fbpx How to Manage Tough Days in the Mental Health Field
Authored by Nexus Family Healing on February 29, 2024

Several early challenges in graduate school lead me to believe that becoming a psychologist was probably not a good idea. I was constantly filled with anxiety and insecurities that I was not able to get under control. The very first patient that I treated finished our session, and then stole an ambulance and drove recklessly down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. The police called me and asked if I was his therapist, to which I answered yes. The police then asked me what they should do. I had absolutely no idea what to tell them. However, that was just the right sign that I was looking for. I now had proof that I did not know what I was doing, and that I should not become a psychologist.

Strangely enough, I felt a deep sense of relief. The next day, I met with my academic advisor and informed him that I was withdrawing from the program. He said that he would have never guessed that I was a quitter. I quickly replied, "I'm not a quitter. I just don't have what it takes to do this as a career," to which he asked why I entered the program in the first place. I told him that a former coworker saw potential in me. My advisor explained that he also saw my potential, and his persuasion kept me in the program. 

Over time, I continued to wrestle with personal and professional confidence issues and was still thinking of leaving the program. But, in the Fall of 1989, I met a classmate who became a spiritual mentor for me. Because of her, my evolving faith in God gradually helped diminish my feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

In 1990, I gifted myself with a trip to The Holy Land, which without question, was just the finishing spiritual touch that I needed. I came back a new person. From that point forward, God would always be involved in every part of my existence, personally and professionally. My confidence continued to build, even though challenges continued to present themselves. The difference was, I now persevered without profound fear and insecurity standing in my way. 

Throughout the years, many coworkers have sought guidance on how to manage the “really tough” days at work that we are all so familiar with. My suggestions are as follows:

  1. Never attempt to do this job without true faith in a higher power.
  2. Never expect perfection from this field, or you will frequently be disappointed.
  3. Always look for the silver-linings in the darkest clouds of your patient's sky.
  4. Hold true to a continuous stress management and self-care regimen. 
  5.  Never waver in your work-life balance.
  6. Take emotional time-outs throughout the workday.
  7.  Make every effort possible to keep the "energy" of the workplace out of your home.
  8.  Make time for peace and quiet as your day winds down.
  9.  Redefine how you measure success with your patients.
  10. Find a coworker or two who can be your support system throughout the day.
  11. Never let go of hope, faith, and trust in the power of healing.
  12. Say a gratitude prayer on the way to work, and again on the ride home. 

This blog article was contributed by Dr. Mark Jordan, Psychology Department Supervisor at Nexus-Indian Oaks Family Healing.

Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health servicesfoster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 50 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.