Preventing Burnout for Empathic and Highly Sensitive Therapists, Coaches, & Healers

By Dr. Meg Haworth

If you’re a helping professional you have likely gravitated towards the work of serving others in their transformation because you’re wired for it. You’re naturally empathetic, caring, and sensitive. It’s a perfect fit for your giant heart to help others heal theirs. But you may find yourself feeling drained after sessions. You might even think about quitting the calling you love as you careen towards burnout in a body that hurts. 

According to the American Psychological Association, burnout among mental health professionals ranges between 21-61%. Symptoms of burnout include a lack of feeling compassion for clients (also known as compassion fatigue), emotional exhaustion, and even physical illness. You may be sick with stress related headaches and digestive disorders from taking on the emotional weight of your clients in addition to carrying your own emotional burdens. 

Paperwork, caseloads, and difficult patients are the obvious contributing factors to burnout but there is one arena that isn’t given the attention it ought to when assessing what the root cause of burnout is and how to effectively help practitioners recover from it. Mental, emotional, and physical health gets addressed while leaving out the most powerful part of the self – The Human Energy System (also known as the soul, spirit, or higher-self). This part contains the healer within, your internal guidance system, your life path, and your purpose. It is this proverbial heart that heals self and others, not the head alone.

If you are a natural empath, highly sensitive person, you are also intuitive. Your work to help others leaves you open to a greater susceptibility of becoming burned out because you’re energetically drained from shouldering the emotions of your clients. If you remain in your thinking mind and not in your intuitive nature, it will take a significant amount of your energy to help them. Learning to balance your knowledge base with your intuition will rapidly assist you to have much better outcomes for both you and your clients. 

Assessing the emotional energy that becomes stuck in the Human Energy System from past events just isn’t explored in mainstream environments so professionals need to look to alternative methods to help them truly heal the root cause of their emotional burnout. Luckily, today there are many pioneers that offer somatic therapies, emotional release techniques, energy medicine, spiritual development courses, and advanced therapies that look at the client as a whole person so that they can achieve total wellness. 

When you’re a natural empath or highly sensitive person you essentially take on the emotional weight of others unconsciously. You may walk into a room and feel incredibly anxious because you’re sensing the person who just had an overwhelming panic attack. Doing this for years on end creates energetic drains through your emotions that can adversely affect your body. Negative emotions can eventually drain your biological system to create illness. For empaths and sensitives who are prone to sponging up the emotions of others, this can be particularly damaging to your holistic system – mental, emotional, physical and energetic. When clients trigger your own traumas, you’ve got a double whammy of a drain happening – theirs and yours.

Many therapists, coaches, and healers come to the profession because they had difficult pasts. They may have had traumas in childhood or long-standing stressful situations like a parent with mental illness or a difficult divorce that affected them. Therapists are naturally drawn towards self-exploration and personal evolution. If you are a natural empath, you’re also highly sensitive so the stakes are higher for your health over the long haul because you process emotional energy differently than others.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) demonstrates these links. It is the largest public health study ever done. It has been ongoing since the mid 1990’s through Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, California with over 17,000 participants. It has indelibly linked the connection between difficult childhood experiences prior to the age of 18 like physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, loss of a parent, mental illness of a parent, divorce, and substance abuse. It has tracked the effects of abuse over time and has associated it with illnesses that dramatically shorten and complicate a persons’ life. This supporting science helps us to better understand our clients and ourselves as practitioners.

So, how do you heal this empathic overload and truly assist helping practitioners to stop taking on the emotional weight of others? You develop the attributes at the core of empathy and sensitivity – your intuition.

There is an entire art and science behind intuition that every helping professional should learn. Everyone is intuitive and each person has an intuitive type that shows their specific strengths and talents. Most people – even empathic healers and therapists – don’t ever develop this part of themselves because they didn’t know that they could. 

The combination of intuitive development with holistic emotional release therapy like my Whole Person Integration Technique can help a practitioner to hone their intuitive abilities, remove blocks to intuitive insight, rely on their intuition more to help their clients transform, build a level of self-trust that tempers empathy, and heal the physical body all at once. 

Your empathy is a sacred gift. If you’re a helping professional, your intuition will hold the key to assisting your own growth and that of your clients. Your access to empathy ought to be used for its intended purpose of sensing the best in our clients to help them overcome their darkness to return to the light they’re meant to be. 

If you’re being drained in the very profession that you love, there are solutions to help you stop feeling emotionally attacked. Sponging up the negative emotions and physical pains of others is ultimately not what your empathy is for. You can learn to wield our empathy and sensitivity in a focused and empowered way for the greater good of your personal evolution and that of your clients.

Watch on YouTube: Is Your Empathy Making You Sick?

Dr. Meg Haworth is the creator of Whole Person Integration Technique, the founder of Evolving Intuition online course and certification program, and a holistic nutritional chef. She helps therapists, coaches and healers heal empathic overload, gain unshakeable self-trust, and remove the blocks to intuitive insight that can heal the body using her Empath Recovery System. For her Free Masterclass on healing empathic overload — click here.

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This article appears in: 2021 Catalyst, Issue 18 - Empaths, Sensitives & Intuitives Summit