Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

What Individual Counselors Can Do to Sustain Wellness

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

What Individual Counselors Can Do to Sustain Wellness

Article excerpt

Individual counselors must work actively to nurture their wellness. The authors review the literature to examine what maintains wellness and what counselors can do to replenish themselves when feeling stressed, distressed, or impaired. The article provides strategies to improve resiliency in the areas of physical, emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal wellness.

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

--Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching (6th century BC)

Sustaining the counseling profession begins with the efforts of each counselor, and actions taken to promote their individual wellness begin one step at a time. Nurturing wellness and preventing impairment require that counselors take an honest appraisal of their health, balance, and self-care--not once, but continually throughout their careers. "Wellness is both an outcome and a process, at once an overarching goal for living and a day-by-day, minute-by-minute way of being" (Myers & Sweeney, 2005b, p. 9). Wellness involves actively making choices to create and maintain balance and to prioritize health of mind, body, and spirit.

A counselor's wellness provides the foundation for her or his work with clients. Research has consistently shown that the philosophy or theory one follows in conducting therapy is not as important in assisting clients as the person of the counselor. Rogers (1961) stressed that counselors are able to "create relationships which facilitate the growth of others" (p. 56) only to the extent that they have achieved growth in themselves. Counselors need to be aware of transparency, modeling, and their unresolved issues because clients attend not only to counselors' verbal messages but also to their nonverbal behaviors. Working late and being continually available to clients does not model the healthy limit setting that many clients seek to learn. When counselors are obviously tired or physically ill and continue to work, they send a message that one's personal wellness is less important than attending to the needs of others. In contrast, when counselors are committed to self-awareness and the pursuit of their own wellness, they can serve as role models for clients, and their joy can have a "contagious effect" (Miller, 2001, p. 384).

Transforming the wellness of clients and the profession of counseling as a whole comes down to individual counselors taking responsibility for their own health. We (the authors) suggest developing self-awareness and taking active steps to enhance personal wellness. Our article reviews the literature from counseling and the allied professions to examine what maintains wellness and what counselors can actively do to replenish themselves when feeling stressed, distressed, or impaired.

ASPECTS OF WELLNESS AND INTERCONNECTEDNESS

Many different models have been developed to provide a framework for understanding wellness. Body, mind, and spirit are the most commonly recognized areas of wellness. To these three, Halpert Dunn (1961), author of High Level Wellness, stressed the interrelationship between wellness of the body, mind, and environment. Ardell (1977) conceptualized five dimensions of high-level wellness, namely self-responsibility, nutrition, physical fitness, stress management, and environmental sensitivity. Bill Hettler (1976) posited that wellness comprises physical, emotional, spiritual, social, occupational, and intellectual dimensions. "High-level wellness" can be defined as "an integrated method of functioning which is oriented toward maximizing the potential of which the individual is capable" (Dunn, 1961, p. 4). According to Dunn, wellness requires one to maintain "balance and purposeful direction" (p. 5). Individuals who embrace a holistic philosophy of wellness, and who engage in wellness behaviors, report being happier and having a better quality of life than those who do not (Hermon & Hazler, 1999). The Wheel of Wellness model developed by Witmer, Sweeney, and Myers (as cited in Myers & Sweeney, 2005b) includes 12 components of wellness with spirituality at the center. …

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