“Talbott was created to help the helper.”
A social worker by trade, Katie Myers joined the team at Talbott Recovery in 2009. She knows the heart of Talbott well; to provide a safe, healing space for impaired professionals. She is passionate about making sure those in the behavioral health industry take care of their mental health and emotional needs, and she presents on the topic frequently.
Myers believes that clients are better served when you take care of yourself. Not only that, but it helps them relate to the work they’re doing, “When you’re just sitting back and being a talking head, people don’t connect with that. When you are doing the work, even if you’re not talking about it, they can see something different in you, and they’re attracted to that, and you empower them to say, ‘Wow, she’s doing it, I can do it too.’”
The Ethics of Self-Care
The work of those in behavioral healthcare is often overwhelming and intense as there is always more to do. Naturally, it can seem impossible to take the time for yourself but, for Myers, that feeling of being overworked or overwhelmed, is the reason why you have to engage in self-care, “That’s the reason you can’t afford not to. The paradox exists and it is still our job to do it. Not ‘even when it’s hard’ but because it’s hard.”
It comes down to ethics. Several years ago, as Myers was researching and rereading the code of ethics of social work, she noted, “There’s an actual section in there that says, it is your ethical obligation to take care of yourself.”
She most certainly does not view self-care as the luxury it’s often presented as, such as massages and bubble baths, “It is your ethical obligation to take care of yourself because of the safety-sensitive nature of what we do every day. We often hold people in the palms of our hands on their most vulnerable day. It’s an honor and we must take it seriously. The work that we are called to do – to show up every single day and be the very best that we can – has a huge impact. That hurting soul who has come to us, relies on us, and we have the honor of walking alongside, there’s nothing that I take more seriously.”
Self-Care in the Practical
Myers notes that self-care is usually found in the practical things, like making sure you’re taking your lunch break, using your PTO, and not scheduling multiple clients back-to-back. She points out that you can’t give from an empty cup, “When I am in that place of depletion, I am not filling myself back up, I have nothing else to give. And so I have to continue to fill my cup up, and when my cup is overflowing, that is when you get the best of me. That again comes back to the ethics of self-care; I need to provide my best – and it’s not perfectionism, it is truly [that] I’m my best resource. We either take care of ourselves so we are sharp, rested, creative, and strong or we give our patients a watered-down and less than ideal version of ourselves. The choice is ours.”
To hear more of what Katie Myers has to say about self-care as a behavioral healthcare worker, listen to her interview on Recovery Unscripted.