017: A Therapist Story of Escaping the Cycle of Burnout with Monica Helvie, LMFT

February 7, 2024
017: A Therapist Story of Escaping the Cycle of Burnout with Monica Helvie, LMFT

Therapist burnout story time, this conversation is so so good. Monica Helvie, LMFT is a licensed marriage family therapist, certified EMDR therapist, certified trauma therapist and a trauma informed coach for audacious, overworked and burned out professionals. Monica shares her burnout story and discusses the core beliefs and self-talk that contribute to burnout among therapists. She emphasizes the importance of healing and doing the deeper work to uncover and challenge these beliefs.

Monica also addresses the fear of judgment and criticism from other therapists and the need for systemic changes in the field. She highlights the significance of regulating the nervous system and taking a lighter, slower approach to prevent and recover from burnout. The conversation concludes with a discussion on the importance of curiosity and exploration in finding a sustainable and fulfilling practice.

In this conversation, Jen Blanchette and Monica Helvie discuss the importance of listening to your body and slowing down to prevent burnout. They explore the breaking point that often leads to burnout and the need for radical surrender to prioritize self-care. They emphasize the role of the nervous system and the importance of discharging energy to avoid staying stuck in a sympathetic state. They also provide simple ways to listen to your body and incorporate self-care into your daily routine. Additionally, they discuss the benefits of personal healing work and how it can enhance therapeutic practice. Finally, they highlight the joy that comes from receiving and finding balance in giving and receiving.


  • Pay attention to the breaking point and signs of burnout in order to prevent a complete physical and emotional breakdown.
  • Listen to your body’s signals and make time for self-care, even in small ways, to avoid staying stuck in a state of chronic stress.
  • Model self-care in therapy sessions to help clients regulate their own nervous systems and enhance the therapeutic process.
  • Engaging in personal healing work can improve your effectiveness as a therapist and bring more fulfillment to your work.
  • Finding joy in receiving and allowing yourself to rest and receive support from others can lead to greater well-being and connection.

More from Monica: www.businessofthriving.com

Links to my freebies: https://linktr.ee/drjenblanchette

Speaker A: I was pouring from an empty cup. And so today, things like giving my husband space so that he can make dinner and I can receive that and not feel guilty for resting on the couch while he does that. Not feeling like I have to jump up and help or if I receive some space, some margin in my schedule, not feeling like I need to fill that with something productive, a consultation or a networking meeting or something. Right. I can just receive what that feels like, and it is giving me so much joy just to see what comes with that. When I’m receiving and my husband’s doing that thing, he feels good. He feels validated, like his skills are adequate. And then my kids come and cozy up with me on the couch, and then I get to receive even more of their just wanting to hang out with me.

Speaker B: This is the finding joy after Burnout podcast, a podcast for therapists and mental health professionals. Together, we unravel burnout and find our road back to joy. Here’s your host, Dr. Jen Blanchette. Hello, Monica. Welcome to the Joy after Burnout podcast. It’s so great to have you.

Speaker A: Thank you so much for inviting me. This is awesome.

Speaker B: Awesome. So I’m going to kick it off to you and just ask you what your burnout story is for our listeners.

Speaker A: Yes. Well, my burnout story probably goes way back into even grad school, but I won’t take you all the way back there. I really will say so.

Speaker B: True. Right? Where does it even begin with us?

Speaker A: See it? Yeah, we’re sort of pulling the thread all the way back there. But I will say it really kind of came to a head around 2017. And so, for me, what that looked like at the time was I was working full time in county mental health as a supervisor and quality assurance manager and auditor for charts, as well as providing direct clinical services to school based children. And I loved my clients. I loved my coworkers. I loved the clinic I was working at, and I was doing that full time. And I did feel that I was paid adequately for the work that I was doing there at the time. But what I was finding was that there was, like, this call to get more experience with a different population. That’s how I would term it at the time. I just want to get a different experience, like working with adults or working more with complex trauma was sort of what I was feeling called to explore. So I stepped into.

Speaker B: Right. That’s interesting calling.

Speaker A: Yeah, no, it’ll make sense.

Speaker B: Go. Yeah.

Speaker A: So I actually started to kind of pursue that on my own in a private practice setting. And just sort of exploring, what does it look like to work with adults? Like, I’ve been working with kids for. At that point, it was about nine years and was just like, what does this even look like to have a client who is willing, who comes in, who’s not court mandated, who’s not mandated by the district to do anger management or something? Like, what does this look like for somebody who wants to do therapy to grow in their self awareness? So I started to feel called to look at that into private practice. But again, I had three kids under five, and I had a full practice, like, in the community mental health setting, so I was totally maxed out. I really did not have the bandwidth to take on any exploration of that. But the fact that I was being called to that, I think really now, looking back in hindsight, was a huge red flag that there was something, a deeper need that I was feeling called to explore. And I don’t think I acknowledged how disconnected I was. I don’t think I acknowledged how burnt out I was because I was in the throes of it, right. And one thing that I’ll say with my clients often is, like, it’s hard to read the label when you’re in the jar. And for me, looking back, I can see, like, I was dissatisfied, I was disconnected, I was burnt out, I was unfulfilled. And so me looking into working with that hard population was really just me trying to get out of the situation that I was in, that I wasn’t ready to acknowledge wasn’t working. So during all of that time period, I really started to have a lot of relationship distress in my home. Like, me and my husband were not doing well. And it really took him sort of saying, like, you’re kind of snippy when you get home. And he said it probably not that gentle, and was like, I don’t think you’re very happy with what you’re doing. And I was like, what? Dare you? I love being a therapist. I love this work. What do you even mean? Like, I’m a great mom. I’m doing all these things for all these people. I was so wrapped into the identity of what I was doing that I couldn’t even see that I was sort of, like, acting as a martyr almost, right? Like, I was quite literally lighting myself on fire to keep the clinic running, to keep my caseload going, to help. Now, these people in private practice, I was forming a way of self soothing myself. Like, being really needed, being really helpful. Yeah. Being a rock star, I was really in that identity at that time, and I needed that for whatever reason, but it took my husband calling me out on it to realize, like, oh, shoot, I am doing this, and it’s hurting me, and it’s not ideal for me, and it’s totally burning me out. So that sort of was what put me on the path of really doing a deep dive into some healing work and really doing a deep dive into what were the core beliefs that were driving me to burnout.

Speaker B: Yeah, that’s so good. Yeah. I’m thinking, like, what are some of those core beliefs? That maybe you’re not the only one. I’m sure that there’s a lot. I think there was a lot in what you said regarding themes of being the martyr, themes of holding up your clients, your family, your children.

Speaker A: Yeah, there was so much of that. That was like a secondary gain for me. Right. Like, there was some secondary gain in that, but it was costing my relationship something. And so while it was maybe feeding parts of my ego and parts of me, right. It was doing its job, but those parts of me could not see how they were directly impacting other parts of my world and my authentic desires, the things that I valued in my relationship, how I wanted to be showing up, were being impacted.

Speaker B: Yeah, I talked often. I don’t even know if I talked about it on last podcast of what a seven client or six client day took for me when I got home was that things were more irritable for me. So kids being children, just doing what children do, like kicking the table or too active voice, doing all that. It was grading. I didn’t want people to talk to me. Yes, I have emoted enough today. So I think it was coming up for me in frustration and short temperedness and not being emotionally available or connected at home. And also, my partner saw it, too. But I think I was much more like, I’m done with this. I need to find a way out or I need to change it. So I was definitely much more, like, talking through that. The fit wasn’t great for me, especially in solo practice, being so isolated. And so I think that was huge for me. So I’m wondering about the self talk and maybe some of those core beliefs that you were alluding to.

Speaker A: Yeah, man. Where do we begin? There’s a lot, and I think I can speak for myself, but I’ve also spoke with a lot of burnt out therapists, so there’s that reflection, this parallel process that can sometimes happen as I’m speaking to them. I’m like, oh, yeah, I so know that thought. I so know that belief. I think so many of us grew up in situations where it was good to be helpful, where we, in some cases, were reinforced to be the emotional breadwinner.

Speaker B: Right.

Speaker A: And so we don’t necessarily get that same reinforcement to know ourselves, to speak for our own. What do you need? What do you want? What do you like? Right. We are more conditioned towards the external and serving and helping and being good. Right. Not taking up too much space. And so while I know that’s my experience, like I said, I’ve heard from a number of therapists that there’s some parallels there for them, too. And I just think that those beliefs, when they are so subconscious, when they are so, when they are so at the root, it’s hard to recognize that can sometimes be driving our behaviors. Wanting to be high achieving, wanting to be successful, wanting to be really good at what we do, never making mistakes. A lot of times those tendencies could be coming from a more painful past. Learning.

Speaker B: Yeah. I mean, thinking, like, then that last point, thinking about grad school. Right. Most of us are very high achieving people. We were great students, and we were like, I got to get an a. I was not so much on the have to get an a, but it definitely was high achieving. Thinking about one of my really good colleagues and friends, they were very much like, I need to get a 100. Like, oh, I got a 97.2. I really need to get that 100. And I think about the parallels to therapeutic work. Are we trying to get 100? No.

Speaker A: Yeah, exactly. Well, some folks are really like, that is their motor, right? Is that. I want to see that reward. I want to see that output. Right. And I think that if we’re not conscious of that, that could be at the root of our burnout. I don’t get that output. I’m putting all my best efforts in, and I don’t necessarily see that translating to that 100 like you can when you’re in something like grad school and you have a direct input and a direct output. Right. So if that isn’t a subconscious motor for you. Yeah, it makes sense why you would burn out, because you’re just doing this work, putting in your best and not necessarily getting that direct feedback.

Speaker B: Yeah, I think that was also part of it. Having a practice for a long time, seeing clients for a long periods of time. There were many, many successes, like, don’t get me wrong, but there were also those sessions and clients with their own clinical concerns and due to complex trauma or those conditions that are really hard to treat. And I think as therapist it’s only natural. And I think normalizing that, you take that on, you take the success, quote unquote, of that client on yourself, they’re not improving. That means there’s something wrong in me. That means I’m doing something wrong. I’m not doing the correct therapy. Maybe I need to go to this training. Maybe it’s Emdr. Oh, brain spotting. That’s going to be the ticket. So I think we have that mindset, and I think take those lack of successes on as a personal failure, which I think only contribute to that burnout, only contribute to us feeling as if we’re ineffective and that all this effort we’re putting in is for not.

Speaker A: Yeah, well, and I love that you highlight that because, again, at the root of that story is, I’m not doing this right. Where else have we said that in our life? Am I borrowing this narrative from this past experience and applying it here, generalizing it here into my work? That’s sort of how I think of it, and I look at it. And when I work with my coaching clients on this, it’s like our work and our relationship to work is a relationship. The way that we relate to our work is a canvas. And so if we have relationship attachment woundings and we have narratives that we’ve built and meanings that we’ve made around those attachments, it makes so much sense that we would now use our relationship with work as a canvas and project those same narratives here into our work. Not good enough. Have to get it right, have to be perfect, or else right. Like those narratives that we maybe acquired in early childhood, we just sort of bring with us everywhere we go in the work.

Speaker B: And the narratives we’re taught and the narratives that are inherent in our profession. So what came up for me a lot in doing my own work and closing the practice and all this, starting my practice even, was very vulnerable. I had a son who had a heart condition, so I couldn’t go back to work. So I just started it, like, six months after my son was born. And I just felt like every corner, I was like, am I doing this right? Am I charging? Oh, they’re charging that. Okay, so I have to charge this much because that’s what the right price is. Oh, I have to do all the insurance because that’s what everybody else is doing. And also, like, the ethics of therapy, of course, we want to be ethical providers, but I think that often comes at our own expense.

Speaker A: Yes. Well, we make up these stories about what happens and how this could get me in trouble. That’s just what we know about our nervous system. And these are theories that we’ve studied and applied. But why won’t they apply to us? When we’re starting our businesses or when we’re relating to the work our private practice brings up for us? There’s a lot of vulnerability. So, of course our nervous system is going to have a reaction to that. Is this safe? Is this unsafe? Is this a threat? If I do it this way, am I going to die? Right? Those are the questions of the nervous system. And so when we can acknowledge or attune to our dysregulation, I think we can mobilize a little bit more comfortably and in our alignment without this dark cloud of threat and doom and ethics and all this stuff over us. There’s this more internal permission. I can trust myself to make the right choice. I can move forward with this decision. This is the right decision for me. Right. Like, attuning to our own self and what we need opens up that nervous system to move forward.

Speaker B: Yeah. I think it requires that deeper work within yourself, doing your own therapy, working through your own nervous system. Because I think we’re constantly hearing these voices, and usually there’s, like, one therapist or two therapists in the back of our minds. It’s like, oh, you’re one of those therapists that’s not using insurance. Okay. Isn’t it our ethical imperative to bill insurance? Right?

Speaker A: To be accessible to everyone? I’m like, does everyone have insurance? Does everyone have the same insurance? Doesn’t that mean at some point, even in my being accessible, I’m unaccessible to someone else? The narratives.

Speaker B: Narratives. But it’s part of it. I mean, it’s part of what I hear all the time.

Speaker A: It’s so real. Yeah, it is. And I think, again, like you said, that when we’re doing our deeper healing work, we can own our stories and we can separate it out a little bit more from other stories. Right. I can see myself a little bit more clearly when I’m differentiated from all the, like, oh, no, how do we all do this? We’re all sort of in this dysregulated state of, like, post Covid private packet, raising fees. Can we do this? All of this noise, right? It’s easy to get sucked into that if we’re not in our grounded, embodied self.

Speaker B: Yeah, totally. So maybe talk to me a little bit about your journey to start working with other therapists. What maybe was the calling there and what that road has been like for you.

Speaker A: Yeah, well, so after 2017, I had to do, like, a life overhaul, right? Like, I was like, oh, I’m really burnt out. Things have to change. I’m not showing up the ways I want to. So I actually left county mental health and went full time into private practice. And what I actually found myself doing was recreating a lot of the systems that I had in county mental health that led me to burnout. I replicated everything because I was like, this is how I’ll be safe. This is how I won’t get in trouble, right? I’ll do the exact same documentation. I’ll do the exact same everything, right? And I’m like, I’m Billy not getting.

Speaker B: Paid, and I’m going to make all this money.

Speaker A: Yeah, I’m going to see six clients a day. I literally was seeing six clients back to back in private practice, and I was hating going to work. And I’m like, I’m literally the boss. What does that say about me?

Speaker B: You’re a ****** boss to yourself.

Speaker A: Yeah, totally.

Speaker B: Because I said the same thing about myself.

Speaker A: I’m like, what am I doing? Sucks. She won’t give me any time off. I have no lunch break. Oh, wait, it’s me. Hi, I’m the problem. So, yeah, it was that. It was almost me recreating that exact same burnout, and I was like, okay, ****, I did it again. What is this? What am I doing? What’s going on here? So again, I just sort of peeled more layers back and got more clear about what I really wanted, who I really want to be as a person, as a therapist, like, how I want to show up, what kind of work lights me up and what kind of work drains me. And I got really clear on that. But it took me working with coaches to get that outside feedback and perspective because, again, I was in the jar. I could not read the label. I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing. Why am I doing this? And a lot of what came up was there was this belief around, it’s safe. Like, if I do it this way, it’s safe. If I do it this way, I can’t fail. And so what I really found was I was really protecting myself from showing up and being seen being vulnerable, right. And failing were two of the biggest core injuries, wounds that were leading me back into these burnout cycles. So in that coaching program that I was in, I was amongst other therapists, and there was a lot of me too’s, right? Like, oh, my gosh, yes, this is my struggle, too. And I really just started to see, like, this isn’t just a Monica thing. There’s a lot of us that are struggling with this. So where have they been all my life? Because I felt so alone and I felt so much guilt and shame when I was in the throes of my burnout. Like, again, what am I doing wrong? Why am I bad at this? Right? Like, I failed. Right? So there was a lot of that story.

Speaker B: Other therapists got it right and they can see all these clients.

Speaker A: Yeah.

Speaker B: But I think I was really validated, though, because I guess after the pandemic, more. So many of my therapist colleagues are like, I don’t even know what I’m doing. Like, what am I doing? How did you get.

Speaker A: I mean, that’s what I was finding was like, oh, you secretly fantasize about leaving. Like, it was. Again, a lot of me, too. Oh, you’re looking at jobs at Trader Joe’s, too. Yeah. I hate this. What else can I do with my degree? Just seeing and hearing more of those stories, I think, helped me to feel less alone. And I’m like, why don’t we do this? Why don’t we do more of this? Right? There’s so much fear around outing yourself as a therapist who’s burnt out because there’s ethics. There’s the imaginings about the other therapists with pitchforks that are going to chase you out of your license. Like, I’m going to report you to the board. You’re burnt out. How dare you? There’s, again, these fears and these stories that actually contribute to us carrying it alone longer.

Speaker B: Yeah.

Speaker A: And that is one of the main drivers is being alone unsupported.

Speaker B: Right? Yeah. Sorry, I interjected. I just had this thought. I’m a psychologist. When I do evaluations now for a school is my main gig. And even in that, I was like, I cheated.

Speaker A: Yeah.

Speaker B: I sidestepped out of therapy. I’m still using my license, but I kind of just cheated. And if I was actually a therapist, maybe I was a master’s level or something like that, I’d have to figure it out. And I didn’t have to figure it out. So even in that, it’s like, yeah, there’s this attitude of, like, we have to put ourselves through so much pain in order to figure all of this out, and I just don’t think that’s true anymore.

Speaker A: Yeah.

Speaker B: But I felt that it was at the time. I mean, I love your saying, can’t read the label on the jar. If you’re in the jar or something.

Speaker A: Like that, you can’t read the label when you’re in the jar. Yeah.

Speaker B: I was so deep in that jar, it was like there’s stuff, like, piled on top of it and clawing to get out.

Speaker A: Same. Yeah. And it’s like there’s very little perspective. And again, there’s not a sense of, like, there’s anybody else in here with.

Speaker B: Me.

Speaker A: Just all the shame around. If this is easy for me, if I actually enjoy this. Right. Like, if I actually set up my practice to where I’m seeing less than 15 clients a week and I’m getting paid a living wage that supports me and my family, and I freaking love it, but I’m not taking insurance, but I’m not working for free or I’m not. Right. Like, there can be, again, this belief that there’s a right way to do things and a right way to suffer and any departures from that is entitlement or selfish or unethical or a violation in some way. Right.

Speaker B: Yeah.

Speaker A: But again, I think that the folks who are the most judgmental about those those things are the folks that are in the jar. And they’re like, how dare you? How dare you? Get out.

Speaker B: And I used to feel a lot of anger towards them, those statements. I remember reading a post from a very local colleague, but I will not share who their name is, but I would see them at the bank and stuff, and they’d just be putting all, I mean, just venom for therapists who would be like, I’m self pay and this and that, and they’d be just posting comments like, this is what’s ruining our field. This is what’s reducing access to people. Yeah, I still see them. And for like a year, every time I saw them, I’m like, oh, my gosh. But now I’m just like, just don’t get it. You just don’t get it.

Speaker A: I think sometimes, yeah, the judgment, the criticism.

Speaker B: And I just feel like therapists have permission to do it whatever way they can stay in the field, that they want to stay in the field, do whatever it takes. We need more therapists. So I’d rather have a therapist charging a full fee, working way less, doing fantastic work, loving it, than not having that therapist at all, because that’s what happened to me.

Speaker A: Or I think even more dangerously, is like, the one who doesn’t even realize how much they hate it and maybe are having that resentment towards their clients and that lack of spaciousness and just actually doing the unethical work. Right. Because they don’t even name it. They don’t even acknowledge it or accept it within themselves. I think that’s the scariest part, is like, that could happen too. At best you realize, oh, I don’t love this. I get out. At worst, you don’t. And you stay in and you keep going for the cause and you really burn out.

Speaker B: Yeah. And then you don’t have caring for your clients and you damage relationships with clients, you hurt clients. And I don’t think anyone sets up to do that. But it happens. We hear stories all the know on Facebook groups and things like that, of therapy gone wrong.

Speaker A: Yes. I’m always surprised at the comments of the therapy gone wrong when it’s a therapist across from.

Speaker B: Would.

Speaker A: I would hope that if you’re going to be a provider to a therapist, that you would be a little bit conscientious of some of these things. But, yeah, I’m always very surprised. Like, wow, even though you’re working with another therapist, that’s how you show up. It’s very concerning.

Speaker B: Yeah. But I just think it’s lack of resources, too. I do have empathy for that therapist, even though I know their ethical imperative is to take care of their burnout, is to take a break, take a pause. But I also feel like those systemic barriers for therapists to do that, that it can feel like there’s no one else in the drawer with me. Like you say, there’s no room or space for me to take a break because I have to work. I have to see this many clients to make ends meet. So I also see the larger societal problems that are set up for therapists that have to make these difficult choices. And I hate that. I hate that for them. That’s why I hope. I’d love for there to be, like, therapist unions. That would be a dream, right? Yeah. Where we are. I mean, would it be so bold to say that we could charge as much as a medical doctor for insurance?

Speaker A: Yeah.

Speaker B: Our services are, I believe, equal to what we receive for a medical treatment. We won’t get even started on dentists and what they charge.

Speaker A: Okay, I know, well, but I’m just like, even the amount of time and consideration and thought energy. Right. That I get from a primary care physician when I come in and I’m out within 1520 minutes talking to the provider versus what I do in the chair with my therapy clients. Right. Like, that’s so much more in depth. There’s so much more connection and resources that that takes. I’m like, man, if we could get paid for what they get paid. Wow. Even a chiropractor man. That’s good work. Yeah, I’m with you on that.

Speaker B: Yeah. I think when I raised my fees, I think one of my mantras was, listen, why can’t I remember? Oh, Tiffany McClain podcast. I don’t think she does the podcast anymore, but I listened to all of her podcast about raising fees, even though it didn’t work for me because I think I was just like, way burned out. And I was like, that was one of my solutions. I was like, I’m going to raise my fee. That’s going to be one of my solutions. I was just like, so far down the road at that point. But I think one of my things was like, what is your dentist? Your dentist doesn’t care about charging. They’re just going to send that bill. And it’s not even a thing we think about for some reason. We have internalized. Therapists aren’t supposed to earn money, aren’t supposed to charge this type of fee. So that was one of my mantras when I was kind of on that path of fee raising and all that.

Speaker A: Yeah. Well, again, the money is a canvas, right? And it’s like the relationship we have with money and the relationship that we have with our work and what we believe it’s worth. The value of our services that we provide. Right. It should be something that’s accessible to everyone. Right? Like, it should be that this need that folks have for mental health support should be accessible to everyone, truly. And yet who falls for that, right? Like, which therapist is going to go and be the one, that’s the only one that’s doing that, right? That’s not sustainable. That’s not possible for a provider to offer that. That should be a systemic thing that has to be set up in a different way. And so really, if I am going to be the provider who doesn’t, you know, that takes all the insurances, that doesn’t charge cancellation fees, that sees clients nights, weekends, all throughout the day, whenever my clients are available for it, if I’m just going to be super accessible, the one that’s going to suffer there is going to be me because my needs aren’t going to be met. I’m not going to expand and take up the space and say, here’s what I need, right? I’m just going to be accessible. And it’s like a sponge that’s soaked up and never gets wrung out.

Speaker B: Yeah. I think it’s part of that human giver syndrome that women many times fall into, where the mothers, the caretakers, we’re the therapists, most often our profession is female identifying dominated. And so we tend to care, we tend to give to our own detriment until we can’t. Yeah.

Speaker A: And we collude with that.

Speaker B: That identity is inherent. Like, I give, I give. That’s what I do. Oh, yeah, I’m a therapist. That’s what I do.

Speaker A: Yeah. And so, yeah, it’s sort of an act of rebellion to say like, no, I’m going to have some boundary here. I’m going to ask for a need here. I’m going to give and I’m going to love giving, but I’m also going to be able to receive that goes directly against those beliefs.

Speaker B: Right.

Speaker A: And so it is somewhat of an act of rebellion to choose to show up other in a different way than that.

Speaker B: Yeah, I agree. It’s so crazy. Awesome. So tell me a little bit about. So you’re still practicing.

Speaker A: Yes.

Speaker B: What would you say to a therapist who wants to continue their practice but is feeling like, I can’t do any more, one to one? I don’t know how to change this, but I really feel the drive to continue to stay a therapist.

Speaker A: Yeah. Those folks are my people, the ones who have this passion to do what they’re doing, but they are feeling like it’s completely unsustainable that they don’t know how to show up in a different way. What I would say to those folks is, you can heal from this. It may not be an overnight fix. Right. It’s oftentimes not. But when we can get to the root of what is driving you to those patterns and those tendencies, it’s possible you can heal from it. And you can love this work, you really can. But it’s going to require some decisions, some radical responsibility, and some radical self honesty to sort of get things back more in alignment. So what I typically recommend in those situations is you got to do that nervous system work. Right. There’s a lot of survival energy that’s stuck in the body, and we can’t play. We can’t be curious or creative. We can’t conceptualize, like, what could it look like? We can’t really dream it up when we’re in a state of survival. Right. So first things first is we have to regulate that nervous system and get things a little bit more in order there. And once things are a little bit more regulated, then you can play. You can say, what do I like to do? How would it feel if I had a four day work week? How would it feel if I only sell three clients a day. Right. What if I played with the types of interventions that I used? Right. Then you could be a little bit more curious and exploring how this work could work for you, but you got to get out of survival mode first.

Speaker B: Yeah. I think for myself, reflecting on my fight or flight in the pandemic, which was pretty protected, I think I was trying to lean into that curiosity that, where can I take my practice while in fight or flight? And so I wanted to make all these changes, but that was driven from fear. It was driven from my sympathetic nervous system. So if it’s coming from that place, it’s coming from, like, I’m gripping this practice so tight and it needs to work. I remember, actually, I launched an online program. Yeah. And it was a really great idea. And I had a podcast and all that. And I was like, this is the thing that’s going to free me.

Speaker A: Yeah.

Speaker B: From this.

Speaker A: Totally.

Speaker B: But I think I was gripping it so tight and wanted that to be the answer. And it wasn’t the answer. The answer was that I had to start with regulating my nervous system, and I was, but I wasn’t, and it didn’t happen until I started really peeling back. So I really talked to people about, what can we take away first? Yeah, you are overwhelmed.

Speaker A: Yes.

Speaker B: There is too much going on. Right. We cannot add to dysregulation. We will get more dysregulation, actually.

Speaker A: Exactly. And again, your story is very similar to mine. Right. Something had to change, and so I went and I did more. Right.

Speaker B: Yeah, of course. The answer is always more. It’s always private practice. Okay, let’s get a private practice onto community.

Speaker A: Let’s go. Yeah. More and more and more. Right. Because that is the energy of that sympathetic nervous system. Fight. Claw your way to the top of the jar. Right. Like, it’s just that same fear based energy of, like, that’s what society tells us how to get.

Speaker B: Yeah, but it’s the antithesis of therapeutic work.

Speaker A: And healing and healing. We don’t go hard and fast in healing. It’s slow. Right. And so I love that you say, like, what can we take off with my clients? I’ll say, you got to do less. You got to do it lightly. Easily. Softly, slowly, less.

Speaker B: Right.

Speaker A: So how can you do your nervous system saying, go, okay, but how can you do it lightly? How could you do it more easily? What about softer? Can we go slower? Can you still do the things you feel like you have to get accomplished? But could we just try first to do it a little bit differently?

Speaker B: Yeah. Right.

Speaker A: Because sometimes the idea of peeling something off is like. But then the algorithms.

Speaker B: Right?

Speaker A: Like, what do you think is going to drop? Right. How do I let one thing go? Right? It’s hard.

Speaker B: The plates are spinning, so it feels like, oh, the practice family. If I relinx just that tight control, I will fall apart. My clients will fall apart. And I think with the pandemic, the world was literally falling apart. What? I was falling apart. My clients were falling apart. The world is crashing. And so it was a unique activity in radical surrender to slow down because my body stopped me. My body started to have panic attacks when I was driving. Okay, this is new.

Speaker A: I guess I’ll listen now. Yeah. Right.

Speaker B: My body was like, hard stop. And sometimes that happens in burnout. Our body does a hard stop, and we have no choice. And so I think that’s the caveat that I would tell folks is that you can’t get to the point where your body will just say, no more. So if you’re on those edges and you’re feeling like, oh, I’m getting crusty, something needs to change. To listen to it. Your body is speaking to you about the change you need, and it starts at a whisper, and then it really gets pretty loud. From my own experience and what I’ve heard from other people, yeah.

Speaker A: I think there’s a lot of fear for folks to slow down and listen when they are in that run. In that sprint, right. That running from the bear. Sympathetic energy. And it makes so much sense, right? Like, when you are. If you were literally running from a bear, you wouldn’t pause and reflect and come in.

Speaker B: You wouldn’t.

Speaker A: It wouldn’t make sense, and it wouldn’t be adaptive, and yet that’s what’s needed.

Speaker B: But what the bear does, what the bear does after that sprint, after that run. Or let’s think of, like, prey. If they get away, then they discharge that energy. So they’ll do an action where, I don’t know if it’s like a classic trauma video where the animal kind of flails its legs and kind of discharges and then has that parasympathetic release. So if we’re not letting our nervous system have the natural rise and fall that it needs, then we stay empathetic.

Speaker A: We stay stuck. Yes, totally. And so, while, again, I have so much empathy for the folks who are like, I can’t slow down. It’s like I can’t stop. I’m too far down the mountain. I’m running full speed. Like, I can’t slow this train down again. You’re right. It starts with a whisper. And sometimes the ways that we can just start coming back in to that connection and ability to listen to our nervous system and our body is just the simple things. Like when your stomach growls and it tells you it’s hungry, you eat a snack. When you feel like you’re thirsty, you let yourself get a drink. Instead of waiting, holding. I’m going to finish this note really fast, and then I’ll go get something to eat. Oh, go ahead.

Speaker B: Pee when you need to pee.

Speaker A: Yeah, please. If you don’t have time to pee in between your clients, my dear one, please change something there. Yeah, but that’s literally what I mean. Those are the simple ways that we can start listening. And maybe it doesn’t feel like a full 20 minutes. Embodied meditation or yoga practice. I hear you. For the people in your audience who are like, I don’t have time to do one more thing. I can’t listen to myself. I can’t journal. I don’t have any more room. I hear you. I don’t want to use my skills. Yeah, these things don’t work for me. Okay, but could it start with that one thing? Could it start with, I’m thirsty, I’m going to take a drink, I’m tired. I’m going to rest. I have to use the restroom. I go now. I don’t wait. I don’t ask my body to keep holding and squeezing and waiting. I just listen. Right? Then your body will start to trust you, that you are in alignment with it, that you care, that you’re listening. And then it will start to give you more information and feedback about your experience, and you can start to create some plans from there. But that’s one of the tips I give it. Absolutely, you have to listen to your body. But it doesn’t have to be this long, drawn out meditation or spa day or vacation. It’s actually those really simple, unsexy coping skills, those simple things that have a huge payout.

Speaker B: Yes, 100%. Yeah. But I think it’s just starting small. Can you end session five minutes early? I worked with a neurorehab population, so I know about overwhelmed nervous systems. Can you do, like, we have a 20 2020 technique? Can you stare out 20ft in the distance, 20 seconds every 20 minutes? Even with clients? I would practice that with clients. I was like, all right, we’re about 20 minutes in. Probably getting a little fatigued. Let’s just rest our eyes over here. Like if we were looking at the screen, for example, I forget I was walking away from us sitting back from my mic. But all those things. I think we can even model for clients in session, trying to help co regulate, but we are helping ourselves through that. It could be part of our therapeutic practice.

Speaker A: Yeah, isn’t that awesome? Then you’re actually enhancing your clinical game, which means you’re going to probably be more effective at what you’re doing, which means you’re probably going to feel more rewarded or fulfilled by what you’re doing because you’re going to get that output right. You’re going to get that feedback, like, hey, that actually felt good from your own nervous system or from the co regulation. And yeah, I think that’s one of the best unintended consequences of me doing my healing work was like, hey, I’m actually like a better therapist now. Like, whoa, I didn’t take a training, I didn’t do a weekend retreat or intensive on how to do this thing. I just did my work and it actually made the work feel better for me.

Speaker B: Yeah, I mean, I think being in EMDR therapy personally for over a year made me a great EMDR therapist. And actually, I have one EMDR case right now, which is a new thing I’m going to probably do a whole podcast on. Just doing one therapy case where I’m contracting with right now. It’s kind of cool. I’m enjoying a little bit of that, bringing that back into what I do. I’m not starting a practice, though, don’t worry.

Speaker A: Not sprinting right back into it.

Speaker B: Yeah, we’re just dipping our toe in. We’re just going to see how it is. Just had session one this. So. So it’s interesting, I think so. We are rounding the corner on the end of this podcast episode. So, Monica, I will ask you before we close, how are you finding joy?

Speaker A: I am finding joy in receiving. And gosh, Monica from 2017 would be like, what does that even mean? I was a giver. I was pouring from an empty cup. And so today, things like giving my husband space so that he can make dinner and I can receive that and not feel guilty for resting on the couch while he does that. Not feeling like I have to jump up and help or if I receive some space, some margin in my schedule, not feeling like I need to fill that with something productive, a consultation or a networking meeting or something. Right? Like I can just receive what that feels like and it is giving me so much joy just to see what comes with that. When I’m receiving and my husband’s doing that thing, he feels good. He feels validated. Like his skills are adequate. And then my kids come and cozy up with me on the couch. And then I get to receive even more of their just wanting to hang out with me. They’re still young enough that they enjoy me and want to be around me. I have one that’s twelve, so he’s probably getting to that place where he’s getting ready to leave me to go be a teenager.

Speaker B: I have a ten year old, so I have a little time.

Speaker A: Yeah. So I’m just really enjoying that. Receiving. Receiving from the people who love me, who want to support me, receiving that margin, the rest, it’s been really cool.

Speaker B: That’s awesome. I love that.

Speaker A: Me too.

Speaker B: Great. Well, where can people reach out to you if they want to hear more about your work or get in touch with you?

Speaker A: Yeah. So if you are wanting to do some coaching work with me on Burnout recovery, I have a business page for that. The website is business of thriving and that is where all my coaching services resides. And you can follow my instagram which is at Monica Helvey LMfT and that’s where I sort of post all my what’s happening and tips and tricks and all that. Yeah.

Speaker B: Great. Well, certainly reach think I hope to keep in touch too because I think we have a lot of similar things that we’re doing. So maybe we’ll look out for something in the future together. That would be so fun.

Speaker A: Let’s collab. That would be fun.

Speaker B: I would love it.

Speaker A: Yeah.

Speaker B: Thanks. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on the program.

Speaker A: Thanks again. You.

Speaker B: Thank you for listening to the Joy after Burnout podcast. Be the first to hear new episodes by following the podcast in your podcast player. This is an informational podcast only. Any information expressed by the host or guest is not a substitute for legal, medical or financial advice.


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