting that prayer affects life expectancy of leukemic children. Much more study is required in the area of prayer’s ability to create positive changes in our lives.

Most Americans are religious:  a 35 year look at Gallop polls shows a consistent 95% of Americans believe in God, and 76% pray on a regular basis.

Given the positive psychological, physical, and social effects of religious faith, healthcare professionals may find this as much a valid intervention as a healthier diet or a stress-reduction program. And given the prevalence of people professing a faith a well-rounded treatment program needs to include this powerful tool. Being a psychotherapist, I’ve been in a privileged position to assist clients in changing their very lives. And I’ve seen more long-lasting healing take place when clients strengthen their relationship with God. Now I just need to write an article on Politics and mental health, and I’ll stir up everyone.


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Addicted to Love

"Might as well face it, you're addicted to love..." - Robert Palmer

Can you be addicted to love? Anything in bloated portions can be dangerous, even something as wonderful as a good relationship. Some people have stayed in a relationship until it literally killed them, just for love. Take the short quiz below, as it illustrates many of the signs and symptoms of love gone bad.

If seven or more of the following describe you, the danger of love addiction is very real.


  • come from a family in which emotional needs were not met;
  • assumed a caretaker/pleaser role to gain approval;
  • are attracted to people who don't treat you well;
  • find loving, kind, stable people boring;
  • put forth over 50% of the effort, or take over 50% of the responsibility;
  • are very tolerant of others and spend a long time hoping for something different;
  • make excuses for his/her behavior, holding out for the way it used to be, or could be;
  • have a low self-image: you believe you have to earn happiness;
  • are terrified of abandonment and being alone;
  • control or manage your partner's life in an effort to help him/her;
  • focus on others, thereby avoiding personal responsibility;
  • have other addictive tendencies: overeating, too much TV, working too much, etc.;
  • fear disapproval so much you rarely say 'no', or express your true opinion for fear of displeasing or losing your partner.

Sternberg (1988) identified ten indicators of healthy love. As you read over the following list, keep your marriage and other personal relationships in mind, but also asses your professional liaisons as well.

Successful partners:

  • do not take their relationship for granted;
  • make their relationship an important priority;
  • actively seek to meet each other's needs;
  • know when and when not to change in response to the other;
  • value themselves;
  • love each other, not their idealization of each other;
  • tolerate what they cannot change;
  • are open with each other;
  • make good times together and grow through the bad ones;
  • do unto each other as they would have the other do unto them.

As you have been reading this column, rivers and streams are slowly eroding mountains of solid rock. But you would have great difficulty detecting the process because of its gradual, quiet destruction. Similarly, relationship addiction slowly erodes intimacy by imposing unhealthy demands, crossing various boundaries, and ignoring vital information.

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Psychology In The 2000´s

Recently, Megan Johntz was asked to predict the future of psychology for a major television network. What directions would the profession take in the 2000’s? Some trends remained similar to those from the last 100 years, but there were some surprises. Check in at the end of this millennium to see how accurate or off-base she was…

More drugs

In the new millennium every distasteful emotion or bad mood has a biological reason and the corresponding scientific study to back it up. Nature wrestles Nurture in the WWF of science, and Nature wins: every psychological trouble is linked to chemical chaos in the brain, and drug manufacturers race madly to supply medication options to a quick-fix public. Mom gets off the hook for all our ills.

More God

At the turn of every century and millennium, humans freak out and ask the big questions. Therapists in the 2000’s will be fielding spiritual questions and tackling existential issues, as people fear the worst, question the best, and ask what it’s all for.

Water-cooler Acceptance

Much like physical illness now, mental illness in the next millennium becomes acceptable social conversation, and in some communities positively chic. People compare their manic-depressive symptoms as they would trade stock tips today. Our grandparents blush as issues once reserved only for a therapist’s ear become polite conversation at dinner parties. “Oh, yeah? I was sexually abused by my uncle too…”

Therapy Rebellion

Managed care squeezes therapists and consumers alike, and shortly into the new century, Americans rebel. They demand to have more than 3-5 counseling sessions to get past being suicidal. They get fed up hearing headlines of another teen overdose because the local psych hospital was only being paid for a three-day stay. People in the 2000’s love their drugs, but also go back to the human touch, and demand adequate time with competent counselors who teach them how to do life better. It’s rent-a-friend for the masses.

Assessment Harassment

Psychological tests are used for everything from hiring and firing, to screening first dates. The trend toward quantifying everything hits human relationships, and people depend on psych tests to develop trust at work and at home. When you ask a woman out on a date, she may ask you your Meyers-Briggs Personality Type. Or when applying for a home loan, the bank may run a check of your psychological profile, helping them determine whether you’re a good risk. There will be quite a few Americans who criticize this use of psychological information as Big Brother-ish, but most Americans believe your psych test predicts your behavior, and they crave the information. The fear factor is high around the turn of the century, and people fear their neighbor might be a Columbine killer or a Jeffery Dahmer, so they grasp a hold of psych tests as their crystal ball.

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