The Price of Self-Care


I’ll never forget my Law and Ethics professor from graduate school, he taught us about the enormous personal and professional responsibility that comes with being a therapist. One of our first assignments was to write a self-care plan, he said that self-care was an ethical issue and that we needed to be in our own therapy in order to care for ourselves and our clients. He stressed the importance of getting enough sleep and enjoying hobbies and activities outside of work; he showed us photos from his rock-climbing trips.

I took Law and Ethics during my second quarter of graduate school, before I had any clients. At the time I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. I already meditated, exercised, slept well and attended weekly therapy. Later in my career when my caseload increased, I realized what my professor was trying to tell us. Our work requires deep mental concentration and somatic attunement, and it can take a toll on our brains and bodies.

One of the greatest challenges for me is sitting in my chair all day. In my prior career, I could get up and stretch or walk down the hall at any time. I invested in a comfortable, ergonomic chair as soon as I could afford one. Most days I take a walk after lunch, and it feels so good to be outside and to stretch my legs.

Yesterday, I decided to add up what I spent on self-care this month. Here’s my list:

Acupuncture $180 (including herbs)
Weekly psychotherapy $800
Chiropractor $70
Pilates (once a week) $350
Consultation group (monthly) $75
Individual Consultation $180
Grand Total: $1,655

You’re probably thinking that some of my self-care expenses are extravagant, like taking individual Pilates once a week. I’m fifty-five years old and although I have a great chair, my back feels tight after sitting all day. I’d like to keep working, hiking and running, well into my old age, and Pilates has strengthened my entire body, and improved my posture. Maybe your back feels fine, and you don’t need Pilates or a chiropractor, or your Chi is balanced, so acupuncture is unnecessary. You might prefer to get a massage or practice some other form of self-care.

Being in my own personal therapy is non-negotiable, and as I continue to see my own growth, I’m reminded of the reasons why I became a therapist. I’m in a monthly consultation group, where I can present cases and learn from my colleagues and I get individual consultation as needed.

I left graduate school with over $50,000 in loans. I realized early on that if I wanted to rent a nice office, pay off my loans, invest in quality trainings, and take good care of myself, I would need to charge my clients a healthy fee. I’ve noticed that many therapists shy away from talking about money, I’m on a mission to help therapists get comfortable talking about this topic so we can help ourselves and our clients.

These numbers may seem overwhelming to you if you are just starting your practice; you may need to wait until you can afford some of the services on my list or you may need different things. There are numerous ways to take care of yourself that don’t cost any money. One of my favorites is spending time with my neighbor’s dog Mabel, a Newfoundland who greets me with 120 pounds of pure, drooling, love when I get home. What do you like to do for self-care?

I’d love to continue this discussion, let’s connect on social media or through my website.