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15 Tips to Prevent Addiction Counselor Burnout

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Addiction counselors work under some of the most challenging conditions imaginable, and burnout is common.

The demands of human interactions in a treatment center setting, paperwork, and stress can add up over time. Couple that with funding cuts and the sadness and frustration from making connections with the people in treatment and then losing them to relapse, or worse, overdose. This can be a bitter mix leading to professional and personal burnout for addiction counselors.

As the nation battles the opioid crisis, addiction counselors feel the pressure of increasing client loads. What can such professionals do to counteract the stress and prevent burnout in this volatile environment? This article provides some answers.

Acknowledging the Challenges

A Quality of Life Survey by Addiction Professional revealed some sobering statistics concerning addiction professionals:

  • 22.3 percent of those surveyed said their caseload was too high.
  • 51.3 percent responded that their caseload increased in the past couple of years.
  • One in four said they worked, at a minimum, four additional and unexpected hours every week.
  • The numbers of addiction counselors who expect to retire in the profession are decreasing, from 71.3 percent in 2015 to 68.1 percent in 2016.

As if the turbulent mix of addiction counseling was not challenging enough, declining reimbursement has led to diminishing lengths of stay. This puts additional pressure on addiction counselors, who are then forced to try to change behaviors while the clock is ticking. So, what can an addiction counselor do to improve his or her longevity in the profession?

The National Institute of Health (NIH) published a study that reviewed the scientific literature on counteracting burnout in the mental health and substance abuse field. The studies seemed to highlight two key areas that must be changed in order to help addiction counselors’ avoid burnout:

  • Heading off the psychological factors that lead to burnout is a crucial intervention strategy. This requires mindfulness on the part of the individual addiction counselor.
  • Organizational strategies to protect addiction counselors are crucial. From decreasing workloads to providing support activities to improve worker morale, employers must work harder to protect the resources under their roofs. This includes involving staff in decision and policy-making in order to create an environment that values their input.

Addiction recovery

Addiction counselors must listen to their own best advice.

Fifteen Tips for Addiction Counselors

Controlling individual behavior is, of course, easier than seeking change within an organizational construct. A 2010 article in Addiction Professional provides addiction counselors with 15 suggestions for “career-sustaining” behaviors to avoid burnout. The suggestions include:

  1. Shut your office door every day for some quiet time.
  2. Take time for physical activity every day.
  3. Do not be afraid to express your limits and say, “No.”
  4. Stay organized and on top of paperwork.
  5. Take a nap.
  6. Ask for help when you need it.
  7. Listen to music while completing menial activities.
  8. Celebrate even the smallest victory.
  9. Get creative and more interesting with group sessions.
  10. Get out of the office whenever possible.
  11. Take up a hobby you love.
  12. Schedule a weekend trip with someone you love.
  13. Meditate or pray.
  14. Take breaks between clients.
  15. Set boundaries.

Addiction counselors suggest these and other coping strategies to the very patients they are trying to treat. Avoiding burnout means addiction counselors must care for themselves by listening first to their own best advice.

Want to find an easy way to get your clients the help they need to battle addiction? Contact us to find out more about referring patients to our facilities.

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