MEET tira stebbins                      

     As a clinical psychologist working in private practice at Organization for Psychological Health, I provide psychotherapy and assessment services to children, teens, and adults. My clients face various challenges, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, trauma, and school and family difficulties, among others. I believe that by gaining insight into unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, and learning healthier and more effective skills, therapy helps empower individuals to reach their goals and live more satisfying lives. 

 Tell us about a GRITTY MOMENT in your life that has forced you to learn what you are truly made of…

     I was a horse-obsessed little girl who would have lived in a barn if I had been allowed. I did everything I could to be around horses and learn as much as possible and every week I couldn’t wait for my riding lesson. Around age 8 I started learning how to jump. I wanted to jump but as the fences got a bit higher, I became scared. In one lesson I made up an excuse so that we could end early before the fences were raised higher. Another time I fell off after jumping, which added to my fears. Although I wanted to be a good rider, I struggled with the conflict between the desire to ride and improve and the fear of falling. In riding, if you fall off you must get back on – it’s a universal rule of horseback riding. This helped me face my fears each time I fell. My love of and passion for riding was stronger than my fear so I kept going back each week. Eventually the fence that once seemed high didn’t seem so high anymore and my confidence grew. Throughout my lifetime as an equestrian I have faced many, many fears, frustrations, disappointments and challenges. But my love of the animal and the sport and my desire to keep improving and reach my goals helped me to realize the importance of tenacity and commitment

GUTS: How did you “grow guts” and be brave enough to get through your “gritty moment”? Were you afraid? Where did you find your courage? How did facing that moment affect your confidence? Did you feel more confident afterward?
     As a psychologist, I know that the more a person avoids what she’s afraid of, the stronger that fear becomes. On the other hand, the more she faces her fear, the more power she has and the fear weakens. I didn’t necessarily know that as a kid but my passion for riding and desire to improve usually helped me face my fears and challenges. Along with that, my trainer’s support and encouragement kept me moving forward. I always felt better and more confident after facing my fear, no matter the outcome.
 RESILIENCE: What did you learn from pushing through your “gritty moment”? What helped you “not give up” and persevere?
      I learned to always get up and back on the horse after you fall; to trust myself, my horse, and my trainer; that what seems scary at one time eventually seems less scary, the more you do it; and that if I kept working hard, it would pay off. The payoff might be winning a competition – but it also might be mastering a new skill as a rider, teaching a horse a new skill, training a young horse, performing better in a competition (but not winning) or jumping that jump that looks enormous. The feeling of being on the other side of those challenges was always much better than the feeling of avoiding something that seems too hard or too scary. .
 IMPERFECTION: How do you deal with failure and making mistakes? Did your “gritty moment” force you to learn and grow?
     Every mistake or failure is an opportunity to learn and grow! It’s okay to be frustrated, disappointed, angry, or sad when you make a mistake, especially when the stakes are high. But after that feeling dies down, it’s time to decide what’s next. I ask myself, “What do I need to work on? What will help me get better?” I consult with my trainer, do some self-reflecting, and come up with a plan to work on it. Although it’s fun to remember the times I’ve won at horse shows, I can also give plenty of examples of horse shows that didn’t go my way. I have learned that sometimes the “best” rider doesn’t win, sometimes things happen that you can’t control (a plastic bag spooks your horse at the end of a great jumping round), and sometimes other people have nicer horses or the judge rates their performance higher (it’s a subjective sport). These are things I’ve had to accept if I want to participate in this sport. There were mistakes and failures that I took back to the barn to work on for next time and there were situations that helped me learn that life isn’t fair but I can deal with that and it won’t affect my love for the sport.
TEAM: What role did your support system play in helping you through this challenging time? What role has this “team” had in your life?
     My trainer has been a major part of my support system since I was a child. I have been riding with her for 36 years! When I doubt myself, I listen to her words and do my best to do what she says, because she’s usually right. My mom was a huge support as well, always encouraging me to keep going and making it possible for me to have horses in my life. My barn family was also important – my peers and their parents were always very supportive. We pitched in to help one another at home and at horse shows. Even when we competed against each other we were each other’s biggest cheerleaders.
How has playing sports and/or participating in athletics positively affected your life?
     Along with riding, as a child I was on swim team, played volleyball, and I was a cheerleader. Among other things, I learned about teamwork, sportsmanship, commitment, and overcoming fears and challenges. I made friendships, learned skills, and had fun! I feel lucky to have been able to continue riding since I was a child.
And just for fun… What advice would you give to your younger “GRITTY GIRL” self?
     If I could talk to her, I’d teach her some of the skills I teach my clients, particularly how changing your thoughts changes how you feel,. I’d try to reassure her that as long as she keeps facing her fears and overcoming discouragement, she will feel better and do better. And that practice makes better!

“Thank you Dr. Stebbins for sharing your GRIT!” 

Connect with Tira via her website