Growing Your Practice By Delivering Real Healing, with Monica Helvie of Insight Clinical Counseling Ep. 36
- Episode Topic:
In this captivating episode of Mater in counseling, Monica Helvie, the owner and clinical therapist of Insight Clinical Counseling, sheds light on the pivotal experiences that led her to establish the counseling practice. She discusses her unique vision of fostering self-awareness, self-acceptance, and balance in clients’ lives. Monica shares how Insight Clinical Counseling effectively caters to individuals seeking transformation and healing from anxiety and trauma. The approach emphasizes authenticity, humor, and passion, allowing clients to navigate their therapeutic journey at their own pace
- Lessons You’ll Learn:
Listeners gain insights into the importance of trauma-informed therapy and body-based interventions like EMDR. Monica highlights the significance of attuning to clients’ needs, promoting self-reflection, and creating a safe space for emotional exploration. The discussion explores the challenges of therapist burnout and the strategies to prevent it, emphasizing the need for practitioners to prioritize self-care and set boundaries.
- About Our Guest:
Monica Helvie, a licensed marriage and family therapist, shares her journey from working in county mental health to founding Insight Clinical Counseling. She opens up about her personal experiences with burnout and the evolution of her private practice. Monica’s passion for helping individuals navigate their healing journey shines through as she discusses her trauma-informed approach and the integration of Christian faith principles for those open to it.
- Topics Covered:
The conversation delves into tailoring therapy for personal growth and empowerment, exploring how Insight Clinical Counseling caters to diverse therapeutic needs. Monica shares how her expertise as a licensed marriage and family therapist enhances clients’ relationships and fosters a safe space for emotional exploration. The episode also addresses ensuring accessibility and support in therapeutic services, with a focus on preventing burnout and maintaining a healthy balance between personalized and professional aspects of running a counseling practice.
Monica Helvie’s Journey in Counselling.
Monica Helvie is the owner and clinical therapist at Insight Clinical Counseling, a practice she established in December 2018. With over 5 years of experience in her private practice, Monica is dedicated to helping people transform their lives. She approaches therapy in a warm and collaborative manner, working closely with her clients to identify and challenge beliefs and experiences that may be disrupting their lives. Monica is EMDR certified and utilizes various modalities in her therapeutic work, believing in addressing the entire system of relationships that shape individuals in the world.
Prior to her private practice, Monica served as a Behavioral Health Counselor 1 (MediCal) at the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools for over 8 years. In this role, she provided individual, group, and family counseling services to at-risk students. Monica collaborated with teachers, parents, and administrators to implement evidence-based practices addressing behavioral and psycho-social issues. Her responsibilities also included providing Medi-Cal documentation training, assistance to team members, and clinical supervision for staff.
Monica’s journey in the field began as an MFT Intern at Pacific Clinics, where she provided individual, group, and family therapy. She conducted clinical assessments, offered field-based and outreach services, and engaged in case management and advocacy. Subsequently, she worked as a Marriage and Family Therapy Intern at Pacific Clinics Family Preservation, focusing on solution-focused, family-centered counseling to prevent incidents of abuse, neglect, and abandonment.
She earned her M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling from the University of Southern California in 2010 and holds a B.A. in Psychology from San Diego State University, graduating in 2007.
Monica Helvie’s diverse background and extensive experience contribute to her passion for addressing burnout among therapists and supporting individuals through trauma-informed counseling approaches
Monica Helvie: The number one reason why therapists leave the field is, well, there’s top two reasons is pay. They can’t make a livable wage and burnout. And for every therapist that leaves the field, there’s not enough therapists that are coming out of grad school to replace them. The number was something like for every 13 that leaves, there’s one that replaces. So we are absolutely in a mental health crisis. But there’s a crisis within that mental health crisis, which is therapists burning out and leaving.
Becky Coplen:: Welcome to Mastering Counseling, the weekly business show for counselors. I’m your host, Becky Coplen. I’ve spent 20 years working in education in the role of both teacher and school counselor. Each episode will be exploring what it takes to thrive as a counseling business owner. From interviews with successful entrepreneurial counselors to conversations with industry leaders on trends and the next generation of counseling services, to discussions with tech executives whose innovations are reshaping counseling services. If it impacts counseling, we cover it on Mastering Counseling. Hello! Today we are so excited to have Monica Helvie, an esteemed owner and clinical therapist of Insight Clinical Counseling. She does a lot of work in Texas and California, so I’m excited to hear about all the things she has to share and the successful stories that she has. Thanks so much for being with us today, Monica.
Monica Helvie: Thanks so much for having me. Becky. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Becky Coplen:: All right. We love to usually go back to the beginning. So talk to us about some of your pivotal experiences or inspirations that led you to establish Insight Clinical Counseling.
Monica Helvie: Well, I actually worked in county mental health agencies working in schools, alternative education for about nine years. And I was seeing some private practice clients on the side just to diversify my clinical experience, because I was working largely with adolescents and teenagers. So that was happening in the background while I was working in county mental health. And and it really took about those nine years before I was recognizing and taking ownership of my burnout, working in that setting. And so I was realizing it was not just affecting me, but my family, and it led me to opening and exploring what working in private practice looked like. So for me at that time, it was private practice, had to work, or I was going to be looking for streams of income where I could use my degree. That wasn’t necessarily as taxing emotionally, mentally on on me and my bandwidth. So I opened my private practice in psych clinical counseling in 2018. I loved it, it was great. It was just the change of pace that I needed. But I was quickly replicating the systems that I was familiar with in community mental health. So I was actually subconsciously recreating a lot of the dynamics that led me to burning out in the first place in my own private practice. So yeah, that’s a little bit about how I got started, and obviously I had to take some hard looks at those systems that I was replicating that were not working out for me. And I’ve created my private practice and redesigned it several times in the last couple of years since opening. But yeah, that’s basically what led me to hear.
Becky Coplen:: So many of our guests have personal stories that have led them to their journey and where they are today, so I’m sure we’ll hear how those experiences affect your practice and how you meet clients where they’re at today. Can you talk specifically with your practice on working with people, specifically with anxiety or trauma, and trying to give them hope and just give them a restart? Can you talk about that with your clients?
Monica Helvie: Yeah. So my therapeutic approach, the work that I do is really informed from a collection of techniques, tools and interventions that are trauma informed, body based, and what I call bottom up. So not necessarily cognitive behavioral though I do sprinkle that in. I do use a lot of body based interventions. So that looks like eMDR. I use internal family systems and ego states work and I sprinkle in some somatic experiencing. So that is really the approach that I use. And I have pulled together these interventions and approaches because they are what I found were personally the most effective in helping me heal from my anxiety and traumas in the past. As a high achiever, an intellectual iser, I was often feeling stuck and frustrated with traditional talk therapy, was feeling just like I wasn’t totally progressing in the ways that I wanted to. I could reframe and rationalize things like to, but I was still feeling that stuckness and heaviness and dysregulation in my body until I started having experiences with these body based approaches.
Becky Coplen:: So fascinating. And I’m so glad you brought up eMDR. Why don’t you give us some real specifics on what that is and what that looks like? Because I haven’t talked about that with any of our other guests.
Monica Helvie: Awesome. I am a certified eMDR therapist. So what that means is I did the traditional trainings with the supervision that’s required in order to pass basic training. But then I went a little bit deeper for a little bit longer, with more trainings and supervision, so that I could get that certification. Emdr is a game changer for a lot of folks, especially like I call them my type A+ folks like my high achievers intellectual ers. It works in such a way that we are accessing our mind and body and and really provides a healing that is very comprehensive and holistic. So it starts by adding in some bilateral stimulation so that could look like eye movement. Or sometimes your therapist might have tappers or tactile sensations that are bilateral, and it activates the brain so that it pulls that traumatic or painful past experience up into your working memory. The bilateral stimulation will actually help us to then rewire or reframe some of that negative cognition. And we get a lot more of an adaptive story when we close down that memory. So it’s really fascinating. It was, like I said, a game changer in my own healing. And so I once I got a hold of that, I was like, this is the missing piece of the puzzle. So a lot of my clients come to me looking for eMDR. Some will not know what it is, totally, but they have absolutely gotten on board and just loved the results from it. They’ll say to me, can you just do the eye movement thing so I don’t have to think that stuff anymore? So yeah, they’re definitely on board even if they don’t come in knowing what it is.
Becky Coplen:: That’s so interesting. Yeah, I don’t know too much about that. So it was great to read about it. And then to hear you explain. And we know now from so much more research, those who have gone through trauma, how much it rewires the brain for the negative. So then to have this mode to help them go back and reset for the future is very cool. And a lot of your work and your writings and blogs, you mention a lot about meeting people where they’re at and then going at their own pace. So talk to us about that and how goal setting may look different from client to client. Time spans may vary. How do you evaluate that when you take on a new client?
Monica Helvie: Well, I will often tell my clients, so I’m Siri and you’re the driver. So I will make suggestions about how to arrive at the destination that you desire, which would be like their therapeutic goals, but they will have to be the one who speeds up, slows down, makes a U-turn, exits when they’re ready. And this is the approach that I take. Being trauma informed. A lot of the work that I do with clients is invitational. It is with consent. So I’m asking for permission regularly. Like, how do you feel about talking about this right now? Are you open to this? Do we want to go there? I’m really inviting them to self-reflect and attune and say, yes, no, wait, I’m not ready. I’m feeling nervous or whatever it is that’s coming up for them because I want them to feel empowered, but I also want them to grow in their self trust. And parts of the ways that I do this is by teaching them how to attune to their body and the sensation and learning when they need to slow down, or learning when they need to speed up, and then feeling safe to communicate. Those needs to me in this session is really important to me. So this is all a really large part of being trauma informed practitioner. And I will say, for anybody looking to do trauma work or is anxiety based, but there may be some trauma roots to it, I would say it working with a trauma informed therapist is a game changer, not just one that’s trauma informed, but maybe even trauma trained would be an even better fit for that client, because they are going to be mindful of those things and have some of this language built into the sessions, where they’re really asking the client to set the pace.
Becky Coplen:: In talking about many people who have experienced trauma and May coming to you. Can you talk to us about how you really helped them get their resilience back? Build the resilience. You described it even in the sessions. You’re making them be attuned to their body, but just expound upon that a little more. And how do you see diverse approaches from one client to another?
Monica Helvie: Yeah. So each client is very different. And while they may have similar symptoms, their resiliency, their adaptations to their traumas are all very unique. So the word I like to use for that is dysregulation. So, so many of the clients that I work with are emotionally dysregulated. It can look like disconnect. So with my particular clients that come to work with me, they are very high functioning. They could be business owners CEOs. They’re in leadership. They are sometimes therapists. And so they are on the outside functioning. They look great. Everything’s going well. But emotionally, internally there is some disconnect. So while they may be brilliant at identifying what their emotions are that they are feeling, they don’t fully feel their feelings. There is still some blockage or some separation between knowing what they’re feeling and actually allowing themselves to connect with it, and that is largely because it’s been unsafe for them to do so. So they may block, suppress, or disconnect more physically from their emotional experiences. Brené Brown says we cannot selectively numb. So what happens is when we disconnect from one emotion is it starts to impact the whole system. So I work with my clients to increase their internal safety so that they can feel prepared and resourced to reconnect with themselves and their full mind body spirit experiences. So that is one of the ways that I help them tap into more of their resiliency and and to really grow in their personal and healing journey.
Becky Coplen:: I think it’s always just helpful to hear that most highest functioning people, often in our world, they need an outlet as well, and all kinds of people need help. Absolutely. Do you see that? Even in Hollywood, too, the pressures and all that.
Monica Helvie: Especially those folks? Yeah. When they’re high achieving, they sometimes feel more shame around expressing their need for help.
Becky Coplen:: Yeah. We haven’t got to talk about how you are licensed marriage and family therapist. So let’s talk about that angle of your practice and just talk about how you got into that and how maybe you deal with that a little bit differently than just a single person who is dealing with their trauma. Just talk about the side parts of that.
Monica Helvie: So I am a marriage family therapist, but ironically not a couple therapist or a family therapist. Really. So marriage family therapy actually just means that in graduate school, I have additional trainings in couples and family systems that look different than, say, like a psychology degree or a social work masters. In social work. They might have more trainings in social justice or community-based interventions and outreach, grant writing, things like that. So my program is just a little bit more specialized in family systems and sometimes couples and family dynamics as well. So I think that really helps me to support my individual clients in contextualizing where they were in their system because I have that extra training and background. Even though I work with individuals, I understand how their unique experiences played a part in the system and how their system also impacted them in their trauma, how it impacted them in what they perceived as their role in their family. A lot of my high achievers also have a big sense of responsibility. They feel that it is their job. It is their role to be the helper, to be the fixer, to be the caretaker. And so we look at not only where did that first start for them, but how was that a help? How did that support the family at that time? Oh, my sibling died, so I had to be the one who didn’t fall apart.
Monica Helvie: I had to be the strong one. Right? So these are some of the narratives, the stories that they come and carrying. And they didn’t make that up in their own little worlds. They made that up because they were in a relationship to a system. So this is just the kinds of ways that I like to work with folks, is just getting them to see how they adapted to their traumas, how the narratives that they wrote at the time were so supportive of them that were so adaptive for them at the time, and might also be on this side of things years decades later, could now be over-functioning for them and this big sense of responsibility. Or it’s on me. I have to do it. I’m the one could also be leading them towards burnout, or could be leading them towards resentment or disconnect, and how that could be affecting their present-day relationships.
Becky Coplen:: This episode is brought to you by Masters in counseling.org. If you’re considering enrolling in a master’s level counseling program to further your career, visit Masters in Counseling. Org to compare school options via our search tool that allows you to sort by specific degree types, tuition, our costs, online flexibility, and more. You did mention therapist burnout, and I know that you work with therapists and that was a big part of your website, so definitely talk to us about that. What are you seeing? How are you helping? Anything you have to share?
Monica Helvie: Yes. So apart from my insight, clinical counseling, California Texas license that I work with clients and therapy, I also have a coaching side of the house where I specialize in working with therapists who are experiencing burnout and are wanting to prevent or address burnout. I was just seeing a lot of parallels in terms of the individual clients I was working with in therapy, and a lot of the beliefs and narratives that therapists have just from colleague relationships and folks that I have mentored who are also therapists and on that side of the house, burnout for those folks therapists. Again, it may not be as apparent. Like we sometimes think burnout has to look like somebody who’s frazzled or falling apart or just is disheveled, right? Like zombie, the eyes are droopy or whatever. And for a lot of folks who are high achieving, it might look like more mind-numbing activities at the end of the night, like doomscrolling or netflixing or pouring an extra glass of wine. It may look like more disconnect, right? Saying no to invitations, turning down the normal activities that you enjoy doing. Maybe it’s exercise, maybe it’s hanging out with friends. There’s this distancing or this slow disconnect that can sometimes be a signal of burnout.
Monica Helvie: And so because it looks very different, sometimes the strategies of familiar strategies that we hear from coaches or other folks about burnout is practice self-care. And for these particular individuals, it’s like, well, I know what I should be doing, but I can’t do it. I know what I should be doing, but I’m just not doing it. So it’s not a matter of not knowing what to do when we’re talking about burnt out therapists, it’s a matter of understanding what is at the root, what is going on under the surface that is leading you contributing to cycles of burnout. Is it narratives of perfectionism? Is it these beliefs or core wounds around I have to get it right, or else it’s on me to help this person. And there’s nobody else that can do this. Are these the kinds of things that we’re saying to ourselves that are maybe contributing to us overextending, not having good boundaries, self-neglecting? Are these the core wounds that are driving me towards these cycles of burnout? And so that’s what I like to help my clients on that coaching side of the house look at and find ways to identify what those roots are, but then also heal them.
Becky Coplen:: All right. So where do I sign up? I’m just kidding. No, the website was very easy. I always check on like make contact. And of course it was very easy to fill out. But yeah, it’s a huge thing. As we said earlier, people helping lots of people also sometimes need help. You practice in California and in Texas, and we don’t do this often, but I think it’s interesting to consider. Are there different needs that you’re seeing? Are there different legal things that are part of your ethical code that vary between those states? Are they very much the same? What are just some specifics that you might see? I personally love knowing about demographics and geography all around the country and world, so talk to us about that.
Monica Helvie: Well, I have to again name the fact that I am one therapist with my set caseload. I can’t speak for the needs of the entire states of California and Texas, because I only know what I know from the people that I’m working with. So the folks that I see in California, I will say this California is one of the hardest states to get licensed in. So their law and ethics exams, the requirement that they have for hours, is actually one of the most amount of hours that you have to get, like they’re the most strict on some of the laws. They have the most laws. So there’s a lot on the California side of the House that is legal ethical considerations that might not necessarily translate to Texas. So I find that it always is just in my best interest and my client’s best interest to operate on like better safe than sorry. Let’s follow California rules. And if Texas doesn’t require that yet, then cool. But this is how we do documentation because that’s how they do it in California. So that has been helpful for me. Coming from a more strict state to a less strict state, I think it probably would have been more overwhelming if I went from, say, Texas to California and was like, oh my gosh, I have to do all this extra stuff. So that’s just my experience, is that California legally, ethically does have more that need to be mindful of and considerate of, so it just keeps me up on that level even when I’m working with my Texas people. Ceus and things like that are relatively comparable. I think Texas has an extra section like coursework required for human trafficking than California. Doesn’t, which is strange and interesting, but I’ve always liked those kinds of courses, so it’s always just been of interest to keep that up.
Monica Helvie: So comparable. But definitely California’s more strict in a lot of ways. Legally. What do I see as terms of the needs, the differences? I think because I’m reading niche down, I work with a very specific clients around very specific needs. My clients generally share the same complaints and symptoms. Just zooming out a bit and talking with my colleague friends in California versus Texas. I think that in general, the experience has been that there are more people seeking mental health than ever before. There are fewer resources than ever before, there is more clinical burnout than ever before, and there’s just a lot of dysregulation pretty much everywhere. There’s a lot of tension and conflict in a lot of ways social, economic. And so when I hear those kinds of things, what stands out to me is that it’s extremely important for anybody considering moving into this field or who anybody who is in this field. It is so, so seriously important that we be attuned to our own nervous system and regulate ourselves regularly. It is the highest priority because we cannot give what we don’t have. And if we are violating our own boundaries, if we are not taking care of ourselves, we cannot give care. We cannot teach them about boundaries and about self care and also not be giving it to ourselves. So I think that in order to be as spacious as possible, as authentic and aligned as possible, we have got to be really careful and nurturing ourselves, because that is a universal truth, is that California, Texas people are struggling, people are seeking help, and there’s not enough resources.
Becky Coplen:: Yeah, everyone needs care. And it’s like, sad to say, we have so much job security. But we do. But it’s because it is. It’s just a hard time. But on the flip side, it’s good that a lot of people are reaching out and it’s becoming so much more normal. I work in an elementary and I’ll have second or third graders and they’ll be like, well, when I went to see my therapist last week, they know all about it and they know the terms, so that is a good side of it. Absolutely. We talked a lot about burnout. Is there something you would want people to know who are considering even signing up for their first classes, or they’re in the middle of the program or they’ve just graduated. And if you could go back, maybe some things you wish that you knew.
Monica Helvie: Man, there’s so much that I would say, because there’s so much that wasn’t taught in grad school. That is a huge part of just my day to day operations. I would say to those younger or starting out in the field, first of all, burnout is normal in the sense that everyone has done such a good job normalizing like, hey, you’re probably going to feel burnt out at some point, but I don’t feel that we do enough to say it is preventable. And the number one reason why therapists leave the field is, well, there’s top two reasons are pay doesn’t they can’t make a livable wage and burnout. And for every therapist that leaves the field, there’s not enough therapists that are coming out of grad school to replace them. I think the number was something like for every 13 that leaves, there’s one that replaces. So we are absolutely in a mental health crisis. But there’s a crisis within that mental health crisis, which is therapists burning out and leaving. So I would say you have got to take care of yourselves. And I know that sounds maybe cheeky when you’re in grad school, like, haha, yeah, sure. After all these papers or after all this extra work that I’m doing, boundaries may not feel like something you can do when you are new to the field and you’re just starting out in a job. But I would say to them, do your healing work so that you can believe that you can set those boundaries so that you can trust that when you need to say no, it’s the right time to say no, so that you feel comfortable and resourced to take care of yourself. Because we need you. We need you in this work. There’s room here for you. There’s plenty of work. So I would just really stress that there’s such a need for you to be here. And we want you here and do take care of yourself.
Becky Coplen:: I have not heard that ratio. So 13 to 1 that is it’s staggering. Yeah. Some people go on to get their master’s, but a lot of people then go on to get doctorates or ongoing learning. It takes a lot of work to get there, and then to stay in it and keep up with all the trends and all of the things that we’re seeing. It is a lot. You have to love learning for sure to want to go into it. I would say yes. Yeah. One thing I wanted to I saw one thing on the website. It said that you can incorporate principles of the Christian faith. I didn’t know if you wanted to share about that. I’m here. I’d love to hear about that.
Monica Helvie: Yes, sure. I am all about addressing the whole person. So that’s mind, body, and spirit. And so for folks that are wanting that, who are open to that, I absolutely bring in my faith and I’m very clear on what’s mine and very open to exploring what’s their what is their definition, what does that look like for them? Spirituality is a huge resource when we bring that into the work, and it would be like not talking to somebody of a diverse background about what it was like for them growing up in that culture, spirituality, religion can sometimes be a culture that if we don’t bring it in, if we don’t acknowledge it, we are missing out again on where they stand within the system that they grew up in, that they identify in. So yes, I absolutely bring that in when wanted and needed. And I feel like it has been something that absolutely supports my clients in their healing.
Becky Coplen:: Great is there anything else that you feel that we missed or that you wanted to share about your practice, or any last comments or ideas that you wanted our listeners to hear?
Monica Helvie: If you go to my website businessofthriving.com, there’s actually a quiz that you can take where you can self-assess or self-diagnose to be cheeky. You can diagnose if trauma could be running your practice. So you can start to look at the ways that is there something here, some core beliefs, some painful past experience that’s actually consciously driving me to recreating burnout in my own clinical experience. The way that we relate to our work is a relationship. So if we have any kind of relational trauma, we will oftentimes bring some of that subconsciously into our work. And so I want to help folks be able to identify that upfront as early as possible so that they can be mindful about it, do their work around it, and eliminate the threat. Right. This is preventable. So yeah, that’s where you can grab that freebie I think that’s a good one. So check that out.
Becky Coplen:: Thank you. I did see that on there as well. And I think it’s good to start that way because we all know the clients are doing the work. So are they going to initiate the first part of looking at themselves. So appreciate that. Well Monica, it’s been awesome to talk to you today and all the work that you’re doing. And I think there was something that popped up that you’re part of a thera, some kind of thing that’s about to launch as well.
Monica Helvie: It’s closed that their abundance. Yes, it ended on the 31st. So a couple of days ago. Yes. But look for it for next year. That’s going to be an awesome way to grab a bunch of training for a great discount. This year there were 93 contributors, over $8,000 worth of training and resources for $100. So definitely stay connected with Tamara Houle. Her Thera bundle launched for the first time last year. This was her second year, and so I expect it to be even more fantastic next year.
Becky Coplen:: All right, well, I’m glad we brought that up. We can look for that in the future. We appreciate your expertise and your great advice, especially on burnout and just especially explaining. Just thank you for being here today. To our listeners. Thank you so much for being a part of this podcast. We’d love to hear your comments and questions. We look forward to the future where we will have more interviews from all different parts of the field, the business side of therapy and counseling. Have a beautiful day. You’ve been listening to the Mastering Counseling podcast by mastersincounseling.org. Join us again next episode as we explore what it takes to be a business success in the counseling industry.