Burnout Recovery and Prevention at the Spring Conference

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This story begins in Iowa in the spring of 2021. I had white knuckled my way through the darkest days of the pandemic, doing my best to hold space for and support my clients’ fears, frustrations, anger, and depression while also navigating my own fears, frustrations, anger, and depression. My headshot of Nic Holmbergschedule was booked solid 11 weeks out, which felt suffocating. Many of my clients seemed to be just treading water, which left me feeling ineffective. My mind wandered during sessions. I procrastinated writing my session notes, and they piled up such that there was a mountain of them to do on the weekend. I was easily annoyed by, well, basically everything. I was completely exhausted when I got home at the end of the day. I had no emotional energy for my spouse and family members. I started to dread going to work. I had all the signs of burnout. This worried me because I was less than two years into my career. I was afraid that the career I had been working toward for many years was going to leave me feeling miserable. Something had to change; my future in this profession depended on it.

I reflected on my behavior. There was no question that I had overextended myself. In effort to help as many people as possible during a crisis, my caseload had grown too large. I had agreed to take on too many clients with concerns that were at the edge of my scope of practice. I was stuck in a pattern of people-pleasing that was harming my well-being. I had to start saying no. I had to start taking care of myself so I could better help my clients and be a better human to my loved ones. In service of this, I tried a few new things at work. I stopped doing intakes. When a client cancelled, I started blocking that time rather than filling it from someone from my waitlist. I looked a few months out in my schedule and decreased the number of clients I would see in a week. I got dictation software to expedite my note writing. When I eventually resumed doing intakes, I was more selective in the clients I chose to bring on board. I referred folks with whom I would not be able to do my best work to other providers who would be a better fit.

Slowly, very slowly, things started to feel a little better at work, but I still felt emotionally drained at the end of the day. That was the case for much of 2022. I found myself thinking that I needed a retreat. I needed some time to just slow down, be quite, and reflect. In looking for retreats, I stumbled upon information for a retreat that one of the mental health professional associations in Arizona (I think it was) was holding for its members. I thought this was a fabulous idea—I doubted I was the only mental health provider in Iowa who had been feeling this way. I brought the idea to the Triad and Program Planning Committee. It was well-received by all and the plan for the 2023 Spring Conference was launched.

The theme for the 2023 Spring Conference (April 28-29th) is Taking Care of Us. The goal is to provide IPA members and other Iowa mental health providers an opportunity to rest and recharge while also learning how they can care for themselves to make their professional practices are sustainable. The conference will include didactic and experiential learning so attendees will not only earn CEs, but also actually practice new skills that promote wellbeing and burnout recovery and prevention.

Friday, April 28th, will feature Dr. Fadel Zeidan’s talk, “The Neuroscience of Mindfulness-Based Meditation: A Day of Practice and Science.” He will provide instruction on a variety evidence-based mindfulness practices, as well as the science behind how mindfulness impacts the brain and body. Dr. Zeidan is an Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at UC San Diego. He currently serves on the Mind and Life Institute Steering Council, the UCSD T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion Executive Council and the Neuroscience Director at the UCSD Center for Psychedelic Research.

Saturday, April 29th, will feature Dr. Jenna LeJeune’s presentation of “Values, Burnout, and Finding Work-Life Integrity.” She will take an ACT-based approach to examining how reconnecting with our personal values can support burnout recovery and prevention and promote a relationship between our work lives and personal lives that is healthy and sustainable. Dr. LeJeune is president and co-founder of Portland Psychotherapy Clinic, Research and Training Center in Portland, Oregon. She is a peer-reviewed ACT trainer and first author of the book Values in Therapy: A Clinician’s Guide to Helping Clients Explore Values, Increase Psychological Flexibility, and Live a More Meaningful Life.

To support a “self-care retreat” vibe, we wanted to provide attendees opportunities to be outside in nature and chose to hold the conference at the Honey Creek Resort on Rathbun Lake in Moravia, Iowa late in April (to increase likelihood of better weather). We have 30-minute self-directed movement breaks scheduled in the afternoons. A brief guided chair yoga session will be held on Friday right before lunch, and a 30-minute gentle guided floor yoga session will be held on Saturday morning before the day’s presentation. Please bring a yoga mat or a towel if you’d like to participate in Saturday’s practice. Lunch on Friday is free of any other programming to allow time to reconnect with friends and colleagues. To further promote a relaxed atmosphere, we encourage attendees to dress in athleisure or activewear or whatever feels most comfortable to them.

I recently came upon this article by Salyers et al. (2011). It describes a one-day (6-hour) intervention for burnout among mental health providers that was associated with significant decreases in emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, as well as improved views of clients at follow up six weeks later. The intervention featured didactic and experiential learning activities on contemplative practices, body practices, and values clarification. I’m thrilled that these aspects will be a part of our Spring Conference. My sincere hope is that attendees will find the Spring Conference to be a restorative experience and that they will leave with new information and skills they can use to promote wellbeing in their lives, as well as in of those they treat and care about. I look forward to seeing you there!

Links to register for either or both days of the conference here. The discounted room rate is good through March 28th, so don’t wait to make your reservation!

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Comments on "Burnout Recovery and Prevention at the Spring Conference"

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Valerie Keffala - Monday, March 27, 2023

It's going to be a great conference, Nic! Thank you for suggesting the theme!

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