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Episode Summary


As our guest on this episode of All About Kids knows from two decades of first-hand experience, speech and language pathologists tend to be people-pleasing perfectionists. And that’s a recipe for chronic burnout! A certified life coach who is herself still a practicing SLP, Angie Merced knows the stresses and expectations faced out in the field. She is sharing with Host Zach Grossfeld what we need to keep an eye out for, even as we’re wrapped up in the daily tasks of managing overwhelming caseloads and paperwork. Angie also tells us how to recognize when we are at risk for burnout (there are a number of clear-cut signs) and offers actionable advice to help keep us on track. Unsurprisingly, self-care is foundational to burnout recovery. The problem? Like many people in all walks of life, SLPs often suffer from Imposter Syndrome or mistakenly regard self-compassion as laziness. Find out how Angie’s coaching weaves together self-awareness, boundary setting, healthy practices and other tools to sustain a healthy commitment to – and passion for – your mission as an SLP!

Want to find out more about Angie’s coaching? Click here to subscribe to her newsletter or download 5 Effective Ways for SLPs (Like You) to Get Your Time Back. You can also check out the resources available at her Facebook group, Unstoppable SLP Burnouts, at this link.

Want to listen to the entire AAK podcast archive? Visit this link to tune in using your favorite streaming platform. 

Episode Notes

  1. Angie shares her origin story – and the evolution of her career to date:
    1. She was drawn early on to counseling but found her passion in speech and language pathology as well as an opportunity to be a helper. 
    2. Having practiced for 20 years, Angie loves helping kids in particular and continues to work as a school-based SLP.
    3. The specific, focused nature of speech pathology appealed to Angie’s love of rigor and desire to be of service to others.
  1. How Angie coped with burnout and got past the shame:
    1. Transitioning to school-based therapy was stressful and proved a tipping point for her cumulative sense of overwork and loss of mission.
    2. Imposter syndrome and chronic overwhelm contributed to Angie’s desire to quit her work as an SLP altogether.
    3. In becoming a life coach as an alternative, Angie inadvertently found her niche as a guide who can bring life, health and wellness skills to fellow SLPs.
    4. “In the process of becoming a life coach I developed the skills of being more confident, having more trust in myself, acknowledging myself, setting boundaries – all those skills I needed to avoid burnout in my first career.” (Angie)
  1. More about Imposter Syndrome – an equal opportunity shadow:
    1. How even the most accomplished of people suffer self-doubt and feelings of fraudulence.
    2. Why SLPs are especially prone to Imposter Syndrome. (Hint: Perfectionism and a desire to please are common tendencies among many in the field.)
    3. About the scripts we carry in our heads and how coaching can help expose and temper the “comparing and despairing.”
    4. Distinguishing between arrogance, which is counter-productive, and a healthy sense of self, self-confidence and self-awareness.
    5. Why Angie believes SLPs can benefit from recognizing the blend of art and science (including experimentation and iteration) inherent in their work.
    6. “Things aren’t always going to be a success. I’m supposed to fail sometimes. That’s part of how we develop.” (Angie)
  1. Do you recognize any of these signs of burnout?
    1. Persistent mental and physical exhaustion.
    2. Feeling scattered and disorganized.
    3. Low functioning.
    4. Increasing tunnel vision.
    5. Resistance to (or defensiveness around) offers of help and support.
  1. About Angie’s primary approach to burnout intervention:
    1. Recognize the need for self-care!
    2. Begin practicing self-compassion.
    3. Foster nourishment (through food and other somatic practices).
    4. Integrate gentle practices that support physical and emotional health.
    5. Consider whether it’s time to initiate some boundaries or seek professional help to better manage at work.
  1. Advice for busy parents and SLPs who feel self-care isn’t a real option:
    1. If you don’t commit to nurturing your mental and physical health, you ultimately will not be fully able to support others.
    2. It’s critical to make non-negotiable appointments with ourselves, prioritizing some sort of self-focused activity at least once a week.
    3. Show up for yourself – just as you would a doctor’s appointment. 
    4. “When you’re in burnout, you have to give yourself some mental space to find your way out of it … When you’re back-to-back nonstop, your brain doesn’t have the capacity to problem solve or try something different.” (Angie)
  1. Some of the common causes Angie sees among SLPs with burnout:
    1. Paperwork!  
    2. Overwhelming caseloads.
    3. Unrealistic schedules and lack of resources.
    4. Self-doubt generated by feeling like they’re failing.
    5. General stress and fatigue.
    6. “As SLPs, the most powerful thing we can do is make sure we keep time in our schedules. What is not good is … doing four or five hours of work at home, which devalues the service we provide. It’s all free labor.” (Angie)
  1. What agencies can do to recognize (and prevent) burnout among SLPs:
    1. Implement realistic timetables and expectations.
    2. Provide efficiency hacks to reduce the stress of paperwork and other routines.
    3. Remind practitioners that they are both artist and scientist – and encourage them to be creative in problem-solving.
    4. “The main causes of burnout are perfectionism, people pleasing and hyper-productivity programming. What gets us to burnout is the fear of looking lazy. In our culture self-care itself looks lazy.” (Angie)
  1. Advice for SLPs fresh out of graduate students:
    1. Remember to set boundaries – even when you feel like you could (or should) be working nonstop all the time.
    2. Give yourself mental and physical space in order to recharge batteries.
    3. Consciously let yourself do something badly. It’s okay to be a work in progress!
    4. When you accept that learning means making mistake, it supports the freedom to experiment and get creative.
    5. Resist the urge to compare and despair!
    6. Recognize that in the early stages things will take time and effort, but that over time that investment will pay off and tasks will become easier.
  1. What it’s like to work with a burnout coach who specializes in helping SLPs:
    1. The work focuses a lot on cultivating self-compassion and self-trust.
    2. Digging into negative scripts and other mental habits can be challenging, but there are tools to ease the process.
    3. Coaches can provide the framework for self-evaluation and a strategy to sustain a sense of well-being and fun over the long run of your career!
    4. Angie uses a holistic approach that assesses and support the entire person.

About Our Guest:

Angie Merced is a certified life coach who specializes in helping her fellow speech pathologists combat burnout and rediscover the joy in their work. Her career as an SLP spans 20 years.

Contact/Follow Our Guest:

Website | LinkedIn

About All About Kids:

AAK provides diagnostic evaluations as well as direct and consultative behavioral intervention services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. After comprehensive assessment, each child has a portfolio or program book designed specifically to meet his or her individualized needs. The quality of our ABA services are closely monitored through program and field supervision as well as ongoing consultation by BCBA’s/BCaBA’s, and Experienced Team Leaders. 

Click here for a link to comprehensive educational and support resources. Previous podcast episodes and more information about All About Kids is available here.


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