This week, I have the amazing Quinn Gee of Magnolia Mental Health back on the show again. She is a “unicorn” in the mental health field. As a black, gay, female therapist, there are many people out there who really benefit from her perspective. She’s also really good at her job. As such, she is BUSY. No, I mean BUSY. She puts my work ethic to shame. Unfortunately, that also comes at the cost of her own well-being, which she is working on.
In this episode, we talk about the realities of being a therapist. We also brainstorm ways that she can take better care of herself for the sake of her own health and for the sake of her clients. It’s a really interesting insider peek at those of us that work in helping professions and I think you will enjoy it.
Before we get into the interview, I just want to mention a new resource and community that I am starting up for therapists and mental health professionals called TheraHustle. This is something I’m really excited about and will be a platform where I can share my knowledge about diversifying income. I’m currently building the website now and will definitely be starting a podcast, and I’m also developing a course and book. So if you’re a therapist or mental health professional definitely head over and join the Facebook group!
With that said, let’s get into this awesome interview!
Since the last episode, Quinn has got married – “the gay thing is working out” – Quinn spends some time talking about her wedding abroad and how they married in front of the Louvre and honeymooned in Paris! She gives us an insight into her life and character, sharing a story about how she procrastinated when getting a passport because of the fear of not being granted one.
Quinn tells us about her current work as a clinical director at Us Helping Us – a service that helps support LGBTQ+ individuals living with HIV. Her private practice, Magnolia Mental Health, is thriving and she’s just brought on another therapist who she met on Twitter. Quinn talks about how she has also written a therapy journal for black women focusing on codependency. Titled “I’m Doing This For Me: A Codependency Recovery Journal for Black Women“, it’s designed to look like a book so that you can go back and read and re-visit. Quinn shares how codependency is a chronic issue, so it’s important to review previous journal entries over time. She’s also working on lots of other projects including books, workshops, writing and more!
Quinn gets personal
Quinn opens up and shares how due to her success, she is not currently taking good care of her own mental health. Her work sees her talking about and supporting others mental health and so she rarely reflects enough on her own mental health. Quinn talks about how she is currently having a lot of emotional breakdowns and feels that it is partly due to how “as a black queer therapist, I’m a unicorn in some ways” – a lot of people are seeking her out and even if she’s not the therapist they are looking for, they will use her as a resource to point them in the right direction. She currently gets about 100 emails per day asking for help or guidance with something and she likes to reply to everyone.
Quinn admits that she hasn’t been good with boundaries and has only recently started working on them because she is so tired. She describes how she is exhausted, and angry with herself because this affects how she feels about her job. She knows that she is great at what she does and is passionate about it and so does not want to let herself get jaded or lose enthusiasm for the work she does.
Quinn talks about how so far, she has worked hard and then reached peak in stress, pushing herself to the limit before taking an extended period off. She does vacations well but doesn’t take care of herself in between vacations which is where the problem is rooted. Quinn talks about how she tends to works from 9 am to 9 pm with only small breaks between clients, and will often skip lunch breaks. However, she understands that her body can’t take it anymore, but feels the imperative to work so hard because there aren’t many therapists like her.
Coping with therapy
Moving on we talk about being a therapist and the emotional burden this can bring. It can be both emotionally and physically draining. People come to therapy to dump their issues and after a lot of that, it can be too much, especially if you don’t give yourself a break. Quinn talks about why the need to network and create links between different services is so important, both for her clients and for her own wellbeing. The more options an individual has, the better.
I describe the private practice trap: therapists don’t make a ton of money – in order to make a good living on just therapy, you have to see A LOT of clients. You need to see a good amount of clients to be able to make a living. Quinn then talks about the misconception that therapists earn a lot of money and have easy access to funding and grants. She also describes how it’s very tedious to get paneled with insurance companies (that’s the term for being one of their providers). Furthermore, they also don’t always reimburse the right way, and there are often lost payments. It takes a lot of time to follow up on all of these things.
Quinn explains how this becomes so tiring, but she doesn’t want to show this to her clients. Therefore, she carries on and does great in session, but then it will catch up afterward and her body will then show her stress after it’s all done by making her sick. It’s ironic that she is in this spot given her work with codependency. She admits to being actively engaged in codependence and can recognize when it is taking over as work addiction is one way that it manifests. This is also the same for her depression – work is an avoidance strategy for her. Quinn talks about this in more depth.
Dealing with external pressures
In our field, there are often external pressures focused on how you should be doing your job. Quinn talks about this and how she is always prioritizing the care of the client while managing outside expectations. Sometimes the field can try to pigeon hole you into a specific role, but she has seen the impact of her work and knows what’s working. Quinn describes how her responsibility to black queer mental health is going to be different because of her affiliation with those populations and highlights the pressures she feels from this.
Quinn Gee on taking care of herself
Moving on, we chat about what Quinn is currently doing to help work on the problems she’s having. She describes how she had a stern conversation with her wife and agreed to try to work on a “reduced schedule” of 75 hours per week, while also trying to not work every weekend, or certainly less on the weekends. She’s also scheduled in some vacation time where she has no clients. This was incredibly important not just for herself, but for her family as well. However, Quinn shares how she usually sees a reduction in clients during this season, but she hasn’t seen a reduction at all. She’s averaging a new client request every other day.
Quinn talks about how her wife had to be very clear with her about needing to take better care of herself. She talks a bit about having to maintain boundaries during her home time – like not answering texts or emails – but that makes her feel guilty as if she’s not doing her job. She talks about how this affects her, finding it difficult to maintain those home boundaries, but she does for the sake of herself and her family.
Reflection: Quinn’s burnout advice
I ask Quinn if the situation were flipped and she was advising me, what would she tell me to do?
- Take a break
- Make boundaries (such as stop taking work calls in the truck so she can decompress during commute)
- Go into your calendar and schedule a lunch break every day
- Be strict about when you can respond to emails,
- Be better about money boundaries with clients, such as collecting payments
I check her on her ideas to continue expanding while managing everything all by herself and we talk about this in depth. We also brainstorm options for diversifying her income and professional activities. Quinn talks with honesty about her own issues and how she recognizes them and finds it difficult to let go of some of the control. However, she also “knew I would never be a therapist past the age of 35”. At that point, she would have done over 10 years of direct therapy with 100 sessions per week! It’s the point when she will have a real reduction in the hours that she does.
We talk about how it’s important to be vulnerable and real like this because we are human too. That’s actually the reason we are able to help. Being a therapist does impact you and you need to be prepared for that because it’s something you are not trained for.
Final Thoughts with Quinn Gee
We finish up by chatting about other stuff Quinn is doing and how you can support her and the work that she does.
She is on the board of directors for YouthSeen. They are running an LGBTQ kids camp this summer, July 20-27th, 2019, and registration is now open. People can also sponsor a child for a week at the camp, donate, or buy things from YouthSeen’s Amazon wishlist for kids from lower-income families!
Quinn is also fundraising for Magnolia Mental Health to get a building in DC which has disability access and is LGBTQ friendly.
That’s it! I’d like to thank Quinn for coming on the show – it’s been awesome having her on again and I’m looking forward to the next time! You can find Quinn on Twitter and Instagram @magnoliamhealth, and as herself on Instagram @memphisippian!
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