1. Share strategies, not techniques
Let the individual figure out for herself the preferred self-care technique (massage, exercise, meditation) and choose among the available and preferred techniques for increasing a support network (peer support groups, clinical supervision, mentors, increased time with friends)
2. Go broad, not deep (no single strategy is going to be 100% effective)
Having a particular skill at one’s disposal is less effective than having a variety of strategies from which to choose. Don’t count on just one silver bullet to fix the person (even if it worked for you).
3. Tailor the intervention to the individual
One-size-fits-all interventions don’t work in therapy; don’t assume they’ll work in self-care, either. Sustainable self-care has to occur in the context of, and be responsive to, the individual’s emotional vulnerabilities and resources. What works for one of us may not work for another. What works at one point in our career may not be effective at another point.
4. Consider the person-environment interaction (not all stressors are environmental; not all stressors are in the person of the therapist, either)
Value both the approach that recommends individualistic solutions (fix the therapist) and the approach that recommends systemic and organizational solutions. The self is always in a system, whether a hospital or solo private practice setting, and effective interventions must pay attention to both kinds of stressors: internal and external.
5. Enhance self-care both at the office and away from it
One way to decrease distress/impairment at the office is to change the way we work at the office (take a lunch break, change our mix of patients, set aside an hour a day to do nothing but answer emails and phone calls). Another way to decrease distress/impairment at the office is to enhance our life away from the office (set aside time for relationships, healthy escapes, cultivate spirituality). We seek a comprehensive and balanced plan for self-care.