As I am coming off my inaugural self-care retreat in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, I am realizing more and more the need for connection, consultation, and networking as a therapist. About 5 years ago, when I started on my journey of opening in private practice, I began co-facilitating a local networking group called the Mental Health Professionals of North Alabama in hopes that I would simply not be alone as I ventured into private practice.
Often as therapists, we mistakenly think that we should be able to have the answers for all the things that come up as a practitioner. After all, we should be able to help ourselves, right? We are therapists! But as I continued to do a deep dive into teaching self-care, I now understand that practicing self-care means asking for help, receiving support, and accepting support and help. As this becomes clearer and clearer, not only do I regularly attend retreats that are restorative and create opportunities for learning and growth, I now seek to provide those opportunities for other therapists. Check out the benefits of retreats, consultation, and networking:
Retreats: As a retreat participant, the main benefit I receive is gaining new experiences. Usually, they are held in locales that are new and different. This allows me to experience different environments and people which can automatically facilitate growth. Retreats also provide a restorative component. If you are running your own private practice, making sure to schedule time away from the practice and work in a meaningful way is key to minimizing burnout. Retreats also provide an opportunity to learn skills and strategies to improve clinical skills and grow a practice. Retreats for therapists often provide some education on how to sustain and thrive, not only in private practice but as a mental health provider and person in general. Connection. Check. Growth. Check. Learning. Check. Restoration. Check!! Look into adding retreats into your self-care practice and business/practice development!
Consultation: As a part of becoming licensed, I had to do 3 years of supervision. This meant every week for 3 years I had to meet with my supervisor to discuss cases, ethics, and all things pertaining to being an effective therapist. Little did I realize as a new therapist how valuable that time in supervision was! I had built-in consultation! And when I had group as a supervisee, it added another, much-needed layer of support from my fellow associates. Then, poof! Once I got my license, that built-in network was gone. I really did not miss it when I was working in agencies or in environments where there was some type of built-in support. But WOW! I missed it when I got out on my own!
This is the reason why every chance I get, I seek out consultation AND create it if there is none already established. It only takes one other peer to offer this and with the technology we have today we can easily create consultation. Think Zoom, chats, Teams, etc. But I also love a good old-fashion in-person meet-up. Nothing fancy! Self-care is a part of ethics as an LPC and I believe that consultation provides the opportunity to ask for help and support which are major components of good self-care. Find and/or create consultation regularly!
Networking: You may say, don’t we get to network when we go to retreats and do consultation?
The answer is not that cut and dry. You can go to a retreat and/or do consultation but stay to yourself, not share, discuss, or open up. Trust me, I’ve done that before! I am naturally introverted and preferred just to listen and stay in the background. But as I look up the definition of networking it involves exchanging ideas and information between individuals. So, by definition, I was not networking by just being present at a retreat or consultation. Networking is a verb, it’s active, not passive. And if you are starting, growing, and/or scaling a practice, networking, the right way, is a must! Once I learned this it became a skill that I practice to work on goals for my business and myself. If you are a therapist, new or seasoned, in any environment, practice networking to build and maintain a contact list to share important insights, stay updated on industry developments and achieve business goals.
These are all things, that over time, helped me (and will help you!) improve self-care as a therapist and continue to help me develop and grow professionally and personally.
Check out a couple of networking and retreat spaces that I developed and co-facilitate!
Self-Care for Helping Professionals (FB Group)