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The Lighthouse and Counselor’s Self-Care

THE LIGHTHOUSE EMOTIONAL WELLNESS CENTER AND THE STAFF’S SELF-CARE

By Edward Oriole, LCPC

The strength of the therapeutic alliance between the counselor and the client, remains the best predictor of successful clinical outcome. Our foremost task, as therapists, is to maintain a model of good mental health for our clients, our peers and our support staff. Interacting with individuals, day in and day out, who are struggling with mental pain, affords us the opportunity to demonstrate that healthy model. This may take a toll upon our own individual psyches. There is no training inoculation that counteracts the effects of “burnout.” At The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center we recognize that the delivery of mental health services is hard work. Although we all maintain different levels of resiliency, our desire to “fix” may obscure the depth and breadth of those resiliency levels. The stressors and storms of clinical work demand ever present vigilance regarding our emotional strength.
Happily there are internal protocols in place that assess and measure all of the staff’s emotional strength. C.E.O. Dr. Ray Kadkhodaian, Clincal Director Reverend Jean Kadkhodaian and Practice Manager Bridgette Allen, are relentless monitors of The Lighthouse staff’s emotional wellness. This is augmented by peer review among the staff therapists and the steadying influence of both our psychiatrist, Dr. Hooshmand Kadkhodaian and our nurse Sally Kadkhodaian. Here are some of the signs that are identified and addressed in order that The Lighthouse staff burns bright and not out…..

 

  • Emotional Exhaustion: I have seen this in both the Police Department and the Armed Forces. When this is present, the individual usually spirals downward to a lesser quality of performance. The impairment becomes the status quo. This is never the case at The Lighthouse. Internalized protocols such as professional boundaries, rigorous supervision and peer support, contribute to a uniform high quality of clinical expertise.
  • Depersonalization: My experience with this phenomenon is mostly in community mental health. The huge volume, of largely intractable mental illness, contribute to a “disconnect” between the counselor and the client. Depersonalization reduces the client to an illness. It serves to block the impact of the illness upon the counselor. This also, is never in evidence, at The Lighthouse. Dr. Ray, Jean and Bridgette pay close attention to how the staff interacts with the clients, thereby insuring the staff’s ability to manage crises in an empathic manner.
  • Reduced Feelings of Accomplishment: This is never present among the staff at The Lighthouse. This is not merely by chance. Mandatory supervision that often asks, “How are you working with this client?” or “What are we doing for this client?” This type of dialog among the staff and support personnel, counteracts the possibility of any reduced feelings of accomplishment. Our multidisciplinary approach draws on the talents of the whole family Lighthouse staff. This model enhances the feeling of accomplishment and counteracts its reduction.

I personally maintain a ritual at the end of my office day: I change the water in the flower vase. I tidy my desk. I check my appointment calender for the next day. Finally I thoroughly wash my hands. The clear water in the vase, the tidy desk and the handwashing are a deliberate, ceremonial end to the work day. My tasks are accomplished and the office is ready for tomorrow’s duties.
At The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center, Dr. Ray and Jean concept of “family” has removed the danger of a counselor negligence of their own self-care. All of use are vigilant to the three signs of “burnout.” The result is a superb level of care delivered uniformly to all of our clients.