• November 2019 •

From Juan Navarro, Executive Director
Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Behavioral Health Workforce: Self Care

During this month of giving thanks, I’m grateful for the dedicated people who work at (and with) L.A. CADA. People don’t get rich from a career in treatment, not in the financial sense. Our rewards come in other ways; gratitude expressed by family members and the joy of watching former clients help new ones. But our work isn’t easy and there is a dark side. Behavioral healthcare workers are first-responders to the suffering and trauma caused by substance use and mental health disorders. Not every treatment participant “makes it”, and we face anger, disappointment, depression, anxiety, tight deadlines, and stress on a daily basis. It affects us. Compassion fatigue is a thing.  We can become overwhelmed, experience chronic insomnia, and be haunted by the troubles we see and hear.

In our world, self-care is not a luxury — it’s a requirement.  The most basic self-care is developing a focus on building personal strengths and achieving resilience: behavioral, cognitive, physical, spiritual, and emotional resilience.

Resilience requires four core components: adequate sleep, good nutrition, regular physical activity, and active relaxation. Little things, like washing our hands and face after work can signify a symbolic “washing away” of the hardness of the day. It also helpful to engage with our fellow workers to celebrate successes and mourn sorrows as a group. Just as we help our clients learn to create ceremonies or rituals, behavioral healthcare workers need to do that too. Writing something down that bothers us, and burning it as a symbolic goodbye helps focus our thoughts on letting go of stress or anger.

If you work in behavioral health, take care of yourselves because we need you. For all you do for others, I’m thankful that you have chosen to work with in this field.

Learn More: Caring for Me


Brian L.

“My name is Brian. I’m 44. My recovery, I didn’t do that on my own. I couldn’t. I thank all the caring, compassionate people who helped me and made recovery possible. My counselor (Dakota), all the jail staff, Probation, and START House, they made the difference for me. During my disease, I really isolated myself, and during that time my dad passed and my brother got put in a group home. I used meth every single day, I became homeless, had temporary schizophrenia, and went to jail. That’s what I was able to do on my own. But in treatment, I learned a different lifestyle. It’s really amazing the kind of people who work in addiction treatment, they give so much of themselves in helping us. I can’t think of where I would be without those people. My treatment staff gave me the space to be myself and to grow. So, thank you. And if you’re reading this and still using, listen. If I can do it, that means anyone can do it.  Recovery is different from the sudden highs and lows of active addiction, it’s a slow, progressive process that takes inner work — one day at a time.”


Maslach Burnout Inventory

“Burn-out” isn’t a DSM-5 category or a treatable illness, but it is a reflection of our times. It’s characterized by emotional exhaustion, increased cynicism, job detachment, and feelings of inadequacy or lack of accomplishment. Sound familiar? People seek help for these issues from human service professionals — but what happens when burnout affects the very people who work to help others?

Knowing the extent of our problem is a first step. People in helping professions can turn to the Maslach Burnout Inventory, an evidence-based assessment tool with a version for human service professionals. Considered the “gold standard” for measuring burnout, this instrument assesses three separate areas: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and low sense of personal accomplishment using multiple questions for each of these subscales. Once we understand our issues, the next step is coping with them. Seek professional help as needed, and:

  • Learn more about sources of your stress, both personal and situational. Pay attention to your symptoms.
  • Take better care of yourself—mind, body, spirit. Take control of your personal health and well-being.
  • Never stop learning – take classes to help yourself grow.
  • Talk with colleagues and be active in changing the workplace for the better.


Check out Wikipedia: Maslach Burnout Inventory