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I Absolve You For Being Human

“I absolve you for being human!” That’s what my friend said to me when I told her of my mistake. “I absolve you for being human,” and then she added, “And you could absolve yourself, too!”

I try hard to get it right. I had tried hard for about 20 minutes to avoid this particular mistake, and I thought I had, but then someone pointed out to me that the very thing I had been trying to avoid had manifested just as I secretly feared it would.

I wonder if the fear of being judged for getting it wrong (especially in public) holds back many practitioners from putting themselves out there and making themselves more visible to potential clients. I know the idea is to stay hidden under the veil of being “the blank screen” onto which clients can project their view of the world, and so bring out their transference. But maybe there’s just a teensy little bit of fear that we might be seen as ordinary people; and then the truth would be out that we are really no different from those normal, mistake making mortals to whom we offer our help. If clients saw us in our true colours, if they knew how much of a mess we really are behind the role of the therapist, behind that convenient blank screen, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to catch hold of the hope that we can offer them something more.

When that kind person brought to my attention that I had made a mistake, I immediately thought, “See, that’s what happens when you put yourself out there.” And the part of me that wants to live my life from the safety of the broom closet had her moment of victorious righteousness. But there’s a bigger, braver part of me that knows that that safety is an illusion. The bigger, braver part of me knows the truth of the saying, “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” And that goes whether it’s love of another human being, or love of the enormous abundance of the world we inhabit.

So when my friend said, “I absolve you for being human,” it really hit home. The gift of humanity is that we always have a choice. We get to decide what we want. And I want more than brooms and dust pans. So I thanked her for her gift, and closed the door of the broom closet behind me as I left.

Five Ways to Make your Marketing More Effective

A therapist client asked me recently to help her create marketing material that would bring in more clients. This otherwise articulate professional found it difficult to put words together into promotional material, in a way that sounded authentic without being sleazy. If you’re going to invest money in getting a brochure or flyer designed and printed, then you’ll want it to work for you.

Here are my five tips for making your material stand out from the crowd and still be appropriate to the work.

1. Talk about them, not about you

It’s tempting, isn’t it, because you are what you know best. You know who you are, what you’ve done and what you do. Sorry to burst your bubble, but potential clients don’t much care. They’re interested in whether you can bring some relief to the pain they’re feeling. You need your words to reach out and connect with where they are.

So talk about them, what they might be experiencing, and how you imagine that feels for them.

2.   Don’t talk about process, talk about what they can realistically expect to achieve, or what they want to achievehelping hand

Again, it’s what you know best! And yes, some clients will be interested in how you work, but only as a means to an end.  You are ethically bound not to give undertakings about outcomes, but you can still focus on what a client wants to achieve, and at the end of the day, all clients have one thing in common, they want to feel better. You may not be able to resolve the problem they have with their mother, but you can tell them that many people feel better for talking about it.

3.   Talk their language, not yours 

Speaking jargon creates the impression that you are the expert. However, it can have the effect of reducing your client to a ‘case’ and is to be avoided. A potential client may be impressed by your technical knowledge, but in this world of fast paced communication, you have about 15 seconds to get your message across. If it doesn’t grab their attention, you run the risk that they drop your brochure in the waste before they reach your phone number. A potential client shouldn’t have to work to understand what you are offering them. Use language that is descriptive, easily understood and that your potential client can relate to.

4.  Don’t try to be all things to all people, you’ll just end up being nondescript. Choose something that you are interested in and focus on that

You don’t have to be an expert in everything.  And the purpose of marketing is not to display all your knowledge and expertise on all subjects. The purpose is to answer the client’s question, “Is this someone who might be able to help me?” Choose something that draws you and talk about that. Because you are interested, you will find it easier to talk (or write) about it congruently and from the heart. This tells a potential client (or referrer) something of who you are as a person and will help them to connect with you.

5.  If you want clients to find you, they have to be able to find you

A client has to sort through a lot of information to make a choice of therapist. You need to make it easy for them. That means having your contact details out there where clients are likely to look, whether online or offline. The more places your name and phone number appear, the better. You will also need to find something that makes you different from others. People remember your quirks! If you can’t think of something to differentiate you, include a good photo of yourself.

Finally, you could spend a lifetime trying to get it just right. Aim for good enough, and review it before you reprint.

If I can help you with any aspect of promoting your practice, or finding the ideal clients for you, I’d be happy to do so. Please contact me with your questions or queries, or to avail of your free 20 minute consultation.

Summertime and the Living is Easy…or maybe not! Coping With Seasonality

It’s been a glorious summer, sunshine all the way. But for some practitioners, any summer, and a fine one in jugaad1particular, is not the good news it might be.

For many reasons, the holiday season can result in a fall off of work for counsellors and therapists. Clients feel better, they go on holidays, or they decide they’d rather spend the money on tennis lessons. Of course, it’s nice for us to have a break too. Unless of course, you haven’t planned for the drop in your income.

How do you cope with the seasonality of this business? Are you a “seat of your pants” person, crossing your fingers and trusting that there’ll be enough in the bank to see you through the lean times, or do you take a more structured approach? It’s probably too late for this year, but when you’re looking at next year (You do plan, right? Okay, maybe a post for another day!) consider building in a reserve to cover the times when work is not as plentiful.

For example:

Joe Therapist knows that he will have full (or almost full) capacity for about 40 weeks of the year, half capacity for another 4 weeks and will earn nothing in the remaining 8 weeks of the year. He needs income for all 52 weeks, so how does he do it?

  1. He can pretend it’s not a problem, and eat little or nothing when his clients are on holidays.
  2. He can put a little aside in each of the weeks when he has full income to help him over the weeks when he has less or he has none.
  3. He can arrange his expenses so that they largely fall when he has full income.
  4. He can borrow to cover the holiday period, and pay it back when he has income.
  5. He can arrange his affairs with clients so that his income is more constant (for example, by contracting with a client that a limited number of holiday weeks can be taken)

With a little bit of forethought, the holiday season can be as comfortable as the rest of the year, and when it’s a fine one, you can sit back and enjoy the unexpected bonus, knowing that your bills are covered.

How do you manage the seasonality of your work? Share your experiences with us below.

Jude Fay MIAHIP, MIACP, FCA is a practising psychotherapist and counsellor in Naas and Celbridge Co Kildare. Her interest in the business side of running a psychotherapy practice reflects her earlier career as a Chartered Accountant.

If you would like to speak to Jude about any aspect of starting or running a therapy or counselling practice please click here: Contact Us

…And Then There Was The Accountant Who Spun Plates!

In most professions you get the generalists and the specialists. In medicine you have the GPs and the Consultants. In Law you have the Conveyancers and the Criminal Lawyers. You have the local dentist who does fillings and polishing, and you have the orthodontist. In counselling and therapy too, we have those who specialise in one field such as addiction,or adolescents, and those who can turn their hand to many issues.

Plates Spinning on Sticks
Plates Spinning on Sticks

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Do you Advertise or Not?

I often get asked by practitioners, “Is it okay to advertise my services?” And in particular, “Is it okay to advertise on the Internet?”

Those in favour of advertising online will argue that we live in a technological age, free soapand that potential clients will reach for their phone, iPad or computer as the first source of information about what they’re looking for. It makes sense, they argue, to be where their clients are looking for them. The detractors will argue that the best sources of clients come from personal connections, people you already know, people who know you and what you can do. Some will argue that it is inconsistent with professionalism to advertise our services at all, and especially on the internet. Read more

Our Time is Up!

Setting and holding firm boundaries is an important aspect of self care. It helps us to mind ourselves in the work, and reminds us that our needs are important too. It is also an important aspect of modelling for our clients. An ability to set and hold boundaries is an important skill in the business of having a therapy practice too, as it gives some priority to the therapist’s needs as well as the clients. If we can’t hold to the contracts we make, with ourselves and with others, we will find it difficult to earn a living as a therapist.

Time business concept.One place in which these boundaries arise is in relation to time. A colleague told me recently of her difficulty getting one particular client to leave at the end of their sessions. She had raised the issue several times with the client, and in supervision, but nothing seemed to work.

What would you do? Read more

Who Minds the Shop?

A couple of years ago, my therapist had to drop out of the work at short notice due to a sudden illness.  I can still remember the shock of learning that she was going to be absent for several months, and the difficulty I had in dealing with it at the time. As therapists we are often good at dealing with our client’s crises, but sometimes we aren’t so hot at looking after our own shop! In my case, she had enough notice of her absence to be able to tell me herself, and to arrange for another therapist to provide emergency cover, but not every emergency will give us that luxury.

red lightMany therapists work on their own, and very few have administrative or secretarial support. If you were unable to see your clients, through a sudden illness, or family crisis, the last thing you might feel like doing is ringing clients and supporting them, possibly dealing with their distress when you have an issue of your own going on. And yes, I know, we’re trained to do that sort of thing. But really, wouldn’t it be nice if there was someone in your life who could make those calls to your clients, and offer them the emergency support they might need to weather your absence? Read more

Have You Enough Support for Your Business?

I was a bit taken aback when a colleague suggested to me during the week that what I was really looking for was support. After all, I teach this stuff, don’t I? As a therapist, I provide support for my clients, usually emotional support, and sometimes the more practical support of looking at resourcing or problem solving. In this role, I write and teach others about the business of therapy. Need support? Moi?

As you can guess from my reaction, I can be touchy about allowing others to support me. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I am independent, self-sufficient and like to be able to fend for myself in all situations. I hate it when there’s something I can’t do! Needing support conjures up shame for me, and that’s not a place I like to visit unless I have to.

supportNow in general, this independence is a very useful trait. If something needs doing, and I think I have any chance of doing it myself, I’ll have a go. I can do many things well, and a few things really, really well. I’m enthusiastic and willing. I’m what Jane Austen refers to as an ‘active, useful sort of person[1]. As a result, I have skills and abilities galore. But there’s one thing I can’t do for myself no matter how hard I try.

I can’t see my own blind spots. And a major blind spot for me is that I get caught between those twin horns of wanting to sort things out for myself on the one hand, and being a therapist on the other. Read more

Setting up a Private Practice

Are you thinking of starting your own practice as a counsellor or psychotherapist? This workshop will help you get off the ground.

Looking at the practical issues related to setting up a private professional practice such as

  • Clarifying the type of practice you would like to create
  • Exploring the services you might provide, and the clients you might like to attract
  • Looking at how to market your services
  • Understanding what is needed to start a business

this workshop is an opportunity to spend some time networking with other health professionals while you learn from experienced professionals who have done it before you.

A one day workshop  presented by Jude Fay MIAHIP MIACP and Dr Genevieve Becker.

Date: Autumn 2013

Venue: Dublin West

Time: 9.30 to 4.30

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