To the Burnt-Out School Counselor: An Open Letter

By: Rebekah Murphy

Dear School Counselor,

I see you. Staying late at school prepping all of your lessons for the next day. Inputting all of your data on the weekends. Sacrificing time with your family to care for others, not to mention the mental load you carry - processing all that your students have shared with you that you can't share with anyone. I see you.

Know this: You're not alone. Although the counseling profession can often feel isolating, know that there are hundreds of like-minded, intentional counselors nearby (You may even be able to find them in this facebook group).

But if you feel like you're ready to throw in the towel, heed these words of wisdom from a former worn-out, burnt-out counselor:

1. Set Boundaries

It sounds great, doesn't it? Leave work at work. Set a quitting time and stick to it. But it can be so hard to leave work undone. Think this way: If you want to impact the most students, you've got to have this mindset. You're in a marathon, not a sprint. Set your pace: slow and steady. If that means leaving work undone in the afternoon and getting there a few minutes early in the morning, go for it. If that means giving yourself a planning period, schedule it and stick to it. Boundaries keep us safe, but not only that, they give us fuel so we can go the distance in our careers.

scheduling

2. Practice what you preach

You know that nagging feeling you get in the pit of your stomach every time you tell a kid to take deep breaths when they're stressed? Maybe that's because you need to listen to your own advice. Give yourself permission to go for a walk, listen to some music, take a break, or unwind while watching a show. You will be glad you did (and you can tell your students how it felt!). So take a minute and consider what coping skill you'll be choosing today and give it a whirl.

listen to music

3. Remember your why

For some of us, grad school was over a decade ago. For others, you may have recently framed your diploma. No matter how long you've been living the dream, it's always good to take a step back and remember your motive. Did someone offer you a listening ear when you were in elementary school? Did a school counselor open up doors for you that you didn't know could be opened when you were in high school? Did you see a need and desire to be the solution? What's your why? Take some time to reflect or journal about your motivation. We are so prone to forget. It's never a bad time to remember your reason.

Journaling

You are making a difference.

Yes. You read that right. You are making a difference. Read it until you believe it. There are always going to be reasons to be frustrated. There will always be days when you feel like throwing in the towel. But remember the work you do today could be someone else's 'why' tomorrow. You are preparing a path for the next generation of School Counselors.

So, School Counselor, whether you have been feeling worn-out for a few years, or this is a new feeling for you, know that you are not alone. Know that not every day feels like this. Know that the work you are doing matters. Know that I'm not the only one who sees you.

Hang in there,

Rebekah

About the author: Rebekah Murphy has nearly a decade of experience working with students holding various titles such as third grade teacher, K-5 school counselor, and K-12 gifted and talented teacher. She enjoys developing curriculum for Bright Futures Counseling and writing in her free time.

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