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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Personal Wellness Plan as Counselor by Tony Astro

With the strain of our job as counselors, health and fitness or wellness is very vital to success of psychotherapy. From previous postings, we are convinced that Vicarious traumatization or compassion fatigue could be a result if counselors does not have an appropriate Personal Wellness Plan.

Being in the military, exercise is mandatory because of the remarkable amount of trauma or pressure of deployments, combat and everyday duty at an average of 12 hours / day.

Research has shown that exercise serves to protect the immune system and serves as an acceptable way to express anxiety, anger, frustration, feeling out of control, and helplessness (Culligan & Sedlacek, 1980; DeBenedette, 1988; Kirkcaldy & Shephard, 1990; Rosato, 1990; Sutherland & Cooper, 1990).

So for the first proactive measure, a physically strenuous workout twice or thrice a week is important including a healthy regimen diet. Being said is different than being done. With this hands-on practice of good daily habits, it needs a strong disciplined control to do it. Being in a team makes it easier because of accountability. Without accountability or a partner, wavering of this plan is imminent.

Effective counseling is not doable when our wellbeing is out of shape: physically or mentally and so mental condition should also be kept in shape by meditation, journal, yoga, proper breathing or simply reading a great book. As a second proactive measure, counselor has tried most of them and prayer including journaling is the one that made a good effect on personal wellness.

Praying is a dialogue between you and an unseen counselor. The expression in voice or mind aids the counselor profess issues or anxiety including VT or compassion fatigue. This goes along with journaling and the only difference is written scripts maybe read interchangeably as counselor or counselee while praying is unwritten yet speaking to an “imaginary” counselor depending on counselors’ religious conviction.

The bottom line is, physical and mental health is important for this counselor. Our goal is the same for the patient and practicing what we advocate during our counseling will be obvious to all patients.

Lastly, counselors cannot work single-handedly all the time. We all need reinforcement from those who has been through the practice of counseling. Their experience will help sustain both our physical and mental capacity.

Every year, the Navy Counselors Association is held in different parts of the country. Last year, over 700 Navy Counselors met in San Diego for a one week conference learning new methods, ideas, regulations about the profession of Navy Counseling. The network of contacts adds or gives each counselor new perspective on how individual counselors do their particular job even though they have the Navy standards posted online or publicized in instructions. Fortunately, this counselor has attended the last 7 years of this symposium and every time after a week, confidence and work attitude is improved.


Culligan, M.J., & Sedlacek, K. (1980). How to avoid stress before it kills you. New York: Gramercy.

DeBenedette, V. (1988). Getting fit for life: Can exercise reduce stress? The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 16, 185-200.

Kirkcaldy, B.D., & Shephard, R.J. (1990). Therapeutic implications of exercise. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 21, 165-184.

Patrick, P. (2007). Contemporary issues in counseling. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Last edited on: November 5, 2008 6:41 PM
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