This Is How Therapists Look After Themselves

From staying hydrated to being on time, therapists reveal how they look after their minds.
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Just like we all have physical health, we have mental health, too. It’s a measure of our state of mind and can fluctuate day to day – or hour by hour.

How much sleep we’re getting, how stressful work is, whether we’re exercising and what our diet is like can all impact our mental health. It may also vary depending on whether we have a diagnosis of a mental illness – yes, the two are different, but often conflated.

Sometimes, it can be hard to know how to look after our minds – so, who better to ask than therapists themselves?

“In the first lecture of my counselling diploma, we were asked who is the most important person in the therapy room,” recalls counsellor and psychologist Philip Karahassan. “Everyone put up their hands and said ‘the client’. The lecturer said, ‘You’re all wrong.’ The most important person in the therapy room is the therapist, as if the therapist is not okay, then you can’t help anyone.

“And that has always stuck with me. In order for me to be good at the job, I need to make sure that I feel safe, secure and happy.”

So how does he – and three other therapists – stay mentally well while juggling their day-to-day lives?

Stay nourished and hydrated

Karahassan, a member of Counselling Directory, always ensures he’s got fresh water in the therapy room to stay hydrated – and keep his clients hydrated – throughout the day.

He’ll also eat when he needs to. “You’d be surprised how emotions are dictated by your diet, he says. “A lack of nourishment can have a big impact on how you feel about a situation. Make sure you eat nutritious food and don’t drink too much coffee – something that, in my youth, I was guilty of.”

Always be on time

Karahassan will always leave extra time to get to work or an event so his mindset is right. “If you’re running late for anything it can leave you feeling disempowered, fragile and rushed,” he says. “Therefore, I make sure I arrive half an hour early, just in case there’s a train delay.

“Otherwise, I won’t be in the right headspace [at work]. This gives me the best chance of getting there in a calm and stable emotional state.”

Keep a healthy work-life balance

Counsellor and psychotherapist Natasha Page says a good work-life balance is key to staying well – particularly because she meets a lot of people at work who talk about distressing aspects of their lives.

She’ll make sure she has enough days off to recuperate – as she works for herself, she can tweak her schedule to suit her needs. This may not be suitable for everyone, but Page recommends looking into flexible working if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your job.

When she’s not working, she’ll spend a lot of time with family and friends and always socialise on her days off – this could be going for a walk in the park or having a cuppa. “That connection is really important,” she says.

Move more

Eve Menezes Cunningham, a BACP-accredited therapist and author of 365 Ways To Feel Better, says yoga works wonders for her mental health. “Sometimes it might be what I deem a ‘proper yoga practice’, other times it’s one or two poses,” she says. The Cat-Cow pose is one of her go-tos, she says, as it’s an easy way to connect with the breath and stretch the spine.

Keeping fit, in general, is good for us physically and mentally. Aerobic exercises – including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening and dancing – have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression.

Page also exercises to improve her state of mind. Last year, she took up tennis and says it’s been a great way to work out, but also a rewarding social activity. “You always feel good afterwards,” she says.

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Get outdoors

For psychotherapist Lucy Fuller, a Counselling Directory member, the most important thing for her mental health is to remove herself from everyday life into nature. This might be walking in the forest, along the beach, by a river, or in a local garden or park. She’ll try to go somewhere at a time when it won’t be crowded.

Fuller recommends walking slowly and really looking at the beauty of nature. “If you see buds starting to emerge on the branch of a bush, stop and really look at all the minute details of the bud,” she says. “Smell the air around you, feel the temperature of the day and then slowly continue to walk until you find something else interesting to look at in detail.”

This is what some call a mindful experience, she adds. “It’s really just a way of slowing down your thoughts and connecting with your surroundings in a way that refreshes the mind and body.”

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email:
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on