This book is now available to buy in either paperback or Kindle from Amazon.co.uk You don’t need to own a kindle device to read the book, just download the free kindle app for tablet, pc or smart phone. Paperback price €12.99, Kindle €8.99
This Business of Therapy: A Practical Guide to Starting, Developing and Sustaining a Therapy Practice Read more
I am in the final year of my supervision training, and would love to offer you supervision, free of charge, in exchange for your participation. I will be using a relational Gestalt approach. Ideally, I would like to offer you 12 hours of one to one supervision over the next six months at my practice in Naas, Co Kildare.
As I am not yet accredited, this supervision will not count towards your own accreditation, but should be additional to your existing supervision. It may however, count for CPD.
In my last article I spoke of how the journey to create a therapy practice can also be a journey towards personal integration. In this article, I look at this journey from the perspective of the second pillar of a successful therapy practice, Knowing Your Practice.
In the second pillar, we build on our decision to create a practice by beginning to explore what our own practice might be like. For psychotherapists at least, we have all been in therapy and have worked in other practices during placement, we therefore have some exposure to what other practices look like. This may be a starting point for our own practice, as we reflect on what we like or dislike of other people’s choices.
One of the challenges of the second pillar is to make choices of our own. Choices about the type of practice we’d like to have, the clients we’d like to work with, the issues we’d like to learn more about, where we’d like to work, what we want to call our practice and so on.
Making choices is easier for some than for others. The sheer number of choices that must be made in the early days of starting a practice can be overwhelming, and it’s important to support ourselves in this process. Not making a choice is also a choice, but, as I have written about in another post, it doesn’t always serve us to allow things to go by default. Choices bring us face to face with the fear of having to decide in favour of one option, while discarding others. This can evoke anxiety about committing to a course of action the outcome of which is uncertain.
Another issue that commonly arises at the second pillar is our relationship with identity and vision. While choosing this logo style or this colour for a website, or other marketing strategy is not a life-threatening choice, it can evoke experiences from our past where we have been judged or criticised for our preferences especially if these did not conform to the preferences of significant people in our lives. Being different, or choosing differently from others may not have been a safe experience for some. It can be challenging for some to choose what we like, without muddying our choice by imagining how it will be received by others.
Equally, we may have invested a lot in being different from something or someone in our lives. If being “not them” or “not that” has become a rule for us, we may lose the benefit or the gift that that trait or person might have to offer us. If, for example, we overly identify with our kind, empathic selves so as to avoid being aggressive, we may lose the benefit of stepping into a more empowered place, where we can take care of our own needs.
It’s particularly difficult to make a choice, when our choice impacts on others around us. For example, if you have a family, choosing to prioritise your practice may present quite a challenge if it means saying “No” to a family member or loved one. However, in order to create a practice, we will at times face that challenge.
At the second pillar, we also meet our relationship with goals and planning, and with our intentions. When we are employed by someone else, we take on their goals, their plans and their intentions. We may not like them, but at least we know what they are. Self-employed as a therapist, we must make our own goals, our own plans for achieving those goals, and our own intentions for ourselves and our practices. Not only are we responsible for deciding what those goals should be, and how we are going to achieve them, we also must commit to making them happen. If we have experienced push back from others in our life when we have tried to make plans of our own, we may be slow even to identify what we’d like to have or to be.
This relationship with goals also touches on our relationship with desire. Do we allow our own desires space and expression? Or have we shut down our desires because of past disappointments? If our desire involves earning more money, either for its own sake or for the choices, power or freedom more money might give us, how do we marry that desire with our work? If we meet a client who is in need, but can’t pay, are we willing to prioritise what we want, or do we defer to the client’s need?
A related area of choice at the second pillar is around our values and beliefs, and how we would like these to be expressed through our practice. If we meet a client who has a very different value to our own, how do we manage that? Are we willing to express our value in a way that makes it clear to prospective clients what our value is? Or if we decide not to express that explicitly, how do we manage the conflict that may arise within us?
So, at the second pillar of a successful practice, where our practice begins to take the shape we want it to take, we encounter our willingness to have a shape of our own. This is the foundation work for how we will present ourselves and our practice when we come to promote and market it at the third pillar. As I have previously said, it’s a process, and won’t happen overnight. But it is a potentially life changing process that invites us to step into an expanded version of ourselves.
If I can help you with any aspect of starting or running your practice, please contact me here.
If someone asks you what you do, I bet you tell them you’re a therapist. Okay, you might say counsellor, psychotherapist, family therapist etc, but I suspect you define your work by your client work. Am I right?
But that’s not the full story is it? Because you are also self-employed. Most therapists I know tend not to think of themselves as self-employed business owners, and of business as something that shopkeepers or entrepreneurs do. The channel through which they practice is not of much interest. I think this is a pity, because hidden in the business side of practice is an opportunity to integrate more of ourselves, to further our journey towards wholeness. Read more
Before deciding how to promote your practice, you need to do some preparation work. This is easiest done by asking four important questions of yourself. These four questions could be called the “4 Ps”:
The popular workshop “The Business of Therapy: Starting a Therapy Practice” which has been running for 5 years is
now available on line from TherapyAcademy.ie. If you don’t have time to attend in person, or the dates or venues don’t suit you, this may the course for you.
With a full written course, and covering 9 modules including videos and slides, with exercises to make the material relevant for you, you can get your CPD at home in your own time and at your own pace.
The course covers popular topics such as:
What it means to be self-employed, and how this differs from working for someone else.
The six areas you’ll need to address in order to create a sustainable and financially viable practice.
Finding a vision for your practice, and a plan to make that vision a reality
Marketing your practice in a way that works for you
How to set fees at a level that reflects your needs and your costs
Working for free is fine, and a valid marketing strategy, as long as we feel it’s our choice. However, it can breed expectation, so don’t take yourself for granted, or you’ll find others will too.
The marketing environment has changed hugely over the past few decades. Providing information, samples and services for free is now a major marketing strategy in many fields of business. I believe it was Helena Rubenstein in the 60s who first capitalised on the concept of the free sample, giving away a small sample of cosmetics to loyal customers, to introduce them to a new or different product. The practice is still used to great effect within that industry. The purpose of the free sample is to allow the customer a risk-free way of experiencing what is for sale, by allowing them to experience the merits of the product directly. It is seen as a valid expense of the business, a marketing cost. With the advent of the digital age with informational, music and movie products, free sampling has become the norm rather than the exception. The environment has changed. A lot is given for free.
I’ve been doing some workshops recently, and have been asked a couple of great questions:
What happens to my clients and my files when I die?
This is something you need to think about. Obviously, we’d all like to think that we will have some warning of the end of our practising life, and most of us will. However, it’s a good idea to think about the unthinkable, and something put in place, which, like insurance, you hope you’ll never need. 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? Read more
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. Read more
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