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Therapists at risk for burnout during COVID-19 pandemic

HOUSTON – Things have changed for Licensed Professional Counselor Ceci Hudson Torn. Not just in how she counsels other people but how she and mental health providers are carefully trying to maintain their passion to help others through this mentally trying time for them as well.

“About the first 45 to 55 days I had this huge adrenaline rush and I was constantly problem-solving for myself as a clinician, for our staff, and delivering mental health services,” Licensed Professional Counselor and Ethos Behavioral Health Group Chief Operations Officer Ceci Hudson Torn said. “Then that kind of adrenaline rush ran its course and I was left exhausted and stressed, still dealing with the same problems and the forward-looking uncertain of how long this is going to last. I’ve seen it in myself and with our staff the sense of burn out.”

Mental health caregivers are commonly among the professions listed as most likely to suffer burnout. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 34% of psychologists said emotional exhaustion was to blame.

Therefore, Hudson Torn said she’s concerned more mental health providers need to take care of their own right now.

“We’ve rallied to respond and been running really hard, really fast toward the problem to try to hold and continue the services and the adrenaline helped and the newness of it helped and the crisis, the problem-solving helped with that energy and motivation but you can’t stay in that season forever,” she said.

Here's how she says to get back on track:

“Doing our own inner work, taking care, making mental health a priority, providing space for self-care things to sneak away: a walk, reading a book, carving out time for ourselves,” she explained. “I think a huge piece of it for all of us is connection.”

Hudson Torn said the most important thing to have right now is optimism. Find things to appreciate and celebrate.

Meditation is also a tool she encourages everyone to try, even just a few minutes of being still each day can make a difference, she said.