Are You Thriving or Just Surviving as a Therapist?

In their highly practical book How to Survive and Thrive as a Therapist, Pope and Vasquez provide us numerous actionable ideas and steps for how to establish ourselves successfully in private practice.

When we follow this “blueprint,’ we can put ourselves more in the driver’s seat, more in the thriving mode. We have structure and guidance. We no longer have to “just get by” and feel like we’re merely grasping and hoping.

But I wanted to introduce a slightly different way of thinking about the concept of thriving and pondering the question: are you thriving or just surviving as a therapist?

A Different Way to Thrive

This different way of conceptualizing thriving can potentially open us up to a world of amazing possibilities, at any point in our professional careers. Literally, at any point we choose.

In the 5 Essential Self-Care Principles to Help You Thrive, “Thriving” is one of the core guiding principles of self-care and burnout prevention.

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The (Latin) root of the word “thrive” actually means to flourish, to bloom, and to blossom.

So think for moment about what you (might) want out of your clinical practice and career, what your professional talents are, and the type of clients you can best serve.

Do you feel that you inhabit these professional aspects with a blossoming mindset, with a sense of personal evolution and growth?

Or do you feel like you are relatively static and routinized – more or less moving on autopilot from client to client, day after day in the same mode.

(By static I don’t mean stable. Emotional, physical, financial, etc. stability is healthy and craved by most human beings. It’s arguably the foundation for growth.)

What the Entrepreneur Can Teach the Therapist

What follows may sound quite unpopular with mental health practitioners, but bear with me for a moment.

“What’s your 5 year business plan?”

Ugh.

Did I just ask you what your business model and growth plan is for the next 5 years?  That is probably a super stressful question for therapists and healers who likely didn’t get into the helping profession to “run a business.”

But whether you are building or maintaining a private practice, part of a clinic or group practice, or on the front lines doing home visits, you can think of yourself as your own personal business that, if left unexplored and under-inspired, can fall prey to “thriving bankruptcy.”

Ok, enough with the business and financial metaphors.

Are You Thriving Or Just Surviving?

Within the Thriving principle, we are not static entities performing a routinized set of tasks.

We are creatures of growth and evolution, with aspirations and inspiration to pursue and follow.

And we sure as heck don’t have to resign ourselves to the “just getting by” mentality.

We are ever-changing beings who can evolve, expand, and diversify. We can be self-motivated to grow for deeper personal reasons, and we can grow in response to the growth in our clients.

We can inhabit a quiet, internal evolution or perhaps a more obvious growth in the way we actually operate on a daily basis. Or perhaps both can occur.

We can bloom continuously or in fits and starts, which is often the way natural and cultural evolution operates anyway.

Any way you slice it, the truism that “the only constant in life is change” seems to ring true in so many realms of our lives.

So, to embrace and harness this truth of impermanence, we can be on the lookout for important ways in which we can grow, evolve, and bloom.

The Untold Evolution of Your Fellow Practitioners

What I have seen in my colleagues over the past several years has astounded and inspired me. Self-evolution, blossoming, and blooming have been expressed in so many ways.

The stories told and my witnessing these personal-professional evolutions has truly ignited my passions. I am deeply humbled as well.

Some therapists have discovered the simple but profound fact that they can evolve (vs. stay in the same role, position, or location because that’s what their parents did or what their family expects or what their culture dictates).

Some practitioners have taken action on a quietly boiling suspicion that they want something else, something different for their professional lives.

That something else is perhaps a different environment in which to work, being around more colleagues, setting clearer boundaries when it’s time to wrap up the session, or even fundamentally changing the way they engage in this helping profession.

Thriving is Self-Care

To Thrive means to bloom, to blossom, and to grow.

A realization of the possibility of a growth mindset is self-care because it represents choice rather than automaticity or resigning oneself to the daily grind.

When you live in a space of “thriving,” anything is actually possible. We can always evolve (internally or externally), in quiet or louder ways, within our comfort zone or outside of it.

Thriving is choice. And choosing how we grow and bloom is the amazing gift of self-care that keeps on giving.

Please drop a comment below to tell your fellow practitioners the various ways in which you are thriving, or what gets in the way of this mindset.

To thriving,

Matt

About the Author

Dr. Matt Hersh is a practicing clinical psychologist, mindfulness meditation teacher, blogger, and socially conscious entrepreneur. He works directly with children, teens, emerging adults, and adults struggling with anxiety and stress. He is also founder of TheThrivingTherapist.org, a website dedicated to mental health professionals' self-care, wellness, and burnout prevention.

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