CAO Time


Learning a new skill, such as driving or becoming a therapist, involves a process. In learning to drive, the route is pretty simple. You learn the theory, then you do your driver theory test. Next, you go out and take some lessons. When you’re proficient enough, you do the test. And if you’ve learned your lessons well, you’ll get your licence.

A similar process takes place when you train to be a therapist. You go to school, you learn a bit, then you start trying out your new skills on others in the school, and finally on clients. If you do your lessons well, you’ll earn your qualification. You spend a couple of years putting in client hours, and eventually, you have earned your accreditation.

However, when setting up your therapy practice, the route is not nearly as straightforward. There is no school to attend. No test to pass. There is no direct and predetermined path from getting your qualification to earning a living. What there is, is a bewildering number of choices and options, none of which will guarantee success.

Also, there is no benchmark for what constitutes success. It can be a demoralising experience. You have spent years thinking about the finishing line (qualifying as a therapist,) only to discover that it is the starting line of another heat.

It reminds me of a teenager in final year at school. For the previous fourteen years, his life has been dictated by a 1674504timetable, curriculum and structure over which he has no little control. As he approaches his final year, he is asked to decide where he wants to go next. He is asked to complete the CAO form. Which of the vast array of choices will he focus on: further education, work, travel and so on? It can be an overwhelming task, and fear and self-doubt abound. What if I choose wrong? What if I don’t like it? What if I can’t get a job?

But choose he must, either directly, or indirectly by not choosing.

And so it is with setting up your practice. Just as a teenager’s life after school won’t happen by accident, neither do practices create themselves. There’s no way forward except to take a step.

One of the tasks I suggest to people in the start-up phase is to write a business plan. The discipline of creating a business plan is the equivalent of filling out the CAO form and there are good, strong reasons for adopting this course of action:

  1. It makes us start to create a vision in our minds. Having a picture (even a vague woolly one) of what we’re trying to do is the first stage of turning it into a reality.
  2. It forces us to think about what is important to us. Deciding what success will look like allow us to know when we have found it.
  3. It forces us to make choices about what course of action to adopt, to get where we want to go.
  4. It brings us into the reality of what we’re trying to achieve, which brings us into our feelings about it, and in turn helps us to grow into the person we need to be to achieve the practice we want.
  5. It gives us a marker against which to measure how we’re doing, allowing us to take corrective action or adjust the plan.

Most important of all, it gives us structure which helps us in transition from the external structure of college to the creation of our own internal structure. The plan supports us when we get wobbly, and helps us to focus on something other than our fears of what might be.


Of course, just as not completing the CAO form is a valid option, so too is not writing a business plan. But it really depends on what we want. As the man said when asked whether he bothered flossing his teeth, “I only floss the ones I want to keep.”

Unsure how to do it? You can find an example of a business plan for a therapy practice here. Have fun with it!

Is starting up a scary process? Yes, of course it is. Does a business plan guarantee success? No, it doesn’t. Will you get it right first time? Probably not. But it’s somewhere to start. It’s a step. And as we all know, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Perhaps I can help you in the transition to creating the practice want. Please contact me here, to make an appointment or to avail of your free 20 minute consultation.

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