A collection of coloring books from Coloring Craze. The books aren’t free, but you can download sample free coloring pages. Books include Motivational Quotes & Phrases, 30 Day of the Dead Coloring Pages, and Stress Relieving & Relaxing Patterns series.
A collection of free coloring books from libraries and other cultural institutions from around the world. Download and print coloring pages from the New York Academy of Medicine Library, the Getty Research Institute, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and many more!
Photographer Louise Lawler worked with children’s book illustrator Jon Buller to create this unique 12-page coloring book. Each page is a black-and-white version of one of her photographs of places where art is displayed.
Free coloring sheets and books to print. You can download coloring books like “Forest Animals,” “Zentangle Horses,” “Beautiful Women Portraits,” and “Floral Fantasy” (among others) or print coloring pages (including color-by-number!) from a variety of categories (mammals, fruits, fantasy, stories, space, etc.)
Free downloadable coloring book (from the Public Domain Review site) with 20 images from a wide range of artists, including Hokusai, Albrecht Dürer, Harry Clarke, Virginia Frances Sterrett, Jessie M. King, and Aubrey Beardsley.
Babouchkina, A., & Robbins, S. J. (2015). Reducing negative mood through mandala creation: A randomized controlled trial. Art Therapy, 32(1), 34-39.
Bell, C. E., & Robbins, S. J. (2007). Effect of art production on negative mood: A randomized, controlled trial. Art Therapy, 24(2), 71-75.
Curry, N. A., & Kasser, T. (2005). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? Art Therapy, 22(2), 81-85.
Eaton J., & Tieber, C. (2017). The effects of coloring on anxiety, mood, and perseverance. Art Therapy, 34(1), 42-46.
Henderson, P., Rosen, D., & Mascaro, N. (2007). Empirical study on the healing nature of mandalas. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 1(3), 148–154.
Muthard, C., & Gilbertson, R. (2016). Stress management in young adults: Implications of mandala coloring on self-reported negative affect and psychophysiological response. Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research, 21(1), 16-28.
Small, S. R. (2006). Anxiety reduction: Expanding previous research on mandala coloring. The Undergraduate Journal of Psychology, 19(1), 15-21.
van der Vennet, R., & Serice, S. (2012). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? A replication study. Art Therapy, 29(2), 87-92.
The Merriam-Webster definition of a bucket list is “a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying.” This post is a therapist bucket list with 26 professional achievement ideas for counselors and other mental health workers!
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.“
Therapist Bucket List
26 Professional Achievement Ideas for Counselors and Other Mental Health Workers
1. Earn an advanced degree or certificate.
2. Become licensed in your state.
3. Start a nonprofit organization or charity for mental health.
5. Open a private practice.
6. Conduct and publish a research study.
7. Write a magazine or newspaper article.
8. Develop and validate an assessment tool.
9. Become president or chairperson of a professional organization.
10. Write and publish a book, workbook, guide, or manual.
11. Develop a new theory/model or treatment intervention.
12. Create and maintain a website.
13. Become a teacher or professor.
14. Run for public office.
15. Become a mentor or clinical supervisor.
16. Develop an online course or training program.
17. Organize and/or facilitate a seminar or workshop.
18. Start a podcast.
19. Develop a mobile app.
20. Write a bill for mental health reform.
21. Start a mental health or counseling YouTube Channel.
22. Develop and moderate a Facebook group for mental health professionals.
23. Advocate by organizing and leading a peaceful protest for reform.
24. Win an award.
25. Present in a TED Talk.
26. Inspire positive change!
“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.”
A recent study found that many mental health professionals do not recognize their own burnout. For therapists and other mental health workers, self-care is essential for preventing burnout and compassion fatigue.
Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.
This is a list of self-care ideas and strategies for mental health professionals. Please share with anyone who might benefit!
1) Take small breaks throughout the day. Spend a few moments sitting in silence, browse funny memes, joke with a coworker, or take your lunch outside; by the end of your workday, you won’t feel as drained.
2) Meditate. Spend at least 5-10 minutes a day, in the morning or between sessions, meditating or listening to guided imagery recordings.
3) Schedule an appointment weeks in advance for a facial or massage. You’ll have something to look forward to!
4) Don’t neglect your basic needs. Drink water, choose healthy foods, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.
Don’t take your health for granted. Don’t take your body for granted. Do something today that communicates to your body that you desire to care for it. Tomorrow is not promised.
6) Don’t bring your work home with you. It can be difficult to not think about the problems a client is experiencing or to check your email, but it’s crucial to have balance in your life. If you let your work consume you, you’ll soon find yourself depleted and with nothing to give.
7) Take the time to sincerely thank or praise your colleagues. Sometimes, it seems as though we’re in a thankless field. Spread positivity by expressing gratitude and giving compliments. (I also like to pass along the praise I hear for someone else!)
8) Be kind to yourself. Be realistic. Practice positive self-talk and forgive yourself for the mistakes you make. Acknowledge that you’re not always going to know the right thing to say, nor will you be able to help every client you see.
Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.
9) Treat yourself to your favorite beverage at least once a week. Enjoy a Starbucks coffee or a kombucha tea during the workday. Consider surprising a coworker with one too!
10) If you work in a shared office space or residential setting, get up and communicate in-person instead of sending an email. (You can always follow-up with an email to recap the convo if needed.) Human interaction throughout the day is far more rewarding than staring at a screen.
11) Take a short “nature bath”! Multiple studies have found that being outdoors improves mood and reduces stress. If you work in an urban setting, nurture a potted plant or listen to nature sounds in your office to promote relaxation.
I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.
As a counselor, you probably have a few “go-to” therapy metaphors that you use in sessions. For example, the “airplane oxygen mask” metaphor is a powerful analogy that demonstrates the significance of meeting your own needs before attempting to help others.
Another example of a therapy metaphor is the “rearview mirror” analogy. If you’re driving, and your entire concentration is on what’s behind you, you’ll crash. Good drivers, in contrast, focus ahead, but also regularly check the rearview mirror. The “rearview mirror” metaphor effectively illustrates how recovery from drugs and alcohol requires learning from, but not dwelling on, past mistakes and regrets.
Powerful Therapy Metaphors: Analogies in Counseling
The following is a list of helpful therapy metaphors and analogies for growth, self-care, emotions, addiction, grief, counseling, and life.
Forming a new habit is like carving a path in the jungle. You trod through the undergrowth and take the same route over and over again, until a clear path is formed. Meanwhile, older pathways become overgrown and wild, disappearing from sight with unuse.
A habit forms the way water carves a new stream or river.
You can’t see the grass growing, but after a week or so, you can see that the lawn needs mowing.
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Mind the “check engine” light in your car. It indicates that something is wrong; if you ignore it, the problem will likely become worse. The longer you ignore internal cues, the greater the damage to your “car.”
A plant requires the right amount of water, sunlight, and fertilizer to grow and thrive.
You are a battery that needs to be recharged every so often.
Metaphors for Emotions
Our emotions are like a thermometer in the window. You can see clouds or rain or sun, but without a thermometer, you won’t know if it’s 90 degrees or 17 below. Emotions impact how you experience the outside world.
Life is like a heart monitor; there are ups and downs. If it goes flat, you’re dead.
The more you bottle up your emotions, the more likely you are to explode.
Repressing anger is like stuffing trash in a garbage can. Eventually, it’s going to spill over if you don’t take out the trash.
When you resent someone, it’s like drinking poison and expecting them to die.
Anxiety is a hungry monster that gets bigger when you feed it.
Worrying is like riding a stationary bike; you can peddle as hard as you can, but you’ll never get anywhere.
Therapy Metaphors for Addiction
Addiction is a disease of the soul.
When you’re in active addiction, you’re a shadow of yourself.
Addiction is like being in a toxic relationship. It’s all-consuming, lust-worthy, and even thrilling at times… but at the cost of your health and well-being. You have to break up in order to move on with your life.
Addiction is like a tornado, ravaging everything in its path. After the storm, it’s time to rebuild. It won’t look exactly the way it did before the tornado hit… but there’s potential for things to be even better.
Addiction is like other chronic health conditions in that there’s no cure, but it’s 100% manageable with treatment and lifestyle changes.
The longer you sit and stare at a plate of cookies, the more likely you are to give in to temptation. Set yourself up for success by avoiding triggers when possible.
If you hang out in a barber shop long enough you’ll end up getting a haircut.
Temptation is like a muscle that grows weaker with use until it finally gives out.
Living life without drugs or alcohol is like any skill; you first learn how to do it and then you have to practice. You may slip up, but don’t give up; learn from your mistakes. You can’t excel at anything without practice.
Cravings are like waves; ride them out until the wave recedes.
Attempting to save someone from drowning is dangerous. In their frantic efforts for oxygen, they’ll claw over and push the person trying to help underwater. This is an unconscious survival instinct. When your loved one is in active addiction, they’ll fight anyone and anything that gets in their way of a gulp of air.
Metaphors for Grief
Grief is a deep wound that takes time to heal. The wound is raw and painful, but will eventually scab over, although leaving behind a permanent scar.
Every person you lose takes a little piece of you with them.
Metaphors for Counseling
Going to therapy is akin to filling your toolbox with tools.
In a car, your therapist is a passenger in the front seat, but you’re behind the wheel. A passenger offers assistance with reading the map and providing directions, but it’s up to you to choose the turns you’ll take, and ultimately, the destination.
A counselor doesn’t provide the answers, but offers the tools to find them.
Going to therapy is like going to the gym; you may feel sore and you won’t see immediate effects, but the long-term results are gratifying and well-worth the investment.
Therapy Metaphors for Life
Problems in life are like bad smells; you can attempt to mask them or cover them up, but you have to remove the source before they can truly go away.
You can’t choose the canvas or paint in life, but you decide the picture you’ll paint.
Your life is a book with many chapters and pages. Every day is a new page. You write your own story.
Life is like a “choose your own adventure” book. You make decisions, but you can’t always predict the outcome.
Sometimes you’re dealt a really sh**** hand. How are you going to play your cards?
The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.
Crazy things are happening all around the world at the moment. The pandemic, lockdowns, riots… In times like these, it’s crucial that you keep your mind sharp and healthy. But in many places, gyms have not reopened. And not everyone has the luxury of owning a home gym.
If you lack access to a gym (home or otherwise), fear not! You will be amazed at how fit you can get with little (or no) equipment if you put your mind to it! This article reviews ways you can workout at home (minus the weights and fitness machines).
Both of the above workout programs can be easily modified to be less difficult or more challenging. Below, I will explain how you can experiment to adjust the difficulty of your workout program and ways you can experiment if you are getting bored. Sometimes, changing things up is necessary to maintain motivation.
Reduce or increase rest times. Reducing or increasing rest times will make the workout harder or easier.
Increase or decrease the reps and sets. The amount of reps refers to how many times you repeat the same motion for one set. For example, bench pressing 100 kg (220.5 lbs) five times in a row counts as five reps. The amount of sets refers to how many times you repeat a number of reps. For example, bench pressing 100 kg (220.5 lbs) five times in a row counts as one set. You can do multiple sets of the same exercise after you take a short rest.
Increasing the amount of reps and sets makes the workout harder while decreasing makes it easier.
Adjust the way you do certain exercises. Most exercises can be made harder or easier. For example, pushups can be done on hands and toes, the traditional way, but can also be performed on hands and knees. Alternatively, they can be done with your feet raised on a bench, making them harder.
Squats can be done with or without weights. If regular squats are too easy, you can perform single-leg squats to increase the difficulty of the exercise.
Add or decrease the number of exercises. You can also add or remove exercises from your routine to alter the level of difficulty. Exercises should be added as your level of training advances.
Consider adding the following exercises to a workout program:
The exercises listed above are just a few examples to add to your workout in order to make things trickier or for a nice change of pace if things get boring. Don’t hesitate to add your own exercises; get creative! Just be sure to perform any exercise with the correct form in order to prevent injuries.
Why Are These Workouts Effective?
The workout programs in this article are compound exercises. Compound exercises are exercises or movements that target multiple large muscle groups at the same time. (For example, squats are compound exercises that target the legs in addition to the back and abdominal muscles, among others.) With compound exercises, you get more “bang for your buck.” The core of any training program should always consist of compound exercises.
High-intensity interval training. This means your heartrate increases and stays elevated for prolonged periods of time. We accomplish this with exercises of a certain level of intensity and by keeping rest periods between the exercises relatively short.
Strength, endurance, and mobility combined into one workout. With these workouts you will become stronger because you use your own body weight as resistance and your endurance will increase because your heartrate goes up with this high-intensity interval training style. Your mobility will increase as well because you will be utilizing a full range of motion.
Easy, even for individuals lacking prior experience.
Easily adjustable workout routines. Multiple ways to adjust the templates to make your own workout more challenging or less difficult.
Convenience and value. No equipment or gym memberships required; a cheap and easy path to fitness. Both exercise programs require little time and can be performed at home. No drive to the gym. What’s not to like?
In comparing the workouts, the biggest differences between the beginner and intermediate programs are the amount of exercises, the difficulty level, and the overall volume. Rest times are initially the same because everyone’s cardiovascular health is different, but should be adjusted for each individual.
Keep in mind that the workout programs are templates only; they provide general guidelines that can be adjusted for fitness and training level as well as individual differences. For example, one person may struggle with pushups while another has difficulty with squats. Prior experience and recent injury or illness should be taken into account. You can reduce or increase reps/sets or perform alternate versions of an exercise, such as performing pushups on hands and knees if the traditional pushup is too hard.
The common stigma that you need a lot of fancy equipment or heavy lifting to stay in shape is not necessarily true. While exercises that utilize body weight only may not lead to bulging muscles, they will lead to fitness and you being in great shape as you lose fat and gain strength.
Getting in a quality workout with the current lockdown regulations is challenging, but with some knowledge and determination it can certainly be done!
Author: Kevin Mangelschots, Writer & Occupational Therapist
Kevin Mangelschots is a writer and occupational therapist with seven years of experience in the field of physical rehabilitation. He is a long-time fitness enthusiast. Kevin lives in Belgium and writes about general health with a specific focus on mental health and self-improvement on his blog, healthybodyathome.com.
The 10th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) suggests taking daily self-inventory: “A continuous look at our assets and liabilities, and a real desire to learn and grow.” The founders of AA recommended that a person in recovery both “spot check” throughout the day in addition to taking a full self-inventory every evening, preferably a written one.
An honest self-evaluation can assess for resentment, anger, fear, jealousy, etc. According to the principles of AA, self-inventory promotes self-restraint and a sense of justice; it allows one to carefully examine their motives. Furthermore, it allows one to recognize unhealthy or ineffective speech/actions in order to visualize how they could have done better.
Similarly, for best practice, self-inventory or evaluation is essential for anyone who works in the mental health (MH) field. It doesn’t have to take place daily, or even weekly, but it’s a necessary measure for any active MH worker. If we don’t regularly examine our motives, professional interactions, and level of burnout, we could potentially cause harm to those we serve.
“As important as it is to have a plan for doing work, it is perhaps more important to have a plan for rest, relaxation, self-care, and sleep.”
Autonomy (self-sufficiency), or fostering the right to control the direction of one’s life;
Nonmaleficence, or avoiding actions that cause harm;
Beneficence, or working for the good of the individual and society by promoting mental health and well-being;
Justice (remaining just and impartial), or treating individuals equitably and fostering fairness and equality;
Fidelity (integrity), or honoring commitments and keeping promises, including fulfilling one’s responsibilities of trust in professional relationships; and
Veracity (genuineness), or dealing truthfully with individuals with whom counselors come into professional contact
The following is a format for MH professionals to evaluate both ethical and self-care practices. It’s meant to be used as a daily assessment tool.
Daily Self-Inventory for Mental Health Professionals
1. Did I cause harm (physical or emotional) today, intentionally or unintentionally, to self or others?
❒ Yes ❒ No
2. If so, how, and what can I do to make amends and prevent reoccurrence?
3. Have I treated everyone I’ve come across with dignity and respect?
❒ Yes ❒ No
4. If no, how did I mistreat others? What were my underlying thoughts/feelings/beliefs? How can I act differently in the future?
5. Have I imposed my personal values on a client (or clients) today?
❒ Yes ❒ No
6. If so, which values, and what steps can I take to prevent this? (Note: professional counselors are to respect diversity and seek training when at risk of imposing personal values, especially when they’re inconsistent with the client’s goals.)
7. Currently, what are my personal biases and how can I overcome (or manage) them?
8. Have I done anything today that has not been in effort to foster client welfare (i.e. self-disclosure for self-fulfilling reasons)?
❒ Yes ❒ No
9. If so, what were my motives and how can I improve on this?
10. On a scale from 1-10 (1 being the least and 10 the greatest), how genuine have I been with both colleagues and clients?
11. On a scale from 1-10, how transparent have I been with both colleagues and clients?
12. What specific, evidence-based counseling skills, tools, and techniques did I use today? Am I certain there is empirical evidence to support my practice? (If no, how will I remedy this?)
13. Have I practiced outside the boundaries of my professional competence (based on education, training, supervision, and experience) today?
❒ Yes ❒ No
14. What have I done today to advance my knowledge of the counseling profession, including current issues, evidence-based practices, relevant research, etc.?
15. What have I done today to promote social justice?
16. Have I maintained professional boundaries with both colleagues and clients today?
❒ Yes ❒ No
17. Did I protect client confidentially to my best ability today?
❒ Yes ❒ No
18. To my best knowledge, am I adhering to my professional (and agency’s, if applicable) code of ethics?
❒ Yes ❒ No
19. On a scale from 1-10, what is my level of “burnout”?
20. What have I done for self-care today?
Self-Care Activities I’ve Engaged In:
❒ Adequate rest
❒ Adequate water intake
❒ Regular breaks throughout the workday
❒ Positive self-talk
Areas for Improvement:
Areas in Which I Excel:
Download a PDF version (free) of the self-evaluation below. This assessment can be printed, copied, and shared without the author’s permission, providing it’s not used for monetary gain. Please modify as needed.
“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”
In one study, participants who listened to upbeat music while actively trying to feel happier experienced improved mood as well as increased happiness over the next two weeks.
A 2017 study indicated that listening to your favorite songs impacts the brain circuit involved in internally focused thought, empathy, and self-awareness. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what type of music you choose; the mood-boosting effect is consistent across genres.
Alternatively, consider a stroll in the park for a boost. Researchers found that individuals with depression who took an hour-long nature walk experienced significant increases in attention and working memory when compared to individuals who walked in urban areas. Interestingly, both groups of participants experienced similar boosts in mood; walking in an urban area can be just as effective!
More recently, researchers found that people who regularly commute through natural environments (i.e. passing by trees, bodies of water, parks, etc.) reported better mental health compared to those who don’t. This association was even stronger among active commuters (walking or biking to work). If you commute through congested or urban areas, consider an alternate route, especially when you’re feeling down.
Spending time outside does more than just improve your mood. A 2018 report established a link between nature and overall wellness. Living close to nature and spending time outside reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. Exposure to green space may also benefit the immune system, reduce inflammation, and increase sleep duration.
Read/view something inspiring or humorous
Do you have a favorite inspirational book or collection of poems? Do you like viewing motivational TED Talks? Do you enjoy comedy shows? Maybe you like watching videos of baby goats or flash mobs on Facebook. (I do!)
One study found that viewing cat videos boosted energy and positive emotions while decreasing negative feelings (such as anxiety, annoyance, and sadness). Internet cats = Instant mood boost. However, if cyber cats are not your thing, search around to find something enjoyable to read or watch for your happiness quick-fix.
Plan your next adventure
I’m happiest when I’m traveling the world. Unfortunately, I have limited vacation days (as well as limited funds), which means I don’t get to travel as often as I’d like. Happily, planning a trip may produce the same mood-boosting effects as going on a trip.
In 2010, researchers found that before taking a trip, vacationers were happier compared to those not planning a trip. A 2002 study indicated that people anticipating a vacation were happier with life in general and experienced more positive/pleasant feelings compared to people who weren’t. In both studies, researchers attributed happiness levels to anticipation. (The brain releases dopamine during certain activities, causing us to feel pleasure. Dopamine is also released in anticipation of a pleasurable activity.) For a mood boost, start planning!
The next time you’re having a bad day, listen to your favorite song, go hiking in the woods, watch a TED Talks, start planning your next vacation, or spend some quality time with a furry friend… you’ll feel better!
Self-care is not a luxury; it’s necessary for survival when your loved one has a substance use disorder. By taking care of yourself, you gain the energy and patience to cope with your problems. Self-care promotes wellness and emotional intelligence; it puts you in a better space to interact with your loved one. Strategies include developing/building resilience, practicing distress tolerance, keeping perspective, and recognizing/managing your triggers.
When your loved one has a substance use disorder (SUD), it can be overwhelming, distressing, and all-consuming. When we’re stressed, we forget to practice basic self-care, which in turn makes us even less equipped to cope with the emotional chaos addiction generates. This post is about self-care strategies for when your loved one has an addiction.
(Side note: I strongly recommend reading Beyond Addiction if your loved one has an SUD or if you work in the field. This book will increase your understanding of addiction and teach you how to cope with and positively impact your loved one’s SUD by using a motivational approach. This is one of the best resources I’ve come across, especially for family members/significant others.)
Based on the premise that your actions affect your loved one’s motivation, taking care of yourself is not only modeling healthy behaviors, it’s putting you in a better space to interact with your loved one. Chronic stress and worry make it difficult to practice self-care. Self-care may even seem selfish.
However, by taking care of yourself and thus reducing suffering, you gain the energy and patience to cope with your problems (and feel better too). Furthermore, you reduce the level of pain and tension in your relationships with others, including your loved one with a SUD.
Self-care strategies include developing/building resilience, practicing distress tolerance, keeping perspective, and recognizing/managing your triggers. Therapy and/or support groups are additional options.
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”
Self-Care Strategies When Your Loved One Has an Addiction
The definition of resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties” (Oxford Dictionary). Doctors Foote, Wilkens, and Kosanke wrote that having resilience is a way to “systematically reduce your vulnerability to bad moods, lost tempers, and meltdowns.”
While you cannot “mood-proof” yourself entirely, resilience helps when facing life’s challenges, setbacks, and disappointments. To maintain resilience, one must practice at least the most basic self care practices, which are as follows:
Self-care is not something you can push in to the future. Don’t wait until you have more time or fewer obligations. Self-care is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. The authors of Beyond Addiction pointed out that self-care is something you have control over when other parts of your life are out of control. If you find it challenging to implement self-care practices, tap into your motivations, problem-solve, get support, and most of all, be patient and kind with yourself.
“Taking care of yourself is the most powerful way to begin to take care of others.”
On tolerance, Doctors Foote, Wilkens, and Kosanke suggested that it is “acceptance over time, and it is a cornerstone of self-care.” Tolerance is not an inherent characteristic; it is a skill. And like most skills, it requires practice. However, it’s wholly worth the effort as it reduces suffering. By not tolerating the things you cannot change (such as a loved one’s SUD), you’re fighting reality and adding to the anguish.
Self-care strategies and techniques for distress tolerance include distracting yourself, relaxing, self-soothing, taking a break, and creating positive experiences. (The following skills are also taught in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), an evidence-based practice that combines cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and mindfulness. For additional resources, visit The Linehan Institute or Behavioral Tech.)
Switch the focus of your thoughts. The possibilities are endless; for you, this could mean reading a magazine, calling a friend, walking the dog, etc. The authors of Beyond Addiction suggested making a list of ideas for changing your thoughts (and keeping it handy).
Switch the focus of your emotions. Steer your emotions in a happier direction by watching corgi puppies on YouTube, reading an inspirational poem, or viewing funny Facebook memes. The writers of Beyond Addiction suggested bookmarking sites in your Internet browser that you know will cheer you up.
Switch the focus of your senses. This could mean taking a hot shower, jumping into a cold pool, holding an ice cube in your hand, walking from a dark room to one that’s brightly lit, looking at bright colors, listening to loud rock music, etc. Also, simply walking away from a distressing situation may help.
Do something generous. Donate to your favorite charity, pass out sandwiches to the homeless, visit a nursing home and spend time with the residents, express genuine thanks to cashier or server, etc. By redirecting attention away from yourself (and directing energy toward positive goals), you’ll feel better. In Beyond Addiction, it’s noted that this skill is especially helpful for individuals who tend to ruminate. Also, it’s important to brainstorm activities that are accessible in the moment (i.e. texting a friend to let them know you’re thinking about them) that don’t take multiple steps (such as volunteering).
“Body tells mind tells body…” Relaxing your body helps to relax your mind. It also focuses your thoughts on relaxing (instead of your loved one’s addiction). What helps you to relax? Yoga? A hot bath? Mindful meditation? (I recommend doing a mindful body scan; it’s simple and effective, even for the tensest of the tense, i.e. me.)
In Beyond Addiction, self-soothing is described as “making a gentle, comforting appeal to any of your five senses.” A hot beverage. Nature sounds. A cozy blanket. A scenic painting. Essential oils. A cool breeze. A warm compress. A massage. Your favorite song. Find what works for you, make a list, and utilize as needed. Seemingly small self-care strategies can make a big difference in your life by creating comfort and reducing out-of-control emotions.
Take A Break
“Taking a break” doesn’t mean giving up; it’s a timeout for when you’re emotionally exhausted and is one of the best self-care strategies you can have. Learn to recognize when you need to step away from a situation or from your own thoughts. Find a way to shift your focus to something pleasant (i.e. a romantic movie, a nature walk, a day trip to the beach, playing golf for a few hours, traveling to a different country, etc.)
Create a Positive Experience
Doctors Foote, Wilkens, and Kosanke refer to this as “making it better,” not in the sense that you’re fixing the problem (or your loved one), but that you’re making the moment better by transforming a negative moment into a positive one. Suggested self-care strategies for creating a positive experience include the following:
Half-smile. Another mind-body technique, half-smiling tricks your brain into feeling happier.
Meditate or pray. As explained in Beyond Addiction, “meditation or pray is another word for – and effective channel to – awareness and acceptance. Either one can open doors to different states of mind and act as an emotional or spiritual salve in trying moments.”
Move. By moving, you’re shifting your focus and releasing energy. Stretch, run, play volleyball, chop wood, move furniture, etc.
Find meaning. The authors of Beyond Addiction wrote, “Suffering can make people more compassionate toward others. Having lived through pain, sometimes people are better able to appreciate moments of peace and joy.” Suffering can also inspire meaningful action. What can you do to find meaning?
Borrow some perspective. How do your problems look from a different viewpoint? Ask a trusted friend. You may find that your perspective is causing more harm than good.
Perspective is “an understanding of a situation and your reactions to it that allows you to step back and keep your options open… [it’s] seeing patterns, options, and a path forward” (Beyond Addiction).
When Trish married Dave nearly 20 years ago, he rarely drank: maybe an occasional beer over the weekend or a glass of wine at dinner. After their fist daughter was born, his drinking increased to a few beers most nights. Dave said it helped him relax and manage the stress of being a new parent.
By the time their second daughter was born several years later, his drinking had progressed to a six-pack of beer every evening (and more on weekends). Currently, Dave drinks at least a 12-pack of beer on weeknights; if it’s the weekend, his drinking starts Friday after work and doesn’t stop until late Sunday night.
Dave no longer helps Trish with household chores or yardwork as he did early in their marriage. He rarely dines with the family and won’t assist with the cooking/cleanup; he typically eats in front of the TV. Dave occasionally engages with his daughters, but Trish can’t recall the last time they went on a family outing, and it’s been years since they went on a date.
Dave struggles to get out of bed in the mornings and is frequently late to work; Trish is worried he’ll get fired. They frequently argue about this. Dave is irritable much of the time, or angry. Most nights, he doesn’t move from his armchair (except to get another beer) until he passes out with the television blaring.
Trish is frustrated; she believes Dave is lazy and lacks self-control. When she nags about his drinking, he promises he’ll cut back, but never follows through. Trish thinks he’s not trying hard enough. She can’t understand why he’d choose booze over her and the kids; sometimes she wonders if it’s because she’s not good enough… maybe he would stop if she was thinner or funnier or more interesting? At times she feels helpless and hopeless and others, mad and resentful; she frequently yells at Dave. She wonders if things are ever going to change.
A different perspective would be to recognize that Dave has an alcohol use disorder. He feels ill most of the time, which affects his mood, energy level, and motivation. He wants to cut back, but fails when he tries, which leads to guilt and shame. To feel better, he drinks. It’s a self-destructive cycle.
If Trish understood this, she could learn to not take his drinking personally or question herself. Her current reactions, nagging and yelling, only increase defensiveness and harm Dave’s sense of self-worth. Alternative options for Trish might include learning more about addiction and the reasons Dave drinks, bolstering his confidence, and/or creating a supportive and loving environment to enhance motivation.
In recovery language, a “trigger” is anything (person, place, or thing) that prompts a person with SUD to drink or use; it activates certain parts of the brain associated with use. For instance, seeing a commercial for beer could be triggering for a person with an alcohol use disorder.
You have triggers too. For example, if your loved one is in recovery for heroin, and you notice that a bottle of opioid painkillers is missing from the medicine cabinet, it could trigger a flood of emotions: fear, that your loved one relapsed; sadness, when you remember the agony addiction brings; hopelessness, that they’ll never recover. It’s crucial to recognize what triggers you and have a plan to cope when it happens. Being aware of your triggers is a self-care strategy.
Therapy and Support Groups
Lastly, self-care strategies such as therapy and/or support groups can be a valuable addition to your self-care regime. Seeing a therapist can strengthen your resilience and distress tolerance skills. Therapy may provide an additional avenue for perspective.
(Side note: A good therapist is supportive and will provide you with tools for effective problem-solving and communication, coping with grief and loss, building self-esteem, making difficult choices, managing stress, overcoming obstacles, improving social skills/emotional intelligence, and better understanding yourself. A good therapist empowers you. A bad therapist, on the other hand, will offer advice and/or tell you what to do, disempowering you.)
Regarding support groups, there are many options for family members, friends, and significant others with a loved one who has a SUD, including Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and Families Anonymous. Support groups provide the opportunity to share in a safe space and to receive feedback, suggestions, and/or encouragement from others who relate.
“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”
In sum, self-care is not optional; it’s essential for surviving the addiction of a loved one. Self-care enhances both overall wellness and your ability to help your loved one; in order words, take responsibility for your health and happiness by taking care of yourself. Commit to engaging in at least one or two of the self-care strategies you learned about in this post.
Professional development encompasses all activities that provide or strengthen professional knowledge/skills. Ongoing professional development is a requirement for mental health practitioners in order to maintain competency and for keeping up-to-date on the latest research and evidence-based practices in an ever-changing field.
Listed below are several ideas for counselor professional development.
Professional Development for Counselors
1 Find a mentor (and meet with them at least once a month).
4 Keep up-to-date on the latest research. If you are a member of a professional organization, take advantage of your member benefits; you likely have access to a professional journal. You can also browse sites like ScienceDaily or use an app like Researcher.
5 Facilitate professional trainings or manage a booth at a conference.
7 Practice awareness. Know your values, limitations, and personal biases.
8 Become familiar with local resources in your community.
10 Join a professional counseling forum and participate in discussions. The ACA has several. You could also go the reddit route (i.e. r/psychotherapy).
11 Review your professional code of ethics on a regular basis. (Link to the ACA Code.)
12 Attend webinars, trainings, and conferences. Stay informed by subscribing to email lists, participating in professional forums, and searching Eventbrite for local events; search “mental health.” PESI is another source, but the seminars can be costly.
14 Subscribe to psychology magazines like Psychology Today or Psychotherapy Networker.
15 Further your education by taking classes or earning a certificate.
16 Pick a different counseling skill to strengthen each week. (You can even use flashcards to pick a new skill or simply review!)
20 Practice self-care on a regular basis to prevent burnout. Why is self-care included in a post on professional development? Because self-care is crucial for counselor wellness; a counselor experiencing burnout puts his/her clients at risk.