Recognizing that whatever one is doing is infinitely important is a key element in avoiding career blahs, says Carlfred Broderick, a nationally known educator, author and psychotherapist.
Addressing the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists on Thursday, Broderick encouraged his colleagues to recognize they work with the soul and spirit of their clients, not just the inner-workings of the mind.Broderick recalled Elder Boyd K. Packer's advice to a similar gathering. The member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, "When you are dealing with the souls of the children of God, take off your sandals because you are walking on sacred ground."
Broderick urged those gathered to remember this admonition and recognize the sense of trust and stewardship for these souls and spirits received from God.
"This sense of responsibility will help you avoid burnout," Broderick counseled. "The value and worth of a soul is important. You can't burn out when you keep that focus and recognize that all souls matter."
Broderick said careers are a lot like marriage and cited a classic pattern found in a study involving marriages of 15 years or more.
The top one-sixth showed evidence that the romantic dynamism that began in courtship continued to exist and drive the union. The bottom sixth had evolved into acrimonious relationships that remained intact largely for public image purposes.
One-third contained elements of bitterness and emptiness and those involved were often cynical. The remaining one-third operated in relative comfort. While the spark of courtship no longer existed, couples remained satisfied, showing little interest in change or adventure.
How do therapists keep their careers from falling into the equivalent of the lower three categories?
Broderick offered five suggestions. First, stay aware of what is happening in your field. Be aware of change, even if you do not agree. Read professional journals and attend special meetings.
Second, he said, stay away from fads. He offered several examples of recent psychotherapy fads that dominated professional thinking for short periods before giving way to new fads. Among these fads, said Broderick, were links between diet and mental stability, pre-menstrual syndrome, sexual addiction, co-dependency, male bashing, adult children of alcoholics and the latest, the child within.
"All of these have some reality," Broderick said. "But they become unrealistic when they are the focus of every conference or meeting. To me, that is a sign of a fad.
"No one burns out faster than the person who paints himself into a corner with `this year's' fad," Broderick warned.
A third step for avoiding career blahs is actively seeking peer consultations. Broderick said therapists and counselors should avoid working in total isolation. Often, he said, seeking outside opinions help professionals identify failings and develop solutions. Professionals should also seek case-load variety.
Taking care of one's self is the fourth suggestion. He urged those attending to develop interests outside their practices.
"Keep your personal relationships in good repair; do what you teach others to do," Broderick said.
And finally, leave work at the office.
"Don't worry about your clients' worries," Broderick said. "You cannot carry their burdens, you cannot make their decisions."