4 Common Causes of Burnout for Therapists

Updated on August 28, 2023
4 Common Causes of Burnout for Therapists

Therapists are kind and compassionate people that work hard to ensure their clients receive exceptional care. But sometimes, therapists work too hard, and this can lead to burnout. Burnout is a sense of mental and physical exhaustion that can negatively affect both your work life and your personal life. Wondering what causes therapist burnout? Here are four common causes of burnout for therapists and advice on how to prevent and treat it.

Emotional Fatigue

As a therapist, your job is to work with people who struggle with their mental health. On a day-to-day basis, you’re bombarded with stories of trauma and surrounded by negative emotions, which, over time, can take a serious toll on your own mental health!


Another common cause of burnout for therapists is distraction. Therapists spend a lot of time focusing on other people’s problems, which can lead to them neglecting their own. When you forget your own responsibilities, they pile up, and you can eventually find yourself feeling overwhelmed.

Doubt About Own Abilities

A therapist’s work takes time to produce tangible results. You won’t see an immediate change in most of your clients—it takes time, often months or even years, for someone to come to terms with and learn how to conquer their traumas. This is normal, but a lack of immediate results can make some therapists doubt their abilities.

Resistant Clients

Most clients will be eager to work with you and have a pleasant attitude. But some clients will be unreceptive to your advice. Others will be downright rude or even hostile. This isn’t always the client’s fault—some people instinctually lash out when they feel uncomfortable, and therapy can occasionally be an uncomfortable experience! Regardless, unreceptive and aggressive behavior can take its toll on a therapist’s self-esteem and make them feel unsafe in their own office.

So, how can you prevent and treat burnout? Taking time off when needed, joining a therapist support group, and getting your own therapist can all help. So can self-care—while bubble baths and face masks won’t erase your problems, they can provide a much-needed respite at the end of a tough day.

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