I’m working as a youth counsellor and I love my job. I love helping. I love it when people do great. But when they fail it kills me. I want to keep the parts of my job I like. But I can’t sleep for weeks any time one of them ends back up addicted or committing crimes. This is killing me. Do you get burned out working with your clients? And if you don’t how come you don’t?
If you’re a counsellor and you’re willing to ask your question then I know that we don’t have to worry about you lacking humility, and that’s important. We cannot learn something unless we begin with not-knowing.
I’d like to start by thanking you for the compassion, sincerity and dedication you appear to put into your work. These are professions that attract caring people but it’s always nice to see people getting their oar dipped into the public pond. There are many souls starved of love and we need all the angels we can find. Also, with you being a caring person I can appreciate why you would find it painful when your clients are suffering. The world is fortunate to have you working within it.
Now, to answer your question: no, I don’t really get burned out. Can I book too many sessions and tire myself out physically? Yes. But other than that do I ever get tired of discussing the Truth? Not really. Because it’s a fascinating subject and everyone uncovers it in their own unique way. I don’t sit around talking about people’s problems. I’m sure I wouldn’t enjoy that. I can listen to their problems long enough to learn enough to be able to do my thing, but I don’t want anything close to the majority of our time together to be focused on unpleasant things. You can’t get peaceful by feeling not-peaceful. My sessions are usually fun. They’re like treasure hunts.
When it comes to your practice, what you have to get is clear. You have to truly and profoundly understand that you are not there to save anyone. That is to misunderstand your role. You cannot get attached to outcomes. You can’t imagine futures where it’s all worked out for everyone. Because you don’t have control over them. All you can do is communicate with them. And you can only function in the now. And in this moment you either love someone or not. You either help them or not. You either judge them or not. There is nothing else.
Imagine that your patients are like peaches growing on a tree. You value all of them equally, but some are harder to reach than others. Even with the ladder of your education helping, you are still unable to reach some of them. You can make yourself sad wishing you had a longer ladder or a shorter peach tree , or you can be happy you’re able to save all that you are. And remember that while yes, the others will eventually face the cold and they will wither and fall and bruise on the ground, that too is the natural order of things. Because it is those lost and forgotten peaches that dissolve and disappear into the landscape only to later emerge as seeds and soil for a new generation of family trees.
Don’t get caught up in results. Don’t build castles in the sky you can’t live in. Just live the moment you’re in. Do the loving, caring, compassionate thing and leave the rest to the universe. Because your clients lives are their own, not yours. Just as your happiness comes from your choices theirs comes from their choices. You can love them and educate them but you do not choose their thoughts for them. So keep it all in perspective.
Enjoy loving them and anyone like them for as long as you’re able. And revel in your successes. But there are no failures. There are only those that were too far to reach.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.