Connection: Leaders and employers need to actually meet the humans that are working for them. I meet with each of my employees once a month for an hour simply to discuss what they need from the company and to offer connection as two human beings living life and working for the same company. Your employees are working for money to support their family, and they hopefully believe in the mission of your company, so get to also know the mission of their life and who they are, and how you can best support them and their mental health. They are using their minds to get their job done so make sure their minds are healthy.
As a part of my series about the “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Courtney Tracy.
As a non-conventional therapist, Dr. Courtney Tracy is working to destigmatize the mental health sector for both patients and professionals alike. Priding herself on her honest, authentic approach to mental healthcare, she shares her knowledge on both Instagram and TikTok, the latter of which she has gone viral with over 750k followers. Her methods resonate with those looking for support in a non-traditional, non-judgemental way, as she believes that the key to effective mental health care starts with honesty and vulnerability.
Dr. Tracy owns and operates Good Heart Recovery, a full-service mental health and substance abuse treatment center, as well as a non-profit organization that supports individuals with addiction issues. On a mission to change the way we access mental healthcare, Dr. Tracy also developed The Truth Seekers Community, a free online mental health educational platform dedicated to providing resources to those looking to learn more about themselves, their mind, and the world around them. Through the community, members can access specialized lesson videos, monthly handouts and worksheets, private social media groups for support, and much more.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Igrew up in a low-income, mixed-ethnicity family in Orange County, California. I grew up with a lot of privilege compared to others in the world and in my country, and we still struggled. I struggled back then, and a lot of my family still does. We also were and still are a very resilient family. From a young age, I found myself wondering often about the mind, our human behaviors and how people end up living the types of lives they end up living. Substance use, mental health, financial, employment and housing issues were always a concern for me and my family. So, I became very aware of the psychology of our existence and how the mind affects how we live our lives every single day. Once I found the field of psychology, I knew somehow I would live my life within it one way or another. Upon deciding to get my masters, social work called to me because I see the world from a systematic and expansive perspective and prefer to look at the totality of our life versus working individually one on one with people.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
It absolutely has to be that I have gained over 800,000 fans on social media in the last 12 months by creating mental health content surrounding alternative ways of viewing one’s self, one’s family and the world around us all. As an introvert turned extrovert on camera, I have found that my voice is important and that people all around the world are resonating with the things that I have to say, about both my profession and other areas of life, and mental health in general.
Another interesting story: I made my paid online mental health membership and community 100% free since starting this journey, and I have essentially given away over $1,000,000 worth of international mental health education to over 16,000 students worldwide. Anyone over the age of 13 can access the courses at www.thetruthdoctor.com. My two largest social media accounts are found by searching @the.truth.doctor on Instagram and TikTok. It’s been a wild journey, and I know I’ve helped so many people so I have no plans of stopping anytime soon. It’s very interesting to see just how much an alternative perspective can shift so many people towards healing.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Well, here’s the thing: When I was experiencing burnout, I quit my job. To be fair, it was a mutual separation, but this was because I was already actively starting my own mental health company on the sidelines. My industry is one where we work to save human lives, to save the human mind and to reconnect people with their hearts and their bodies.
Burnout is so common and thriving can be difficult. It’s a delicate balance. My advice when it comes to avoiding burnout is to track how much time you’re giving to yourself versus how much time you’re giving to your clients and/or your profession. Most “professions” have a spoken or unspoken way that you must act, speak, listen and adhere to in order to be seen as worthy and maintain your status in the company or field. This limits our own creativity, our own spirit and, a lot of times, our own true self-worth. If finding a balance between the hours spent working and the hours spent being your true self, outside of your profession, is difficult, then I highly recommend finding a passion and diving deep into it. Commit yourself to whatever that is.
Our jobs might cause us stress, and it’s important to find creative and purposeful ways to reduce that stress, which will ultimately reduce burnout. Spend 40 hours a week working (if you have to) and spend 10–12 hours doing things you actually enjoy (if you don’t enjoy your job). Get adequate sleep. I look at it this way: We have 280 hours in a week. If we’re working 40 hours a week, we still have 240 hours to make our life what we want it to be. Start living your purpose in those other 240 hours and you won’t get burnt out.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
A fantastic work culture begins with finding out what is fantastic about your own employees. There has to be a sense of connection and understanding for each and every employee that works for you. My advice would be to figure out what your employees strengths are and to realize that the “40 hour work week” shouldn’t be applied at all times.
If a company has over 500 employees, it doesn’t make sense for the CEO to meet with each of them. However, it does make sense to have each supervisor meet with their supervisee and learn about who they are, what makes them happy and how they engage in their job duties. If it’s a small company with, let’s say, 15 employees, the CEO should know each and every one of them to a degree, as should the owner. Human beings want to be recognized for who they are, not just what they do for you.
When it comes to time spent at work, the 40 hour work week was only initiated to reduce the prior 80–100 hour work week from the 1800s. We went down as a country to 40 hours because it was shown through studies that the additional 8 hours did not lead to significant increases in productivity and more so led to decreased satisfaction at work and more errors. The 40-hour work week was initiated in 1940 before several of our new technological advances. Leaders need to reevaluate the general standards by which they run their companies and treat their employees in terms of weekly flexibility. When seen as unique, given room to be themselves and provided with flexibility to thrive using the new technologies we have available, companies can and will do much better than they currently are.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
You know, I like this question and it’s a really difficult one to answer. I don’t have a particular favorite life lesson but there are two that I have recently learned that I hope everyone learns at some point in their lives. The first one is “you deserve the love you try to give to others and expect in return” and the second one is “be here now”.
The second one applies to the first one. I was always trying to escape my own mind and essentially self-sabotage myself by lending my time, space, money, love and attention to others, many of whom did not return the expenditure and I was left feeling isolated and misunderstood. “Being here now” is something I learned from Ram Dass and it will forever be a quote that will stick with me. All we can do is what we can do in the moment, the next moments will come, but for now, this, this is where we are, this is what we’re working with and we need to remember to breathe, take ourselves into consideration first in terms of our health and safety, and take things one step at a time.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?
Thank you for wanting me to discuss this. It’s so vitally important. I have heard of several initiatives that companies like Starbucks and Cisco are developing and implementing, and they are all wonderful. I’d like to, however, list the five that I have initiated because as a 30 year old self-funded founder and CEO who is running a mental health company, with only 15 employees and 20 clients, that was recently valued at two million dollars within the first 3 years. There’s a reason why it’s working so well, and it’s not just the quality of care, but also the quality of the organization, its culture and how I treat my employees.
- Connection: Leaders and employers need to actually meet the humans that are working for them. I meet with each of my employees once a month for an hour simply to discuss what they need from the company and to offer connection as two human beings living life and working for the same company. Your employees are working for money to support their family, and they hopefully believe in the mission of your company, so get to also know the mission of their life and who they are, and how you can best support them and their mental health. They are using their minds to get their job done so make sure their minds are healthy.
- Space: Open door policies. When forming a company, open door policies should be factored into the mix. If an employee doesn’t feel safe to discuss what’s going on in their personal life, then you won’t ever know how to help them with certain issues they may be having at work. You don’t have to solve their personal problems, but you should provide a nonjudgmental space for them to explain why they may be forgetting things or showing up late to work. Studies show that employees don’t disclose a lot of information in ‘set meetings’ and an open door policy allows for them to come to you when they feel comfortable sharing what’s going on.
- Compassion: Meeting with my employees and providing them with an open door policy works wonders, but it wouldn’t work if I didn’t have any compassion for them and what they’re going through. There are times when I get worried that some of my employees personal life concerns will significantly impact their work performance, and sharing my compassion with their situation while also noting what needs to be done keeps things human and allows us to strategize for a solution together. If you’re a leader and you know an employee’s loved one died, and your only concern is how their work is going to get done, then you are way too far away from compassion for others, likely compassion for yourself, and gratitude for the real good things in life.
- Flexibility: The 40 hour work week will be changing soon. I can feel it. We need to be flexible with our employees. Right now, I literally don’t have one employee who works 40 hours a week and I only have one employee that works 5 days a week, and that’s just because we’re close to expanding and need that person on-site right now more so than we will in the future. Realize that every employee is a human with different abilities, different tasks and a different life. People don’t need strict 8-hour days with 40-hours a week. We definitely need guidelines and limitations so people don’t get overworked — but that’s just a maximum. It shouldn’t be a minimum. I also provide an hour a week for anyone who needs to attend therapy. I don’t care what time it’s at or what day it’s on. If you need to go, go.
- Vulnerability: In order for your employees to be open about their mental health, leaders need to be open about their own mental health too. A year and a half into my husband and I opening our company, he had a complete and sudden mental breakdown after the birth of our first child and it was publicized on the news. How did we handle it? He left the company andworked on himself. I was completely open about how it was and was not going to affect the company and held steady to the fact that we are all human and we are vulnerable to the mind’s struggles. I am open about my past and how it has actually supported me in my vocational and educational ventures to date. It takes vulnerability to receive vulnerability. That’s just how we’re wired as humans.
So, in summary:
- Truly connect with your employees and get to know them. Schedule times to do this.
- Make sure your employees know they can come to you with what they’re facing even during unscheduled meetings.
- Work on yourself as a leader so you have space to have compassion for others.
- Be flexible with the conditions of your work week and allow creativity to be a part of productivity.
- Be open about your own mental health to allow others to be open about theirs.
What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?
Articles like these are really important, so thank you for being willing to share our interview with your readers. Raising awareness starts with realizing why the issue at hand is so important. We are not just our bodies. We are our minds, too. Our bodies affect our minds and our minds affect our bodies. If 1 in 5 Americans have a mental health disorder, then in a company with 500 people, that’s 100 people. That’s 20% of whatever work you are needing to have done being affected by the conditions of life struggles and a complicated mind. If you care about your company, you need to care about your employee’s mental wellness.
In terms of strategies to raise awareness, leaders should start with research. What are the most common mental health disorders and presentations in your given field and why? How do they show up? How are they treated? Then, share this knowledge with your employees. Send emails and hold seminars on mental health and general ways of improving it. Check the culture of your company and make sure there is no overt or covert discrimination or inequality. In the larger picture, any new company opening should consider how they are not only going to take care of their clients and customers, but also how they are going to take care of their employees.
From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious and having other mental health issues ? Can you explain?
I love that you went from the micro to the macro with this question as every level of existence matters when it comes to mental health. We all need access to learning more about the human mind, how it works and how we can better our own and the minds of those around us.
To effectively provide support to those around us and ourselves, we have to educate ourselves. That’s why I created my online community and eventually made it free. Everyone deserves access to knowing how the mind and how mental health works.
Education and compassion are so important when it comes to answering this question.
As a society, we should be teaching emotional intelligence, time and stress management and interpersonal communication in primary and secondary education. It’s a non-political issue at this point — it’s a humanity issue.
As a community, we should be learning about the makeup of all of our diverse communities, what makes each of us unique, and how we can all help one another. There should be enough accessible and affordable mental health services for anyone who needs them and our community members should be able to understand what it means when they have mental health issues, and they shouldn’t feel ostracized because of them.
As individuals, we should be educating ourselves (if we have the privilege to do so) on our own minds, we should be growing compassion for ourselves and others through that education and we should be supporting those around us because we accept one another as human beings with a diverse mind and body.
Habits can play a huge role in mental wellness. What are the best strategies you would suggest to develop good healthy habits for optimal mental wellness that can replace any poor habits?
We have to learn who we really are, as individuals. For example, I am an anxious person with what can be a short temper and a history of substance use and traumatic experiences. Knowing this, I know I need to slow down using mindfulness strategies, meditate to see what emotions my mind and body are holding onto underneath the surface and check myself for my conditioned habitual responses, i.e. poor habits, like putting off my own self-care or blaming others for problems that I know I can solve or have caused myself.
People who experience depression, stress, anxiety, addiction, panic, obsession, attention-issues, disordered eating habits each need to learn about how their mental disorders show up for them in their own lives. Procrastination, for example, can be caused from depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and much more. If depression is causing procrastination, the solution may be working outside in the sun or doing daily affirmations. If anxiety is causing procrastination, the solution may be listing out what needs to be done in order of priority and/or engaging in deep breathing while working to calm the nervous system.
Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?
I absolutely do. You know, I used to tell people, and myself, that I hated others, my own mind and didn’t want a future of any kind. I numbed out with substances, quit or got fired from several entry-level jobs and just had a general distaste for life and thinking or feeling anything at all. Mindfulness, spirituality, meditation and the concept that I am a spirit in a human body changed my life.
I engage in deep breathing daily as I have learned to hold my breath as a form of a traumatic “freeze mode” and when I deep breathe, I calm down and gain clarity. I meditate when I really need it. I don’t like to necessarily sit still, but when I’m activated, it can be really helpful. I do physical exercise every day and switch between yoga and cardio every other day.
The thing that’s helped me the most is getting outside. I know I would have been miserable my whole life if I had to work indoors because my environment affects me greatly. Whenever I’m feeling down, I bring my laptop down to one of the beautiful Laguna Beach beaches down the street from my house and I work on the sand watching the dolphins and seals play in the water.
We as human beings need to understand ourselves, we need to understand our bodies, and we need to understand our minds. We also need to accept what has happened in our lives (this can take a significant amount of time and work) and how it has altered what we need to do to take care of ourselves.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Yes. The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van Der Kolk will forever be the book that changed my life. After realizing just how traumatized I had been in my life, I realized that a lot of trauma was stored in my body and no matter what I did to ‘talk’ about my issues, my internal life progress was going to come from moving my body and being mindful about my words and my actions. The book also gave me perspective on the fact that, while only 1 in 5 Americans report a mental illness, the ACE Study found that only 39.1% of people reported no adverse childhood experiences. To me, that meant that over 60% of the human beings all around me are carrying something difficult. I believe that everyone is carrying something difficult, but let’s go with the statistical numbers here. That means that 60% of my employees have had difficult lives. My goal as a clinician, as a social media figure, as a business owner, as a family member, a mother, a wife and a human being is to help people release the difficulties in their lives, not to add to them.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Thank you. The movement that I believe would bring about the most good to the most amount of people would be a movement to provide free emotional education to every human being on this planet. We need to(if you couldn’t already tell where I stand on this) educate ourselves on our minds and our bodies. Every single decision that we make in any position we are in, whether you are President of the United States or a stay at home parent, is made through our own minds and bodies, what they are holding onto, where they are in the present moment and what we hope the future looks like. Without really knowing how we function and why, we’re all letting our unconscious desires and beliefs control humanity as we know it.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Your readers can find me at all of the following areas:
My treatment center is Good Heart Recovery and it can be found at www.goodheartrecovery.com.
My free online mental health community is The Truth Seekers Community and it can be found at https://www.thetruthdoctor.com/courses-page.
My general website is The Truth Doctor and can be found at www.thetruthdoctor.com.
My podcast is Your Unconscious Is Showing and links to all available platforms (Apple, Spotify, Google, Anchor, etc) can be found at https://www.thetruthdoctor.com/your-unconscious-is-showing-podcast.
My social media accounts can be found at @the.truth.doctor and here:
I also provide free healing text messages to your readers in the US and they can text this number to begin receiving them immediately: (424) 228–9525.