Relationship Self Care for Therapists

When was the last time you applied your counseling skills to yourself to think about your own love life as a critical component of your self-care? Relationships form the essential bedrock of self-care. All the yoga and massage in the world won’t help much if you don’t have a few key people with whom you can be 100% yourself. Whether we intend to or not, we bring our relationships into the consulting room, clinic, or wherever we work. So let’s talk about love, attachment, and limbic resonance: relationship self care for therapists.

Feeling connected or disconnected affects our nervous system. When we feel rejected, unloved, or ostracized, we often have a fight or flight response that discourages connection. But when we’re in mutual relationships with that give-and-take and deep knowledge of each other, we thrive. We’re healthier. And we can better help others.

Limbic Resonance = Brain Connection = Love

In A General Theory of Love, Thomas Lewis talks about limbic resonance, a harmonized state of mind, and how important that is for attachments between babies and mothers; between lovers; between friends; and even between therapists and clients. These writers make clear how the quality of our relational lives determines our overall well-being. And if you think about it, we find ourselves in relationship all the time (e.g., in traffic, at the supermarket, at work) . . . but only a fraction of the time do we experience limbic resonance.

When we are in a state of limbic resonance, there’s calm: we feel accepted and safe. We’re not going to be abandoned. We’re not going to be blasted or criticized. An extra something activates the limbic system of the brain; it’s a deep knowing, a feeling of hope, of being able to relate and have fun, to know the other person and feel understood by them. This is the state our clients are looking for, and it’s hard to provide it for them when we don’t have it ourselves.

Reach Out & Lean In

Relationship self care poses a special challenge for therapists. Our colleague, Doug Shirley of The Seattle School, writes about the difficulty for helpers to truly relate instead of counsel or hide behind our training. If you feel isolated, if you feel depressed, seek comfort, seek safety, and break away from this idea that independence is the ultimate goal for us. We helpers forget when we’re in distress to reach out and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. So, get some limbic resonance with someone you deeply trust. Fill your gas tank so you can fuel others. and

An Extra Tip from Tracy Maxfield

Anytime you seek comfort or safety through connection, you improve your nervous system. But if you’re feeling uncomfortable or unsafe and need a little boost before engaging with people, you can practice simple breathing techniques to slow your heart rate and stimulate the vagus nerve. One method is to exhale longer than you inhale. Another is to pinch off your right nostril and inhale only through the left, exhaling however you want; breathe out longe than you breathe in. These methods have a calming effect on the body and allow you to be more open to connecting with others.

Listen to ReConceive Podcast for more on relationship self care for therapists, body psychotherapy, and just feeling better.

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