“Determine your values.” With Beau Henderson & Amy Rollo

There isn’t one thing that a person can do to transform their mental health. Instead, there is a combination that will transform your life. The first thing I help everyone with is to determine their values. We are often chasing goals without reflecting if those goals are what you are really wanting in life. By […]

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There isn’t one thing that a person can do to transform their mental health. Instead, there is a combination that will transform your life. The first thing I help everyone with is to determine their values. We are often chasing goals without reflecting if those goals are what you are really wanting in life. By determining values, it allows us to make sure our time, energy, and attention match the values in our life.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPA LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a triple licensed psychotherapist and owner of a large group Practice in Houston, Texas. She focuses on helping high achieving professionals prevent burnout, live an authentic value driven life, and create lifestyles to optimize mental wellness.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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?

Igraduated with my master’s in Clinical Psychology when I was 23 years old. At the time, many of my clients would ask me if I was still in high school because I looked so young. I knew I wanted to be in the field of psychology as long as I can remember; I was so focused on this career path that I completed my undergraduate degree in 3 years and went straight to graduate school. I’ve had a pleasure of working in many different mental health areas, including neuropsychology, research, and child counseling before landing on specializing in working with high achieving professionals and couples. Through my own self-exploration, I learned that I am a workaholic, who tends to practice escapism behaviors through over-working, and love to share my wisdom with others.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Oh, there are MANY interesting stories. Some will make you laugh until you cry, others will rip your heart out and really make you cry. Unfortunately, HIPAA and confidentiality prevents me from sharing the really good ones.

I think many therapists will tell you the interesting things happen when confidentiality gets you into some pickles. For instance, you might be working with an individual for months and realize after half a year the ex-girlfriend they have been complaining about the whole time is a client that you have been seeing for years. This happens often when after months of work and building therapeutic rapport and trust that you realize that you have been unknowingly been involved in a tangled web that you are unable to disclose. This isn’t too problematic, as we are trained to keep confidentiality and stay unbiased, but sometimes it makes scheduling difficult, as you don’t want clients running into each other in the waiting room.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

My motto has always been “human first.” Yes, I’m a therapist, but I am also a person who has lots of human moments. However, I still cringe when I think about opening my group practice and building clients. My daughter happened to be potty training around that time. We were at the local park and my daughter yells, “I have to go potty.” Now most parents know when a potty training child yells they have to go potty, it means now. We found a tree to hide behind, and I let her go anywhere but her pants. I look up to find a client. We lock eyes, and I just laugh. It’s all you can do. In truth, I live close to where I work, so I run into clients often, and we often chuckle at the human moments they catch me in.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I know it sounds trite, but I really owe everything to my husband… Okay, not everything, I do quite a bit, but I owe so much to him. He’s been with me through college, 3 graduate school programs, various jobs that required us to move across the state, and many nights of “stress moments.” He’s built enough furniture for our counseling offices that he should probably have a side-gig as carpenter, and he is constantly offering support. I could not have asked for a better partner in life or cheerleader. Thank you Chris for constantly being the person you promised you would always be.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Burnout and compassion fatigue are real problems in this industry. Compassion fatigue is often described as a loss of caring about clients, often to a degree of feeling irritated by their problems. Many enter the field because of an excess of empathy and find it hard to imagine ever feeling compassion fatigue, yet many find themselves experiencing it after prolonged burn-out.

It seems counter intuitive for most, but my first recommendation to other therapists to help against burnout is to vary your efforts. Yes, I know we are all high achievers and are constantly striving for the best, but this push for the best leads to burnout, and ultimately compassion fatigue. Take a moment to reflect on what you can handle as a therapist. Are you able to do 8 60-minute session back to back? Most likely, no. Are you able to return home after a full day of sessions and return emails? Most likely not long-term. In order to be a good therapist in this field, you must rid yourself of the notion that you need to be a perfect therapist. While your role of therapist is so important for your clients, you can’t be all things for them. You likely need to put up boundaries in order to protect yourself. These could include having a set time when emails are returned, scaling session lengths to 45–50 minutes, and limit the length of phone calls. This phenomenon is called “boundaried generosity,” and many seasoned therapists learned along the way in order to create sustainability in the field boundaried generosity is a must in their practice.

Boundary generosity is not just a boundary of time, but also a boundary of compassion. This boundary helps buffer against burnout and compassion fatigue. A boundary of compassion means the therapist chooses not to take the emotional load of their clients home with them. This creates a buffer between work and home, and home becomes a safe haven for personal and family self-care. In order to be successful long-term in this field, boundaries need to include how much a therapist is willing to give emotionally.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

As a leader in the industry, it’s easy to put your clients’ needs first. It makes sense, the clients are the ones seeking help, and we are in a helping profession. My advice is to put your therapists first, so they have the capacity to care for their clients. By putting the therapists’ needs first, it allows the clients to get the best treatment. When a therapist becomes burnt-out, ultimately the clients suffer the most.

As an owner of a large group practice, the first benefit I gave my therapist is the ability to have full control over their schedule. They can decide what days they work, what evenings, etc. The therapists who are morning people work 8–5 and the evening people work 12–8. Having autonomy over the schedule helps tremendously. The next benefit I provided was PTO and encourage my staff to actually take it! When I see an employee have a pile of notes to complete, I try not to give a lecture about the notes, but look deeper at the problem. This allows us to quickly realize the therapist is needing some time away. Being able to put my therapists’ needs first has helped create a wonderful work environment and a whole team of motivated and compassionate therapists.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

There isn’t one thing that a person can do to transform their mental health. Instead, there is a combination that will transform your life. The first thing I help everyone with is to determine their values. We are often chasing goals without reflecting if those goals are what you are really wanting in life. By determining values, it allows us to make sure our time, energy, and attention match the values in our life.

The next step to transform your life is to create goals. These can be family goals, physical/exercise, career, or anything else. Every day write something down that you will do to help you get closer to your goals. Maybe the step is stating affirmations, creating intentions, or meditating towards the goal. Whatever your goal is, spend some time with it each day.

Another step in creating mental wellness is movement. Movement each day completes the stress cycle and is a buffer against burnout. Go for a walk, do yoga, or lift weights. Every day ensure that you break a sweat to complete the stress cycle.

Gratitude literally rewires the brain. Whatever our brain searches for, it will find. If you are looking for the negative, it will be all you will see. If you search for the positive, you’ll will find it everywhere in your life. Every evening write down 3–5 things you are grateful for.

Maybe you should talk to someone isn’t just an awesome book, it’s great advice. Every therapists needs a therapist. It doesn’t have to be weekly appointments, or even every year you see a therapist, but therapists need a person in their life. As a therapist, you are constantly holding other people’s stories and emotions, therapists deserve a designated time just for them.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

When one thinks of retirement, they should think about their values. For instance, my values include family, adventure, growth, and travel and that’s how I plan to retire. I will focus my time with my family, going on vacations, and continuing to exercise and grow as a person. Goals and purpose cannot end when one decides to retire from their career.

During retirement, we should continue to do the things listed above regarding mental wellness. Goal seeking, gratitude, movement, and therapy doesn’t end just because your career did. Keep putting in the time to care for yourself.

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

I’m a big believer in family. Having a family that supports their tweens and teens is crucial for mental wellness. The relationship should be open to be able to talk about anything and allow for discussion of emotions. There is so much pressure these days on our youth. Parents should let their children know that perfectionism isn’t the goal, but grit and the willingness to get back up after failures. Parents can help their children with their emotional well-being by allowing their children to name and talk about emotions, as naming the emotion is the first step to healing them.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

The Gift of Therapy by Irving Yalom changed how I practice. His ability to show compassion to clients, be truly present with them, and show up as a human and not just therapist transformed how I viewed the field. He has a chapter that discusses if you make a mistake, own it. I think of his book each time I utter the wrong words, make a scheduling error, or forget to return an email. Own it. I don’t expect my clients to be perfect, why should I be perfect?

Glennon Doyle’s book, Untamed, is a must for any woman and really human out there. Each page I highlighted, underlined, and wrote “yes!” in the margins. It’s seriously a game changer. “I see your fear, and it’s big. I also see your courage, and it’s bigger. We can do hard things.” I read those lines and literally stopped and wondered if she watched my morning routine. During some hard times in my life, I woke each morning with the self-affirmation, “things are hard, we can do hard things.” It got me through so many rough periods. This is a book you need to read then reread.

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. 🙂

The gift of saying no. The last few years, people learned to replace saying “sorry” with “thank you.” It was awesome. Now I want people to learn to say “no,” or at least to start saying “yes” to themselves. Every time you say “yes” to someone and really want to say “no,” you are choosing to say “no” to you. You also build resentment. When you choose to say “no” when you mean it, you are choosing to say “yes” to your needs. As a woman, we are taught from an early age that likability is one the our best attributes that we should strive for at all costs. The result is generations of overworked women who place their needs last. We are burnt out. We are tired. Start saying no. It’s a full sentence. No. See, doesn’t that feel good?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“The truest, most beautiful life never promises to be an easy one. We need to let go of the lie that it’s supposed to be.” Glennon Doyle

The truth is, 2020 has been a difficult year for me, just like it has been for so many other people. Expectations and goals were lost and replaced with adaptations and survival. However, life was never promised to be easy. The entire human experience isn’t supposed to be good. A full life is one with all the experiences, good, bad, beautiful, and heartbreaking. Let go of the “should” or “supposed to go” notion. Instead, replace with the acceptance of “this is the way it is going.” Once we can let go of the expectation we create for life, we can start living in the authentic life that is right in front of us. Soak in the good, survive the bad, and know that all these experiences are adding up to a full life. Live it all. Embrace it all.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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