ProTip

ProTip: Spotlight from Work Muse on Job Sharing with Blake & Tracy

We are thrilled to share a collaboration with the founder of Work Muse, Melissa Nicholson, who has a series of interviews with us on our “accidental job share” of co-owning and co-directing our wonderful group practice here. Our first article highlights the ways we put our work relationship first, so that we can bring our best selves to our partnership, our team, our clients and our families. It’s not always easy, but it’s always richly rewarding. We take time to really check in with each other, we show up for each other, we talk it out, and we know how to have fun while doing hard work:

We owe this to ourselves and each other, as well as our therapists and clients. Good communication = love + directness. We don’t wait to talk until we’re burning in resentment. Little things can slide, but the stuff that gets us in our feels is a signal it’s time to talk. Conflict resolution makes your partnership stronger. -Blake & Tracy

Never heard of job sharing? Work Muse is on a mission to bring this creative approach to the work/life balance dilemma so that more men and women can build personal and professional lives that offer flexibility, support, productivity and more joy. Learn more about job sharing and Work Muse’s story here.

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April Updates from Anastasia

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The past few months have been full and rewarding. We've had the opportunity to connect with representatives from the Eating Recovery Center, Insight Behavioral Health Center, and Open Sky Wilderness Therapy They care for so many different people and cater to many different needs, and all are connected by a deep commitment to the individuals and families they support.

Earlier this spring I visited the Eating Recovery Center in Austin. It is a beautiful facility located in North Austin. They care for children, adolescents, and adults with anorexia nervosa, AFRID, binge eating disorder, bulimia, diabulimia, OSFED, and mood & anxiety disorders. They have different levels of care which include partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and virtual intensive outpatient program. I had a chance to meet some of their staff which included registered dieticians and mental health professionals. They were all very knowledgeable, kind, and passionate about the work they do. Their facility has many large group rooms, individual offices for private sessions, and a dining room for their clients which utilizes supervised meal support. Their treatment is grounded in ACT, DBT, CBT, and Family-Based Treatment.

The following week I visited Insight Behavioral Health Center, which is partnered with the Eating Recovery Center, located in Round Rock. It had a very similar feel as ERC; I saw the same kindness, knowledge, and passion for their work. Insight Behavioral Health Center has an intensive outpatient program and a partial hospitalization program for adolescents and adults with mood, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders as well as other behavioral issues. They have large group rooms, individual offices for private sessions, and they are in the process of expanding their office to be able to assist more individuals. Very exciting! They utilize ACT, DBT, CBT, and ERP, with trauma-informed care being the foundation to their approach in group and individual therapy. 

If you want to visit or learn more about ERC or Insight, the very kind and friendly Professional Relations Liaison, Sara Helms, is available and can offer even more information on the range of programs and services offered. Thanks for hosting us, Sara!

Later on in the month, we welcomed the Clinical Outreach Director at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, Jill Hutcheson, to our offices. She was absolutely lovely and so passionate about the work that happens at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy in Durango, Colorado. They take an innovative and holistic approach to treatment for adolescents, young adults and families navigating a wide range of mental health issues and substance abuse, especially individuals who may be resistant to therapy. As a family-systems-centered practice, we're particularly drawn to the work they do in connecting the whole family to the treatment process. Please check out their website for more information on the services they provide. 

We are honored to work in such a strong, dedicated and passionate community. 

Much Metta, 
Anastasia

ProTip: "Should I Work With a Male Therapist?"

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I want to let you in on a little not-so-secret reality: in the therapy world, male therapists are a bit of a minority.  As a member of this smaller group, I’m often asked if it would be appropriate or effective for a female to work with a male therapist or even why someone, male or female, would choose to work with a man.  Although we are trained to be able to work with all individuals regardless of gender and sex identification, I’ve come to understand that some individuals have trepidation in working with a male therapist, and wonder how I could possibly understand/help/connect with a female client or if I will be as “nurturing” as a female therapist.  There are some preconceived notions about working with a man that can be helpful to unpack and I thought this would be a good opportunity to get some of these concerns and feelings out in the open and talk about them, which is just what therapy is all about after all:

  • “As a woman, I would be more comfortable talking to another woman about my issues.”  While I appreciate and respect the desire and perspective that speaking with a counselor of the same sex provides comfort and safety, I’ve found that many female clients find great solace working with a male therapist.  Some women haven’t been afforded the opportunity to engage in and experience a healthy relationship with a man, or have had negative experiences with men in their lives. Through the positive experience of working with a male therapist, some women are able to experience a totally new way of relating to men and having the healing power of a therapeutic alliance with a man.
  • “I think I’d rather my teenage daughter work with a woman.”  Some parents feel worried about their daughters engaging in a therapeutic relationship with a man, either because they are fearful that she won’t relate to a man or that it will limit what she is able to talk about with me.  My experience, though, has been that many teenage girls find safety and comfort in working with a male therapist.  In seeing a male therapist who is healthy, establishes appropriate boundaries, in tune with his feelings, compassionate, and attentive, adolescent girls often report feelings of empowerment and a great appreciation in being able to challenge their perceptions of men and to get to experience a male role model who they can really be themselves with and feel safe.
  • “Although I’m a guy, I really think I want to work with a woman.  Other guys don’t really know how to talk about this stuff.”  I get it.  Society has taught us that men aren’t supposed to talk about their feelings nor be able to express empathy and understanding to others. Through the effective modeling and authenticity of a strong relationship with a male therapist, men are able to experience a healthy and mature way of interacting with other men. This often plays in stark contrast to the Hollywood depiction of how guys interact with each other which often provides men with a new appreciation and bolstered comfort in engaging with other men outside the therapy room.

Making the decision to reach out to someone for therapy can be scary and makes us feel extremely vulnerable.  With this, it is absolutely understandable that we all want to feel as safe and secure as we possibly can throughout this process, and part of my job is working with all my clients in creating this felt sense of safety and connection. So if you’re wondering what it would be like to work with a male therapist, reach out to me and let’s explore how I can support you in your journey.

Justin works with all ages and genders and currently facilitates a teen Identity and Relationship group for all genders as well as GirlTalk Therapy groups for teen girls. Learn more about Justin here!

ProTip (For Therapists): Educating Yourself About Systemic Racial Oppression

ProTips are blog posts for therapists, social workers, educators, and counselors in training. 

For those of us who take a systemic approach to counseling we acknowledge the impact of our clients’ roles in a variety of systems - whether it be their families, romantic relationships, office hierarchies, their intimate communities or within the society at large. If we take the initiative to become well-versed in attachment, birth order, organizational communication, etc…. one could then argue that we also have a responsibility to educate ourselves on the influence of systemic oppression as well.

We get it, race relations are an emotionally charged topic, and America’s history of oppression is a dark one, however as therapists, we are all too familiar with the concept of sitting with the “hard stuff” and “leaning into” discomfort. Historically, our nation has perpetrated a number of acts of racial terror on its citizens. And while we get closer and closer to racial equity, from an intergenerational perspective, the trauma of this oppression has been passed down for decades.

This post is merely meant to introduce the question and provide a path for you to begin to find some answers. It should be made clear, that it is not the responsibility of the oppressed to educate those with privilege, but thankfully, there are plenty of stories being told and resources available for those who seek a more thorough and accurate history of racial oppression in America.

The Equal Justice Initiative created an illustrated video that briefly, but powerfully explains the transition from slavery to mass incarceration of America’s black citizens.

Looking for more ways to become educated about institutionalized oppression? Below are some excellent resources to start your journey:

Cozy Your Way to Calm

Most of the year, my suggestions to sleep under a weighted blanket to reduce night-time anxiety and increase quality of sleep are met with a bit of eye-rolling and some complaints about the typically high temperatures we all endure.  But now that the weather in Central Texas has finally shifted from “unbearably hot” to “just cool enough for us all to pretend we live somewhere with seasons,” it’s the prime time to encourage clients to embrace the calming power of deep pressure.   

Using weighted objects like blankets or vests, can help calm the sympathetic nervous system and release serotonin, providing clients struggling with anxiety with an increased sense of well-being.

 Image source: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/543329-keep-calm-and-carry-on

Image source: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/543329-keep-calm-and-carry-on

ParentTip: Childhood Grief - How You Can Help

Grief can be a difficult process for most people, but it can be especially troublesome for children when they can’t put words to their emotions or feel like no one understands them. Teachers, parents, coaches, uncles - no matter the role, most of us have children in our lives that we care for in some capacity.

While grief can lend itself to feelings of helplessness, there are actually some concrete ways that adults can support children through the grieving process. An article in the Huffington Post suggested that one of the most important things being to accept a child’s feelings and avoid the urge to just ‘cheer them up.’ Easier said than done right? But think for a moment, if you’d lost someone you loved and rather than listen to your thoughts and feelings someone just told you to feel better, wouldn’t you feel a bit dismissed? It’s a very similar experience for children. When a child is angry, sad, or upset your role as a loving adult can normalize those feelings and provide a safe space to work through them. The Coalition of Grieving Students has created a manual for helping children work through the loss of a loved one.

 

More helpful resources can be found below:

What Not to Say

Informing a Child of a Significant Death

First Session Feels

As a therapist, there’s something exciting about a first session! Have you ever felt that way? Ready and eager to meet someone new, learn about their story and see how you connect? Or maybe nervous and unsure, questioning your ability to meet the client where he or she is, wondering whether you will be able to help. The stakes can feel high when there’s the added pressure of building your practice and you want every client that walks in your door to stay forever! Perhaps you’ve felt this whirl in the pit of your stomach when you were early in your career, or after making a move to a new city and establishing fresh roots, or even if you’ve been in the game for quite a while and still wrestling with the uncertainty and unknowability that comes with being in private practice. There seems, at times, so much to “cover” in the first session. History. Policies. Confidentiality. Goals. Oh yeah, and rapport building. It’s sort of an art in and of itself, don’t you think?

As we’ve been developing our Improv for Therapists workshop, we’ve done quite a bit of research on the topic (we’re just as new to this as you are, we promise!) and found a lot of qualities in improv that we value as therapists. Improv asks us for openness, flexibility, attunement and self-compassion. This honest blog post about whether or not to pursue improv reflects on real-life doubt, worry and facing the risk of jumping in and meeting your feelings, all of them, with compassion and thoughtfulness.

So what does this have to do with the first session? Well, when you have that first face to face encounter with someone, it really is all improv. You are getting to know them. They are getting to know you. And you are finding the balance of how to introduce all the necessary “first session things” with the grace of connection and heart. Openness. Flexibility. During this first session you figure out the pace and rhythm of this new relationship. When do you lean in and ask more questions? When do you step back (but not out) and allow patience for more to be said on another day? Attunement. All the while you check in with yourself and back to the feelings that stir within you. Self-compassion. You are human, and each first session is an opportunity to connect with another human, while staying gently mindful of yourself and all of your first session feels, and to meet them all with openness, flexibility, attunement and compassion.

 

Family Therapy...not as bad as it seems ;)

Some tweens and teens may cringe at the idea of going to family therapy. The notion of being in a room with most or all of one's family for almost an entire hour might even make some feel squeamish and nauseous. Family therapy can sometimes get a bad wrap, and many times it is because there are some common misconceptions about the process. Well, we are here to de-bunk a couple of those myths!

Myth #1: My parents are going to just rag on me the entire time. You'll never get to hear what I have to say.

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While we can't promise you that parents won't bring up some subjects or topics that you might be sensitive about (or just flat out hate to hear), we can say that one important piece of family therapy is establishing some ground rules. Parents and teens both need to have their voice in therapy, but it's all about how you say it that makes the difference. The first few sessions of family therapy tend to include some information about communication and deciding together what format is the best option for the family. Not all family therapy is done with the whole family coming in together for every single session. At GirlTalk Therapy, we collaborate with the family to decide when it is best to have sessions with just the teenager, just the parents, or everyone together. Confidentiality and ground rules are a big part of that conversation too!

Myth #2: Anytime my child and I get in the same room together it ends up horribly. I think he/she just needs some space to talk on his/her own.

Having a confidential space for your teen to talk on her own is a really great thing. It's awesome that any parent would want this for his/her child. However, real progress is made when it involves the whole system - not just a part of it. Typically, therapy can drag on for a really long time if the parents aren't involved in change. A teen may be helped by talking with her therapist alone, but how will things get better if it isn't talked about outside of therapy? Part of the family therapist's job is to connect family members together and bridge the gaps in communication.

If you haven't considered family therapy as an option or have been weary about its effectiveness, it might be time to try it out! 


If you are a clinician and want some additional information and tools on how to work effectively with teens and their families, please register for our workshop this Friday at the YWCA (Reframing Adolescence: Systemic Interventions to Work Effectively with Teens).

smart girls in austin!

Smart Girls MantraWe've mentionedAmy Poehler's Smart Girlsbefore (and are lucky to have one of the creators, Meredith Walker, right here in Austin), and this year they've teamed up with Creative Action to offer a summer program unlike any other!

The Smart Girls Youtube channel offers Ask Amy video chats addressing teen issues like body image, identity, friendship and more. The Smart Girls website has tons of resources and blogs by and for tween and teen girls. Their mission? To encourage girls to be themselves. Now that's a message we can get behind!

The summer program takes place June 16-27 at St. Andrew's Episcopal School. The cost is $495, but scholarships are available for up to 15 girls! The collaboration with Creative Action is a match made in heaven, as this local nonprofit has been encouraging girls and boys for years to celebrate creativity and why being different is a good thing.

This camp will immerse girls in multimedia art projects, introduce them to women leaders in many different fields, and help them tap into what makes them unique! If we could go back to high school for the summer, you would definitely find us there. Sign up today!