The word stress has become part of our everyday language. We talk about having a stressful week – when what we mean is we were really busy and are feeling a little tired. We talk about how stressful the children have been – when we mean they have been naturally boisterous and we are felling our age. We talk about how we find a friend stressful to deal with – when we mean he or she is demanding in some way. Stress is certainly a much used word.
However, for those working in the stress counselling field stress has a particular meaning. Academics and medics continue to debate hotly what the definition and model of stress should be. However the pragmatic practitioner in the absence of a universally agreed model usually refers to stress as ‘the psychological, physiological and behavioural response by an individual when they perceive a lack of balance between the demands placed on them and their ability to meet those demands’ (Palmer, S, Occupational Stress. 1996). No one is immune from the biological effects of stress and there are many studies which suggest a strong link between stress and a range of illnesses.
Counsellors are not immune from the effects of stress. Indeed like many people in the caring professions we willingly work with individuals who tax our personal and professional resources. The BACP Ethical Framework for practitioners places an obligation on counsellors to ‘monitor the point at which they are no longer competent to practice’.
However I wonder how comfortable and able we are at recognising, monitoring and dealing with our own stress levels to enable such recognition to take place?