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Structuring Self-Care

Curt and Katie talk about structuring self-care into your business practices. We look at how to incorporate self-care best practices into the way you build your work day. We also talk about common challenges to taking this advice.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

In this episode we talk about self-care:

  • Creating a cohesive plan for self-care in all aspects of your work
  • Incorporating the concept of Flow into your work practices
  • Defining Flow – the thoughts about losing yourself or being incredibly mindful

“[Flow is] the absence of mental load…moving towards reducing the amount of mental load that we’re putting into things, reducing decision fatigue in our lives.” – Curt Widhalm, LMFT

  • The absence of mental load that occurs when you are doing the things that you are good at and enjoy most
  • Decision fatigue, spoon theory
  • Identifying how to set up your day strategically
  • Studying your energy and motivation at different times of day
  • The importance of rest, balancing of stress and rest to increase stamina
  • The times when creativity comes are not when you’re working
  • Working to prevent burnout, rather than manage it after it happens
  • Intentionally scheduling rest and rejuvenating activities

“When you actively block out rest, and you use it; whether it’s a break in the middle of the day, if it’s a full day without anything on your schedule, …if it’s the end of the day, when you go home, and you don’t have anything on the books…It’s actually putting that there, instead of just saying, ‘well, I’ll rest at some point’…putting in those blank spaces as actual real things versus hoping that you’ll get to the rest at some point.” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT

  • What types of rest are effective and what types of rest are ineffective
  • The danger of the ideas of productivity and hustle
  • The inefficiency of continuous running
  • How to structure your schedule effectively
  • Ritual and routine, grounding and mindfulness
  • Creating systems to decrease the required number of decisions you need to make each day
  • How the people around you elevate you or pull you down
  • Intentionally separating “work” from home
  • Closing out, decompression, and consultation

Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience  by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

Spoon Theory

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

Therapy Reimagined 2020 Call for Speakers

Therapy Reimagined 2020 Call for Sponsors

Relevant Episodes:

Self-Care, Self-Compassion, and Self-Awareness for Therapists

The Danger of Poor Self-Care for Therapists

Compassion Fatigue

Therapists in Therapy

Toxic Work Environments

Managing Vicarious Trauma

The Burnout System

Addressing the Burnout System

The Mental Load of Therapists

All Kinds of Burned Out


Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, the CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:


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Consultation services with Curt Widhalm or Katie Vernoy:

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Connect with the Modern Therapist Community:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

Transcripts do not include advertisements just a reference to the advertising break (as such timing does not account for advertisements).

… 0:00
(Opening Advertisement)

Announcer 0:00
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide, where therapists live, breathe, and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm, and Katie Vernoy.

Curt Widhalm 0:15
Welcome back modern therapists, this is Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy. And we are headed to Hawaii, where we are going to be speaking at the Foundations of Connection Conference on preventing compassion, fatigue, and creating structural self care. And partially just as a preparation thing, it was just really easy for us to create an episode around these ideas that…

Katie Vernoy 0:44
We’re pretty lazy, it’s really comes down to.

Curt Widhalm 0:47
We are creating an optimal state of flow in the content that we are producing.

Katie Vernoy 0:52
Yes we are.

Curt Widhalm 0:53
And making things a little bit easier for ourselves. But this is also something that I think is really exciting, and just want to share this with people. And, you know, obviously, you can’t buy tickets to the conference and just like end up in Hawaii later this week to come and see us talk. If you can, awesome, you know, check it out with Ernesto. But we have dabbled in talking about self care before. We are, you know, really kind of comprehensively bringing together a lot of ideas, business practices, working in agencies, if you’re not yet a business owner of how to actually start implementing some of this stuff in ways to really help keep you going as an individual and help make that a better opportunity to work with your clients and make your life more manageable.

Katie Vernoy 1:43
We’ve talked about this in a lot of different ways, from a lot of different angles. And I think the goal in this episode, and we’ll certainly link to some of these other episodes in the show notes. But the goal in this episode is to really be able to create a cohesive narrative around how you actually do this thing. And I want to put the caveat that this is not necessarily like we don’t know everything, We haven’t mastered everything. This is really bringing things together because it’s an ongoing work in progress. So this is not saying like, Hey, we’ve got this nailed. And so just do this thing. And it’s super easy, and you won’t get any compassion fatigue, and you won’t be vicariously traumatized and you’ll never be burned out. Because I think that those things, while not necessarily required in our field, not necessarily a foregone conclusion, I think that they are very, very common, even in folks who have put together some good practices in setting up their, their careers. So I just want to I want to put that out there. Because I don’t want us to come from a place of like, we’re totally fine, because like, by the time, you know, we think about this episode, again, we’re gonna be on the beach in Kawaii.

Curt Widhalm 2:52
Which is actually one of the principles that we’re gonna be talking about a little bit later here. But as far as some different influences here, I think that the first one that I want to point out is a reference that I already made in this episode to flow psychology. And this was really started by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and one of the founding people of positive psychology. And if you’re not familiar with this work, a lot of Csikszentmihalyi’s writings really come around optimizing the energies, the attitudes, the structures of your day, so that way, you’re not running into these emotional barriers. You’re being able to really develop a flow of being able to tackle the tasks of your day in a way that is mindful and present, and all of the things that led to positive psychology. And so you’re gonna get some that sprinkling throughout here today, as well as some of just kind of how this works into our business practices.

Katie Vernoy 4:02
And I think one of the books that I always mention and so we’ll, we’ll talk about it a lot today, or at least will will reference it and some of the ideas will be coming from there as the book “When” from Daniel Pink. It kind of I think, pairs really nicely with this idea of flow. Question though, Curt because I…

Curt Widhalm 4:21
And I have I have one more book reference before…

Katie Vernoy 4:24
Oh. Sorry, sorry. Go ahead.

Curt Widhalm 4:25
For our longtime listeners, you know that I’ve I’ve been involved in the running community before. Another book that we’re pulling some ideas from here is “Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success” by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. So, now for your question.

Katie Vernoy 4:43
Okay. So the question is about flow, and I may bring up other books later, so don’t worry, all of these will be in the show notes at But my thought process around flow or the way I understood it back in the Dark Ages, when I went to grad school was it was this almost dissociative state of being able to do something for a very long period of time and kind of losing track of time and that kind of stuff. And that’s not really how you’re describing it. So…

Curt Widhalm 5:10
And in fact, I would almost describe it as the opposite. Which not being dissociated, but being incredibly mindful. And in studying peak performers, and having been involved in athletics and working with high achieving and gifted teams in my practice, all of the research that I come across says that those who perform the best are the ones who tolerate the mindlessness the best. That when when we get a diminishing amount of return, on our practice, you know, um I, let’s use golf as an example, I’m a really bad golfer.

Katie Vernoy 5:50

Curt Widhalm 5:50
But if I went out and I, you know, got a golf instructor that I would expect that I would see some pretty significant returns on my investment to improving and golf very, very quickly. I might go from being a, you know, 10%, you know, bottom 10% golfer, after a few lessons, I might jump up to, you know, a 25th percentile golfer, just because I have that much room to grow. But when we’re talking about, you know, people at the 90th percentile, for them to get to the 91st percentile involves a lot more work to just get that 1%. And so the people who tolerate the extra work, psychologically, the best, are the ones who are able to see that return. And this is where flow comes in. This is where being mindful of the payoff of the work that we’re doing, understanding the concept of it and embracing it is a incredibly mindful aspect. It’s not a dissociative aspect. Now, one of the keys in being able to tolerate that might be dissociating. But it’s done with intention.

Katie Vernoy 7:01
Yeah, no, I think what I was trying to mention, maybe not dissociation, although sometimes for me, when I get really into something that’s kind of all of a sudden, it’s more the losing of time. That that time ceases to exist when you’re doing the thing that you’re good at, you enjoy, that just seems to it kind of, I think the ways that that I’ve seen it, you know, especially with artists and kind of creative folks that I’ve worked with, and you know, in my, my past, it’s just like this, this piece of things kind of just flow through you. And it’s, and I think in kind of olden times, and maybe even now, for folks who are more spiritual that it feels like it comes from this otherworldly place. And so it just feels so right. So that’s why I wanted to clarify, because it feels like there’s there may be colloquial and other versions of flow. So how are we defining flow?

Curt Widhalm 7:49
So, I like where you’re going with this. And I think that, you know, part of this is we work in a profession where we can’t afford to just have time go by with endlessly. Because we are tied to the clock, we’re tied to that 50 minute hour. But really, the essence that we’re talking to is this is the difference between those sessions where it felt like you just sat down, and then all of a sudden, it’s over, versus a session that I had somewhat recently where I looked to check on the clock to see how much time was left. And there was 48 minutes left in the session.

Katie Vernoy 8:23
Oh, I’ve been in those sessions dude. I’ve been in those sessions.

Curt Widhalm 8:28
So for us flow is, the working idea that we’re working with here is that it’s the absence of mental load. Of its moving towards reducing the amount of mental load that we’re putting into things, reducing decision fatigue in our lives. So that way, we are better able to accomplish the tasks that we are either obligated to do or that we want to do as part of our practices and part of our profession.

Katie Vernoy 8:58
I think I want to add to that also: doing things that really feel aligned and attuned for yourself; things that you’re good at that you feel a sense of competence for as well. Would you agree?

Curt Widhalm 9:09
Absolutely. And I think that those are gonna go hand in hand because, you know, I’m, I’m a parent, part of decision making fatigue is, you know, alright, what are we going to do to get the kids out the door in the morning? And what are we going to do when the kids don’t want to do the things that I’ve already decided on? That just start, you know, chipping away at your your mental energy that go into the day. So, by the time that you end up in the office, you might be somewhat depleted. I know, you’re a big fan of The Spoon Theory, like, you know, you want to show up to work with as many spoons as you have to be able to go with your clients, but in so many ways, it’s being able to prepare yourself and create a avenue in your life to reduce the amount of times that you have to stop and make a decision. You know, this is putting out your workout clothes the night before so that way you don’t have to do those tasks in the morning, that it’s a preparation to be able to just kind of flow through the day. This, if you haven’t picked up already, really is in that whole person therapist that Katie and I talk about so often of this extends into your personal life very, very deeply and extends into your professional life very, very deeply as well.

… 10:25
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Katie Vernoy 10:25
One of the ways, I mean, I want to switch from flow, because I think that there’s some kind of practical stuff that I might be able to offer here. Because I think when you’re talking about decreasing decision fatigue, or the number of decisions that you make, in really making sure that your your day, you know, kind of systemically or systematically moves through. That you’re not that you’re not constantly getting stopped and you know, kind of clunky going through the day. I think part of it is really identifying how to set up your day in a way that makes sense. And so there’s there’s two pieces, and this is where I really like the book “When” because it talks about the the study around when to do things. And so you know, when are you most creative? When are you most effective? How do you to counterbalance those things, and I don’t want to go into all those little tiny pieces. But I think the biggest, the biggest thing that I think can be very helpful is being able to study the energy that you have, or the motivation you have, because some of us are night owls, some of us are early birds, some of us have energy at different times of the day. And so it actually requires some self assessment in order to be able to identify how you create your, your kind of flowing workday. And so putting creative activities when you’re most creative. Or putting more kind of rhythmic not needing a whole lot of energy activities, when you have less energy. It helps things to flow more easily because you’ve actually designed it based on your natural workflow versus, or your natural energy flow versus doing other things. And so in a systems view, when we’ve got a Monday morning meeting, and we all have to kind of jump into the work week and face people even if we’re introverted. You know, when we have, you know, massive amounts of of notes to do, and everybody’s telling us to do it first thing in the morning, or last thing in the evening, or that kind of stuff without really reference to what our mental acuity is, or what our energy as at that time. I think putting systems in place is important for organizations, for workplaces. But I think having the flexibility to kind of manage individual differences can become very important. Because we are different, there’s there’s similarities, but we are different in when we’re best doing different activities. And so I think being able to have some flexibility and self assessment to design your schedule a bit to match your energy levels is really important.

Curt Widhalm 12:52
Not only is it really important, but this is embracing this idea and actually implementing it. And it’s being able to take those individual differences that we may have, and being able to put that into, you know, you said that we’re trying to move away from this idea of flow. But this is all flow. This is, this is taking those individual differences and being able to really embrace that. You know, most corporate management recommendations now are, don’t start Monday mornings with staff meetings. That we have this behavioral inertia coming off of the weekend, where we’re just, you know, not working, we’re not on, we’re not focused on what we’re doing. That is important for us to have, because where our optimal growth comes and where we are best able to reach our performance, no matter what field that we’re in, comes from being able to balance both stress and rest. And if we’re in a constant stress state, then we’re not able to really ever grow. Think of, you know, a child who’s malnourished or who’s, you know, constantly, you know, over over exerting themselves, not sleeping enough. That that child is not going to grow compared to a child who is resting. Think of yourself as far as when your creativity comes, it’s the last days of your vacation. It’s the Sunday night before the weekend, or the Sunday night before the workweek starts, when you have these ideas that you can implement. But if you’re constantly in that work state, then you don’t have that breathing time to actually sit down and be creative. And, you know, this is where so much of what is talked about in terms of burnout is in this reactionary method. And I don’t think that those of us who’ve really talked about preventing burnout have really done a good enough job of is talking about how this rest period allows us to go into work better. That it seemed as kind of this precautionary like, Don’t let this happen, but it’s you is, you know, avoiding a negative as opposed to resting for a positive. And I’ve really seen this, you know, a tremendous amount with athletes and marathon training, you know. Rest is as important as stress, but it’s the balance of the two of them, that allows us to elevate what we’re able to tolerate. So you don’t just start out running 100 miles a week at, you know, your your sprinting pace, that you’ve got to be able to go into that with the intention of, Okay, these things are going to be done slowly, because that allows us to get to this concept of being able to perform at a higher level.

Katie Vernoy 15:40
I think what I’ve seen the most around this is that people will see the, the rest as blank spots or as emptiness, and then it can get filled, right. And so when you were talking about kind of, I see this kind of this interval training, you know, whether it’s kind of intervals within the run, or, you know, I don’t run on a certain day, because I’m, I’m actively resting or I’m actively regenerating. And I think physically, we can see it a lot better than we can mentally or emotionally. And so I think being able to consciously do it is really important. But when I was thinking about it, because I just was talking with one of my clients about drawing on the right side, or “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, or the left side of brain, I remember, I’ll find the right name for the book, put it in the show notes. But we learn how to draw what’s there. And so we’ll draw a face. And we’ll have eyes and a nose and a mouth. But when you actually, you know, draw really well, it’s looking at the negative spaces, that’s looking at what’s not there. And it’s actually you draw the negative spaces and that’s how you truly become a more of a an artist versus someone that’s doodling is learning to see both what’s there and what’s not there. And I think for me, that’s, that’s a big difference. Is that when you actively block out rest, and you use it, whether it’s a break in the middle of the day, if it’s a full day without anything on your schedule, like if it’s the end of the day, when you go home, and you don’t have anything on the books, although probably you do. It’s it’s actually putting that there, instead of just saying, well, I’ll rest at some point, you know, putting putting in those blank spaces as actual real things versus hoping that you’ll get to the rest at some point.

Curt Widhalm 17:29
It’s not only intentional, but it’s active rest, not passive rest. It’s not just like, Okay, I’ve got half an hour between clients, I’m just gonna collapse on my couch and stare at the ceiling. It’s being able to step outside your office and go for a quick walk outside. I know that the differences between my next sessions after each of those kinds of rests, vary completely based on the choice that I make.

Katie Vernoy 17:54
Well, I think there’s, I do want to say that that naps to have been been something and I know you you’re you’re also a fan of naps. But I think naps can also be an act of that can be an act of rest. I think that’s something Daniel Pink calls it a nap-a-ccino, he drinks a little bit of coffee and then takes a 20 minute nap. And it’s like he starts over with the morning energy. So I think we don’t want to say don’t collapse on your couch. And I really wish that workplaces would, you know, embrace this idea of napping. But both of those things, the inactive rest is collapsing on your couch with your phone and scrolling through Facebook.

Curt Widhalm 18:30
Right. And you know, also for those of you overachievers out there that it’s not a replacement for the other sleep that you get in addition to that nap.

Katie Vernoy 18:41
Yes, yes.

Curt Widhalm 18:42
Because our growth does come when we’re sleeping. And I think that this is such a huge aspect that, you know, we try to maximize so much in our lives. But when all of our maximization comes around our work, that’s, that’s a recipe for burnout.

Katie Vernoy 18:58

Curt Widhalm 18:59
But it’s also you got to be able to rest in your best way that comes in addition to work. You know, you can’t go out and party every single night and show up and see your clients every single day in the morning too. But you know, you might still have that extroverted itch that you need to scratch that can be part of what you’re doing. It’s being intentional with it. So that way you can understand what you’re best able to do and best be able to implement to show up to your clients, show up to your business and be able to tackle on the stressors that are going to be coming along with that.

Katie Vernoy 19:33
I think to me, the biggest thing that I want to comment about that and then I’d love to talk to kind of more specifically on kind of systemic scheduling. But with the notion of productivity, or for entrepreneurs hustle, or even people that have you know, they’re working in an agency and they’ve got a private practice on the side. Like the difficulty with this concept that we’re talking about is that there are so many societal factors and systemic factors that say, you have to keep moving. And so I think this is something where and I’ve had this conversation with a lot of people; taking that rest, you know, kind of managing your schedule, so it’s more paced out, so that you have some, some open spaces, some buffers, and that kind of stuff actually makes you more productive, you’re more likely to get better productivity, get your notes done, you’re more likely to be able to close those fully clients, if you consciously put these things in place. Because when we’re exhausted, when we’re at decision fatigue, when we’re not doing the things that we need to do, we start making decisions that are really ineffective. So we can either start running in the wrong direction and and you know, kind of have big impacts of like, we’ve we’ve lost our way. But it can even be the kind of the inefficiency, which I always see when I’m running late. It’s like, I have to get out of the house. And I know I have to pick up my lunch, I have to pick up some water, I have to get my jacket, I gotta get my bag. And it’s something where when I’m just walking out of the house, it’s like, pick up, pick up, pick up, pick up. When I’m running late, it’s like, Oh, I gotta get this, Oh, I gotta go to here, oh, it let’s go. And it takes me probably three times as long to get out of the house when I’m running late, as when I’m actually consciously, with all of the space able to, to walk out of the house with everything that I need. So I think it’s, it’s counterintuitive, because there’s such a hustle mindset. But I think we need to really be conscious about it.

Curt Widhalm 21:33
And, you know, an example of this, and the way that it comes up in our sessions is, you know, I’m not perfect, there’s days where I ended up, you know, getting to my office, like, you know, a couple of minutes after the session supposed to start; parking, traffic, whatever it might be. Whether it’s me in that situation, or whether it’s a client in that situation who’s running a few minutes late. I still very intentionally take the next few minutes, and not just usher the client into my office and be like, Okay, we’re running late, we got to pick up on this. And I talk with my clients about why I do this, but it’s for these very specific principles that we’re talking about here is that if we’re starting in this rush stage, it’s not productive. That we go into the sessions intentionally with the same energy and the same and same level of focus. So that way, we are best able to use that time. Because in those rush sessions, where somebody’s just like storming in, and, you know, taking off their jacket, well, you know, they’re talking about, you know, what it is why they’re late. Has that ever been a productive first five minutes of a session?

Katie Vernoy 22:44

Curt Widhalm 22:45

Katie Vernoy 22:46
Not at all.

Curt Widhalm 22:47
And so if the five minutes is going to be wasted anyway, using that, to be mindful of what it is that we’re going to accomplish seems counterintuitive, but it is way more productive, because it does set that intentionality. Yeah, I’m doing a lot better with these kinds of things and transitioning to, you know, some of these time implementation things that can happen. These all need to be adjusted for what you as the individual are. And, you know, here’s a quick shout out to our listeners who have stopped listening to us on their car rides into go see their clients, because they just need that space to decompress before they go in their day. Congratulations, you are doing exactly what we’re talking about. You’re taking that emotional space for yourself. I hope that, you know, we’ll tag as many of you as we can, too. But, you know, this is also once you get to your office of being able to prime yourself for the clients that you have during that day. So that way, you’re best able to keep your emotional energy in, in the realm of, you know, reducing all of this decision fatigue, staying in a positive mood state. And this is the time to really do the things of like, deliberate practice, of reviewing what you’re doing. So that way, you’re able to pick up on oh, here’s practice that I need to be doing. Now I have an opportunity to go and do it. This is not superfluous, like, hey, on the weekends sort of thing. I’m gonna you know, go do all my deliberate practice work. But this is really being able to do it before you start seeing your clients during the day and spend your 10 minutes reviewing a video session. Go through your notes, be ready for your client as they come in. Don’t just be like, so what were we talking about, that? Where do we want to pick up on you know, that here’s a smattering of things that I kind of remember from last session. But putting yourself in that prime state to be ready for where your clients are coming back in.

… 24:59
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Katie Vernoy 24:59
I like the idea of ritual. And that’s how I see it as. I don’t necessarily see myself as priming. But as ritual I like, I like that because to me, I’m a systems person, I like to have some routine and ritual. And so for me, the way I walk up my stairs to my office, the things I do when I get into my office, the the mindfulness that I approach with. Turning the lights on and those types of things, as well as reviewing the notes, and taking the time to review my notes prior to entering the session, the deep breath and the grounding and the ritual throughout the session, and then and then also the decompression in this space to kind of close out that session and prepare for the next one, if I need it. I think those things are very important to do. And oftentimes, when we’re overwhelmed, we don’t do them. I think the other thing that can happen, and I want to add this into this idea of ritual is that we can be so overwhelmed and disorganized, that we don’t feel like we have the space to do it. And so I’m a big fan of making, you know, repeatable processes, having your clients have as much as possible set set meeting time, so that you’re not constantly futzing with your schedule, you know, really creating some of these things that can can take that those decisions away. So you don’t have to decide what you’re going to send to your client that first you know, for the first session, you don’t have to decide how you’re going to do your note, there’s, you know, you’ve got a template that’s really easy to do. And you can just finish it really quickly. But making sure that you’ve got all of those things already thought about and made as efficient as possible. So they don’t get in the way of the actual work, which is the connecting with your client and the clinical work that the two of you do together. Because I think so often because we’re not trained in business, because most of us would rather be working with clients and writing notes or, or, you know, billing clients or whatever, that we don’t pay attention to those external things. And so we’re writing the same email over and over again, and we’re, you know, deciding each week what the client’s next session is going to be. And, you know, and I’m feeling it right now, because I’ve gotten my schedule a little wonky, and I’ve got, you know, like two or three clients who are new, that we’re, that that are also like shifting jobs and doing things. And so I’m like, having to schedule with them each week. And it just feel, I can feel that additional mental load that comes with not having that set and not being able to just say, I’ll see you next week. That, that that is really great when you’ve created these systems and rituals throughout. The next piece, and I think you were going to potentially talk about this, I’ll let you talk about it. But it’s just kind of making sure that you have that decompression time and the closing out ritual.

Curt Widhalm 27:39
Yes. Before we get to that though, I also want to talk about the people that you surround yourself with, who are also willing to either elevate you or, or drag you down. And, you know, I heard of, you know, the five people that surround you are the ones who are going to have the biggest impact on your life. So, if you’re surrounded by other people who are working towards these same sort of flow objectives, that it’s going to be a lot easier for you to implement. And this is, you know, your accountability buddies are the ones who are really helping you do that. So we’re happy that you’re a part of our community. And maybe we’re your accountability buddy here. But getting these systems in place really does take that intentionality. But it’s also the positivity or the negativity of those who are around you, which does lead to kind of this closing out procedure. You know, we want to be able to leave work at work. Don’t take your notes home, we actually do your work at work, stay…

Katie Vernoy 28:36

Curt Widhalm 28:37
…an extra 15-20-30 minutes, whatever it is at work. So that way you’ve emotionally left what needs to be in that workspace at your workspace.

Katie Vernoy 28:46
Or, or just to honor those who need to go home. And if you did the 20 to 30 minutes, it would turn into three hours of trying to get your notes done because you’re staring at the wall. Set time in the morning to come back and do the notes don’t do them at home.

Curt Widhalm 28:59
And I noticed this, you know, great improvement in the attitudes of the therapists working in my practice when I forbid them from doing notes at home. And this was to just kind of help further increase morale around the idea of okay, I like what I do, I like this job. And that does help in just being able to let home be a space to be creative, be restful. Another aspect too is being able to decompress at the end of the day with like minded people. And we’ve referenced this a lot before, of you know make that phone call that can happen to you know, your friends, that’s just like I had a stressful day. Here’s a couple of things that happened. We all do it, do it with intention.

Katie Vernoy 29:50

Curt Widhalm 29:51
And I think that that’s what allows, you know, seasoned therapists to, you know, see several stressful clients during the day several high risk clients during the days when we have those have systems in place to decompress. Where earlier on. And you know, even some of the students that I teach that talk about, I can’t, I can’t turn off at the end of the day. Well, you need to have a space to emotionally put all of that energy too.

Katie Vernoy 30:14
Okay, so there’s two things. One is I want to acknowledge and shout out to fellow home based online therapists that may not be able to not take work home, because that’s where their work is. My, the way I’ve worked this out, is trying to create a separate space that I can physically leave, you know, it needs to be a private space anyway. And so being able to, whether it’s closing the laptop and putting it away, if you, you know, if you’re, you’re able to have your whole home, be a space where you can do your work. Or for me, I have my office, and I really try to turn off and move away. And so there are ways to do this kind of whatever setting you’re in, I think it comes back to ritual. I think the other piece about the kind of the decompression, and I think this comes back to the systemic places, is you’re talking about kind of call your friends intentionally. I think for organizations or group practices, or groups of people who are working together in some way, I think having an intentional space for processing vicarious trauma, for, you know, kind of closing out and finishing the day. I know, for me, that was a lifesaver in community mental health, is being able to talk to my peers and my supervisors about what had happened, what was going on, and even getting ideas like for me, it was, you know, getting in my car and opening all the windows and driving home and kind of imagining all of the day, you know, kind of blowing out the window. And and looking at how do I, how do I consciously turn off versus continuing to kind of ruminate over, I’m not going to be productivity or I, you know, I, I, you know, that insurance claim was denied, or this client, you know, was, you know, suicidal, and I think they’re going to be okay, but are they going to be okay. Like, I think the things that can stick with us, I think being able to consciously, refocus and not like, don’t think about it, don’t think about it, because it’s like, don’t think about elephants don’t think about elephants, and all I’m thinking about is elephants. But like being able to really refocus on yourself as a as a whole person on on what the the other parts of your life are going to be, what you’re going to be doing in the evening, and having some physical and/or, you know, kind of emotional elements that are going to be very different. You know, whether it’s getting active or having a heart to heart with a friend, or whatever it is, I think it’s important to to be very conscious and for for systems to be able to put in place that that space. Because I think so often we’re so focused on productivity and getting as much done as possible that those spaces get lost, and it really harms clinicians.

Curt Widhalm 32:52
So, we will include links to the stuff that we referenced in our show notes, you can find those at And while you’re there, check out the Therapy Reimagined 2020 conference.

Katie Vernoy 33:06
Woo hoo!

Curt Widhalm 33:07
And once again, we’re sponsored by SimplePractice and they’re taking care of CEs all over the place. Most places.

Katie Vernoy 33:15
Check out our CE FAQ. So you know…

Curt Widhalm 33:17
Check out the CE list to make sure. That this is September 25, and 26th. Here in the Universal City neighborhood of Los Angeles. We’ll also have a special law and ethics pre conference, September 24. So I’m a fan of the pre conference, but it’s just my…

Katie Vernoy 33:36
I am, too. But I don’t get to go. I gotta set up a conference man.

Curt Widhalm 33:41
So I will be doing a six hour law and ethics on September 24. This pre conference so come out a day early and have some fun with me and law and ethics. Tickets will go on sale here super soon and our full conference lineup will be coming out here in about a month. So until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy.

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