How to protect against burnout

Peer support and supervision

It is not a weakness to seek peer support and (individual or group) supervision. We would suggest that it should be a priority in this type of work, and not optional.

Develop a good understanding about why offenders with personality disorder present with such challenging behaviours, and have a set of clear and helpful management strategies for responding to different PD presentations. Read this guide!

It can help to maintain realistic expectations about the work, such as not expecting to like PD offenders or be liked by them, and staying calm and not taking things personally. In particular, having realistic expectations about change and what is reasonable and possible, helps in achieving a sense of progress.

Practitioners in forensic services are known for their dark humour – in small doses, it can help to relieve tension and put difficulties in perspective.

Clarity about the job
It helps practitioners to have clarity about the role and responsibilities within the team and within the organisation. Leaders should articulate clear organisational values to which practitioners can feel committed.

Thinking time
Practitioners need to have regular protected reflective time put aside. This ’thinking space’ is used to reflect on how staff work together as a team and with their clients rather than on the management of rotas, tasks and forms, etc. This can help to stimulate personal and professional growth, improve the quality of service delivery and close the gap between principles and practice.

Seek feedback
This can sometimes be the only means of gaining praise to balance out criticism.

Reviewing your workload, prioritise, and cut down on “low-yield” work

Support network
Develop a healthy support network in and outside work

Have a life outside work
Maintain a healthy work/life balance

Learn to relax
Practice regular stress management, take regular holiday breaks and get enough sleep and rest.

Reflective practice means

Taking thinking time once a week instead of clearing your in-tray

Chatting informally with peers about cases

Presenting cases to your supervisor and exploring the offender’s life narrative and your responses to it

Drawing on current knowledge to improve your confidence

Knowing when you feel overwhelmed

Getting better at time management and prioritising tasks

Thinking constructively about why a situation went wrong

Giving yourself a pat on the back for something that went well.