As a therapist, the nature of your work can take a significant mental and emotional toll. Over time, continuous stress can lead to burnout, putting you in the difficult position of having to decide whether to remain in practice or not. Burnout is relatively common among mental health professionals, with an estimated 40% prevalence rate of emotional exhaustion.
The good news is, your education, experience, and unique skill set make you an excellent candidate for several other roles related to mental health and wellness. Here, we will explore some alternate career paths for burned-out therapists to consider, plus some helpful strategies on how to address burnout and maximize job satisfaction.
12 Career Alternatives For Burned Out Therapists
- Training And Education
With a deep understanding of people and communication, mental health professionals may find it natural to transition into fields that involve teaching others, such as education and training. Consider teaching courses to local college students, leading post-graduate training programs, or instructing online learning courses.
Delving into the educational side of the mental health field may be an intellectually rewarding experience, allowing you to combine your subject knowledge and clinical experience in a way that can positively influence the next generation of mental health professionals.
As awareness of mental health has grown, so has demand for new wellness initiatives in schools, businesses, organizations, and public programs. As a consultant, you can offer information, insights, recommendations, and training to clients, helping them implement informed policies surrounding human well-being.
Mental health consultants are in demand in corporate, educational, and healthcare settings, where clients seek actionable advice on strategies and best practices. Similarly, mental health consultants may act as policy advisors, helping shape public policy surrounding issues such as mental health and substance use. You can choose a setting that appeals most to you.
You might consider engaging your depth and breadth of knowledge as a writer or author. There is currently substantial demand for articles, blogs, and books on self-help and mental health. As a writer, you can provide value to readers without the emotional intensity of one-on-one therapy.
Begin by building a portfolio of helpful, thoughtfully-written content, pitching your services to businesses, websites, or publishers. You may also consider using social media platforms and blogging sites to share your insights and establish yourself as a thought leader in the mental health field.
- Mental Health Researcher
Mental health researchers work in academia and public health, helping build a foundation of research on which to base public policy, treatment interventions, and educational programs. Their work typically involves designing studies, collecting data, and analyzing and reporting results.
Depending on your area of interest, you may choose to pursue clinical, social, behavioral, or neuroscientific research, as well as policy research aimed at shifting public policy toward mental health. This may be the right fit for those with strong analytical and project management skills.
- Life Coaching
As a licensed therapist or counselor, you may have a competitive advantage in the coaching industry. Consider putting your expertise and credentials to use as a life or wellness coach, helping clients achieve their goals with guided programs, one-on-one consultations, and other services aimed at self-help and personal growth.
Life coaching may be the right option for therapists who would like to create unique, highly-personalized client experiences including workshops, retreats, and digital courses. Rather than working with your clients through past traumas and psychological issues, life coaching allows you to take a more positive, future-oriented approach with them.
- Corporate Wellness Coordinator
Many large organizations now recognize the importance of employee well-being, with many investing in wellness programs and expertise. As a corporate wellness coordinator, you can use your understanding of people and mental health issues to help companies implement vital employee wellness programs and initiatives.
Corporate wellness coordinators are typically responsible for designing, implementing, and managing these programs, as well as advocating for policies aimed at fostering a healthy work-life balance. This may involve organizing and even speaking at seminars, workshops, physical fitness programs, and even social events.
Mediators are trained professionals that specialize in helping people resolve conflicts and disputes through guided communication and negotiation. They often work in courts, corporations, and educational institutions, helping manage conflicts related to divorce, family disputes, and interpersonal or workplace conflicts.
Mediation may be a useful alternative career for therapists, especially those with a background in family or marriage counseling. To become a mediator, you may need to complete a training program and certification process in your state or province.
- Art Or Music Therapist
If you have interest or experience in the arts, you might consider shifting into the growing field of music or art therapy. While traditional one-on-one sessions may be emotionally taxing, creative therapy can help clients process and channel their thoughts and feelings in structured and enjoyable ways.
Creative therapies can be especially beneficial for children and adolescents, as well as adults who may have a hard time expressing their emotions. As an art or music therapist, you would still be able to offer mental health services but might find the added element of creative expression to ease the emotional burden that can sometimes accompany therapy.
- Career Counseling
Mental health professionals may find career counseling to be a rewarding alternative to traditional therapeutic roles. As a career counselor, you can use your understanding of human emotions and behavior, motivation, and self-actualization to guide clients toward jobs and career paths that align with their needs and goals.
You may be uniquely positioned to help your clients find fulfillment in their career, helping them understand the interplay between career or job satisfaction and overall well-being. You can help them set goals, plan for the future, and identify and overcome any obstacles that may be getting in the way.
- Retreat Or Workshop Leader
Retreats and workshops have become a popular way for businesses, universities, and faith organizations to help individuals learn and grow through unique, short-term events that foster skill-building, emotional exploration, and personal growth. This might be a favorable career option for therapists who thrive in group settings and want to help create immersive and enjoyable experiences.
As a leader and depending on the client, you might be expected to design and lead programs around themes such as mindfulness, relationship-building, or emotional intelligence. These programs may include discussion groups, team-building exercises, lectures, and summits.
- Public Speaking, Podcasting, And Social Media Influencing
For therapists interested in reaching a wide audience, it may be worth considering a more public-facing role such as public speaking or social media influencing. With your education, expertise, and clinical experience, you may be well-poised to speak on subjects related to wellness, relationships, or even specific mental health conditions.
This may involve building an audience on social media platforms, producing a podcast or radio program, or speaking at public or private events. For therapists who are interested in helping expand public understanding of mental health and wellness, these types of roles may be worth considering.
- Non-Profit Work
Therapists may find non-profit work to be a fulfilling career alternative. Mental health nonprofits, for example, may offer a way to apply your knowledge and experience in new ways while helping inform and educate the public about the importance of mental health.
Consider browsing job listings posted by nonprofits conducting work that aligns with your values and areas of interest and see if there are any that may be an appropriate fit for your educational and experiential background. Depending on your role, you may be involved in research, educational outreach, advocacy, or program development.
Addressing Burnout As A Therapist
Before making the decision to change careers, it may be worth exploring some strategies for overcoming burnout and developing a healthier relationship with your profession. Take some time to examine what may be contributing to your burnout and consider whether it might be possible to improve your work-life balance without switching careers.
- Self-Care: As a therapist, you likely already understand how crucial self-care can be to overall well-being. Ensure you are making enough time for self-care, maintaining your physical health, and using mindfulness and relaxation techniques to help manage your stress response. Consider taking some time off to allow yourself to relax and decompress. If you do not already see a therapist, you might try seeking mental health support to help you work through any issues that may be contributing to heightened stress.
- Professional And Organizational Strategies: Consult with supervisors and peers to explore new ways to address your work environment or job structure with the aim of improving your work-life balance. This might include redistributing your workload, switching to online-only sessions, streamlining processes, and conferring about difficult cases.
- Re-Evaluation And Career Change: If burnout persists, it may be time to reassess your job or career. Before switching careers entirely, however, consider whether it may be worth switching practices or starting your own private practice. For example, many therapists find that online platforms like BetterHelp offer greater flexibility in terms of when and how much they work. If you feel strongly that moving away from therapy is the right move, your exit strategy may involve choosing an alternate career path, updating your resume, and reaching out to your professional network.
Addressing Burnout With Online Therapy
Feeling burned out as a therapist can make it more difficult to care for yourself and do your job well. If you’re trying to decide on your next steps, it could be useful to speak to an online therapist for support. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp allow you to connect with a therapist from anywhere at anytime using phone calls, videoconferencing, or in-app messaging.
Beyond getting mental health support, a provider can also work with you to figure out your career goals and assess other options. For some therapists, working on a platform like BetterHelp helps them prevent stress and burnout by having more control over how often they work. This could be something to discuss with your therapist to see if it might be the right option for you.
The Efficacy Of Online Therapy
Research has shown that online therapy can successfully address various mental health disorders and other concerns, including burnout and stress. In one study, researchers assessed the effectiveness of an online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention created for healthcare workers admist the COVID-19 pandemic. The intervention was not only “effective in treating and preventing a number of stress-related disorders” but it also prevented the onset of mental health disorders. CBT is an approach that teaches people how to turn their unhelpful thoughts into more positive ways of thinking.
While therapy can be a valuable and fulfilling career for many, the emotional nature of the work can take a toll on mental health and job satisfaction, while admin duties and other work responsibilities can further exacerbate job stress. However, there are several other career paths in which therapists may be uniquely poised to excel. To begin working toward improved mental well-being and job satisfaction, consider connecting with a therapist who understands what you’re going through on the BetterHelp platform.