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.