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This Business of Therapy: A Practical Guide to Starting, Developing and Sustaining a Therapy Practice Read more
Identity is an issue that is often present in therapy work. The quest to “know our true selves,” or to “be myself,” is a common theme in the therapy room. As therapists, we model being ourselves through our authenticity or congruence, and in this way allow clients the freedom to do likewise.
Identity is equally important when we are considering our practices. In the second pillar of a successful therapy practice, what I call “Knowing Your Practice,” I talk about creating an identity for your practice. I’m not necessarily talking about the branding or the issues you might work with, although these may be part of it. Knowing your practice is more subtle than that. It’s the essence of who you are and what you stand for in the work. It’s the qualities of you that you bring to the service of your clients. It’s an inner knowing of what is right for you and what is not, an ethical framework perhaps?
Perhaps this example will make it easier to understand.
My favourite local coffee shop is PS Coffee Roasters. It is run by two brothers who are passionate about coffee. Recently, as I sipped my coffee and snacked on their guilt free flapjacks (no wheat, no dairy, no processed sugar, and still good to eat!!) I noticed a blackboard on the wall which set out their philosophy about their work.
I took a photo, and asked one of the brothers if it was okay for me to use it in a blog post. He came and sat beside me for 10 minutes as I drank my coffee and explained his business to me. Meanwhile, my husband was cringing with embarrassment beside me!
Simon (the coffee shop owner), told me that he and his brother are coffee roasters (the clue is in the name!!) He showed me the map on the wall which showed where they sourced their coffee, described how they roasted the fresh coffee in a very particular way, then ground it to the appropriate coarseness or fineness for each of a dozen different types of coffee makers (many of which are available in the shop). He explained to me the subtleties of the different coffees for different tastes, and so on… Everything he said, and every bullet point on his blackboard speaks to who “PS Coffee Roasters” is. The heading says it all, “What makes us PS Coffee Roasters?”
Simon is absolutely clear about the business he is in. He knows it inside out. It is not the same business as Costa or Starbucks, although perhaps it might initially appear to be so. Although all three organisations sell cups of coffee, each has its own distinct identity, that separates it from the others. This helps potential customers to differentiate between what’s on offer, and to choose a supplier that’s right for them.
When I’m buying a cup of coffee, it’s a brief encounter, lasting just a few moments, although I can repeat it many times over if I wish. On the other hand, when choosing a therapist, when I’m thinking of investing my time and money in the relationship, and trusting someone with the most personal aspects of my life, it is so much more important for me to be able to ensure that’s it’s a good fit for me.
I put “Knowing Your Practice” as the second pillar, because from your knowing of who you are as a self-employed
therapist flows how you present yourself through your promotion, how you manage and look after yourself and your practice in the work, and how you value what you offer your clients. It is the ground from which you make so many choices about how you want your practice to be in the world.
For example, knowing who I am as a practitioner helps to give me ground in marketing my practice. I don’t need to divulge personal information to potential or actual clients unless I choose to, but I can allow my choices of marketing channels, colours, language, images and so on to speak about me in a way that conveys to them a sense of who they will be working with. I can choose to work with clients that are a good fit for me, because I know what works for me. I can be clear about my boundaries in the work, because I know where those boundaries are and how they support me in my work.
If you would like to explore this more in relation to your practice, please contact me here for your free 20 minute consultation or to make an appointment.
How long does it take to establish a therapy practice?
This a regular question asked at workshops and in meetings with therapists. The answer varies hugely and depends on many factors.
The short answer is, you can do the basics in a few weeks. However, if you are starting from scratch and aiming for a practice that will replace the salary you are currently earning in a full or part time position, the answer is likely to be closer to years than weeks or months. It’s possible to get there quicker, but most people don’t. Think of it this way, you didn’t become a therapist overnight, and you won’t become self-employed overnight either.
Therapy school trains you to work with clients. When you are a self-employed therapist, being self-employed is the job. Working with clients is the channel through which you make your living. Therapy school doesn’t train you to earn a living, it teaches you the skills you need to work with the clients. The same goes for any occupation or profession. Whether it’s making the cakes, painting the pictures, representing a client in court, preparing a client’s accounts or any other skills or qualifications you have, the exercising of those skills on behalf of your client is not the same as earning a living from it. And there’s the rub, isn’t it? Because most therapists never trained with the idea of being self-employed as their future occupation. Getting past this realisation is important, and will influence how long it takes you to make your practice a financially viable proposition.
I’m not saying this to discourage you, quite the opposite. I’m saying it to bring some level of realistic expectation.
There are lots of other factors that affect how quickly IT will happen for you:
Whether you have any previous experience of being in business
How much time and energy you are willing to commit
How open you are to putting yourself out there
How fixed your ideas are about how it’s going to happen
Your need to earn a living
How much support you have, internally and externally
Let’s look at those in a bit more detail:
Previous experience of being in business
If you have never worked for yourself before, you’re going to find it a bit of a culture shock to be self-employed. This is because there are lots of supports available to us in a work place environment that we don’t even see. Until they’re not there. For example, we may feel our employer’s approach to holidays or sick pay is stingy, and we may not see it as a support. However, in comparison to being self-employed it’s a gift. There are no paid holidays or paid sick leave when you’re self-employed. (See my article on this subject.)
How Much Time and Energy You Are Willing To Commit
If you work 35 hours a week for someone else to earn a salary, then you will have to work at least that hard and long (and probably longer) to earn it working for yourself. Think of it this way, you are actually doing many peoples’ jobs, not just your own. In addition to being the client service person, you are also the boss, the finance department, the cleaner, the marketing person and so on. Clearly, how much time and energy you are willing to commit will be strongly influenced by what else is going on in your life.
How Open You Are to Putting Yourself Out There
Clients come through people. If you have to talk to 10 people to get one client referral, you’ll have to talk to 100 people to get 10 referrals and so on. How many clients you need will directly inform how much marketing and promotion you will need to do.
How Fixed Your Ideas Are About How It Will Happen
If you are convinced that your clients will or should come via a certain route (for example, from doctors’ referrals) then you will filter out other opportunities that might result in work coming your way. If you restrict your promotion to online channels, you will miss the opportunity to build valuable personal relationships that could pay dividends.
Your Need To Earn A Living
This one can work either way. For some, the pressure of needing to earn a certain amount will inspire them and spur them on to great things. For others, the pressure will result in an unwillingness to take any risks. Assessing and taking appropriate risks is a core skill for self-employed practitioners. Conversely, if you have no need or little need of the money, you will find it hard to take goals seriously and engage fully with the business side of the work.
How Much Support You Have Internally and Externally
The most important internal support you need is embracing the idea that being self-employed is your job. Other forms of internal support such as encouraging yourself, being patient and understanding with yourself (especially in the early days), are also helpful and will probably take you further and faster than self-criticism and self-blame. External support such as sufficient finance and a network of helpful others will provide a ground from which you can grow into the role more easily. When you start in a new job, you probably have someone to guide you about the role and what’s expected of you. There’ll probably be goals and feedback to support you growing into the job. These supports also have to be created in a self-employed context or you may find yourself feeling isolated. (See my article on this subject.)
If I can help you with any aspect of setting up your practice, I’d love to hear from you. Contact me here for your free 20 minute consultation or to make an appointment.
To practice our therapy skills, there must be someone who has a problem, or a question, or a wondering that we can help. We need clients to practice with.
There are basically two ways in which to find clients:
Someone hires us to see clients that they have available, or
We find them ourselves.
I am aware from talking with practitioners, that marketing is something they find really difficult. And I find it curious that we want to do the work, but don’t want to do the work of finding the work. (There is a simple solution to this by the way – choose option 1, and let someone else find the clients for you!)
Shying away from marketing we demonise one side of a pair, the work is good, but the finding of it, or the looking for it, or the asking for it is bad. Read more
I wrote recently about taking ourselves seriously as business owners when we have a self-employed therapy practice. In that article, I wrote about investing our time, money and energy in our practice, if we are taking ourselves seriously. The question then arises, “Well, how much time, money and energy do I need to invest?”
It’s a question that has no right answer, and maybe there’s a better question.
I find myself thinking about sports. There are many levels at which we can engage in sports. I’m not a great sporty fan, so I don’t invest much of myself in it, either at a participant or watcher level. But most of my family are keen, and their interest level reflects their engagement. So, some are interested in watching but not participating. They watch the tennis or the rugby on TV, they attend important matches, they talk about the important news stories of their chosen sport, the goals, the misses, the changes of manager, the “What ifs,” of the relative league positioning and so on. Read more
What is your desire for your practice, for your clients, and for yourself? It’s an interesting question, and I wonder how much time you have given to it.
How much detail can you create about your desire before you interrupt yourself with something. It might be, “I never get what I want,” or, “It will be too difficult,” or, “I have to settle for what I can get.” Or it might be any one of a myriad of other obstacles that we put in the way of expressing what our desire is. Read more
Some years ago, I worked with a coach who gave me a task, to ask people who knew me what they thought of me. When I read their feedback, at some level, I didn’t believe what was being said. I read it through distorted lenses, emphasising the negatives and diminishing the positives.
I reread the feedback recently, and was touched and humbled by the regard in which my friends and family hold me. I’m still reading it through those distorted lenses, but now I can allow in more of the truth of the positives, as well as seeing the negatives in a less exaggerated way.
We all see ourselves in a distorted way. We look at ourselves as if looking in one of those silly mirrors you used to get at fairgrounds when I was growing up, where our heads look enormous, we look twice as tall, or we look shorter and rounder. Or one of those apps that allow us to make silly pictures. We have these distortions in how we see others, and the world we live in too. Read more
Nothing brings up trust issues as quickly or as obviously as money! (Except perhaps sex?)
I have had several clients who pay me at the start of the session rather than risk forgetting to pay at the end. I’ve asked about it and the answer is always the same, they don’t trust themselves to remember. They fear the possible shame they might incur if they had to be reminded by me, and make the judgement that it is better avoided. And I feel for them.
I remember my own huge shame when, driving home after therapy one evening, I remembered I had forgotten to pay my therapist. I pulled over to the side of the road and called her. I was sick with guilt, embarrassment and shame, and was ready to drive back (almost 20 miles) to correct the problem there and then, if she hadn’t insisted on leaving it until the following session. Looking back now, I can remember the intensity of those feelings, though they seem curiously out of proportion to the mistake. The underlying fear for me was that the relationship could not hold such a huge issue, and that my mistake could have been the end of the relationship. My fear was on a catastrophic scale. My thoughts ran riot with questions about my motivation for not paying. What was I saying in that? Was some part of me angry with my therapist and refusing to pay? What was going on for me that I had forgotten? How could I have done that? How could I be so stupid? It went on and on.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll have heard me referring to the Six Pillars of a Successful Therapy Practice.
The first pillar of a successful therapy practice, “Owning Our Practice”, is all about seeing ourselves as a business owner as well as someone who helps other people. It means embracing the idea that we are not just there to help our clients, but that our practices are also providing us with a living (hopefully :)) Read more
At AnneLeigh Counselling & Psychotherapy our focus is on emotional well-being for clients and therapists. We aim to provide a warm and safe space in which clients can explore what troubles them, and receive support in exploring and moving towards changes that are right for them. Healthy relationships are at the heart of our philosophy, in which we seek to honour both the robustness and fragility of all those who come through our doors, be they therapist, client, parent or any other person.
To add to our expertise we would like to have a child psychotherapist available to clients. If you are an accredited and experienced child therapist and would be interested in working out of our practice in Naas on Mondays, Fridays or at weekends, we would like to talk to you.
We are also interested in receiving enquiries from experienced and accredited therapists who work with adults.
We recognise that not all those who need counselling and psychotherapy support will be able to afford our services, and would like to have some facility for offering a low-cost alternative. We welcome newly and nearly qualified therapists who may be seeking to work towards accreditation and would like to take on some private clients.
Please contact Jude, Jennifer or Evelyn at (085) 105 0337 for further details