Lisa Mitchell (pictured here) has created something beautiful that was born out of empathy. It’s an amazing example of how our deepest wound can be our truest niche. It’s also an incredibly practical case study in becoming a hub for a community.
Furrthermore, it’s got a really wonderful and unique welcome video on the homepage.
Here’s an interview I did with Lisa recently. I hope you enjoy.
What is the name of your project?
The Therapy Vault
What’s the story of how this came about? What was the need you saw in the community that it emerged from?
After 20 years in the mental health profession, as an art therapist, psychotherapist, and trainer, I realized that I felt tired and burdened with client stories of pain and recovery.
In my work with therapists, as their therapist or trainer, I heard about these same difficulties of carrying remnants of stories and pain not their own. In our profession, we are expected to bare it. And there’s a myth that if we have good boundaries, proper training, and excellent self care we shouldn’t feel burned out or heavy hearted.
I had an answer in my art and creativity.
In order to save myself from burn out, and to help other therapists learn to sustain themselves on a day to day basis in their practice, I decided to expand my business. Of course, I didn’t have a clue about how to do this. Or what it would even look like.
In my work with Suzanne and Jeffrey, I not only found my business platform, The Therapy Vault, but I also learned to live into it by honoring parts of myself that I wasn’t allowing in my work formerly.
It was tough work, because it required more vulnerability than I felt comfortable with, but in a funny way, they helped me become unburdened. And now I feel totally re-inspired with my work, and am helping other therapists transform their burdens into beautiful pieces of inspiration.
Can you share a few examples of how your project works?
The Therapy Vault Breakfast Club is an online membership community where therapists receive an eworkbook every month.
In it, there is an art invitation (yes, that’s what I call them) that is rich with ideas for creative transformation. I also provide some good context with an audio and sometimes a video ‘How To’ so that my members don’t have to be super experienced with art materials and techniques to do the project. We all do the project, and then get together on a monthly community call to share the experience.
One of the most precious things that I can think of is having a group of therapists talking about the real life experience of how their job affects them. When they do, there are sighs and wonderful feelings of validation.
I offer a free workbook on my site called, “Create a Pocket Vault and Feel Passion for Your Work….again.” Basically, it walks therapists through making a precious container, one that is creative and colorful with magazine images inside and out. The container’s intention is to hold a representation of the calling that the healer answered when they first became a therapist.
For a lot of these wonderful healers, that’s been a really long time–20-30 years. And for some who are new, they don’t even realize that they answered a calling.
So, when they make their pocket vault, it’s like they are giving a home to a precious possession–a life force. I’ve had therapists tell me that they go to their Pocket Vault on hard days and just the act of opening it up helps them renew their sense of purpose. It’s lovely.
Who do you find it’s working best for?
In the beginning, I was just targeting my work for seasoned therapists. Psychotherapists, social workers, counselors who had been in the field for a long time. Now I see that this is important work for new folks and other healing professionals because they experience the same kind of burdening. I had a call just the other day from a Youth Advocate asking if she could participate. So, the audience is growing, and self-selecting.
At it’s heart, what is this project really about for you? (beyond money, status and such).
It’s about helping healers rediscover their beauty. I thrive on seeing beauty in others, and when I can help someone dig their beauty out of the burden that covers it, we are both transformed.
What’s the response been so far?
When I tell therapists that they don’t have to blame themselves or feel inadequate for feeling burdened or burned out the response is wonderful. When I offer them a supportive, safe place with fun creative activities to do–they become enlivened. The shame that they carry about their feelings disappears and they tell me that they don’t ever want to stop making art with me!
I’m still growing my online presence and the Breakfast Club Community, but my current audience is helping spread the word very fast. And, I’m thrilled to have had lots of interest with various organizations who want me to speak and train on the topic.
how did you promote this in the beginning? what were the top three most successful approaches at the start of it?
It’s funny because The Therapy Vault is an extension of the business that I’ve done for the last 10 years. So, I’m not sure when I started “promoting” it.
I do know that with my newly clarified purpose, I started talking about my workshops and trainings differently. And, the newest offer, The Therapy Vault Breakfast Club, is still in it’s infancy and growing in membership size.
So here’s what I did:
I was so fortunate to have an enthusiastic group of local followers because I’ve been writing similar content at my other site for years. I put out a request to my list asking for them to participate in free focus group workshops.
These workshops served multiple purposes. They helped me work on new content, get pictures of a variety of completed art projects, and learn how to articulate the benefits in the particpants’ own words. In the process, the focus group became my faithful tribe and have since participated in multiple Therapy Vault programs.
I started talking about The Therapy Vault in trainings that I was giving to agencies, and just handed out business cards. Because I was already in front of my target audience, all I had to do is add a little compassionate piece about how difficult the job is and I had people interested right away.
I’m involved in several professional groups and I took every opportunity I could to talk about what I was doing. This was where several speaking opportunities have sprung from. I haven’t
done the talks yet, but I’m expecting these to generate lots of interest and participation.
What are the top three most effective ways you’ve found to market this now?
I have such a wonderful list of followers at this point, after all this time–they are the ones that I’m reaching out to to spread the word. They have done a super job.
Speaking opportunities have come my way that will serve as really good advertising and credibility builders.
I’ll be doing a telesummit soon, and I know for sure that it will be a hit!
What are the three biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Jeffrey Van Dyk helped me write these. I say them to myself every day.
Do things in my Own Time. Don’t rush just because someone else wants it right away. If it doesn’t feel ripe/ready/right let it simmer and don’t force it.
Do things with my Own Judgement. Don’t listen to the tapes/voices that have old standards and expectations. They aren’t useful and just keep me back where I started from.
Do things in my Own Way. I’m such a creative person. And sometimes I squelch that because it’s scary. So, my Own Way is to be both creative and thoughtful.
What’s the next level for your project? What are you most excited about that’s coming up?
In January, I’ll be hosting a telesummit: The Sustainable Therapy Practice Telesummit.
That should be amazing and full of new learning for everyone who participates.
I’ve also started a book. It turns out that there’s incredible research that backs what I’m talking about, and I’m going to start capturing it all in book form. So, I’ll be writing my proposals soon.
If people want to find out more about your project, support it or get involved – what should they do?
They can visit www.thetherapyvault.com. They can get a free workbook there and start creating right away. I also have various live workshops that are posted on the Programs page.
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