Episode 62 – Exploring Veterinary Social Work with Therapy Unleashed’s Christina Malloy

The field of veterinary social work is emerging as an excellent way to support a healthier practice culture and provide well being resources to both staff and clients. Today you get to hear about the experiences of Christina Malloy, who has been involved in many aspects of the veterinary field, and now offers veterinary social work services and individualized coaching to smaller practices who cannot justify a full time social worker. She generously shares some insightful and actionable ideas around improving well being within our veterinary practices. Inside scoop – it all starts with setting better boundaries! 🙂

More about Christina!
Christina is the owner of Therapy Unleashed and a licensed independent clinical social worker who specializes in the wellness of veterinary professionals. Prior to launching Therapy Unleashed, Christina worked as a veterinary social worker at a large specialty and emergency hospital in Massachusetts. She launched Therapy Unleashed to make veterinary social work more accessible to smaller, locally owned veterinary businesses. She supports teams by offering individual support to staff, support groups, trainings, and empowers veterinary professionals to create the work-life balance they want. In addition to hospital support, Christina offers individual support to veterinary professionals through coaching and therapy.

Christina received her BA from Boston University and her MSW from Simmons University. Outside of work she enjoys crochet, reading, traveling and houseplants. Whatever she is doing, her golden retriever, Argo, and chinese crested rescue, Lilo, are never far behind.

Connect with Therapy Unleashed!
Email: christina@therapyunleashedllc.com

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Do you feel like it’s possible to find joy and positive change within veterinary medicine? Are you looking for a community that’s striving for fulfillment rather than perfection? Hey there, I’m Dr. Stacey Cordivano. And I want veterinarians to learn to be happier, healthier, wealthier, and more grateful for the lives that we’ve created. On this podcast, I will speak with outside of the box thinkers to hear new ideas on ways to improve our day to day life. Welcome to the whole veterinarian.

Hi, everyone, I’m excited to introduce you today to Christina Malloy. Christina is the owner of therapy unleashed and is a licensed independent clinical social worker who specializes in the wellness of veterinary professionals. Prior to launching therapy unleashed, Christina worked as a veterinary social worker at a large specialty and emergency hospital in Massachusetts. She launched therapy unleashed to make veterinary social work more accessible to smaller locally owned veterinary businesses. She supports teams by offering individual support to staff support groups, trainings, and empowers veterinary professionals to create the work life balance they want. We had a great chat about ways in which leadership and individuals can support each other in the workplace. And I think there are some really awesome takeaways. So I hope you enjoy our conversation, make sure to check the show notes for her full bio and ways to connect with her and some of the resources that we talked about today. Thanks again to Christina for joining me.

Hi, Kristina, thank you for being here with me today. How are you?

I’m good. Thank you for having me today.

I’m excited to chat, we connected on Instagram. And I’ve been loving all of the content that you put out. And I saw that you are able to offer therapy and coaching services to veterinarians. And I just thought I had to get you on to share you as a resource with my colleagues. And also just learn a little bit more about what you do on a day to day basis. So I’d love if you could tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into our veterinary medicine space.

Sure, I would love to. So I first got into frontman as a client care representative, I was preparing for vet school. And that’s kind of just where I ended up during that process. And while I was there, I really fell in love with the human animal bond. And so I knew that that was going to be somehow involved in my future, my career. And I originally was planning to after I decided to pursue that I was going to become a therapist, and have a therapy dog and involve the human animal bond in that way. And while I was working in Redmond, I was there for quite a few years throughout school. And while I was getting my master’s, and I really just saw the need for support within the veterinary community, both for clients and for staff. And that’s kind of when I discovered the world of veterinary social work, and that it was a thing. And I just knew immediately I was like this, this is the track that I’m supposed to be on. This is for me. And that’s how I got into this.

Awesome. Yeah, I think some veterinarians don’t even really know that it’s a thing I’d actually love to hear you kind of describe your role. And, you know, I know you worked in a different role previously to where you are now. So maybe just kind of elaborate on what you’ve done and what you’re currently doing.

Sure. So what I was doing, I was a veterinary social worker and a large mergency and specialty hospital. And I feel like that’s the space that you’ll typically find a veterinary social worker, they’re usually in a larger hospital, often a corporate company, and their type two purposes in that role. One is to support the clients, I feel like most of them veterinarian social workers that I know, are there to support the clients. And then you’ll find a few that also support the staff. And so when I in my role when I was doing it was pretty evenly split with supporting the staff and supporting the clients. And then COVID hit. And the majority of the support that I was offering was to the staff, because we all know how much of a struggle that was for our community to go to go through that. And so the role eventually evolved to mostly just supporting staff and then after a few years, I kind of realized the reason for your need for it. And I saw an opportunity to say hey, I can view this resource for people. You know, I’m a trained therapist. So I have that path for Round, but I also understand what it’s like to work in this field and the stressors that you faced and the burnout, you know, I was, I became burnt out in the client care, I really did. So I, I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it. And so now I’m kind of on my own, but offering this resource to individuals through either therapy or coaching, which are not the same, you know, through different offerings, and also to and different hospitals where I can support their staff. It’s almost like a temporary member in the team where you can be there to support the team.

Okay, I love that. And I definitely want to get to your offerings. But I first want to ask, in your experience in all those years, and then currently, what are like some of the top things that you see veterinarians facing? I know, you mentioned burnout. And, you know, we talk about a lot of these things. But I’d kind of love to hear from your perspective, what veterinarians are struggling with in the day to day like real life.

Of course, burnout, burnout and compassion, fatigue are obviously, the number one number two things that we tend to see. But what we don’t realize is necessarily what’s what’s causing those. So when I see are a lack of boundaries, and that is often because of unclear expectations. And those two things contribute to the burnout that contributed to compassion, fatigue. And if you don’t know what your expectations are, from your employer, how are you expected to carry out boundaries? Right? If you are constantly staying hours past when your shift and we’re constantly picking up extra shifts? Is it because you’re expected to do that? Or are you afraid of the consequences of what happens if you don’t do that? So learning about the expectations that your employer has for you can help you set those boundaries can help you determine Okay, yeah, I can leave on time. You know, it’s not expected that I stay so many hours after my shift, and every single day, of course, it’s gonna happen, but you know, how are you going to replenish yourself? And the needs that you have? If you’re constantly at work for 1213 hours a day? How are you sleeping? How are you eating healthy? How are you spending time with your family and doing those activities that allow you to rest so that you can keep going and can have a sustainable career development, and that’s what leads to burnout. And so it’s really the boundaries for me, I would say, for me as the number one thing that I like to work with people on is setting those boundaries so that they can have that work life balance that conducive to what they want. I mean, everybody’s work life balance is going to be different. So people want to get work more, and that’s totally okay friends with nothing wrong with that. But creating the environment that allows you to thrive is really important.

Within that explanation, I sort of here, leadership skills, or maybe a lack of leadership and where you’re working. And then also that ties into the idea of workplace culture. I mean, we know that a poor or negative workplace culture has like such a huge impact on an individual’s well being. I’m curious, your thoughts on what either makes a bad one? Or like, what are some things people can focus on as leaders in their practice to make a more positive workplace culture? Obviously, clear expectations, we know that.

clear expectations for sure. Offering offering support to staff and that doesn’t have to be someone like me, right? It can just be listening, right? So often, when I come into a hospital or a study where they want to improve workplace culture, or whatever it might be, you know, the leader, generally have an idea of the things that they want staff to work on. But if I check in with the staff, and I asked them what their concerns are, when they’re struggling with, it doesn’t always line up to really just listening to your team, giving them a voice and making them feel like they have some control over the environment that they work in, or just that their opinion matters, can also go a really long way with creating a positive and work environments that people want to be a part of.

And so what does that look like in real life? You are asking people to literally sit down together, you are asking for feedback via some forms, or how does that look when you recommend this to people?

I think this is going to be different for every hospital. And depending on the size of the hospital, but even small groups, like if you’re comfortable sitting down with a couple members of your team and asking them how things are going, you know what things could change what they can work on. But you have to be open to hearing what they say. Right is the key part to this. We have to be open to feedback and So often, people don’t express what they need. Because there’s some type of fear employee, whether it’s, they’re afraid of a consequence. Oranges, generally, they’re in an environment where they feel like they can’t speak up when something is uncomfortable or not right or something is, you know, not the way that they want it to be. So really, the biggest thing that you can do is just having an open platform, and letting people share without making them feel like their opinions are not important. Without making them feel like what they have to say doesn’t matter. Because it does.

Yeah, you’re hitting on my love language of psychological safety. So I’m, I’m all about that idea. Okay. I want to switch gears a little bit. If, if I mean, I think most of us have experienced hearing from colleagues or seeing colleagues that may not be thriving, maybe they’ve complained to us. And it doesn’t even have to be to, you know, extreme level. But do you have any tips for people to help support our colleagues, like, maybe our Leadership isn’t doing a great job of creating a positive work culture, and maybe we see a colleague, or even like, talk to a classmate that’s far away that we don’t even see in person that really isn’t doing the self care work doesn’t have great boundaries? Do you have any suggestions for people on how to support their friends that are in these situations,

really, one of the best things that you can do is just talk to them, ask them how they’re doing. So often we find, maybe, because we don’t want to know that someone is suffering. But we have these reservations about reaching out and saying, Hey, I noticed you were a little off this week. Is everything. Okay? You know, is there something you want to talk about? We frequently hear that people, you know, they suffer in silence, right? And it’s when people start talking, and asking questions, that so many people in our community can relate to the same thing, right? If you have one person that saying I’m struggling to maintain healthy work life balance, or I’m struggling with my caseload, whatever it might be, if you say some things, so many other people are going to be like, You know what, I have a hard time with that too. Just reaching out. Really, it sounds so simple, but it’s one thing that we don’t always do. And sometimes it’s because we don’t always have the emotional capacity, right? If we’re also having a hard time, it’s really hard to support someone else. And so figuring out what works for you how much you’re able to support someone, but really, that individual support that friendship, that camaraderie can go so much further than we think it can. Because you’ve noticed, you feel known as if someone says, Hey, I can see you, I see that you’re suffering, that person can say, oh, you know, when I’m not alone,

that’s great advice. And actually, the point about recognizing your own bandwidth, I think is an important point. Because there’s probably a lot of times that we feel like we should be doing more, but like you said, we might be dealing with our own stuff. And so kind of give ourselves some grace, if we’re not being the most supportive in that moment. That’s a great point. Another resource, of course, would be you or someone like you. So let’s talk a little bit more about what you are doing, both locally in person, and then what you are able to help people with virtually Sure. So I

would say that the main focus of my business and what I do is offering traveling veterinary social work to smaller local hospital that may not have had the opportunity, or the resources to hire someone full time, right? Most smaller hospitals don’t mean a full time veterinary social worker. And what I’m doing allows people to have have me or someone like me come in once a week, once a month, offering that support to their team without the financial burden of of hiring somebody full time, then I have to help all of the individuals on that team, everyone who wants that support, and their clients if they also want to add that in. So I would say that that’s the majority of how I spend my time, but when I also offer an individual support through therapy, which is, you know, more clinical work. I think so often in my former role, one of the things that one of the requests that I had most from staff was help finding a therapist was number one, and then help finding a therapist that understood what it was like to work in this field, which is not a common phrase, they’re not really people that are going to understand that. So that’s kind of where I got the idea for the for this business in the first place. So that’s the therapy aspect and then the coaching aspect, and non clinical so it’s not therapy, but it is something that can help people who are maybe considering a change within the within the field or possibly out of it. You know, someone who is looking for extra support to help Have you build that work life balance without a clinical focus on it? Because we don’t always need that, right? We don’t always need the clinical support, but sometimes we just need someone else to bounce ideas off of and help you figure out the best path for you.

Yeah, great. And so the therapy services are in Massachusetts only Is that correct?

That’s correct. Because of licensing laws. So therapy is only for Massachusetts residents. Coaching, there are no restrictions, so anyone can sign up for that.

And I saw on your website, you have a really great graphic, like differentiating the two. So I will make sure to link that because I thought that was really helpful. And then the in person social work for teams is New England area,

predominantly New England places and I can drive to I think the preference is to do that in person, because I think it just has a bigger impact. But there is an option to do virtual support as well, especially if I’m offering individual support to each team member, that’s pretty easy to do, you know, virtually, it’s a lot more of the the groups with the teams, whether it’s flying department or, you know, we haven’t gone through with it the support staff, my group for the doctor, it’s it’s a little bit harder to do, virtually, but I can offer it virtually. But mostly I like to do it in person.

Okay, great. Yeah, I think your point about finding someone to talk to that knows the field is important, because you know, things are different for us, and they’re hard to understand. So I’m so glad that you are able to offer the service. I’m happy to share it with listeners and get the word out further. I ask all guests, what is one small thing that has brought you joy this past week?

I like that question. I know this is gonna sound cliche, but honestly, the sun being out this week in Boston, it’s really lifted my mood and making me excited for the spring and like T shirts and being outside.

Yeah, I hear you. It’s the same here. And it’s like finally, like hint of Spring is coming. Okay, so where can people find more about you and more content and more information.

So Instagram is a great place to find me and reach out to me, @therapyunleashed. And if you want to find additional information on when I offer how to contact me or any questions that you might have, my website is therapy unleashed llc.com

Perfect. Anything else you want to leave the veterinary community with any other tidbits or final nuggets.

I mean, there’s so much reduced so much that I want to share but just honestly, knowing that you’re not alone, when you really might feel like you are. And if you feel alone, reach out. There are resources. I know everyone kind of knows about not one more vet now. But they really have such a comprehensive list of resources on their website as well. So in the head have like multiple options and different ways that you can find support. And then I hope everyone knows now but they might not know, you can call 988 for any type of mental health, whether it’s an emergency or crisis. It’s like 911. But, you know, for mental health needs. And so making sure everyone in our field knows that available is really important to me.

Yeah, great, perfect. And I’ll make sure to link those as well. Thank you so much for your time and your insight. I think it’s actually been really actionable. I know we kind of did a high overview, but I think there were some really actionable nuggets. And I appreciate that and I know listeners do as well. So thank you for your time.

Thank you. Thank you for having me today.

Thank you again, so much for the time and energy you share with me I so appreciate you listening. If you want to find out more from me, check out the whole veterinarian.com or find me on Instagram at the whole veterinarian. And if you enjoyed today’s episode, please do me a favor and share it with one friend or colleague who you think might benefit. I hope you have a great week and I will talk to you again soon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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I’m Stacey

I want veterinarians to become happier, healthier, wealthier and more grateful for this life that we’ve created.

I understand the struggles of a stretched-too-thin veterinarian. I have also learned that with some individual work, there is a brighter side to veterinary medicine. Personal and financial development strategies have helped me find a happier place in my life and in my work. I hope to share resources that will resonate with my fellow veterinarian to allow you to become a more whole person.

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