According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term burnout is defined as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”
In the mental health and substance abuse treatment world, the term burnout is used loosely and often. I usually hear the term or talk about it referring to a state one may get to in the future, “If you don’t take a break, you are going to burnout.” I’m sure we have all found ourselves in situations of stress and overworking to a point where we feel that we can’t give any more and experience this phenomenon of burnout.
So, you may be wondering who Rigid Rachael is and how she fits in with the topic of burnout. Well, Rigid Rachael happens to be the part of me that I have found. I find this part of me to be a very rigid and overworking part that comes out when I am feeling stressed. If I let myself stay in this rigid and overworking mindset, I could lead myself right into a place of burnout.This term and name I have given this part of me, comes from a treatment modality we use at Project Courage called IFS- Internal Family Systems. According to the IFS institute, they describe IFS as,
“Internal Family Systems is a powerfully transformative, evidence-based model of psychotherapy. We believe the mind is naturally multiple and that is a good thing. Our inner parts contain valuable qualities, and our core Self knows how to heal, allowing us to become integrated and whole. In IFS all parts are welcome.”
IFS therapy is very interesting and powerful. I have seen it firsthand in my work with my clients and the energy and shift of focus in understanding how their system has operated and worked for so many years. This can often become a profound realization and movement in healing. According to the founder of IFS Dr. Richard Schwartz, who focuses on relationships with parts,
Dr. Schwartz has identified The Self as having 8 distinct qualities which include: curiosity, confidence, compassion, connectedness, calm, creativity, clarity, and courage. We all have self-energy, and through this treatment we work on eliciting more of it in our systems.
“When the clients’ parts felt safe and were allowed to relax, the clients would experience spontaneously the qualities of confidence, openness, and compassion that Dr. Schwartz came to call the Self.”
I could assume most of us go about our business daily, and as things come our way and throw us off, we identify with these feelings and make them all consuming, “I’m angry, I’m depressed, I’m anxious, etc.” The premise of the IFS therapy is to recognize that these are all parts of us that are activated at different times, “there is a part of me that is angry, or there is a part of me that’s anxious”. We often use several sessions trying to identify these different “parts” and explore their functions and how long they’ve been doing their job- often to find out that they are in fact very tired of doing some of the jobs they have. Once we create self-energy and allow our internal system to trust the self, the healing begins. Like any form of treatment and therapy there's an element of practice and checking in with your internal system between sessions. This helps to continue to establish trust within our own system.As treatment professionals, we are in the helping role all day and hold space for a lot of complex challenges people face. The unseen side of the clinician is the side where we too are human and have to take care of ourselves and our own challenges. Through identifying and learning about my own internal system- I can have fun in naming one of my “parts” Rigid Rachael- and recognizing some of the other parts that step in during my days or nights. It’s truly been a pleasure to do this type of work and create such healing energy in my office. We must all be kind to ourselves, understand we are all growing, developing and healing—and through the work we do on ourselves helps continue to create space to be effective treatment providers.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or substance abuse, and is looking for healing, reach out to us at Project Courage, inquire about our services and how IFS may be an effective treatment modality for repair and renewal.
Merriam Webster Dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com/1
IFS Institute: https://ifs-institute.com/2,3
By: Courtney Bushnell