I want to offer some simple, helpful tools to support you as you rebuild your practice.
In reading my last two posts, I hope you’ve experienced three things: relief in knowing you are not the only helping professional who may feel “stuck,” desire to grow into a new way of being with clients and with yourself, and courage in taking some bold new steps toward that direction. For the final post in this series, I thought I’d share a few tools I’ve picked up along the way that relate to these three themes.
Relief: we are not meant to do this work alone
- Team Up. For the last three and a half years, I have had the privilege of meeting monthly with two colleagues who have now become close friends. We started meeting with the intention of supporting one another in clinical and business matters. However, what actually happened was walking alongside one another through the ups and downs of life while being helping professionals. These friends are invaluable to me.
- Learn From Others. One of the best books I have read again and again is Lynn Grodzki’s Twelve Months to Your Ideal Private Practice. She is encouraging, inspiring, challenging and insightful, along with providing numerous practical exercises and suggestions as to how you can become the kind of helping professional that you want to be.
Desire: name what you want
- Vision, Mission, Values. Have you taken any time to name the kind of work you want to do? The kind of helping professional you want to be? The dreams you have for yourself and your clients? When I feel stuck, I have found incredible strength and insight by simply naming what I desire for my practice and myself. Does your practice have a vision statement, mission statement and values? How many clients do you want to see each week? What kind of clients do you want to see? How much will they pay you? I used to believe that naming these desires was too risky because (I would think), “What if it doesn’t happen and I get disappointed?” But after practicing this, I have come to experience that naming our desires energizes our will, and actually invites these good things into our practices and our lives.
- Roadblocks. As we’ve discussed in the last few posts, we all find ourselves getting stuck in different situations and with different clients. With the help of trusted others in my life, I’ve been able to identify the exact places where I get stuck. These realizations weren’t necessarily new but they were profound to identify and to learn from.
I have come to experience that naming our desires energizes our will, and actually invites these good things into our practices and our lives.
Courage: one step at a time
- Stick With Yourself: When I’m working with clients, I often forget that I am in the room too. I am just as much a part of the session as they are, and my own process has a significant impact on the work we do in therapy. When I found myself feeling stuck with clients, I had usually forgotten to check in with myself and had abandoned my own process in order to focus on my client. While therapy is about the client and not the therapist, I do believe that we helping professionals too often forget to “stick with ourselves” and neglect what’s happening for us internally. Checking in with ourselves can give us clues about what is happening with our clients, can bring our awareness to self-of-therapist struggles that need to be attended to so as not to interfere with the therapy, and can reassure us when we’re feeling doubtful or discouraged. Sometimes it even helps to create a mantra you can say to yourself internally, to remind you that you are sticking with yourself.
- Ask for help. It is still hard for me to admit when I am feeling stuck and need help from those who are farther down the therapy road than me. I am very grateful to have a few safe, trusted mentors in my life who know me authentically and are dedicated to my growth as a person and as a therapist. I also trust the way they give me feedback and speak truth that may be hard to hear.
Our self-of-therapist struggles do not have to be places of shame or avoidance or frustration or anger. They are signals to our own processes, and have the potential to be gifts to our clients as we use what we have learned to better serve our clients. If we do the hard (and sometimes scary) work of healing for ourselves, we can be even greater sources of healing for the sake of others.
In this with you,