ProTip

Behind the Scenes of Your Therapist's Maternity Leave

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We’ve had the good fortune of partnering with Work Muse for a series on how we (Blake & Tracy) stumbled into job=sharing the role of co-owning and co-directing our beloved team here at GT Therapy Group. (See Part One here and Part Two here). This week we’re diving into what it’s like when a therapist and small business owner goes on maternity leave and how our partnership supports our work/life balance, our group practice, and ultimately serves our clients.

As some of you know, I will be going on maternity leave sometime in the next 6 weeks (!!) and I can’t credit my partner Tracy enough with making the whole process smooth and comfortable for me, our clients and our team. This is our fourth maternity leave to navigate together, and we’ve grown and transformed from each experience, personally and professionally.

For clients, it can be unsettling and disruptive when your therapist goes on an extended leave. It’s common to experience anxiety and uncertainty, wondering: Will she come back? What if I need support while she’s out? Who do I turn to? Is it ok to see another therapist while mine is on leave? How do I even do that? With a partnership like ours, we can leave our clients in capable hands, knowing that whatever comes up while we are out, our partner and support staff will be there to guide and support them with compassion and care, including connecting clients with other therapists or resources when they are in need.

For business owners, the prospect of going on maternity leave can be daunting and anxiety-provoking. What will happen to my business while I’m away? Who will put out the fires? Who will hold it all together? What if it all falls apart?? Having a job share team means that we can take our time off to focus on our family, having trust in our partner to keep the ship afloat while' we’re away. This peace of mind is priceless.

As I enter into my last weeks before my leave, I’m filled with gratitude for my partner Tracy, my GT Therapy Group team, and my clients. Thank you for walking on this journey with me and enriching this experience every step of the way.

Work Muse  supports job-sharing as a means of achieving work-life balance while having a thriving career; something near and dear to our hearts. Follow all the awesomeness here !

Money Matters: Blake & Tracy Talk Finances in Partnership with Work Muse

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We’ve partnered with Work Muse in a series about our “accidental job share team” and how our partnership has formed the foundation of GT Therapy Group as well as leading us into an offshoot venture, Relationship Coaching for Business Partners (check out the first collaboration here). We are passionate about the work we do, and this partnership is the glue that holds it all together (including holding us together when one or both of us is getting a little too much life stuff at once).

This week we’re diving into real talk about money, and what we’ve learned about how our relationship with money influences our relationship with each other as well as the health of our business. Pretty much everything we’ve learned can also be applied to how we relate to money in our personal relationships as well, since being in business together is a lot like being in a marriage!

As relationship therapists, it really all comes back to relationships. What we’ve learned about how to relate to money from our earliest experiences in our families, the beliefs & values we have about money, the fears & worries we have about money, what is ok and not ok to talk about when it comes to finances…it’s all part of what has helped us grow, meet our individual and collective needs, and nurture our partnership and our business

Job sharing our therapy practice was the best decision we ever made, one that’s given us an appreciation for job share teams in every sector. Our goal is to support your job share partnership’s health and well being through our personal experience job sharing and counseling partners in life and business. That way, even in the hard areas, like bacon and biscuits, you reap the enormous benefits of job sharing. Read on…

Work Muse  supports job-sharing as a means of achieving work-life balance while having a thriving career; something near and dear to our hearts. Follow all the awesomeness here !

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When Therapists Stumble - Finding the Opportunity in Disconnection

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How many of us have been in the middle of a session with a client when, all of the sudden, the air in the room changes and we realize that things have taken an unexpected turn? Perhaps we’ve tried to guide the conversation in a direction that the client did not want to go or maybe that uncomfortable counter-transference has crept into the room. Our palms are sweaty, the blood is rushing to our faces, and we can feel our voice start to shake a bit. Regardless of what prompted it, the reality is that a rift occurred within the therapeutic relationship, and now you’re feeling the ‘yuck’. What do we do when this inevitable phenomenon happens?

Whew, just in writing that I can feel my anxiety increasing as I don’t know that there are many things more uncomfortable that can occur during a session; I’m confident, though, that I’m not the only therapist that has experienced this. For me, it’s helpful to ground myself first and foremost – I grab my little fidget spinner, take a quick look out the window, or do a few strokes on my beard to get myself back into the room. The first few times that I experienced this, I would immediately think that I had done or said something that caused the flow of the conversation to change. Perhaps I did; maybe I did push things in the wrong direction or it’s possible that I had verbally or non-verbally responded to the client’s last statement that was perceived as invalidating. I’ve learned, though, that making the situation about me plays in opposition to the point of each and every session. Therapy sessions are not about me, they’re about the client and the relationship that forms between myself and the client. Part of my job as a clinician is to model healthy relationships and healthy communication. With this in mind, the rift that occurred didn’t involve just me; it involved the both of us.

Now comes the hard part – bringing this ‘yuck’ out into the open. Of course, every situation is different so, naturally, every response will be different. Regardless of this context of the situation, I always try to remain authentic and honest. I may say something along the lines of, “well that flopped”, “something shifted; did you notice that too?”, “I think I need a minute to get my thoughts together”, or “I think we’re both having some feelings about this right now, would it be okay if we talk about that?” If I had done something that caused the rift, I’ll own it, and if the shift occurred on the client’s side, I’ll provide them with an opportunity to talk about it. I’ve learned that there is no rule book for navigating through these situations. Experience seems to be the only thing that fosters more comfort in sitting with the uncomfortable. I can’t help but think back to my grad school days and hear my first field instructor saying, “We’ve got to find comfort in sitting with the discomfort.”

If any of you have been following my previous blogs, you’ve likely picked up on the fact that authentic and genuine communication is one of my core values and key pillars in therapy. In bringing this ‘rift’ out into the open and providing a safe space to discuss this relational break, I try to model effective communication to the client. Not only is it helpful for the two of us to find a resolve to the situation, my hope is that the client will be able to utilize and take that experience outside of my office walls and apply it to personal relationships. There’s also tremendous value in utilizing the uncomfortable situation in a positive manner for the both of us. The modeling of conflict resolution is tremendously important for a client: by demonstrating my ability to appropriately and effectively talk through the ‘yuck,’ I am able to teach my client healthy ways of resolving relational rifts.

Breakdowns within relationships are a normal and expected thing to happen; therapeutic relationships are not immune to this. We, as therapists, have the ability and obligation to use these uncomfortable experiences as teachable moments. Moments to show our clients that we care enough about them that we will hold their discomfort while we talk through and resolve the uncomfortable, yet expected, ‘yuck.’

 

ProTip: Being a Male Therapist in a Female-Dominated Field

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My February 2018 blog, “Should I Work with a Male Therapist?”, seemed to spawn a lot of conversation and provoke a great deal of interest from other therapists. The biggest question that I’ve been asked is - “How do you do it... How do you convince parents/females/other therapists that it is beneficial to work with a male therapist?” I could sure reach back to my grad school days and fill this blog with stats, quotes, and empirical evidence outlining the benefits of working with a male therapist, but I’ll save you all the doldrums of reading a research paper. Today, I’m just going to be me and share my story and experience as a male therapist working in a female-dominated field.

First and foremost, let’s talk about the concept of convincing others to work with you.  As therapists, we all ‘sell ourselves’ to a certain extent regardless of the age/identified gender/or presenting problem. How do I do this? Well, plain and simple, I remain myself – not someone that I think the client/parent wants to see, but just me.  I meet clients where they are and model authenticity and honesty. After all, isn’t this one of the core tenets of what we’re supporting our clients to do? Rather than trying to convince clients of working with me, I assist them in recognizing the potential benefits of working with a male therapist. In remaining objective with the client &/or parent, I’m able to remove my blinders and biases so to genuinely hear any possible concerns or trepidation. I’ve found that I’m able to have genuine and rich conversations surrounding the individual’s/parent’s initial thoughts on working with a guy. I refrain from attempting to convince of anything, rather I present the facts as well as my professional experiences and successes as a male therapist.

Much of my work with clients, regardless of their ages, focuses on authenticity – letting your real and true-self shine through.  I embrace this same mentality for myself. I’m just me and I’ve come to embrace that my authentic-self is my best-self. This is the individual that I bring into each and every session and I like to believe that it is through this display of authenticity that I’m able to connect with all individuals regardless of age or gender identity.  As therapists, we all navigate through our journey in becoming licensed professionals by launching into our own world of self-reflection. With this, I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy looking back at my own reflection and learning to appreciate and love the person that was staring back at me. Sure, the journey wasn’t always glamorous and I had some pretty significant “yuck” that I had to work through on my own, but I made it through.  This, I believe above all else, is what has made me the professional that I am today and who individuals trust to support them as they work through their own life struggles.

Now, let’s get to the million-dollar question “how do you convince others that it’s okay to work with a male therapist?”  Before I launch into that, let’s take a step back and look at our own beliefs and biases. What are your own thoughts/beliefs in working with or referring a client to a male therapist?  Do your beliefs change at all depending on the identified gender of the client? How about the age of the client? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, there’s some internal belief exploration to do.  Yes, I possessed my own thoughts and biases regarding male therapists and internalized my own anxieties in working with adult and adolescent female identifying clients. The identification of these anxieties was paramount for me in finding success as a male therapist.  I began asking myself questions: “What is it about working with a 13-year old girl that provokes stress for me when I’m at complete ease in working with a 13-year old boy? Why am I feeling trepidation when speaking to a parent of a high school daughter but feel utter confidence in speaking about their son?”  I could dedicate an entire post just to these emotional disconnects, but for the sake of today’s post, I want to draw back to the concept of authenticity. As long as I’m remaining true to my authentic-self, my support and compassion does not waiver depending upon the identified gender or age of the individual that is sitting on my couch.

As I highlighted in my initial post, there are numerous benefits in working with a male therapist.  Here are a few of the take-aways from that post – male therapists can:

  • provide individuals with a safe man to speak with

  • model healthy boundaries and dynamics with a guy

  • display that males do have the capacity and ability to appropriately and effectively show emotion express feelings

  • dispel concepts of hegemonic/toxic masculinity

This all begins, though, with the therapist’s self-reflection and self-awareness.  Just as I’ve come to embrace my authenticity, I encourage each of you to embrace yours.  We ask our clients to bring their true-selves into each session therefore it’s only expected that we bring ours.

Today’s post is focused on my experience as a male therapist and how I’ve navigated through any hurdles or potential obstacles that I’ve encountered.  Branching out to a broader level, I’ve also had to be mindful of the systems surrounding me and how these structures impact my success. I’ve purposefully left this area out of today’s blog as I feel that it warrants its own post so be on the look out for a future edition of this topic and my adventures.  The new year just may bring about some new trainings/workshops/webinars on Succeeding as a Male Therapist in a Female-Dominated Field.

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