Thrivival 101: A Fresh Take on Self-Care for Female Mental Health Clinicians

The Impact of 'Scripts' and Oppressive Systems on Our Self-Care: A Conversation with Silvana Espinoza Lau

November 02, 2023 Intentional Therapist Season 2 Episode 10
The Impact of 'Scripts' and Oppressive Systems on Our Self-Care: A Conversation with Silvana Espinoza Lau
Thrivival 101: A Fresh Take on Self-Care for Female Mental Health Clinicians
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Thrivival 101: A Fresh Take on Self-Care for Female Mental Health Clinicians
The Impact of 'Scripts' and Oppressive Systems on Our Self-Care: A Conversation with Silvana Espinoza Lau
Nov 02, 2023 Season 2 Episode 10
Intentional Therapist

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As female mental health clinicians we receive multiple messages or “scripts” through our socialization as women and mental health clinicians about things like professionalism, productivity, caregiving and even what it means to be a “good therapist” and a “good woman.”  And the reality is, these messages come from systems that are based in a western, capitalist, patriarchal society.  In this episode we speak with Silvana Espinoza Lau about how these “scripts” and oppressive symptoms impact female mental health clinicians in general, as well as some of the unique impact these messages have on female clinicians with marginalized identities.    

Episode highlights:

  • How the “scripts” we receive about professionalism, productivity, serving others, and being a “good therapist” impact female clinicians
  • The key topics missing from clinicians’ conversations with one another
  • Factors contributing to the Imposter Syndrome and how it affects clinicians differently
  • What clinicians can do to limit the negative impact of oppressive symptoms on their self-care
  • Why embodied connections are so important
  • Some of Silvana’s best non-conventional self-care practices

Silvana Espinoza Lau is an embodied liberation and decolonization consultant and coach for mental health professionals. Silvana coaches mental health professionals who want to incorporate decolonized, liberation focused and anti-oppressive values in their practices in an embodied way and consults with mental health agencies that want to center therapy seekers with minoritized identities.  Silvana is also an LMFT in private practice in the unceded Kalapuya territory (Oregon), and a clinical supervisor and consultant to both licensed and pre-licensed clinicians with a focus on anti-oppressive and decolonized practices.

Connect with Silvana:
https://seventhselfcounseling.com
https://www.instagram.com/seventhselfcounseling/

Connect with Melissa & Karen at Intentional Therapist:
intentional@intentionaltherapist.ca
https://www.linkedin.com/in/drmelissatiessen/

Sign up for our newsletter to receive access to our FREE '4 C's' mini-course:
https://www.intentionaltherapist.ca

Thrivival 101 is proud to be part of the PsychCraft Network - a collaboration of independent podcasters out to change the world! Learn more at:
https://psychcraftnetwork.com/

Disclaimer: Thrivival 101 is a podcast that seeks to be educational in purpose and is not to be used as clinical advice. Please connect with a therapist one-on-one for personalized support.

Show Notes Transcript

New! Send us a text message with your thoughts on the episode

As female mental health clinicians we receive multiple messages or “scripts” through our socialization as women and mental health clinicians about things like professionalism, productivity, caregiving and even what it means to be a “good therapist” and a “good woman.”  And the reality is, these messages come from systems that are based in a western, capitalist, patriarchal society.  In this episode we speak with Silvana Espinoza Lau about how these “scripts” and oppressive symptoms impact female mental health clinicians in general, as well as some of the unique impact these messages have on female clinicians with marginalized identities.    

Episode highlights:

  • How the “scripts” we receive about professionalism, productivity, serving others, and being a “good therapist” impact female clinicians
  • The key topics missing from clinicians’ conversations with one another
  • Factors contributing to the Imposter Syndrome and how it affects clinicians differently
  • What clinicians can do to limit the negative impact of oppressive symptoms on their self-care
  • Why embodied connections are so important
  • Some of Silvana’s best non-conventional self-care practices

Silvana Espinoza Lau is an embodied liberation and decolonization consultant and coach for mental health professionals. Silvana coaches mental health professionals who want to incorporate decolonized, liberation focused and anti-oppressive values in their practices in an embodied way and consults with mental health agencies that want to center therapy seekers with minoritized identities.  Silvana is also an LMFT in private practice in the unceded Kalapuya territory (Oregon), and a clinical supervisor and consultant to both licensed and pre-licensed clinicians with a focus on anti-oppressive and decolonized practices.

Connect with Silvana:
https://seventhselfcounseling.com
https://www.instagram.com/seventhselfcounseling/

Connect with Melissa & Karen at Intentional Therapist:
intentional@intentionaltherapist.ca
https://www.linkedin.com/in/drmelissatiessen/

Sign up for our newsletter to receive access to our FREE '4 C's' mini-course:
https://www.intentionaltherapist.ca

Thrivival 101 is proud to be part of the PsychCraft Network - a collaboration of independent podcasters out to change the world! Learn more at:
https://psychcraftnetwork.com/

Disclaimer: Thrivival 101 is a podcast that seeks to be educational in purpose and is not to be used as clinical advice. Please connect with a therapist one-on-one for personalized support.

Karen Dyck:

Welcome to Thrivival 101, a fresh take on self-care for female mental health clinicians.

Melissa Tiessen:

A podcast where we have the courage to talk about what actually supports and gets in the way of our self-care, so that we can redefine what it truly means to take care of ourselves, our best tools and thrive in this work. We are your hosts, Dr Melissa Tiessen and Dr Karen Dyck of Intentional Therapist.

Karen Dyck:

We're so happy to have you joining us today. Today, we are very pleased to be joined by Silvana Espinoza Lau. Silvana is an embodied liberation and decolonization consultant and coach for mental health professionals. Silvana coaches mental health professionals who want to incorporate decolonized, liberation-focused and antiopressive values in their practices in an embodied way and consults with mental health agencies that want to center therapy seekers with minoritized identities. Silvana is also an LMFT in private practice in the unceded Kalapuya territory in Oregon and a clinical supervisor and consultant to both licensed and pre-licensed clinicians, with a focus on antiopressive and decolonized practices. Thanks so much for being with us today, Silvana.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Thank you, and thank you so much for having me.

Karen Dyck:

So something we're always trying to emphasize in our work is how our self-care is just greatly impacted by the messages we receive from our socialization and our training in the mental health field, and we'd certainly love to hear more about your thoughts on the impact of these scripts that we receive about professionalism, productivity, serving others and other aspects of being a good therapist. Just love to hear your perspectives on that.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Yes, for sure, and I think that my perspective has the bias of my education. So my undergrad education is from back in my home country, in Peru, and my graduate degree is from the US, from California. However, I think that we do have something in common, which is the fact that I think most of us clinicians have been trained in a Western model, right? A Western model that prioritizes how we are professionals, so that professionalism, the productivity, maybe our grades up to a certain extent as well, how we conduct ourselves, how many clients we see. So I think that what I have noticed in my personal experience and helping other clinicians is that one thing that we have in common, the script that we have in common, is this idea of I have to show up in a certain way that maybe fits who I am, or maybe it doesn't, but I have to show up in this way, and there is an input of clients and there has to be an output of results, and the output maybe is an expectation of I don't know, my productivity has to be eight clients a day, or five clients a day, depending on where you work, right, or my productivity has to be a certain amount of hours a month or a certain amount of hours per quarter. But what if I cannot meet that productivity? And then I am starting to feel like there's something wrong with me or I cannot meet the expectations and I start to compare myself to my coworkers who are maybe on the surface, meeting the expectations, that maybe are struggling.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

And then I have also these scripts about what self-care means. Right, I have, at least here in the US as a PTO. Right, you're paid time off, you have to, you know you have your time off, so take it so that you can come back to work. But most of the times the person that I'm working for, the agency that I'm working for, does not encourage other forms of self-care beyond. Don't come to work.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Right, and it's very individualized because it's up to me to be a quote unquote good clinician, to be a well-rested clinician, to be a productive clinician. So there's a lack of community as well, I think, in the scripts that at least I received. Right, and just to speak about this in general terms is the idea of productivity, the idea of, you know, individualized treatment, the idea of how many hours I have to work and the idea of what self-care has to look like. And I think that that script of being a quote unquote good therapist is very, very unhealthy and very, very toxic, at least in my personal experience and in what I have seen, what I have witnessed from other coworkers. So that is you know, in a general sense, how I see that we need to change those scripts as well.

Karen Dyck:

Yeah, I think so much of what you said aligns with the messaging that we hope we're giving our listeners as well, and we've had a number of guests that we've interviewed who really talk about how that script didn't fit them and they went through exactly what you're describing right, thinking either the profession isn't for them, there's something wrong with them, and thankfully the guests we've interviewed have found a way to kind of break through, break free from those scripts and develop a practice that actually fits very well with who they are and the amount of hours that they work, that really allows them to show up in the best way that they can for their clients.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Yes, completely, and I think that the something that I would add is that I am so happy that there are so many clinicians, so many mental health professionals out there that realize that these scripts don't work for them and that they don't have to follow those scripts. And the other layer of that is our identities right, because these scripts are very Western, are very European, white, able-bodied, centered, and not all of us fit that model right. Even if you're white, it's different being a male than a female practitioner or a non-binary practitioner, you know. And let's just add the layer of being a practitioner of color, or being a practitioner who's neurodivergent or LGBTQ, from the LGBTQ plus community. So there are so many other identities that some of us have and then we have to fit this model of being a quote unquote good therapist. So I am, yeah, it makes me happy that there are more and more clinicians that have realized that this doesn't work for them because it shouldn't. It doesn't work for everybody and that's okay.

Melissa Tiessen:

I feel like my neck is going to get sore from all the nodding I'm going to do during our conversation today.

Melissa Tiessen:

Silvana, I think so much of what you just said is so incredibly important, and I think we can even add to that list, because Karen and I both have worked in the past and Karen still does primarily work in rural and northern settings, and that's another area where our traditional training models don't fully fit, and I think, anytime we are sort of taking the traditional urban based because most of the time that's what it is right model as like, well, this is the only way that therapy can be done, and if you deviate at all from that, you're doing something wrong.

Melissa Tiessen:

Well, that's sending such a terrible message to people, because that, of course, is not true at all, but it is a very pervasive message that is out there in our training.

Melissa Tiessen:

So and I think this also is so important to be talking about because, of course, ironically, basically anybody who's trained as a therapist does talk therapy right, and nonetheless, there are so many of these things that we don't talk about, and, as you just said, though, thankfully there are more people starting to talk about these things and question the way things have traditionally been done so that we can start to see some really important changes. But given that, unfortunately, there are still so many things that we're not talking enough about, or not talking openly enough about, we'd love to hear some more of your thoughts, Silvana, about what do you think are some of those key topics that we don't just we just don't talk enough about yet, but we're starting to maybe make some inroads on I think that one of the things we don't talk much about but I think we think about is questioning the mental health model the way it is right, the mental health system the way that it exists.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Every time that I meet with clinicians, we're all in agreement that the mental health model, at least here in the US, it's not working. Yes, it serves people, but it doesn't serve everybody. And then I wonder, if I am here with a group of clinicians and we all agree on this, why are things not changing? And I think that's because, again, we live in a very individualistic society, so we know what community means and maybe we don't have a community. And we don't have a community to question the system Because, again, I think that we were taught that, since there are law and ethics in the profession, there is nothing wrong with the profession because we follow certain laws and we follow certain ethics. Therefore, everything is fine, right. And there, at least here in the US, there are boards and there are agencies that you know they make sure that all clinicians are working, meeting certain requirements and following all those expectations. And if you don't, then you are going to experience certain consequences. Hopefully those are educational consequences, as a side note, but I think that we have received this idea of, yes, everything is right because there are laws and ethics and we don't have enough community to question the model and to question how it's working for us and to question how it's working for our clients and to question how it's working for our own identities and to question how it's working for our clients' identities. And I believe that part of that is because we have been taught that we are this selfless individuals. We put our clients first because we have learned this amazing skills and this amazing intervention so we can help that next person and the next and the next right. But I think that there's nothing wrong with putting myself first, because I am the instrument, I am the tool that is trying to support all of these people. So I need to think about myself and my community and whether the mental health model is working for me and for my community, whether that's the community of the people that I serve or the community of clinicians that I am working with my peers.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Right, and I believe that we have this is the last thing that I will say that we have also lost. No, we haven't lost, we have forgotten our ability to imagine right, there's this concept that I like to use in my trainings radical imagination. It's not my concept, somebody else created this concept. But the idea of radical imagination is can I create, can I think of a future that is different than the one that I am in?

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Right, and I see that as so intertwined with self-care, because I was taught that self-care is this, this and that ABC. But what if that doesn't work for me? Can't I imagine self-care as what really works for me? Can't I imagine mental health as what really works for myself and my community? And now that I have imagined it, maybe I can make that happen, or maybe I can plant that seed so that it happens in the next 10, 20, 30 years. I don't know. So there's a series of concepts that maybe, on the surface, are not so related to mental health as we know it, but I think those are the things that we don't talk about enough as mental health practitioners.

Karen Dyck:

Yeah, I think you're so right about that, savannah, and I know, speaking on the work that Melissa and I have been doing around self-care specifically, I think that's one of the things we're really trying to focus on as well kind of the absence of conversations about self-care and, unfortunately, some of the unhealthy systems that exist within healthcare that mental health clinicians are part of, and how can we start planting some seeds to change this so that there's a different reality for the clinicians that come after us? And I love that idea about kind of that radical imagination and really just trying to taking the time and pausing and reflecting on how things could be, and I think you need that in order to even start thinking about, okay, what are some steps that we can start taking? And conversations, I think, are just always going to be an important part of that and finding a community in which we feel safe to have some of those conversations.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Exactly. We cannot do this in isolation. I don't think anything can happen in isolation. So I need to start imagining something for that to become a reality, and I need a community of like-minded peers so that they can help me with this idea. Right, as we know from therapy, or even from group therapy, right, if someone is having an experienced, chances are somebody else within that group is having that experience. But we know from group therapy we need validation, we need to be witness, and that's part of change, right, even if it sounds so simple someone to witness me. And it's an important part of this process of self-care, reimagining mental health so that it serves us and our communities.

Karen Dyck:

Yeah, absolutely.

Melissa Tiessen:

I just wanted to quickly emphasize to your point, Silvana, about kind of that really funny contradiction that is also in our training between being a blank slate but also we are our best tool, right.

Melissa Tiessen:

So focus on being the relationship, the bond with our clients, but don't bring any of yourself to therapy, because that's going to change it right. And what a contradiction, first of all, and also so unrealistic, when we are talking about a profession that is built on essentially the healing power of relationships, like you just said, being witnessed. I mean, goodness, my seven-year-old son immensely benefits from just having his feelings validated, right. So of course the validation and witnessing that comes from that human connection is so important and it is really completely ridiculous that so much of our training still emphasizes kind of not bringing any of ourselves to the therapy context. And it's just really a shame because of course we're not saying turn therapy into, you know, meetings with clients, into your own therapy, but there's obviously ethical and effective ways to be ourselves that are actually going to make the therapy even more effective for our clients.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Yes, completely.

Karen Dyck:

And we can do that and still be professional, because I think that's the other thing right. This idea about what professionalism looks like is, again, I think it's often the image. The image I have is kind of some of the founders of psychology, the white men, right European influence, and I think I think unfortunately still there's some ideas that that's what professionalism looks like and it can feel really stapling for folks who don't fit that mold in any way.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Completely who can be you know, to use this word, who can be a white European, cis-head, able-bodied man, but a white European, cis-head, able-bodied man, right? In my humble opinion, this idea of being a blank slate is so toxic and it's so unhealthy. But we can bring ourselves to this work that it's so intimate, it's a very intimate relationship that we have with our clients. But we can do it without centering ourselves, right? We can do it without that conversation, that session, becoming our own therapy, of course. But how powerful for a person to see that their therapist is not this individual who has life figured out, who are perfect at coping with all of the stressors that they have, but someone who can tell them yeah, that has happened to me too, and this is how I stand up after falling, or this is how I tend to my wounds after I am being hurt, and, yes, it hurts. And these are the ways that have worked for me. What are the ways that can work for you? Right, let's figure that out, let's collaborate, etc. Etc. So there are ways, and the other piece that I want to add is that, even if we tried, none of us can be a blank slate.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

And if I put myself as an example. The moment you hear my accent, the moment you see my face. I cannot be a blank slate and I don't want to be a blank slate, right? But then our clients we have to give them credit. They do realize what's happening in the therapy room. And when it's summer break and my schedule changes, even if I don't mention that I have a kid, they will know that I have a kid because my schedule will change to take care of said kid. Right, absolutely so. Our clients are observant and they know what's happening for us. So there's no way that we can be blank slates and we can still center them as we should and not center ourselves in the therapy room.

Karen Dyck:

Yeah, yeah, I so agree, and you know, for me there's something to be said for being authentic. And again, right, I think there's ways we can be authentic in session, in ways that are ethical and helpful, and because, really, I think being a blank slate takes a lot of energy and your energy is much better spent in the process, in the therapy process, than trying to manage all of these I don't know qualities about ourselves that in some way we're being told we shouldn't bring into the sessions.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Completely. I mean talking about self care, right? Why would I want to spend all my energy in trying to be something that I am not, or trying to hide things that maybe could benefit this therapeutic relationship? I'd rather spend my energy in things that are beneficial to my client and beneficial to myself and my community.

Karen Dyck:

Absolutely, and you know, I think it's. It's certainly one thing to deal with the scripts that might come in our training, as you know, white women but when we think about the more marginalized populations and how that group in particular might struggle with imposter syndrome and there's research that does support that more marginalized populations are more likely to have that experience Be really interested in hearing your thoughts so banner about how the oppressive system, such as the norms kind of inherent in the whole white supremacy culture, contribute to some of the experiences of imposter syndrome for marginalized as well as perhaps privileged, because I'm sure those are felt different, very differently.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Completely. I mean, yeah, if we could think of the identities that we hold, whether they are privileged identities, such as being white, such as being able bodied, such as being living in a thin body or being neurotypical, among other things, right of a certain educational level? So should economic level, right? So, if we think of those privilege identities, yes, people who identify with those identities still experience imposter syndrome, because I think that the expectations that we have, just in general in society are very unrealistic about how many hours we need to work, how we have to conduct ourselves, how we have to be professional, among other things. Right, and if and you know, if you have, if you want to marry and have kids, I just don't understand how are you supposed to work eight hours a day, for the hours a week, and be expected to have so much energy for your kids, for your partner, and then have a social life, etc. Etc. Right? So we feel like what's wrong with me because I don't have enough energy, I don't have enough time. Well, the fact is that you don't have time because you're doing so much, right? So, even if you have privilege identities, you may be experiencing some form of imposter syndrome. But, yes, like you are saying if we have some marginalized identities, then there are more layers of that imposter syndrome. Right, there are. The first example that comes to my mind is individuals that I have worked with, both clients and clinicians, who have been raised at the border and you can imagine any border, you know in between two countries with a certain set of cultural expectations and another set of cultural expectations and feeling like you are neither from this place nor from the other place, right? So bring that to our capitalistic culture as a clinician and you have someone that, if they don't have the right community, will always feel like they don't belong and that they are not doing things right, right, or that they don't belong to the group of clinicians that they want to belong to. If you are a neurodivergent clinician and you're expected to work eight hours a day and write your progress notes after every client in a certain way and include certain information, I know that my brain works differently and I can get things done. But I can get things done according to how my brain works and my nervous system works and there's nothing wrong with that, right? So? But if we don't know that, then we are feeling like there is something wrong with ourselves and like I am not performing, I am not producing in the way that I am supposed to, because maybe I think that the rest of my peers are performing in that way, right? So those are just some examples.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

And then the oppressive systems are all of these systems, legislations at a national level, at a state level, even within the mental health system, legislation and expectations that say that the mental health system or mental health has to be conducted in a certain way. Right, six sessions and that's it. Or 10 sessions and you have to, you're expected to have a certain improvement, a certain, you know, progress in therapy. What if that doesn't happen? Because that just doesn't work for me.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

You know, there are so many ways in which systems are very oppressive for us as clinicians and they just contribute to burn out for clinicians and they contribute to not true healing for our clients. Right, because our clients believe that, okay, after these six sessions, yes, I have some coping techniques, but I still feel like there's something there that should change. But I already want to therapy. So what's wrong with me? Right? So it's kind of like this cycle that doesn't help anyone really, the way that the oppressive system really getting the way of therapy, but by not centering identities that remain at the margin, right, if they were just curious about. Okay, how do we make therapy more accessible to people of color, to people from a lower socio economic level, to people who are neurodivergent, so that they don't have to mask, so that they don't have to come to the neurotypical side of things, right, among other identities?

Karen Dyck:

Again so many important points you've made so bad, and one thing that just kind of stands out for me is some conversations that I've had with individuals who would identify as neurodiverse and some of the messaging they've received about their suitability for the profession I would say that they would define very interesting Because like what a first of all, what a what a harmful message to be spending sending, and I would like to believe that our profession would see the value of having a more diverse group of clinicians clinicians who bring different insights and ideas about what we can do to positively influence people's mental health and well being. And what better a group than a diverse group?

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Yes, lived experience is very important, right? How am I going to connect with you if I don't have a similar experience than yours? Again, that doesn't mean that I'm going to disclose all my lived experience, but that means that I am going to maybe have a better understanding of what's happening for you and I am going to help you problem solve or help you heal in a way that really fits who you are. So, yeah, I think that it's so important for the mental health field to be as diverse as possible, to be as inclusive as possible of all people, with all of their different identities.

Melissa Tiessen:

I think another thing that you alluded to when you were talking about imposter syndrome specifically is, I think, the reality, that number one,

Melissa Tiessen:

of course, if we're having that experience of right, I don't belong here then of course that has an impact on how the individual is feeling in the moment, obviously, and in subsequent moments.

Melissa Tiessen:

But then it's also going to have an impact on self care and how we're interacting with others around us, right?

Melissa Tiessen:

And of course, we might think that maybe it well, shouldn't that be maybe motivating to like, figure out how you can belong or, you know, I don't know study more to feel more competent, but of course, that's not how it works and instead what happens is it just causes people to withdraw more because they don't want to be found out as not belonging, right?

Melissa Tiessen:

So it has this huge impact on how people are taking care of themselves in their work, absolutely. So this really leads to our next question, which is we'd love to hear more of your thoughts, and I think you've already really highlighted, I think, one of the key pieces of just having a community that you feel you truly do belong to. I think so incredibly important. But t would just love to hear more about that and anything else that you think clinicians can do to help limit the impact of oppressive systems or feeling like they're perhaps different than this traditional training mold, how clinicians can really help limit the impact of those things on their self care and perhaps, by extension, what, what, how those steps might even then benefit the services that they're providing to their clients.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Yeah, completely. I think that I think that everything begins with having a relationship with myself, with being connected to myself. But for that connection to be an embodied connection, right right Again, I think that as clinicians, as therapists, we know what mindfulness is. We have gone to a training on mindfulness, we have taught that to our clients. Chances are maybe some clinicians also practice meditation and I think that the way that some of us have learned that idea of mindfulness and meditation is kind of like a checklist type of thing. Right? What are my five senses? Am I present in the room? Can I sense what else is in the room? Good, I am done for the day.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

But when I talk about embodied connections and being in an embodied connection or relationship with myself, I am talking about: Am I aware of how I am hurting, how I am being harmed or how I am experiencing, maybe joy or contentment on a day to day basis? Right, what are my needs right now? Can I stop for five minutes in between sessions, or can I create that time for myself and this is not selfish right? Before starting my day, if I work for an agency, or at the end of the day to really check in with myself and really have an idea of what I am doing right, and there is no right or wrong in this check-in. If, on that day, I feel like my boss, I don't know if I can swear in this show, but if my boss was a bad person, my boss was an asshole, what if that day, I am feeling like, you know, that doesn't mean necessarily, because I know that for us clinicians, we also have this idea of being compassionate with others and showing empathy. So, you know, maybe my boss was having a bad day, so maybe that's what's happening. So we tend to minimize things that are happening around us, right? But to me, there's so much power in really embodying our feelings and each and every thought that we are having throughout the day. So if I am really feeling in that moment that my boss was an asshole, maybe there's a message behind that. Maybe there's a message of I am feeling angry, I am feeling like I was not heard, I am feeling like that decision was not fair, etc. Etc.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

And that is a conversation that I can have with my boss the following day, whenever, but the only way that I get there to know what, the only way that I get to know what my needs are and what my boundaries are, is to really spend time with myself, to really connect with what I'm feeling, what I'm experiencing, even things coming from my id, you know, those things that I would usually censor. No, this is your moment to not censor yourself, because here you are, in relationship with yourself and checking in with yourself. Right, and after having that embodied relationship with myself, how can I have community, how can I have other people that understand that this is not what I believe about my boss to follow this example? But what is the meaning underneath this sentence? Right? Having someone to vent with man I had a horrible day today, right? So having that witness again, that place to vent, that place to problem solve with others.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

So I think those are two things that we need, because then we are doing the job that we're asking our clients to do right, and I think that there's no better way that teaching our clients, that modeling things for our clients, when we are really embodying those practices that we want our clients to practice right. It's very easy for me to tell my clients to meditate or to practice mindfulness, but if I am not doing it myself, I am pretty sure that they can sense it. So if I am having this embodied relationship with myself, I am pretty sure that I can transmit that to my clients as well. Right, and I am helping others, being in connection with themselves, figuring out what their boundaries are, what their needs are, how to ask for those needs to be met, how to go out there and find their own communities. So, again, I think that such a simple thing can have an amazing, positive snowballing effect.

Melissa Tiessen:

And I'm just reflecting on what you said earlier as well, Silvana, about when we have that community, not only is it that sense of belonging and the opportunity to be witnessed, but then it's also the support for questioning the status quo and basically the validation that it's okay to do, that, it's possible to do that, that change can occur, even if it may be slow at times, but that is something that is also worth putting our effort into.

Melissa Tiessen:

And I think, of course, all of that is going to be so much easier when we are starting from that place of understanding ourselves, understanding our own thoughts and feelings, understanding what's important to us, and then we'll know that, yeah, like you said, what kind of community is it that we want to be connecting with so that we can maybe achieve some of those greater goals for not only ourselves but our colleagues and our profession at large? And not that that has to be our responsibility either, like it's okay if we don't have the bandwidth to do that, but I think it's just one of the beautiful things that becomes more possible when we are really grounded in ourselves and then connected to a community of like-minded colleagues.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Yeah, yeah, completely. It's kind of like a muscle that you start working right, kind of like I don't know going to the gym with a gym buddy. You have the motivation to do it and you start doing it because you really want to do it. So you're putting that into practice and it's so much easier to do it after a month, two months, a year, etc. Etc.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

And something very important that you just said is, yeah, it's not our sole responsibility, it's up to how much bandwidth we have, right, and I think that that's also a very important piece of self-compassion and self-care as clinicians.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Right, I have to be, I want to be aware of what my resources are what, how much time, how much money, how much energy, how much bandwidth I have. Because if I have only five minutes but I have just 10% of the energy that I usually have, maybe self-care right now looks like closing my door if I work for an agency, not answering phone calls and that's it and that's self-care in that moment, right, maybe if my resources are money and time, I can take a vacation if that is what I really want. So you know, again, the conversation here is to me is it is not my sole responsibility, it has to be the responsibility of the community, but it also depends on how many resources I have at a given time, and that will determine how I'm setting boundaries, how I'm asking for my needs to be met and how I am engaging in my own self-care.

Karen Dyck:

Absolutely. I know one of the things we talk about is self-care being very individualized and a dynamic process, right, because I know, even for me, what self-care looks like one week for me might be very different than what it looks like the next week, for a lot of the same reasons that you're just describing Silvana. And being able to be kind and compassionate with ourselves and just acknowledge what we are doing in an effort to take care of ourselves, I think is just so important as we go on all our individualized self-care journeys that we have. Silvana, what's the most important takeaway that you hope someone listening today will remember from our conversation? That's a big question, right, because there's a lot of really important messages in what we've been discussing today.

Karen Dyck:

But even if you can say a couple of takeaway messages that you really hope many people have.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Yeah, I think that all of the things that we've been talking about that are very important for me and that I think that if I want your listeners to get something out of this conversation is, the fact is, the importance of having a community and the importance of being in embodied connections, in embodied relationships, understanding that a community doesn't mean, you know, I need to have at least five buddies, five best friends.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

No, a community could be one other person and my community can change as well. This is my community. Over here is my community of peers and colleagues. Over here is my community of the people who helped me with my family and raised my kid, et cetera, et cetera. Over there is a community of you know all the aspects of your life and the fact that we need to exist in these communities, in embodied relationships, in embodied connections. I really need to know what's happening with myself in order to be in relationship with others, so that these relationships can be authentic, can be healthy, and if there is any form of rupture in these relationships because again we're imperfect human beings we can go through repair right. So those are the two things, that and how I would summarize what my goal is for clinicians and for clinicians' self-care, to have a community and to navigate these communities from a place of embodied connections.

Melissa Tiessen:

I feel like that just so eloquently really emphasizes so much of our first pillar of self-care being connection. And I'm sure the wheels are turning in Clarence's head as well about some things that we are maybe going to add into our connection pillar as a result of our discussion with you today. So, vanna, yeah, just we couldn't agree more with the importance of those points as well. So, just before we get to our very final question, again, we just so appreciated everything that you've shared and this perspective on self-care, so we would love for more people to connect with the work that you do. So where can they go to find out more?

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Yeah, they can find me on my website, which is wwwseventhselfconsultingcom. They can also find me on Instagram. My handle is decolonize your practice with a Z. Decolonize your practice. Facebook, same thing Decolonize your practice. They can also find me there.

Karen Dyck:

Thanks so much, and we always love trying to broaden our listeners' concepts about what self-care looks like. So one of the questions we always love to ask our guests is what your favorite kind of non-conventional self-care practice is. We really just love to hear your thoughts on that, savannah.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Yeah, I have several non-conventional self-care strategies that are very simple, don't take a lot of time and don't take a lot of money. I like to sit on there's a deck on my backyard and I like to just see there's a beautiful big tree that my neighbor has. So just being nature, trying to connect with what's there. Again, I guess that's my way of doing practice in mindfulness. But just being there, feeling the sun if it's sunny, seeing that beautiful big tree and feeling the grass, that to me it's a moment of self-care because it allows me to connect with how I'm feeling. And sometimes that's not happy because I also have my stressors.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

But that is amazing because if I realize in that moment that there are some dark places, some dark spaces within myself, that's the moment to get curious about those dark spaces and do something about them. If I have the time and the bandwidth and those dark spaces once a visit for myself, if you will. So just something as simple as that is very, very useful for me. Spending time with my kid, spending time with the two cats that I have, so it's honestly the very simple things that work for me. Spending time with friends, it doesn't have to be every weekend going out. It's just a meeting, text conversation, but knowing that there's people out there, those are the things that helped me a lot.

Karen Dyck:

And those are. You know, so many of the things you mentioned, I also would say, are parts of my self-care, and I think it is such an important message that they don't mean to be these grand gestures. And in fact, I think we're going to get a lot further by incorporating what might seem like simpler parts of self-care, just some opportunities to reconnect and check in with ourselves, and what better way to do that than honestly I totally agree with you, savannah than to do that when you're connecting with nature as well. So I know for me, even if I'm having a rough day and there are some dark spaces that are coming up for me, somehow just being in nature lightens them, even just a little, just from allowing that space and time in nature for me. So thanks so much for sharing those with us Silvana.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Yeah, for sure. And don't get me wrong, like if again it's thinking of resources if I have money and time, I will rent a fancy Airbnb. If I can take a trip elsewhere, I will do that. But what's the point of taking a trip and spending all that money if I am not in connection with myself and if I am not checking in with myself and with the people that I'm traveling with, right? So again, it's simple works for me. It doesn't have to be simple all the time, but it is simple because I am checking in with myself in that moment and I know that I want simple in that moment.

Karen Dyck:

Yeah absolutely, absolutely such a good point. We don't want to, we don't want to encourage I, you know, I think some people their self-care is the big vacation once a year, and you know what, I mean, I can appreciate that I love traveling as well. But I think sometimes it's a bit of a sad state where, right, that's your only self-care. You're kind of just trudging through the trenches for the rest of the year and then there's this vacation and then you go back and nothing else has changed. A nd you're really not taking the time to connect with yourself and really create a life worth living. , xactly, yes. Well, Silvana, once again, Melissa and I just are so appreciative that you took the time with us today to talk about such an important topic and, again, hopefully, our listeners will follow you and visit you on your website to learn more about everything that you offer.

Silvana Espinoza Lau:

Yeah, thank you so much for having me and, yes, I would be delighted to work with more people on decolonizing their practices, decolonizing themselves, decolonizing their communities. And, yeah, this was a great conversation. So, thank you so much for having me. Our pleasure.

Melissa Tiessen:

And thank you for joining us as well.

Karen Dyck:

If you would like to learn more about how you can thrive in your work as a female mental health clinician, please visit us online at intentional therapist. ca, where you can discover more resources, read about our Four C's framework and sign up for our free newsletter.

Melissa Tiessen:

We look forward to connecting with you there and creating a courageous community of like-minded women.