The holiday season can bring feelings of loneliness, stress, and mounting pressure for mental health providers, many of whom take on additional workloads and become the go-to support system for members of the campus community. This time of the year can be the most overwhelming and harmful to their mental well-being.
Right now the burnout rate for psychologists is 46% and according to our 2021 survey published in The State of Provider Burnout in College Counseling Centers, nine out of ten college counselors are suffering from burnout. For therapists of color, the rate of burnout is even higher, according to the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Workforce Equity at George Washington University.
College counseling center directors need to take extra steps to protect the health and well-being of their counseling staff, protecting them from burnout while ensuring that students continue to receive the highest quality care.
How to Support Counselors During Stressful Times
After surveying counseling center staff on provider burnout, we found that creating a positive and sustainable working environment requires a broader shift in attitude – one that begins with campus leaders, including administrators and counseling center directors.
When we asked survey respondents how burnout was being addressed in college counseling centers, directors pointed to many personal self-care practices – mindfulness, retreats, mental health days – but when asked what they needed most, counselors suggested more systematic changes, including access to more providers, more flexibility, increased compensation, and more significant time off. Many clinicians said that the support they want from directors and administrators should include increased understanding, advocacy, and recognition of the mental health needs of the clinicians.
While this should be a year-round priority, here’s what you can do now to protect your staff’s mental well-being:
Reduce the workload
According to our survey, 56.4% of clinicians and 12% of directors said a reduced workload could help counseling staff manage burnout. Even with a shortage of mental health providers, college counseling centers have several options, including working with a telehealth provider to expand the providers, services, and hours of availability, as well as supplying students with a virtual mental health toolkit, hosting workshops on time-specific topics so students can practice coping strategies, and setting up 24/7 crisis lines so students can access care at any time of the day.
Provide flexible working options
More than 20% of respondents reported that having the ability to work from home was crucial to sustaining their mental health. While counselors must be on campus to provide in-person sessions, it’s important to give your staff the option of working remotely whenever possible. Allowing staff to do administrative work at home or leading virtual team meetings can help alleviate some of the burdens that come with traveling on and off campus.
Review employee benefits packages
Staff satisfaction has a direct correlation with work performance. You may want to add benefits or offer increased time off in the weeks or months leading up to busy times. You can offer childcare benefits, mental wellness packages, or other benefits that ease the burden on providers.
Provide opportunities for professional development
Investing in continuing education improves clinical expertise and patient care. Offer counselors and clinicians opportunities to build their knowledge and skills, which can help with note-taking, working with diverse student populations, and better manage difficult cases. Free CE courses would be widely used and appreciated, for example.
Create team-building exercises and events
When you build community among providers, you can expect greater collaboration, efficiency, and trust in the workplace. Team-building empowers your staff to work together and use one another as resources when faced with challenges in the workplace, especially when dealing with complicated clinical cases.
Encourage self-care and boundary-setting
Mental health professionals want to make space for clients in need of care, but can inevitably sacrifice their own self-care in the process. Even the most seasoned clinicians need to be reminded to set boundaries and take time for their own mental health care. In addition to providing staff with easy-to-access self-care tools, remind them to utilize their time off, to take breaks during the work day, and most importantly, set limits to the number of clients they take on, so they aren’t spread too thin.
How Mantra Health Takes Care
One of our core company values at Mantra Health is “we take care so that we can take care of others.” We prioritize mental well-being, not just because we’re a mental health company, but because we believe when each of us is at our best, we bring our best self to those around us – and this allows for the highest quality outcomes.
Even though our clinicians work throughout the holiday season, including over breaks when many students are traveling back home and unable to access on-campus counseling support, we ensure that their mental well-being is prioritized – and their time off is safeguarded.
Far too many digital mental health companies fail to recognize their clinicians as human beings; human beings who are unable to take on hundreds of new clients on a routine basis. At Mantra Health, we work collaboratively and intimately with our in-house network of providers to ensure they have the tools, resources, and support systems they need to care for themselves so they can take care of others.
To better understand our clinical practices, how we’ve strategically built a network of in-house clinicians, and how we can support your staff during times of high stress, please contact us at email@example.com.
You can also read our white paper The State of Provider Burnout in College Counseling Centers, which explores burnout among clinicians, how to build a more supportive clinical practice, and what preventative measures are worth taking.