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This Business of Therapy Book in Paperback and Kindle

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
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The Merits of Working for Nothing

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 recently attended a talk at which therapists were invited to give some free hours to a charitable organisation. Curiously, the person giving the talk didn’t seem to appreciate the irony of expecting therapists to work for nothing, while other care givers within the organisation were paid, such as social workers and chaplins.

Many newly qualified therapists are giving their work for free as they work towards accreditation, even if a fee is being charged to the client. Some feel exploited by this practice, and that they have no choice but to go along with it. The phenomenon is indicative of our times and raises a very important question about exercising our power to choose. How we see the world influences the extent to which we feel we have any choice.

The power to choose is a key element of stepping into our authority as a self-employed practitioner. We live in a world of excessive choice, which can be overwhelming. Failing to make a choice can be the result of overwhelm. It is itself a choice, but it is often not the best choice for us to make. Refusing to choose takes away the pressure to choose wisely, and relieves us from the process of weighing the pros and cons to arrive at an answer we can live with. But we leave a lot to random chance if we allow the world to decide for us.

When we work for someone else, we can allow our employer to choose for us. In the world of self-employment, however, we need to make choices in order to create a sustainable business.

How does all of this relate to working for free you may be asking?

When first we qualify and are looking to get accreditation, giving our services for free seems to be a good idea. And it is. There’s a giving and receiving. We give our services, and we receive experience and hours towards our accreditation. However, as we move closer to accreditation, the attraction of giving our services for free begins to fade. We begin to remember the cost of getting our qualification, not just the financial cost which is significant, but the investment of time and energy, and we begin to wonder, when is there going to be a reward?

This point arrives for most of us at some time. Some will reach it sooner than others, and we may cycle through it several times.

The point is, we can give of ourselves, if our needs are being met in other ways, or if giving meets a need in us. If our needs are not being met, or we feel obligated to give and feel no choice to refuse, then giving turns sour and we may become resentful or angry with those we see are exploiting us. Time to get out when that happens, literally or metaphorically.

When we start to promote our practices, is there a value in providing our services for free or at a reduced cost? Of course there is, but only as long as we feel we have a choice in doing it. When it gets to the stage where we feel we are being taken for granted, it is time to look at our motives, and at our other choices.

If you’re finding it hard to get started, and finding no one wants to pay you for your services, maybe I can help. Contact me here for a free 20 minute consultation.

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That’s A Great Question!

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

Knowing Your Practice: Who Am I In My Work?

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

Are We There Yet? (How Long Does it Take?)

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.

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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

Marketing Dilemmas

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:

  1. Someone hires us to see clients that they have available, or
  2. 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

What Sort of Practice Do You Want To Create?

What Is Your Intention For Your Practice?

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.

Soccer Players
Soccer Players

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 Do You Want For and From Your Practice?

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.

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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

Criticism Kills Off Our Desire

In a recent article about the creative process of setting up in practice, I wrote about how we can interrupt our desire by judging it. Criticism is toxic to creativity, whether it comes from others or from ourselves.

I have a big inner critic.

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.

Snapshot_20170318We 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

Money Shows Up Our Trust Issues!

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.
Wallet and some money on a wooden tableI 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.

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Taking Ourselves Seriously

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.[1]

pantheonThe 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