Are you seeking more balance in your life as a therapist? What are the keys to balancing your life & work?
MEET Gordon Brewer
Gordon Brewer, Jr., MEd, LMFT therapist | podcaster | trainer | speaker | writer is a licensed marital and family therapist and an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. Gordon is the person behind The Practice of Therapy Podcast. The Practice of Therapy provides information and resources for clinicians starting, growing, or scaling private practices.
Gordon started The PsychCraft Network of Podcasts in 2022, along with a new podcast, The Kindness & Compassion Podcast, that explores the intersection of psychology, science, and spirituality to create more kindness and compassion in the world.
Gordon has worked in the human services and mental health fields for over 30 years. He has previously worked in agency settings and is currently in private practice as a therapist. He owns a group therapy practice, Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC (www.kingsportcounseling,com) located in Kingsport, TN. He has also served as an adjunct instructor and internship supervisor at East Tennessee State University.
Gordon is married to Mary “Sister” Brewer and they have one daughter, Rebecca, an environmental educator. Gordon is also a clergyperson in the Episcopal Church (vocational deacon).
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Chris McDonald: Does your life feel out of balance? Are you startling to make time for yourself today? You learn how to find the balance you need to live your best life as a holistic therapist.
This is Holistic Counseling, the podcast for mental health therapists who want to deepen their knowledge of holistic modalities and build their practice with confidence.
I'm your host, Chris McDonald, licensed therapist. I am so glad you're here for the journey.
Welcome to today's episode of the Holistic Counseling Podcast. Balance is something that can feel elusive for therapists and may be impossible on some days, but you're in luck today. Today's guest is Gordon Brewer, L M F T, and host of the Practice of Therapy podcast. He's gonna share tips on how to create more balance in your life.
Welcome to the podcast, Gordon.
Gordon Brewer: well thanks Chris. I'm so glad to be here. Can
Chris McDonald: you tell my listeners more about yourself and your.private practice since about: started my group practice in: from graduate school, like in:
So I've been, um, been in the mental health field ever since then.
Chris McDonald: Excellent. Wow. It sounds like you do have a lot to juggle and balance .
Gordon Brewer: Yeah, and that's, uh, really, uh, one of the things that I've learned about myself is that I'm not a naturally organized person. Ah, so I have to put a lot of energy into that.
So yeah, this doesn't come, doesn't necessarily come naturally. I think a lot of people, there are a lot of people that are just naturally organized. I mean, they're just kinda wired their way. I am not. So it's something I've had to learn and try to perfect along the way. I'm just
Chris McDonald: impressed that you have two podcasts.
I'm trying to keep up with one <LAUGH> plus private practice.
Gordon Brewer: Right, right. Wow, wow. Yeah, it's just so, my gosh. Something that I really enjoy and yeah. What
Chris McDonald: inspired you for that podcast? Cuz that's a little different than the
Gordon Brewer: practice one. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, part of it is, uh, you know, a lot of it has to do with kind of my personal convictions and just, uh, one of the things that I guess we all experienced and we've experienced for a while, but I think it really came.
A lot during the Covid pandemic and then just with. The whole tragic, um, loss of George Floyd and his murder and all that sort of thing. And just the, the whole thing around polarization and politics and all of that kind of thing. And, you know, really, I, I just feel like kind of, if there's a solution, although there's never any easy solution, the solution kinda lies in our.
Our willingness to really treat each other with kindness and compassion. You know, we might not agree with somebody's viewpoint, but we certainly can always treat people kindly and, and have compassion for their backstory. There's some, I've been, uh, I've recently, uh, been kind of binge listening to a group called daws, and there's a song.
That they have, and I can't remember the title of it, I should know it, but one of the lines in the song is, is you really can't hate anyone if you know where they've been through. Yeah. So I think that's, that's powerful. That's really, um, yeah, really kind of, kind of the inspiration to some degree of that podcast of really trying to find people, interview people that also just looking at that, you know, with all the hats that I wear looking that intersection between.
You know, spirituality, religion, psychology, you know, self-help, all of that kind of thing. And interviewing people around those topics and how they're able to live into kindness and
Chris McDonald: That sounds amazing. I gotta check that podcast out. So how would you describe balance? What does that mean?
Gordon Brewer: Yeah, that's a, that's a great question.
Um, I don't know that I've ever really tru. Achieved it. But, and one thing that comes to mind for me is being able to really kinda get control of, to some degree, control of your time and time management. You know, I think I, when I, when I think about life balance is, is that you really know yourself well. I think being able to understand your internal motivations or as I like to say, your why behind what you do, and really being intentional with doing things that align with your internal motivations for doing things and, and being able to, to look at all of that, you know, the time management piece.
I think that's something that. Again, like I think people that are naturally organized, it's easier for them to do that. For me, I, I have to put a lot of energy into that and I've got a, a planner that I use and try to use it to, to kind of keep track of my time, but also just the whole self-care part of this is real important when I think of life balance, if we're you.
Start getting, I know, I, I went through a, a period where I was really, um, had developed some unhealthy habits with eating and exercise and all of those things we know we're supposed to do in order to, you know, keep ourself healthy. And so being able to incorporate those things has a lot to do with life balance.
But just, um, again, kind of the, the thing I think about is that for me it's easy. I like to conceptualize it in terms of our different life domains. We, I think all of us have different parts of our lives that require different amounts of attention and different kinds of attention. So, so for example, our family and what we do at home is one, one life domain.
Certainly our work and our career and that sort of thing is another life domain. You know, our, our contacts with people and our community has another life domain for some. , which is true for me, kind of my, the spiritual side of my life is another domain. So there are different, different parts to what we, we give our attention to.
And so being able to give our attention to those different parts of our life in a way that feeds us rather than depletes us
Chris McDonald: that's perfect, feeds us rather than depletes us. So that, That's food for thought. And I, and I wonder if that could be a question that therapists can ask themself is, is this something that's feeding me or depleting me?
Gordon Brewer: Right. Right. And I think that's, that's one of the things that I think, uh, and when I do consulting with, with therapists around these things, really looking at, okay, the stuff that you're doing now that you absolutely dread, what can you do about that in terms of, usually if it's stuff that has to be. And it's something that somebody else can do and it's de, and it's something that you do that depletes you.
It's probably better to outsource that to somebody else, hire somebody else to do those things. And so that, that's just one small example I think.
Chris McDonald: Yeah. And I think that's hard for a lot of therapists if they've never done that before, to actually hire someone like a virtual assistant or a billing person.
I think that that first step could be challenging.
Gordon Brewer: Yes. Yes. I would totally agree. But why is that important,
Chris McDonald: do you think, to outsource some things?
Gordon Brewer: Well, I think it's, uh, again, kind of going back to the life balance. We can, we can deplete our, deplete our energy by focusing on things that are maybe. There's a, I'm gonna change gears here just a second.
The, there's a, um, a grid, it's a time management tool, and I think it was, I think it was first brought about through, I think it was Dwight Eisenhower that kind of came up with this idea, or it might have been Benjamin Franklin, one of those people. But it's, uh, it's a grid of a time use grid, and it's, um, Divided in, if you can imagine, just a grid of four squares, you know, uh, two squares on top and two squares on bottom.
And at the top of that, That continuum is important stuff, and the bottom of that continuum is not important stuff. And then on the other axis, you've got, um, urgent and not urgent. And one of the things about that is, is that a lot of times we put a lot of energy into stuff that maybe is not that important, and then we make it urgent.
And that is one area in which we could really definitely change things. The other thing too is, is that I think a lot of times if we realize we're operating in kind of an urgency mode with everything, that means we probably got too much on our plate and we, uh, get into firefighting mode. And so that becomes, We, we fool ourselves into thinking stuff is important when it's really not, and also urgent when it's really not.
But really the place that we, we should kind of operate to really, in my mind, to have kind of more life balance is to focus on those things that are important but not urgent. . And so there's always gonna be things that are important and urgent. You know, a child gets sick or, you know, all of those kinds of things are certainly urgent and important.
So we do need to focus on those things when they come up. But we don't need to be focusing all of our tension on those urgent, important things because that will, that will just eventually burn us out. And that's what leads to burnout, I think. And so making that shift to really focusing on those things.
That are, are important, but taking the urgency of it away.
Chris McDonald: And it sounds like just being more thoughtful with prioritizing your day too. Cause I, I, I kind of can connect with what you're saying with the urgent, cuz I think that's what I was doing some days. It's like I put everything in that basket. , even though everything wasn't urgent.
Oh my. And then that, that leads to overwhelm, right? Uhhuh . Right. And I, and I look back, I'm like, what was I doing? What the hell? , why did I do that? Yeah, .
Gordon Brewer: Yeah, absolutely. Absolut,
Chris McDonald: absolutely. And then, and I think then you mentioned time management. I think that is so essential is such a key component of this and the organization part.
Cuz if you're disorganized then it's gonna be even more stressful for your day, I think. And Right. Figuring out some kind of plan for yourself. And is there any other organizational skills that has
Gordon Brewer: helped? Yeah. So one, one of the things that I think is, um, you know, for those of us in, in this field of being therapists, counselors, that kind of thing, you know, everything that we do is appointment driven.
So in other words, we are kind of our daily calendars around. You know what appointments we have with people, but I think one of the things that we need to always do is really block off time for the other things that we need to do. So almost like making an appointment with yourself around those things.
So the tool that I use that I absolutely love and uh, kind of. Stumbled upon it, uh, several years ago, is it's a, it's a, a planner called the Full Focus Planner, and it's, it's produced by Michael Hyatt and Company. But one of the things that it, it talks about in there is your daily big three. One of the things is we can create really long to-do lists for ourselves, and then we create that list, but then we don't plan the time to do those things.
And so one thing is to, is to just limit it to three. So that's what they refer to as the daily big three. And then at the same time, treat it. Treat those things that you know that are important that you want to get done. Treat 'em just like an appointment with yourself. So put 'em on your calendar that I'm gonna do it during this time or during this time period.
If you think about it with us as, as therapists, we block off time for our clients and our patients and we kind of treat that as sacred ground. We don't change that and so we to treat the things that we want to get done are. You know, with that, the other thing too is once you set your schedule, particularly as counselors, stick to it.
In other words, our, our tendency is to want to be nice and accommodating and that kind of thing, but figure out whatever it is your appointment slots are gonna be, and just stick to that. And if somebody wants to make an a appointment with you that's outside those appointed pointed slot, you just. You politely decline and just say, you know, I don't have availability then.
And so, yeah. So that, that would be something that I know was a big game changer for me. Oh, for sure. Was. Was creating the schedule and then sticking to it.
Chris McDonald: And I think that, I call it like softening of our boundaries when we're like, well, maybe I could just fit them in at that four o'clock time, even though you don't have the time.
Gordon Brewer: Right, right. Or, or you give up. Give up other things that are important to you. Yes. In order to do that. Mm-hmm. and so, Yeah, so I think that's important to remember. And then you're
Chris McDonald: saying no to something else that may be important to you. I always remember that too, is when you say yes to something like that, cuz maybe you need that downtime in your day.
Then you're saying no to your, to your self
Gordon Brewer: care. Yes. Yes. And I, I think that's the other, other thing too, is, is have a cutoff time for yourself with work and, you know, switching domains. I think, you know, there's a, there's a, a practice within I think a lot of monastic communities where when you, when it comes time to stop, you stop.
Yeah. So whatever it is you're doing, you just stop right then and you hold that, hold that space. As really kind of a, a sacred space. So the time has ended on this particular thing or this particular project, and you hold to that and you move on to the next thing. And so, uh, monastic communities do that around prayer.
And so if somebody's writing or working in a garden or anything like that, when it's time for the prayer prayers to. They end what they're doing, even if they're a mid-sentence, they put down their tool, they put down their writing instrument or whatever, they stop right then and move on to the next thing.
Chris McDonald: It's like that disconnecting. Yes. And do you have thoughts about the end of the workday? Is there any ideas that you have to keep balance?
Gordon Brewer: Yes, I think, I think really having, um, kind of a shutdown ritual that you do, and Michael Hyatt's co uh, this full focus planner has a section in it just talking about your daily rituals and it's your morning ritual, what you do when you first get up.
Then you've got your Workday startup ritual, and then you've got your. Your workday shut down ritual, and then also your end of the day ritual for for yourself at home or whatever. And so putting some thought into that and really thinking about how you prefer that to go, and then just really kinda getting in the habit of doing those things.
you know, we're all creatures of habit and the way any any habit develops is that we do it repetitively. And so being able to figure out, okay, what is, what is it that I'd really prefer to be doing during those different types of the day? And then really kind of holding yourself to doing it that way once you really identify what you would prefer to do
Chris McDonald: and, and being firm with yourself too.
Telling yourself, that's the hard part.
Gordon Brewer: Right, exactly. And I
Chris McDonald: guess for therapists, what do you think are some of the obstacles they may face to maintaining balance?
Gordon Brewer: Yeah, I think one, one of the things is, um, is one of the hardest things for us to do is just to say, say no to things. Yes. And kind of going back to what we talked about with, you know, people wanting, scheduling, people, when we.
Had planned to be off or planned not to see folks and working our schedule around. The other thing too is, is that if you do that, so for example, I know, I know I've got a patient and we, that has been a long time patient or client, and they really were having trouble scheduling with me because, you know, I, I really cut back on the number of hours which I see folks.
But my, um, client schedule is from two to five every day, uh, uh, Monday through Wednesday. So I only have those slots available. This person really said, you know, it's really difficult for me to get away from work then, and that sort of thing. And so I really, and they, because they were a long-term, a long-term client, I had little more flexibility with them.
So we, I created a slot. At the one o'clock time, but guess what? I took away the two o'clock time and so we just moved that. And so if you add something, also get rid of something . Oh, good idea. So that would be, yeah. Yeah. So that, that would be the, the thing. And I, I don't practice, which what I preach, cuz you can go to my sock drawer and see that.
Yeah, . Yeah, of course. So, but I, that would be, that would be the thing is just to really stick to your schedule and really hold firm with that to yourself. And, and I think it's good to think about it in a, in a way of doing that, that, that being a form of self-care. Um, the other thing too is getting away from trying to do it all yourself.
I know particularly for a. A lot of folks that are particularly in solo practices and that kind of thing, they try to to bootstrap too much. And I think it's a better idea to really figure out what are those things that I, uh, offload or to, to outsource, to where I could spend that time on the things that I know I want to spend time on, rather than constantly having to do.
Do those things. You know, the first, first one that comes to mind is just answering phones and scheduling people. That's something that could absolutely be offloaded to somebody else. Absolutely. Give you a bigger, big return on your investment. If you, if you were to hire somebody that, you know, just did that and to you, you paid 'em.
20, $30 an hour to do that, they would pay for themselves because they would probably be able to schedule, schedule. People retain people that are scheduling more quickly, but also that frees up your time to see clients. So if you're spending an hour a day returning phone calls or trying to schedule people when somebody else is doing that, that's time you lose.
And seeing clients and you know, with the way that we do things and. In our particular industry, if we, if we aren't seeing clients, we're not making any money. So being able to think about, about things in that way. And I
Chris McDonald: wondered with all you're doing with, uh, professionally and looking at your podcast website, you have a lot of things that you've are offering therapists, which is great, but I'm sure that took a lot of time.
So, Yes. Would you recommend to therapists who might have a podcast or other, you know, if they're doing courses or other things like that, how, how do you manage your schedule with all
Gordon Brewer: that? Yeah, I think, I think as much as anything, again, it's, uh, a matter of blocking off the times for things so, You know, if I'm creating a course, I look at my calendar and say, okay, this is the day I'm gonna work on this particular thing.
So I block off everything else and really do, you know, try to do things in ba in batching as well. So if I'm, for example, if I'm creating a course, I've got a a course outline that I create, and then I think about. What it's gonna look like, but then I've gotta spend the time, you know, recording things and all of that sort of thing for the courses.
And again, it's just blocking it off and putting it on your calendar. This is when I'm, this is when I'm gonna do these tasks or these things. And so it, it does require some time to really sit down and plan things out, which is really the only way you can get those things done. If you just do it in bits and pieces here and there, it will take you forever in getting it done.
Number one. Yes. But also it will be very disconnected.
Chris McDonald: And right now for your podcast, so how do you manage like times to record
Gordon Brewer: and Yeah, so like, like on my calendar, Thursdays and Fridays are the days that I do podcast. Oh, so certain days and stuff. Yeah, certain days. And so that's, uh, yeah, so again, that's just kind of, you know, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays are when I see clients.
I've got only see clients in the afternoon. So usually that morning time is reserved for doing administrative stuff. Sometimes stuff on the podcasts and that sort of thing, but you know, for, for example, you know, one big thing that takes time for, for most of us is getting documentation done. Yes. So Wednesday, Wednesday mornings is blocked off for me to do my documentation.
So I get all my documentation done on that particular day. And so that's just a sets, it's a, a standing appointment with myself to do those things. And so those are, those are things to kind of think about it, you know, treat, treat your personal time as the, with the same importance and, and urgency that you would in seeing a.
And so when you look at your calendar and do all those things, that's how you need to think about
Chris McDonald: it. And I think just setting time aside to get organized to manage your time. Yes,
Gordon Brewer: you do need to do that. Yes. And so, yeah, and that's a, that's a very good point, Chris, because one of the things that, again, not to spend too much time on the planner, the planner that I use has a, um, a weekly review.
So at the beginning of the week on Mondays, I'm looking at my past week to see, you know, what, What, what I got done, what my wins were, what I accomplished, but also thinking ahead to what do I want to do this week? And so you spend that time planning your week. You know, there's, um, the, in addition to your daily big three, there's also your weekly big three.
And so your. Daily big three should be tied to your weekly big three, that kind of thing. And so it's kind of a kind of a funnel kind of effect, but also taking five, 10 minutes every day to plan your day. So to really think about, okay, this is what I want to get done today. This is what I'm is all my plate, this is what's important.
What's not important, what's urgent, not urgent, all of those kinds of things as you think about your day. And so, yeah, that's a, that's a big piece about it all is just blocking off the time to do the planning, which
Chris McDonald: takes time to think about. That's why I say to, yeah, like you said, just mm-hmm. the importance of figuring out time to plan it.
And the end of the day too, I like to, I have an app I use for, for my day, for scheduling and I, I look on there too and say, okay. If I didn't finish something today, let me just transfer that for a time
Gordon Brewer: tomorrow. Yes, yes, absolutely. To figure out when
Chris McDonald: I'm, cuz I used to try to do like, oh, I'll, I'll get to that when I get to that
Mm-hmm. and then you kind of forget, or it gets, keeps pushed off. So yeah, I think that kind of makes you more per. Productive to say, okay, one o'clock tomorrow is my day. I'm gonna do
Gordon Brewer: that. Yeah. The the, the other thing too, I would say around this kind of the time management piece is having a way to kind of capture everything.
Because I, you know, if you think just using the example of email, we've constantly got stuff coming in to us and one, one thing that I learned, um, there's a book that I really. When I'm doing coaching with people around time management, one, one book that I recommend is called, uh, getting Things Done by David Allen.
And one of the things that he talks about is having a way to capture everything. And so almost if, if you were to visualize just having a big box in the middle of your room of being able to, everything that comes in, When it first comes in, you just put it in the box and then you set a time during the day where you're gonna take everything out of the box and decide what to do with it.
So like with email for example, there's a, there's a virtual box there where everything comes in to email. And so setting aside a time to, to process your email, what he suggests in the book is, is. , you do one of five. I think it's five things with that. So there's just one of five things that you can do with stuff that comes in.
One is obviously there's stuff that comes in that you could just automatically trash. The second thing is, is that maybe it's something that's only gonna take. Two minutes or less to do, and he says, if that is the case, just to go ahead and do it, then rather than put it off, there are other things that are gonna require more time and um, more attention.
And so if it's something like that, that you need to attend to, Is to go ahead then and schedule a time to do it for yourself. So put it on your calendar since you're gonna do that particular thing. Then there are other things that you do that you could probably delegate or hand off to someone else. And so that would be the fourth thing.
And then the fifth thing is stuff that you might not need to do anything. Immediately, but maybe it's just kind of our reference kind of thing. Oh, I might want to look at this later. So I think about things like, uh, recipes and stuff like that. You wanna have a filing system in place to, to store things that you might reference, want to reference later.
So yeah, so that's, that's one of one ways that, that it was, has been helpful for me to think about how to decide what to do. Stuff that you capture, do with the stuff that you.
Chris McDonald: Thanks for sharing that. I've never heard that before, so I think that could be so helpful for listeners that are trying to sort, cause I think email can be a big time suck, , you know, and especially if you're, if you keep it on all the time.
That's why I always recommend to not checking your email. I always do. Just let me just check it. Um, usually at lunch and maybe at the end of the day.
Gordon Brewer: And that's it. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. I think too, just in our, in our whole, uh, being connected society is, um, yeah. Turning your notifications off on your phone, . Oh, yes.
Yeah. So, yeah. So. Like, uh, particularly like social media, you know, I've got my phone set so that nothing on social media comes up as a notification for sure. And so I think that because those are, those can be distracting and they're fun, but, you know, but they're, but they're not really, they're really not that helpful.
Chris McDonald: Yeah. But that, I think you're right about that. Thinking about distractors, I guess, how can you keep yourself more focused? I know I have to like turn my phone away from me. Mm-hmm. if I'm trying to concentrate on something because it's easy to get sucked in. Even friends like texting me or, okay, I just gotta have this, this is my working time
That's what I tell myself. Mm-hmm. . Right? So, yeah. So any other thoughts? Any that you wanna share before we wrap up? Well,
Gordon Brewer: I think, uh, the, the other thing too is taking downtime. I think, you know, one of the things that is so important for being balanced and productive and that sort of thing is making sure that you're getting enough sleep, uh, that you're eating well, and those kinds of things.
And that, I think all of that ties into the balance issue. I know that's, that's something that I'm constantly. Trying to tweak is, you know, when do I go to bed? What am I doing to assure that I, uh, get a good night's sleep? Um, because that's really, as we know, our brains need that downtime in order to rejuvenate and reset and really kinda recharge the battery as I like to call it.
So really making sure that you, you're giving yourself permission to do those kinds of things. So, um, you know, most, most adults we need anywhere from. Six to eight hours of sleep minimum, probably, probably on the eight hour side, more than people will admit to or recognize. And so being able to, to make sure that you're letting yourself do that, because when you're, if you're not getting sleep, it just has a ripple effect.
Through, through the rest of our, the different domains of our life and all of that sort of thing, which I think we all know as therapists and
Chris McDonald: counselors. Oh yes, absolutely. So what's the best way for listeners to find you and learn more about you?
Gordon Brewer: Well, thanks. So yeah, so the, you can just simply go to my website, practice of therapy.com and got all my resources and courses and.
Freebies and all that kind of stuff there, so you can go there. Also on the podcasting side of things, you can go to Psych Craft Network is the name of the network that we've started this past year and you can, you can find me there and resources there along with some other great podcasts. Excellent.
Chris McDonald: And I highly recommend that website.
There's so many great resources that you have available. Well, thanks. Thanks. Yes. Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today, Gordon. Appreciate it.
Gordon Brewer: Well, thanks for having me. It's been my pleasure. Yeah,
Chris McDonald: and thank you listeners for tuning in today. Do you struggle to make yourself a priority? I.
In my webinar series, holistic Self Care Boundaries for Therapists, you'll learn how to set emotional, physical, and energetic boundaries, as well as some hands-on skills to help you stay grounded. Check it out firstname.lastname@example.org slash holistic webinars. And again, this is Chris McDonald sending each one of you.
Much light in love. Till next time, take care. Thanks for being here and listening to this episode. Do you struggle to find time for self-care and end up at the bottom of your to-do list? My one hour webinar? Holistic Self-Care boundaries for therapists is for you. Learn how to show up for yourself instead, emotional, physical, and energetic boundaries.
Check it out email@example.com slash holistic webinars.