How do we stay above the fray? How do we keep from getting sucked into negative emotions when others go sideways? When they relapse? When they do self-destructive things? Or even when they threaten us?
One thing that helps me is to remember that I got into the recovery field to help others. To share with others how I've managed to keep a needle out of my arms for 27 years. To let them know that I was able to rebuild my life, even though I started relatively late - in my early fifties.
Another way to protect ourselves is to not take things personally. Many of our clients are seriously traumatized and disturbed. We must always keep in mind that it's not about us. It's about helping clients to repair their emotions and to learn to live in reality. When they're disturbed or upset it's generally about their distorted view of life and has little to do with us. If they were well, they wouldn't need our help.
We need not beat ourselves up if it seems as though we're making no progress with a truculent client. It helps me if I look back at all the frustrated people who tried to help me before I was ready to change. Many well-intentioned counselors, family members, and friends spent time and effort to help me shake the grip of drugs and alcohol. But, until I was ready to change they were wasting their time. On top of that, I was angry at them, even though they were trying to protect me from myself.
To shield us from burnout we must practice what we preach. Use mindfulness techniques. Get adequate rest. Take responsibility for our mental and physical health - the same advice we give our clients.