L. Gordon Brewer, Jr. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who works in Tennessee. He is an AAMFT Approved Supervisor and adjunct instructor in the East Tennessee State University graduate counseling program.
Gordon has been a practicing therapist and consultant for nearly two decades and he can trace it all back to a night at the movies.
“While on Christmas break during my freshman year of college, I went to see the movie Ordinary People – I’m really dating myself here!” Gordon remembers. “In the movie, Judd Hirsch plays a psychiatrist who help the main character deal with a crisis. For some reason, that struck a chord with me. I thought, ‘Wow! That’s what I want to do.’”
Returning to school, Gordon changed his academic direction from pre-med to a major in psychology. His course shifted again when he got a job in a funeral home during his senior year. Not only did he get a job, but he also got an apartment in the funeral home. He lived at there with the responsibility of answering late-night phone calls, leading him to a career in funeral services, learning everything from embalming to helping families cope. His psychology degree prepared him in matters of grief.
After grad school he worked for a non-profit agency that helped at-risk children and youth, along with their families. He worked as a therapist, supervisor, and eventually a clinical consultant there.
Today, Gordon works at a group private practice, Kingsport Counseling Associates, he founded in 2014. Given his experience as a funeral home director, he specializes in grief and grief recovery and through pure chance of who was coming into the room, he also discovered a niche working with men struggling with sex and pornography addiction.
“That topic kept coming up, so I took the opportunity and started learning more and making that a specialty,” he says.
Gordon learned the value of supervision during his first job at the nonprofit agency after graduate school.
“Many of the counselors or therapists were pre-licensed, so there was ongoing supervision all the time,” recalls Gordon. “We met weekly with our supervisor and had regular clinical consultations. I got a lot out of that.”
When it comes to conducting his own supervision, Gordon stresses the importance of the therapeutic relationship, while also keeping in mind how nerve-wracking it can be to engage with clients when you are a new therapist.
“The biggest challenge,” he says, “is to help supervisees with feeling comfortable and confident. I remember back when I was new. I was so nervous I’d say the wrong thing or make things worse for my clients. But I try to remind my supervisees that if they do nothing else but go in, be present, truly listen and convey understanding without judgement, that is therapeutic in and of itself.”
He also remembers to walk supervisees through some of the nitty gritty details important on their path to license, like test preparation for qualifying exams. His best advice for test prep is to pull out your old grad school textbooks and go through the glossary; refamiliarize yourself with the terminology can go along way.
Gordon has found other outlets to share his expertise in the field. As host of The Practice of Therapy podcast, he tackles topics relating to the business side of private therapy.
“Sometimes it is just me solo [on the podcast], but most of the time I have someone that I interview, usually influencers in the private practice field. I’ve learned everything the hard way so my listeners don’t have to!”
With over 3,000 downloads a month and a companion website full of articles and resources, he has created a platform to share his wisdom and experience with others.
Past topics on the podcast have included marketing, scaling, employees, leadership, life-work balance, time management, website design, outsourcing and more. (You can listen to Motivo founder Rachel McCrickard on episode 31!)
Gordon finds that conducting supervision through a screen can be very helpful. He once had a supervisee with health issues; having a remote option kept the supervisee on track and able to work.
In Tennessee, where Gordon lives, supervisors must be AAMFT-approved, which is a fairly rigorous progress, and some pre-licensed therapists may be hours away from an AAMFT-approved supervisor. Video sessions offer options previously unavailable.
“The thing I like about Motivo is that the HIPPA-compliance is built into the platform,” he says. “It can save a lot of time and money.”
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