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Episode 169 | Dealing with Your Emotional Triggers



  • Episode 169 | Dealing with Your Emotional Triggers 00:00


Hey Group Practice listeners! In this episode, I’m talking all about how to deal with emotional triggers as a group practice owner.

In this episode I cover:

  • Naming your emotional triggers
  • Identifying the source of your triggers
  • Verbalizing your emotions
  • The value of stepping away to catch your breath

This episode is sponsored by TherapyNotes. TherapyNotes is an EHR software that helps behavioral health professionals manage their practice with confidence and efficiency. I use TherapyNotes in my own group practice and love its amazing support team, billing features, and scheduling capabilities. It serves us well as a large group practice owner.

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Maureen Werrbach

Welcome back, everyone. All right. Today, I want to talk about how to deal with emotional triggers. As a business owner, I know all of us have worked with clients having to deal with triggers and emotional reactions and responses to triggers. And so this isn’t going to be anything that’s, you know, mind blowingly new. But I wanted to shift and focus the lens inward because oftentimes, as we know, we might not be the best therapy clients ourselves as therapists, even though we know a lot of the work that we might need to do and how to work through those things if the issues we had were another client’s, it’s sometimes hard to actually deal with it ourselves. And so I want to turn the lens inward and think about how as business owners, and especially being people of the helping profession, that when we are leading a practice and a team of clinicians and admin, that there are things that are going to come up, that creates an emotional trigger for us. Because we tie ourselves to our businesses in a certain kind of way, that when things happen in the business, they feel like they’re sort of happening to us. And so, like I said, although most of these things are not mind blowingly new things, I just want to create a space where I can relay some of the things that you might be telling clients to do when they’re dealing with an emotional trigger. 

The first thing I think that’s really helpful to do is to name it, you know, when we are able to name our triggers, we can then in the future be able to respond consciously, instead of acting on reflex. And although naming the emotional trigger, in naming the thing that’s causing that is not going to help that particular issue immediately. What it does do is it helps us to be able to get to know ourselves and learn, are there particular people or words or places or behaviors or things or experiences that tend to bring this emotional reaction up for us? And what that can do is then help us be on the lookout in the future, and help us respond more consciously and not out of reflex. So naming it I find to be one of the top tools in helping us as business owners manage our emotional responses to things that trigger us. 

The second thing that’s really helpful is identifying the source. And when I mean the source, I don’t always mean or I don’t necessarily mean the thing that in that moment has caused you emotional distress. It might be that, but oftentimes, it’s usually coming from something from our past that is now invading our present through a current experience. And you know, I am trained in EMDR. So that’s something that we learn about in EMDR training. And obviously in other realms of the therapy world you learn about how things that might be triggering us in this moment might not actually be the first time and the the main source that it’s really coming from. A lot of times our old shit gets wrapped up and hidden away and comes out very nicely when a new experience is really like a reminder of this older, unresolved issue. And so seeking this and really thinking back on, you know, is this something that has come up for me historically in other experiences? Is there something that’s similar? Or am I getting a sense of like, a reminder of old things that have that would come out for me, in this current experience? Maybe it’s like a certain a certain type of person that is really that trigger, or maybe it’s like a certain experience or place that what you’re experiencing now has, it has historically happened in the past, right? Because it was in the same type of place, or the same type of words are being used, or the same type of people or characteristics were involved in the situation can be really helpful to know the source of where that’s coming from. So that as new experiences come up, you one, can be conscious about it, and able to act according or respond accordingly. But also, it can help you look back and see are there like, initial sources that are gonna keep opening itself back up until I resolve those initial issues, right? That’s the thing that is the source. When we work on the source that often is like a spiderweb, that gets cut, and everything else drops. Along the same lines is being aware of projections, you know, obviously, all of you guys know what projection is. And we sometimes can project our emotional response, based off of something that’s not really happening. 

An example would be like a clinician coming in who normally is very talkative and comes into your office and chats with you before they start their session, who today walks in, and barely looks at you and responds to you, when you say hi and goes into the room, close their door and start seeing clients, right? That might produce some emotional discomfort for you. And we can seek the sources or something historically, that creates this heightened level of anxiety or distress when someone ignores you. Is that coming from somewhere? But also, is this really about you? Or are we projecting our own past insecurities onto this experience at the moment? It’s really not about you. Brené Brown–what does she say? Oh, the story, I’m telling myself–okay, this is a great time to test how we’re seeing things to see if they’re really real and valid, or are we just projecting something that really has nothing to do with that person, and to say, hey, the story I’m telling myself right now is that you walked in and are really annoyed and mad at me. Because I sent you an email yesterday, reminding you of your two weeks of late notes. And now you came in today and are ignoring me. And the story I’m telling myself is that you’re upset with me about that. And that’s why you did that. And they will have the chance to either confirm yes, that they’re annoyed. And they’re taking it out on you by ignoring you, which then is something to work on with them. Or they will squash that for you quickly by saying no, I got that email. And I appreciate it, it was a reminder that I need to be more on top of it. But now I have some personal stuff going on. And I’m just in a weird mood today and just need some time to myself, which would not be about you, right. And so being aware of how we might be projecting this onto other people, issues that are not actually there, which is causing us distress can be can be really helpful. 

Another great tip is practicing knowing your emotions, verbalizing those emotions, whether it’s to yourself or out to your team. And then also actually, eventually getting to a point where you can be vulnerable with your own teammates on how you’re feeling, which also creates a sense of safety and openness for your team to talk to you about how they’re feeling when things come up. Emotions are like muscles, you know, they take practice to develop and understand. And the way we do that is by practicing really thinking about how we’re feeling at every little given moment. If we hide our emotions, like anger or sadness, then our ability to cope with those feelings become stunted, and makes it 10 times harder for us as business owners to manage the pile up of things that typically is on our list from an emotional perspective. And so if we can get to this place of practicing, knowing what our emotions are at any given moment and also then being able to verbalize those emotions to the appropriate people, it really helps with stifling our emotional reactivity. 

I think this will be my last tip is to more tips is to take a breather. I find that whenever I feel like really heightened emotionally at work, I tend to lose like my objectivity about the situation, I feel like the world just came crashing down on me. And then it’s also just much harder for me to express what I’m feeling in an appropriate way, in a way that makes sense, in a way that’s really clear. And so stepping away, so that we can let our egos calm back down, whether that’s if momentarily by taking a walk, whether that’s closing our door in our office, and moving our table out of the way and getting on the floor and moving our bodies and doing some yoga poses, or whether that means saying, you know what, I’m going to close up shop for the day. And I’m just going to leave work early, and take care of myself and start back again tomorrow. Taking that breather can be a really empathic way to take care of yourself, and give yourself time to get back to that safe space where you can then communicate what the issues are with whoever’s around. 

The last piece of advice, or the last piece of feedback that I think is really important is just to remind yourself that you’re not alone. There is a common humanity in being a business owner and experiencing triggers, while we’re building our businesses and managing teams of people who have their own thoughts, their own emotions, their own feelings, their own expectations for how things should be. And that can be really overwhelming. But remembering that oftentimes business owners aren’t talking about the negative parts of owning a business or the stress that comes with owning a business. They usually talk about the positive, fun, sunny things. And so reminding yourself that there’s common humanity in the business world on feeling emotionally triggered at work, and that it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad business owner. All that means is that there’s room to grow to be able to identify those triggers as they come so that you know how to work through them. 

Well, I hope this was a helpful episode, and I will see you next week.

Thanks For Listening

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Here are the resources and guides we recommend based on this episode

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therapy notes

*Need a good EHR for your group practice? TherapyNotes is it. I’ve been using it for years in my own group practice, and it does really well when it comes to having the features group practice owners need. Try it out for FREE for 2 months by clicking here.

* I am an affiliate for some of the businesses I recommend. These are companies that I use in my own group practice, and make recommendations based off of my experience with them. When you use some of these companies through my links, I receive compensation, which helps me continue to offer great free information on my podcast, blog, Facebook group, and website.

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Meet your host


Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here:


The show

The podcast is structured so that you get practice building tips in small doses, where an episode can be listened to (and a group practice building lesson can be learned) in a single car ride.

Episodes are structured into categories: coaching sessions where I coach a group practice owner on a specific topic, tips of the day by yours truly, real talk where you get to be a fly on the wall while an established group practice owner and I talk about the highs and lows of ownership, and trainings done by experts in the field.

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