Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions Every Therapist Should Make
How often do you preach this one to clients? When’s the last time you’ve practiced it yourself? With this new year, renew your commitment to be kind to yourself—cook a healthy meal, sign up for a yoga class, set aside time for a weekly walk outside, enjoy a cup of tea, or practice regular mediation. This is one of those areas where the counter intuitive adage of “going slow to go fast” pays off huge dividends: the better you slow down enough to take care of yourself, the better you’ll be able to care effectively for your clients.
Join a professional organization
These organizations provide a variety of benefits, like peer consultation, networking opportunities, and collected resources and trainings. But there is another reason why you may want to consider joining your specific discipline’s professional organization this year. DORA’s sunset review (where they review the Mental Health Practices Act for all of the professional Boards and make changes for the future) is scheduled for 2020. This means that professional organizations have the opportunity now to start making recommendations and lobbying to DORA about what those changes should be. By joining your professional organization, you could be involved in the process and help bring about positive changes to the Mental Health Practices Act.
Start work on your 40 PDH’s (CEU’s)
Remember: licensure renewal was this past August—can you believe six months have flown by already? Now is an excellent time to begin working on your 40 required hours of professional development. If you’re interested, join our continuing education mailing list. Beginning in February, we will be offering regular classes for continuing education and professional development right here at the firm. But don’t forget to check out other things too. Look for areas that will stretch you outside of your comfort zone, or will help you hone a specific area of focus unique to your practice.
Join or create a peer consultation group
We know that supervision can be expensive, even though it’s well worth the money. Another way to sharpen your skills and be challenged to think outside the box is to join or create a peer consultation group. Obviously, you want to find peers that you click with, but be careful of a group that’s too homogeneous in outlook, modalities, skills, and life experience. Rubbing shoulders with peers who are different than you and who think differently than you is where you will find the most benefit. They’ll help you see things in a new light, overcome your blind spots, and sharpen your perspective by challenging your assumptions. Just be sure to preserve confidentiality and only discuss cases in ways that no one could identify who your clients are. Plus, a peer consultation group is an excellent way to feel supported and valued in a profession that can be very isolating.
Give you practice a “yearly check up”
This is like a tune-up for your car, just to make sure everything’s running properly. Review all of your forms to make sure the language is current (especially your disclosure statement—[don’t forget to add in the new language mandated by House Bill 17]!!). Review your areas of practice and consider whether it’s time to add new skills like animal assisted therapy or EMDR. Take a look at your last six month’s worth of clients and pay attention to trends: who’s coming to you and why? How have they heard about you? What are they looking for? See if there’s anything to capitalize on from a business development perspective—do you need to update or clarify your website, expand your referral network, or implement a new business plan?
Review your practice forms
While we’re on the topic of a “yearly check up” for your practice, when’s the last time you’ve reviewed and updated your practice forms? Do you have language that speaks about your obligations as a mandated reporter for elder abuse? Do you have clearly stated policies relating to social media and electronic communications? What do you communicate to your clients related to electronic health records (if you use this) and how those records are stored or managed? Does your Notice of Privacy and Policies contain the latest updates from HIPAA? Are you using inclusive language in your forms with respect to individual’s gender identity and sexual orientation?
The brave new world of Teletherapy
If you’re considering or already using Teletherapy (counseling sessions done over the phone, or via a web-video application), be sure you’re well aware of both the risks and the policies surrounding it. DORA allows for Teletherapy as long as the initial consultation is done face-to-face, and that you maintain periodic face-to-face sessions. Three important caveats: First, DORA assumes that you’re performing Teletherapy with someone who resides in Colorado and that you’re not performing therapy across state lines (the exceptions to this would be business trips, vacations, or a college student away at school). Second, DORA has not specified or clarified what “periodic face-to-face sessions” actually means. Since there is no clarity on this, be sure that you’ve clearly spelled out to clients with whom you’re performing Teletherapy what the frequency of periodic face-to-face sessions will be, put it in writing, and add it to their client file. Finally, whatever platform you use, make sure it’s HIPAA compliant (FaceTime and Skype are NOT compliant). We’ll be addressing other issues with Teletherapy in an upcoming in-house training for PDH (CEU) credit, so be sure to join our continuing education mailing list if you’re interested in learning more.
Perform a client audit
Are there any clients that you haven’t heard from in a while? Think of clients that were not high-crisis or high-need, that were fairly stable & low-maintenance, and who you may have just slowly drifted out of contact with. Now might be a great time to check in with them to make sure they weathered the holidays well. It’s also a really good excuse to make sure your client records are in order and that you have the proper documentation showing the termination or end of therapy. Plus it shows them you care. And who knows? Maybe they really need to hear from you and your phone call is what will convince them to come in for an appointment?
TLC for your office/therapy room
Invite a trusted friend or family member who hasn’t been to your office or therapy room before, and have them look at your space with fresh eyes. We use our space everyday and because of that familiarity, we no longer realize the kind of impression or “vibe” our space has. Have someone you trust come and give you their first impressions of your space—what does it feel like? does it feel safe? peaceful? free of clutter and distraction? cold or warm? dated or current? Their critical feedback will help you evaluate what needs to be changed or updated in your office/therapy room. Also, think through the personal artifacts that might be in your space: personal photos, mementos, religious iconography, etc. Could any of these things be triggering for some of your clients? For example, would pictures of your kids potentially be a trigger for your client who is struggling with infertility? We’re not saying that you should sanitize your space of all personal touches—we’re just encouraging you to think through and be aware of how your space impacts your clients.
Engage in therapy yourself
We saved the hardest and most convicting one for last, because we were afraid you’d stop reading! Why did you get into this profession in the first place? It’s because you believe the therapeutic process has value and empowers people to live more whole, more meaning-filled lives. Many of you may have even decided to pursue a career in this field after your own experience in therapy. But when was the last time you saw a therapist just for you? Not for supervision or for peer consultation—you were literally putting yourself in the client’s seat and engaging in therapy as a recipient? This has two benefits: first, it connects back to number 1 on this list—engaging in therapy for yourself is good way of practicing self-care. Second, going to therapy will remind what it’s like for clients to sit where they’re sitting, facing the questions, the self-doubt, the false assumptions they live their life by. When you sit where they sit every week, you will discover a new layer of empathy for your clients and connect with them in new ways. And you’ll be a much better therapist because of it.