From a SAMHSA Tip on Clinical Supervision, under the heading “Suggestions for Self Care”:

Help staff identify what is happening within the organization that might be contributing to their stress and learn how to address the situation in a way that is productive to the client, the counselor, and the organization.

A very good idea that I am sad to report is ignored in many otherwise solid organizations. That’s surprising because you’d think it would be standard practice in behavioral health. Apparently not.

Oh, there might be an occasional lecture on methods of stress reduction, or how to avoid burnout, but actually involving staff in a systematic effort to reduce stress throughout the organization–  that ain’t  common.

Yet to me it makes perfect sense in the context of the CQI (continuous quality improvement) efforts we’re all supposed to implement. What better way to enhance the overall quality of the workplace than to identify, address, and (hopefully) resolve real-world sources of stress? Particularly, as is recommended, “in a way that’s productive to the client, the counselor, and the organization.”

On occasion, I’ve asked clinicians in various programs what they found most stressful about their jobs. Some of their answers are predictable: Expanded caseloads, insufficient time to document, unfavorable schedules. Others are not: Feeling unrecognized, or a need for additional training for more complex cases. I hear often of a clinician’s desire to feel part of a team– supported by others, in pursuit of a mission.  Apparently many clinicians work in busy programs with plenty of staff yet still feel like they’re alone, almost a solo practitioner, but with a lot less control over their activities.

Research demonstrates that simply feeling like you’re not in control of a large part of your daily life is a sure source of mounting psychological stress. Some of us handle that stress better than others, but all of us experience it. So in that sense, it’s everybody’s problem. Why not treat it as such?

Why focus solely on the individual when the best and most available solution may lie with a group of clinicians working together to improve the workplace?

It’s not as if they don’t know how.