How Can We Support Our Primary Caregivers?

Many clients come to therapy struggling to maintain and balance there many roles of life, caregiving being one of them. Maybe you or someone you love is a caregiver at home to children, at work to patients, or after hours to aging parents and loved ones. While a fulfilling career or a rewarding life stage, caregiving can have unintended consequences and take a toll on the physical and emotional well being. Being a parent is a busy time in anyone’s life, and it’s not uncommon to feel the stresses from every direction. The reality for many families is that someone is often doing the “third shift”, meaning they’re responsible for their own children, caring for their aging parents, while also still working in a paid job. 

Unpaid caregiving can be linked to reduced mental and physical health, affecting quality of life. At the same time, it intersects with paid caregiving, meaning, caregivers are often faced with giving up one of their roles (paid or unpaid) or face negative health outcomes (Dugan, & Barnes-Farrell, 2020; Mendias et al., 2011; Prikhidko & Swank, 2018). In a study on mothers who also worked as nurses, they found that many of these women experienced physical and psychological exhaustion of being needed in such a demanding way in two dominant roles, and separating work from home (Firmin & Bailey, 2008). 

So, what can we do to reduce the daily stressors of caregiving? 

Working with a therapist is one place to find support and create resilence! A therapist:

  • can be a great place for our primary caregivers to gain insight in their own understanding of ideals and expectations around motherhood, and create a softened understanding of their experience (Dugan, & Barnes-Farrell, 2020; Prikhidko & Swank, 2018). 
  • can help the client identify irrational beliefs and can help foster balance for both paid working mothers and stay-at-home mothers who are struggling between different spheres. 
  • can help with general stress reduction tools to add to the toolbox, but also help a client address their life demands and personal resource ratio (Dugan, & Barnes-Farrell, 2020; Prikhidko & Swank, 2018).


  • According to Kim-Godwin et al. (2020) journal writing is an effective tool mothers can use to help strengthen relationships, increase self-compassion, and increase their energy.
  • After a 6-week study: mothers reported journaling led to more positive thinking, increased well-being, and increased mental health self-care.  

The take aways: You or your loved ones are not alone in their experiences of caregiving. It can be overwhelming and guilt producing to find caregiving both rewarding and draining at the same time. Reaching out for help and creating purposeful self-care strategies are great places to start!

Written by Kelsey McAlister, MA, RHN