Reflection and Growth

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Reflection and Growth

Where do you need to stretch?

I was recently having a discussion with a group of people about what their “growth edge” was from the previous year. It was explained to me thusly: “we’ve all got three zones in which we operate; comfort, stretch, and panic.” Of course we all know about the perils of staying in our comfort zones. But pushing too much growth, too fast might push us into our panic zones. This can be too overwhelming and sometimes have an unintended effect of causing us to shut down or become too insular and protective of ourselves. Vacillating between panic and comfort is a misuse of our valuable energy. Where and when do you take time in your private practice building to reflect, make meaning, and challenge yourself to gently move into your stretch zones in order to continually learn and grow?


When I supervised student interns and trained new employees, I came across a rubric that I used in our supervision sessions. I’ve been talking about it a lot recently as it relates to personal growth with my clients. But I also appreciate how it applies to building a successful private practice.

Often when we move from unconscious incompetence into conscious incompetence in our learning and work process. The catalyst is painful consequences and lessons. I can’t imagine another reason to move out of the comfortable space of “I don’t know what I don’t know” besides tough professional or life lessons. As a former supervisor told me “people make changes when they’re sick of suffering.” Think back to the A-ha! moment that helped you realize you needed to go into private practice full time. One of the most challenging mental spaces for us is conscious incompetence. We know we need to change, improve, grow, or scale back in certain areas, but we’re stuck on the “how.” This is a great place to ask for help, mitigate loneliness, and cultivate gratitude for the lesson that was learned. Sounds a lot like what we tell our clients, doesn’t it?

Stretching into Conscious Competence

What happens in that liminal state between conscious incompetence and conscious competence? I think about the skills of humility, bravery, open mindedness and a true willingness to learn from mistakes. Practicing conscious competence is hard, hard, hard work. This is where honest reflection comes in. What was the most painful lesson you learned in the past year of private practice? How did it help you? Where do you want to marshal your energetic resources in the year coming? What habits served you, and how can they be supported while you’re working on your areas of growth?

Reflection and Habituation

Your mental and emotional energy is a finite resource. Carving out one day (or half day for all you scarcity minded folks) off a month, or a quarter, to reflect on what you learned in the past period will do wonders for your willpower, discipline, and your practice building skills. The gift of our profession is the capacity to practice what we preach.

  • What have you been challenging others to do that could help you if you were to implement it yourself?
  • How can you treat your own professional learning process with the same sort of curious compassion that you bring into your therapeutic relationships?

My wish for you is peace, support, and the bravery to take personal responsibility for making your dreams happen this year and every year to come.

Elizabeth Pace is a therapist and clinical supervisor in private practice in New Orleans, Louisiana.  What she loves the most about private practice is supporting others as they question their old ideas about “doing it right” and start to cultivate a newer awareness about the kind of life they want to fearlessly pursue.  Another passion is advocating for and advancing the counseling field through presentations on professional development, financial literacy, and coaching others towards the personal and professional goals that bring them joy, excitement, and financial stability!  

You can visit Elizabeth’s website here!