What motivates people to seek help when they are in burnout? Most of the clients I work with seek help because they are exhausted and need help to recover. They are usually struggling with how to accomplish this goal, but know they need to make some immediate changes.
Making the necessary changes to break the burnout cycle (Read more about the burnout cycle) requires significant effort and some people are not sufficiently motivated to do the work.
This may be because they derive a “secondary gain” from being a workaholic that they don’t want to give up.
Perhaps these individuals don’t have fulfilling personal lives, and staying at their desks allows them to focus on what they are good at, rather than working on something that feels overwhelming.
Perhaps staying busy allows them to push something scary or threatening to the back of their minds, similar to having a serious illness or a trauma background.
I am more successful at helping my clients when I am able to “meet them where they are” in their motivation to change. I teach my clients about “Prochaska’s Stages of Change,” and ask them to identify where they are in the change process when they are not making much progress towards achieving their goals. People can do this fairly easily once they are familiar with the stages of change.
Once my clients are familiar with Prochaska’s Stages of Change, and have identified the stage they are currently in, we can work together to progress from whatever stage they are in to the next stage in the process.
Without first understanding which stage a client is in, however, a psychologist can make erroneous assumptions. For example, a client likely won’t work very hard at planning how to change (Preparation Stage) if they are still considering whether they want to change or not (Contemplation Stage). When this happens, it is difficult to communicate very well and a client is not likely to make much progress.
Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta
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