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The Day to Day of a Mental Health Therapist (it me)

Contrary to popular belief, we don't just wake up and BE therapists. We aggressively shut our alarms off, desperately search for awake juice (our caffeine of choice), and find the will to be a person. Depending on our schedules and flexibility, we have curated routines to ensure we show up for ourselves in the way that makes it possible to appropriately show up for our clients.

Here's a little taste of what my own day to day typically looks like.

Drag myself to my yoga mat and fight for my life (6:30am to 7:30am-ish)

First things first, I do yoga. Because of my first job as a mental health professional leading me to take Septa at odd hours of the morning, I have the (un)fortunate ability to get up at the butt crack of dawn. The birds are arguing under my air conditioner, the sun is shining directly into my eyes, and I'm questioning how I could possibly be awake at 6am without even setting an alarm.

I've been practicing yoga for several years now, and during this time made it a point to practice at home in the morning to start the day. I'm able to feel much more grounded after some movement and deep breathing, even if it's only for 15 minutes. I've also recently gotten into the practice of not making any decisions until after yoga when I have a clearer head. You know those days when you wake up and you're just not about it? Us therapists feel that too. And so when I wake up already feeling done with the day I tell myself, "Do at least 10 minutes of yoga and see how you feel." Almost every time, I feel much more put together and can better navigate my day, whether that's having a relaxing day at home or going out for fresh air.

Then somehow after yoga, I find the energy to do a barre workout. I grew up dancing, and despite not vibing with ballet at all (or pilates for that matter) I somehow gravitated to this type of workout. Right now I'm only managing to do up to 10 minutes a day, rotating between total body, core, glutes, and thighs. It's an intensity I regret in the moment, but after feel like I can take on whatever the day throws at me.

All of this is done on my phone, but the key here is to not start the morning focusing on the notifications that pop up as soon as I turn it on for the day.

I pour energy into myself first, so I can show up for myself and others. Movement is how I stay balanced, grounded, and settled.

Music, language, and kitty cuddles (8am to 10am)

I typical start my sessions at 10am, so until then there's continued lack of social contact. As a fairly introverted person, I do everything I can to conserve my energy for what's needed for the day. So until then I'm eating breakfast as I'm held hostage by the murder owl (Duolingo), watch crime shows, listening to music (Stray Kids being my current obsession), and forcing my cat to love me. If I'm really feeling frisky, I'll go to a cafe for a few hours to read, people watch, and treat myself to some goodies.

Sessions. Sessions. Sessions. (10am to 6pm-ish)

And then the work begins. Sometimes it's a trauma day. Sometimes it's a "I-wish-I-could-tell-you-to-break-up-with-your-partner-but-instead-lets-process-that" day. Sometimes it's a dance party day to release the pent-up stress from between sessions. I laugh with clients, comfort clients, and express my anger and protectiveness at their unfortunate circumstances (see: systemic racism). Some therapists can ride off adrenaline and see up to 8 clients back-to-back in a single day. Me? I'm not built like that and never have been. My personal limit is 3 sessions back-to-back in any given moment, and having space between sessions now that I work fully remote allows me to fully utilize my downtime the way I want. I rest my eyes, do chores around the house, or play cozy video games.

Sometimes the day is a push and pull of emptying and refilling my cup.

The wind-down (7pm onward)

And when the day is over, it's over. I go back to my murder owl hostage situation, watching crime shows, listening to music, and forcing my cat to love me. I have a phone call with a friend, or have a meltdown about whether I was a good therapist that day. Of course there's even more that happens behind the scenes; the things that go into keeping my practice together and the obscene amount of certification trainings I've invested in, but that's part of the job. My routines and the constant adjustments of them are what helps me do the job, what helps keep me afloat during the hard days.

They remind me I'm human, and that my needs deserve just as much attention.


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