Sylvia Sandler, M.A., MFTi
Dear LA-CAMFT colleagues:
This month I want to talk about Self-Care. I think Self-Care is misunderstood and undervalued. As therapists we are trained to encourage our clients to identify it and support them in doing more of it. On an intellectual level, Self-Care just makes sense. Self-Care may include setting healthy boundaries, not putting too much on our plates, prioritizing, and being careful not to neglect parts of our lives that are important. Yet, I believe that there is a great divide between our awareness and the actual implementation of self-care as daily practice.
Self-Care is a vital component to our well-being. Self-Care promotes our ability to function better in our personal and professional lives. When explaining the concept to clients, I often use the airline metaphor of the oxygen mask dropping from the overhead compartment in the event cabin pressure falls while in-flight. Flight attendants caution and instruct adults to use the mask prior to administering it to their minor travel companions. This is of prime importance. If our needs are not being met, then how can we be expected to be present so as to identify, approach and problem-solve the needs of others?
Many of the parents that come into treatment put themselves and their significant relationships on the back burner once they enter parenthood. Their intrapersonal and interpersonal needs become secondary to the needs of the children. An important task in treatment is to persuade parents to talk about their definition of parenting: to unpack the messages received and investigate the meaning of their own way of being parented. We also talk about how parenthood does not require us to shed our personal identity nor our previous connections. We discuss how parenting allows us to grow more into ourselves. We explore how Self-Care promotes healthy parenting because our bandwidth to deal with the challenges of child rearing will be expanded as our own needs are met. The beauty of Self-Care is that it lends itself to carrying over into other areas of our lives, and helping to cultivate stronger, healthier relationships. As clients replace their self-sacrificing approach to life with Self-Care, they are modeling for their loved ones confidence and the value of self. Self-Care as an act of emotional renewal leads us back to attuning and attending to the needs of others. By looking at Self-Care as a process of re-charging vs. an act of selfishness, we free ourselves. Self-Care paradoxically provides the conduit that connects us to others while at the same time inviting us to honor our own unique existence.
Sylvia J. Sandler, M.A., is the current editor of Voices for LA-CAMFT, and holds a subsequent registration with the Board of Behavioral Sciences as a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, #90381. Sylvia is bi-lingual and fully proficient in reading and writing in the Spanish language. Sylvia is currently gaining hours for licensing at The Ness Counseling Center on a volunteer basis. You may reach her by email at email@example.com.