Stress is our body’s natural way of responding to the demands of life and is something we all experience. However, when stressors accumulate it can create chronic stress that becomes hard to manage. Working with forensic clients comes with its own unique set of challenges and stressors such as threats to self, challenging client behaviours, compassion fatigue, burnout and exposure to vicarious trauma, which can all have effects on mental health.

While different people experience and respond to stress differently, some of the consequences of chronic stress include sleep disturbance, poor concentration, confusion, anxiety and headaches.

Why practice self-care in the workplace?

Self-care is an important practice that facilitates competency and ethical practice, and assists in maintaining clarity of judgment – which are especially important when working with forensic populations. If you start to feel stressed or overwhelmed, it can be helpful to take time to understand the causes of your stress. Prioritising time to practice self-care and support yourself during stressful times can help to mitigate its negative effects and help you to be more in control of your reactions and emotions. It is important to be aware of the effects of our work on our mental health and wellbeing, and implement strategies to address these effects and ensure self-care.

Strategies to help manage stress in the workplace:

  • Know when to remove yourself from a stressful situation. Take a walk or make a cup of tea to give yourself some time to reset.
  • Maintain work-life balance; establish boundaries and rules.
  • Take proper work breaks and take time off when you need it
  • Monitor your caseload (aim for a variety of clients/presenting issues)
  • Seek help from colleagues, supervisors or your EAP provider.
  • Debrief
  • Learn and practice techniques to reduce stress levels
  • Focus on what you CAN do, rather than trying to change things that aren’t going to shift
  • Share your feelings in an appropriate setting (e.g. supervision)

Simple self-care tips:

  • Do physical activity that you enjoy walking, running, yoga, gym, gardening
  • Take time for relaxing activitiesjournaling, breathing exercises, listening to music
  • Plenty of rest
  • Take time for planned relaxation
  • Make the pleasurable things you do a priority
  • Share your feelings with others
  • Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
  • Take time to eat healthy and nourishing foods
  • Make time for self-reflection

What self-care strategies work for you? If one isn’t working for you, try another for a change. Remember, not all approaches will work for everyone, so try different things until you find a strategy that suits you.

Strategies for Team Leaders

Team Leaders and managers can help to create a team culture that supports staff and helps to reduce workplace stress. Some strategies include:

  • Providing opportunities/space to listen to concerns of their team members
  • Finding ways to address these concerns
  • Supporting staff to take breaks and to leave work at work
  • Include relaxation activities as part of the day to day work (walk at lunch-time, yoga/meditation before work)
  • Consider walking meetings to get staff away from the office/desk
  • Provide regular supervision and peer support
  • Keep staff members up to date with any changes in the organisation – communicate regularly
  • Encourage team members to generate new ideas for the team to function
  • Hold team building days or activities to encourage a supportive workplace for all staff

Six free mental health and wellbeing tools we recommend:

Smiling Mind

Smiling mind is a mindfulness meditation app designed by psychologists to provide children and adults with simple and practical mindfulness tools. The app can set daily meditation reminders and help you develop more advanced mindfulness practices as your skills develop.

Free Guided Meditations

UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center provides a range of introductory mindfulness meditation practices, with sessions including “Breathing Meditation” and “Body Scan Meditation”.

ReachOut Breathe

ReachOut Breathe helps users to actively reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. The app helps you control your breathe and measures your heart rate using the camera in your phone, helping you control some of the symptoms of stress such as shortness of breath, increased heart rate and tightness of the chest.

Music eScape

Music eScape uses your music library to create a playlist based on your mood. The app lets you create a music playlist to match your mood or select a music journey to express, enhance or change your mood.


MyCompass is a personalised and interactive self-help tool aimed to help people improve their mental health and gain control of stress or anxiety.


The Headsup website provides a range of information and strategies to implement in personal and workplace contexts to help improve mental health and wellbeing.



Darcy Brown, Artemis Igoumenou, Anna-marie Mortlock, Nitin Gupta, Mrigendra Das, (2017) “Work-related stress in forensic mental health professionals: a systematic review”, Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 19 Issue: 3, pp.227-238

Dreier, A. S., & Wright, S. (2011). Helping society’s outcasts: The impact of counseling sex offenders. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 33(4), 359-376.

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