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Steps toward Care and Lifestyle Balance

Knowing that stress and burnout are often an occupational hazard, addictions practitioners must learn how to prevent and reduce workplace stressors. Research suggests appropriate clinical supervision can reduce staff stress and increase motivation, in addition to providing ongoing skill evaluation. Supervisors must sharpen their skills and take the time to supervise properly.50 Ongoing communication and onboarding activities will help ensure a high level of employee job satisfaction and engagement. The ways in which a supervisor motivates employees can also serve as a tool for stress reduction. When employees are happy, their stress levels are decrease.

Click here for more ideas on how to motivate employees.

Supervisors should watch their employees for signs indicating personal or health-related problems such as mood swings, weight gain or loss, tardiness and absenteeism. They should also address the following:

  • Relationships between recovering staff and clients
  • Professional credibility
  • Cultural bias and unfair treatment
  • Staff performance evaluations
  • Liability concerns
  • Impaired counselors 51

Supervision can offer staff support and validation, an opportunity to debrief and share reactions to clients’ trauma material. It is also an opportunity to share positive coping strategies. Although there are tremendous pressures today on clinical supervisors to focus on case management, administrative issues and behavioral treatment planning, it is imperative for clinical supervisors to include frequent supervision addressing compassion fatigue issues as part of each staff member’s professional self-care plan. If neglected, good clinicians will eventually experience burnout and inevitably walk away from their jobs.52

Self Care Approaches:

There are individual, team and organizational strategies for addiction treatment workers while working with traumatized, addicted clients.  It is essential, however, for each individual to take responsibility for developing their own personal and professional self-care plans, including a relapse prevention plan for those in recovery. 

An important step in addressing this issue is the recognition that compassion fatigue and other stress disorders are real and a common response of compassion and empathy, without which, the counselor would not be successful.  The key is finding a balance between being vulnerable and available to the client’s needs and taking steps toward protecting one’s own sense of integrity.53 Studies indicate that there are four important strategies to apply in prevention efforts:

  1.   Professional strategies – balancing caseloads
  2.   Organizational strategies – sufficient release time
  3.   Personal Strategies – respecting one’s own limits
  4.   General coping strategies – self nurturing.54

Integrated Approach to Clinician Self-Care course handout materials – Reprinted with permission of Patricia A. Burke.

Included in handout materials:

Scheduling Exercise for Clinicians –exercise asking clinicians to write out a schedule for a typical work day including recognition of own unique requirements for pacing, breaks for exercise, rest, and nourishment, and a variety of tasks and self-care practices.  Then, at the end of the day, review schedule and ask: Does it include an awareness of my own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs? Does it include a sense of balance? Does it include time for connection to self and others that is nourishing

Signs of Burnout/Countertransference – listing of common symptoms

Comprehensive Self-Care Worksheet – self-care tool for clinicians.

Self-Care Resources – selected resources for clinicians



Online course:  Clinician Self-Care for Addiction Counselors and Clinical Supervisors – offered through the ATTC of New England Regional Office.

Standards of Self Care Guidelines – sample guidelines by Green Cross Academy of Traumatology

Click here for Specific Selfcare Steps.

Click the following links for:
Self Care
Information on Burnout and Compassion Fatigue
Compassion Stress and Burnout Signs
Case Studies






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