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5 Habits that Contribute to Therapist Overwhelm

As you connect with other therapists, have you noticed that it seems that there is a common thread of therapists feeling more and more overwhelmed?  I have and I certainly get it.  We are doing work that can be really intense at times and also juggling many responsibilities within our practices and at home which definitely contributes to therapist overwhelm.

Yet, it also seems that at times therapists take actions that unintentionally contribute to our sense of overwhelm.   In reflecting on conversations I have had with therapist over the past decade, I identified five common habits that contribute to therapist overwhelm.  Honestly, I have been guilty of these habits as well.   It is only through awareness and taking purposeful action that we can learn to avoid these habits and reduce therapist overwhelm.

If you haven’t already done so, you can claim a complimentary copy of The Overwhelm Assessment for Stressed Out Therapists to help you take inventory of the areas of your personal and professional life contributing to your overwhelm.

5 Habits that Contribute to Therapist Overwhelm

Over Committing

It is so easy to over commit because we don’t always recognize our limits until it’s too late, especially in times of transition or adjustment in our personal or professional lives. I’ve personally been working on taking time to pause and truly reflect on whether I have the time, energy and passion to commit to something before I say yes.

  • We can become overwhelmed when we take on too many clients or schedule our clients in a way that doesn’t allow us to take needed breaks.
  • Saying yes to every opportunity that seems like it may help us grow our practice can lead to stressed out therapists and work that does not live up to our expectations of ourselves.   Think of blogging, giving presentations, attending or planning events, participating on committees and more. 

Trying To Focus On Too Many Things At Once

Trying is the key word here.   When we don’t give something the full attention it deserves we can tell and others can tell, too.   It’s totally ok to have multiple areas of interest.   As I like to say, we can “do it all” by not doing it all.  We can’t do everything at one time and we can’t do it without support.  Lots of therapists have figured out how to navigate having multiple areas by looking for a way to focus on one thing at a time. When we try to focus on too many things at once, we often find ourselves pulled in many directions, uncertain about what to do next and feel like we cannot give anything the full attention and energy it deserves. Establishing and maintaining good boundaries around my work/personal time and proactively blocking off time in my work schedule for certain projects has been really helpful for me as I work on staying focused on one thing at a time.

Failing To Ask For Help

As many of you do, I often encourage my therapy clients to build their support systems and ask for help from their loved ones. For me, I find that this seems trickier to implement myself when it comes to business. It isn’t always immediately clear to me when I need more support. I have worked a lot on recognizing when I need support and getting it faster in order to reduce my stress level. The type of support needed is going to look different for each of us depending on what we have going on.

  • We can get overwhelmed in our clinical work when we don’t have a strong network of colleagues to consult with and process our work.   
  • We find themselves overwhelmed when we don’t outsource administrative tasks for our practices that are not within our areas of strength.
  • We become overwhelmed when we try to figure things out on our own rather than asking others who are knowledgeable about areas where we lack knowledge.
  • Overwhelm creeps in when we struggle to ask for support in our personal lives as well.

Saying “Yes” To Things That Are Not In Alignment With Our Goals, Vision Or Values

When we say “Yes” to things that are not in alignment with our goals they suck our time and energy.   Unfortunately, this often leaves us depleted for the other tasks that we need and want to be focused on. This is another time that learning to pause is so important. In the pause, we give ourselves permission to evaluate whether an opportunity is in alignment with our goals.  The first step is getting really clear on what YOUR goals, vision and values are so that you have that information readily available when opportunities present themselves.  I am not ashamed to admit that it took me more than a year to get some clarity on my goals in having a private practice and I am continually tweaking them as I go.

Taking Action Based On Comparison to Others

As therapists, we often have access to seeing what our colleagues are working on which can inspire and educate us, but can also can lead us to taking actions based on what we think we “should” be doing rather than what is best for us individually, our work and our practice.   I wrote an entire post about how comparison can steal our joy as therapists, so feel free to click here if you’d like to check that post out.

What do you think?

I am curious to hear what you think about the 5 habits that contribute to therapist overwhelm. Which of these habits contributes to your overwhelm? Did I miss any habits that you think contribute to a pattern of you feeling stressed out or burnt out? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.


Don’t forget to claim your complimentary copy of The Overwhelm Assessment for Stressed Out Therapists today.


Take Care,



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