Maintaining Your Sanity in the Human Services Field: A Few Quick Tips

We all know any kind of casework can be extremely stressful. Case managers and social workers can sometimes carry caseloads of 50 to over 100 cases in a given situation.  The pressure to keep up with all of the documentation, getting basic job tasks done and maintaining a high level of customer service can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health.  After almost 20 years in the human services field, I have come up with a few tips to maintain your own sanity as a professional in this field.
You’re not Superman/Woman
 When I first entered the mental field I tried to solve every problem and address every issue with the same intensity. I found out quickly that this is next to impossible. It is important to pace yourself. Prioritize responsibilities and delegate some when possible. Trying to resolve every problem all at once will all but guarantee burnout.

You Can’t Please Everyone
Another tip is to understand that you can’t please everyone all of the time. There are just some situations that will not end in customer or even employer satisfaction no matter how hard you try. In situations involving large caseloads, there will always be someone in need or problems that need to be solved. You will rarely have a long period of time where everyone is happy and satisfied with services. Remember that people require mental health or other support services for a reason and they depend on you for stability.

You’re Not Perfect (And never will be)
No one is perfect. And spoiler alert: You will never be.  Of course you should still try your best to get things done and do as much as you can for your clients. My advice is just not to beat yourself up over not having everything perfect. Human service professionals face some of the most unrealistic expectations.  These expectations likely continue to become even more unrealistic with increased regulations and more pressure to meet these guidelines in order to be reimbursed from Medicaid and other funding sources.

Natural Consequences are Okay
Sometimes natural consequences can help resolve difficult situations. Often times as clinicians we try so hard to help difficult clients that we run ourselves ragged. I have learned that natural consequences for behaviors such as crimes and other inappropriate behaviors tend to have a greater long-term effect. These consequences could include loss of employment, suspensions from programs, and incarceration in some cases. In many cases (not all), these consequences were enough to initiate long-term change and improvements in behavior.

Try not to take work home
This is one where I definitely need to take my own advice. Although it’s sometimes unavoidable, try not to bring work home or let it carry into quality time with family or spill into quality free time for yourself.


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Martin Gardner
Thanks for visiting Case Management Basics! Martin Gardner is the founder of and Case Management Basics, LLC. Gardner is a mental health professional with over 20 years of experience in the human services field.

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