A women sitting at a table with a book opened taking notes while studying.

Non-Traditional Self-Care

I have always considered myself as terrible at self-care.  As therapists, it is a part of our DNA to give of ourselves and it is a proven necessity to replenish youra black pen sitting inside of an opened book. give-abilities by taking some time and making some effort to focus on your own needs.  For the past 10 years I’ve thought I was just terrible at it but I have come to realize recently that, in reality, I just have unconventional self-care.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a massage and it’s my go-to “this will help no matter the problem!” self-care.  Spending time in nature is a good stress-reliever. But, over the years, the best way I have found to stave burnout is actually an infusion of the very thing I want to escape.  For me, knowledge is self-care.  In any field, we’d refer to this as professional development.  I think a good indication that you are NOT in the right field is when discussion about your career doesn’t inspire, motivate, or at the very least encourage you.

Individuals wearing business suits and name tags standing having a conversation. The focus of the picture is two females, drinking from a coffee mug, talking with a male.

Professional development can take many forms.  Conferences are perhaps the most conventional method, and for the first 5 years of my career, that was how I stayed sane.  I would never forsake our national music therapy conference, took a full week off, stayed in a room by myself, and the combination was magic. I had full independence, control of schedule, a break from the norm, and 4 days full of others pouring into me in my native tongue of music therapy.  The trip home was always full of hope, planning, and development for the self-employment I had never wanted in a career I desperately loved.  When I moved to Tennessee and became a part of a team, professional development was all around me.  Now, I was a part of a department with OTHER creative therapists (which, in a niche field, is a breath of fresh air), on a team with other professionals who give of themselves and a company who knows what their staff need to stay encouraged.  Staff trainings can inform, but even more useful is the support the company shows for my own professional goals.  They know that if I am inspired, I will give better services to clients and represent the company professionally.  What they pour into me comes back to them in multitudes. Conferences and time off aren’t everything – it’s possible to provide your own professional development.  Books, research, even just time to develop your own plans and strategies can bring a renewed interest and joy to the everyday.

A silhouette of a presenter at a podium and an audience with an orange, yellow, and pink mixture background.

One more event that I would classify as professional development is giving presentations about the work you love.  Invest in others, share the knowledge you do have.  This does many things: reminds you what you know and that you have good things to say; remind you how you first came to enjoy what you do by seeing recognition of it on others’ faces; and challenges your current practice with questions; forces you to answer the question “why do I do what I do?”

If all of these opportunities don’t bring you to a renewed sense of professional self…it’s very possibly time for a different career.  No need to bemoan any time wasted; just pick up the workshoes and try something new.  There is no shame in change. And there is no shame in non-traditional self-care!

Share with us your non-traditional self-care techniques in the comment section below.

About the Author : Chrissy Watson

NOTE: This person is a past employee or intern of the STAR Center. Their name and authorship is preserved for posterity. Chrissy Watson was the Clinical Internship Director at Star Center, Inc. A graduate of the University of Kansas, Chrissy became a board-certified music therapist in 2007 following her internship at The Institute for Research and Rehabilitation in Houston, TX. For the last 10 years, Chrissy has enjoyed working with a variety of populations in both North Carolina and Tennessee. Since coming to Star in 2012, Chrissy has facilitated the growth of the department to 4 full-time staff and continues to oversee the supervision of interns who come to Jackson from around the country. With a passion for forwarding the profession of Music Therapy through research, advocacy, and training of the next generation of therapists, Chrissy completed certification in Neurologic Music Therapy in 2014, is currently working to complete her Master of Music Therapy degree from Colorado State University, and serves on the TN State Task Force, the national Association Internship Approval Committee (AIAC), and continues to present at both regional and national conferences. Outside of work, Chrissy is fanatical about church, baking, reading, theater, and KU basketball and secretly hopes for snow in the middle of summer.

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