Those that read my blog regularly know that something I write about often are my concerns about our profession as a whole. I recently saw some things on the internet that made me feel even more concerned. Occupation Information Network puts out a list of the most stressful jobs in America. You can read the Business Insider article about it here . Number two on the list, just under police officers is, you guessed it, counselors. We are the second most stressful job in America, coming in at an Average salary of $40,000. If you look at the list, the only other jobs listed that are low paying are other jobs in the mental health field. We take on a lot of stress, have a lot of legal responsibility over our client’s lives, and really aren’t being fairly reimbursed for it.
Another thing I found on the internet was a list of the fattest professions. You can read that one here. Counselors came in at second place, right behind police officers once again. My first really successful blog post I wrote was about the relationship between obesity and mental health. To quickly summarize it, the research shows a clear link between weight gain and stress. You can try to push through the stress all you want, but it will have an effect on you one way or another. If you continuously ignore stress and don’t take care of yourself, that effect is often weight gain.
I was thinking though that it wasn’t quite that simple. Yes, law enforcement and mental health are both the most stressful and fattest professions, but I didn’t think it was as simple as “we’re the fattest because we’re the most stressed.” I thought about it and realized that there was another way the two professions were similar too: no set meal times. Cops never know when they’re going to get to have lunch or dinner. They could be taking that first bite into their sandwich just to get an emergency call, or they could get nonstop calls all day and not get a break. You never know when you’re going to get that break, so you just eat when you can, and you eat quickly, and you sometimes eat when you’re not hungry at all just to try to prevent hunger later. Counseling is the same way. The only steady meal I have is breakfast. Because a lot of people come in during their lunch breaks, which can range from 11am to 2pm, you either end up having lunch very early or very late. Dinner is also a wash. The most popular time for appointment is after work, which starts at 3pm and goes until 9pm. You have to book all these hours because we’re not paid enough to set aside an in-demand time to have a set lunch hour like most people. So you end up eating a whole meal in the maybe 5 minutes you get in between clients.
I’m not writing this article because I want to complain or because I want to be a martyr: I want things to change. Things have gotten to where they are because therapists are afraid of making waves. Everytime a therapist points out how poorly we’re being reimbursed they get told that they’re selfish, money-hungry, or don’t care about their clients. No one went into this profession because they expected to get rich, but we do expect to be paid fairly.