Heart and Work
Apr 14, 2017 · 5 min read

By Tiffany Ballard, D.O.. A few weeks ago, I realized it was the 10 year anniversary of starting my solo private practice. I became nostalgic about that younger version of me who was so excited to get started in her own space. She spent hours upon hours obsessing over just the ‘right’ couch for her new office. If I were to sit down with that version of me, what would I tell her? Here’s what I would share with her.

1. Community + connection. You’re not alone. My experience with consultation has come in several forms.

· Individual consultation. I paid for psychotherapy consultation for many years at the start of my private practice, and I found it immeasurably helpful.

· Groups (paid or unpaid group consultation.) Finding a good fit is important. My groups have evolved over the years to meet the needs in my practice and personal growth. I’ve found consultation and community have helped with all types of concerns that arise in our practices.

· Organizations. Austin is full of wonderful organizations that offer therapist and community workshops, as well as opportunities to get involved and feel deeply connected in a community of like-minded healers. I’ve participated in many of these organizations, and I’ve learned so much about myself, and our community. I’ve made many professional connections that continue to be wonderful support system as well as source for referrals.

2. Balance. Imagine you’re in a yoga class. If you’re too in your head and not enough in your body, you can lose your balance. Meet yourself where you are. This extends to all forms of self-care to recharge your batteries. Burnout symptoms are a good measure to follow. If your passion and connection for what you are doing starts to waver, you will feel it. These symptoms are usually an indicator for me to take a break and reconnect with myself. Sometimes, I crave a silent retreat where I do not speak to anyone for several days. Other times, the extrovert in me really needs to reconnect with friends to recharge. It can also be as simple as checking in with my breath and body for a few seconds before sitting with my client.

3. Continue learning. Stay up with your continuing education (our licensing requirements call for it), but you don’t have to know everything all the time! No one does. Neuroscience is rapidly changing, and we are discovering new things all the time. Know your own learning style. Whether you have learning challenges or not, we do not all take in information in the same way. It can be painful to keep trying to squeeze yourself into a box that was never meant to fit you. Be curious, creative and playful about your learning style.

4. Know thyself. Walk your own talk. Be the client in your own psychotherapy process to deepen your compassion and understanding of yourself. It is very important to know ourselves well enough to know how we relate to others. After all, regardless of which school of therapy you do, we are using ourselves as the primary tool in this therapy relationship process. Isn’t it important to know that tool inside and out? The more work I’ve done on myself in my own psychotherapy, the more I realize I don’t have to change who I am. Who I am is just that …who I am. The deeper I dive into this self-exploration journey, the more I realize that what gets in the way the most are my defenses around accepting who I am. The more comfortable I am with me, the more clearly I can be seen as the unique expression I am as I sit across from my beloved client in a session.

5. Trust your intuition. I believe that all the previous points I have mentioned culminate in our ability to learn to trust our intuition. This intuition will be present in various forms in our practice … from knowing when to practice supporting our client’s defenses, to knowing when to dive in with interpretations, to paying attention to a feeling in your gut that says ‘Don’t take on this new client.’

6. Embrace your own authority. This idea is taking me a while. Do you recognize that part of you that tends to wait to hear from some other authority on whether what you’re doing is okay? It is a healthy and a necessary part of growth, but at some point we start to recognize and grow into the realization that we are becoming our own authority. I’m talking about informed confidence in your practice and life, not arrogance. That confidence that opens the doorway to trusting your own authority is informed by the deep work we do each day with the clients who honor us with their vulnerable stories, with our closest personal relationships, community, consultation, and our ever present project of working on our relationship with ourselves. Most importantly, stay open, curious and flexible as you grow into your own authority.

As I write this, my heart is overflowing with gratitude for the community, connection and my own vulnerability and courage to keep learning on this journey. I have SO much more to learn. The more I learn the more humbled I become, less scared, but also less rigid and more present to whatever arises next. Here’s to the next decade on this journey.


Tiffany Ballard, D.O. is a psychotherapist, psychiatrist, osteopathic physician, clinical supervisor, and artist in private practice in Austin where she works with motivated adults and clinicians who are interested in gaining access to their full creative and relational potential. Her unique blend of professional training, passion, and authenticity help create a secure relationship where profound transformation can take place.

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Heart and Work

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