Stacey M. Baker, Psy.D., LMHC
I was reading a story a few weeks ago about a doctor who delivered a baby while in labor herself. If you are interested, you can find the story here: http://people.com/human-interest/pregnant-doctor-delivers-baby-then-gives-birth-to-own-baby/.
For the past few days, I have been thinking about this story, and thinking about our field. Now, don’t get me wrong. Having been in labor twice myself, I am in awe of this woman, and believe that she deserves all of the credit she was given (none of which she asked for). What made me think was how tangible it all was. She was in labor. Fact. She put her own needs on hold to help another. Fact. There is really no debate as to her act of selflessness and prioritizing patient care. Fact.
The thing that I have been thinking about is how intangible our work, and our sacrifices, can be. Similarly, how blurry the line can be between being selfless and prioritizing clients versus practicing good self-care and knowing our limitations, personally and clinically. As mental health providers, we put our physical and emotional needs on hold to support our clients. We don’t call out sick unless we are worried about spreading our illness onto our clients. We take minimal maternity leave, knowing that we have clients who can't go 2-3 months without services. We sit through stories of trauma, having had survived similar experiences ourselves. We offer support to people going through divorce, while dealing with the end of our own marriage. We offer support and encouragement for dealing with grief and loss, while burying our own parents and friends.
We do it all in silence. We do it because we love our work. Like other medical and service providers, we don’t ask for recognition or credit, but wouldn’t it be nice every now and then? We are truly fortunate that we are not (typically) a first responder, an emergency person, or a medical professional who has to work every weekend or overnights. Many of us don’t have to (routinely) miss family activities or holidays due to our work.
But sometimes it seems like we are invisible. We may feel like our contributions are not recognized or appreciated. We may feel like our needs, our illness, our families, our emotions are not as important as others’.
Like other medical providers, social service providers, and first responders, we need to continue to come together. We need to be better at supporting one another. We need to seek personal and professional support, not only when needed, but on a consistent basis. We need to encourage one another, and to tell each other, “Hey, you are doing a great job. I see you.”.
Dr. Baker is the owner of a group private practice in Massachusetts. She is also the administrator of a supportive community for clinicians through Areas For Growth. This community includes access to step-by-step support and guidance in how to develop your own private practice. Develop Your OWN Successful Private Practice