Tag: attract more clients

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?

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.

What do you stand for? What values support your practice? How do you express these?

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

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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.

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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.

Therapy school trains you to work with clients. When you are a self-employed therapist, being self-employed is the job. Working with clients is the channel through which you make your living. Therapy school doesn’t train you to earn a living, it teaches you the skills you need to work with the clients. The same goes for any occupation or profession. Whether it’s making the cakes, painting the pictures, representing a client in court, preparing a client’s accounts or any other skills or qualifications you have, the exercising of those skills on behalf of your client is not the same as earning a living from it. And there’s the rub, isn’t it? Because most therapists never trained with the idea of being self-employed as their future occupation. Getting past this realisation is important, and will influence how long it takes you to make your practice a financially viable proposition.

I’m not saying this to discourage you, quite the opposite. I’m saying it to bring some level of realistic expectation.

There are lots of other factors that affect how quickly IT will happen for you:

  • Whether you have any previous experience of being in business
  • How much time and energy you are willing to commit
  • How open you are to putting yourself out there
  • How fixed your ideas are about how it’s going to happen
  • Your need to earn a living
  • How much support you have, internally and externally

Let’s look at those in a bit more detail:

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Previous experience of being in business

If you have never worked for yourself before, you’re going to find it a bit of a culture shock to be self-employed. This is because there are lots of supports available to us in a work place environment that we don’t even see. Until they’re not there. For example, we may feel our employer’s approach to holidays or sick pay is stingy, and we may not see it as a support. However, in comparison to being self-employed it’s a gift. There are no paid holidays or paid sick leave when you’re self-employed. (See my article on this subject.)

How Much Time and Energy You Are Willing To Commit

If you work 35 hours a week for someone else to earn a salary, then you will have to work at least that hard and long (and probably longer) to earn it working for yourself. Think of it this way, you are actually doing many peoples’ jobs, not just your own. In addition to being the client service person, you are also the boss, the finance department, the cleaner, the marketing person and so on. Clearly, how much time and energy you are willing to commit will be strongly influenced by what else is going on in your life.

How Open You Are to Putting Yourself Out There

Clients come through people. If you have to talk to 10 people to get one client referral, you’ll have to talk to 100 people to get 10 referrals and so on. How many clients you need will directly inform how much marketing and promotion you will need to do.

How Fixed Your Ideas Are About How It Will Happen

If you are convinced that your clients will or should come via a certain route (for example, from doctors’ referrals) then you will filter out other opportunities that might result in work coming your way. If you restrict your promotion to online channels, you will miss the opportunity to build valuable personal relationships that could pay dividends.

Your Need To Earn A Living

This one can work either way. For some, the pressure of needing to earn a certain amount will inspire them and spur them on to great things. For others, the pressure will result in an unwillingness to take any risks. Assessing and taking appropriate risks is a core skill for self-employed practitioners. Conversely, if you have no need or little need of the money, you will find it hard to take goals seriously and engage fully with the business side of the work.

How Much Support You Have Internally and Externally

The most important internal support you need is embracing the idea that being self-employed is your job. Other forms of internal support such as encouraging yourself, being patient and understanding with yourself (especially in the early days), are also helpful and will probably take you further and faster than self-criticism and self-blame. External support such as sufficient finance and a network of helpful others will provide a ground from which you can grow into the role more easily. When you start in a new job, you probably have someone to guide you about the role and what’s expected of you. There’ll probably be goals and feedback to support you growing into the job. These supports also have to be created in a self-employed context or you may find yourself feeling isolated. (See my article on this subject.)

If I can help you with any aspect of setting up your practice, I’d love to hear from you. Contact me here for your free 20 minute consultation or to make an appointment.

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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

Creating a Therapy Practice

In order to create something, whether it’s a home, a relationship, a work of art or a therapy practice, there is a process of creation. This process brings us through a number of steps from original conception to realisation. There are many ways to describe these steps, and I’m sure you’ll have your own version. I put them like this:
Inspiration: We are inspired to start something, for example, a therapy practice. Fresh from the training process, we are full of enthusiasm for our newly acquired skills, and eager to bring them to the aid of those in need. What better way to do this than through our own practice, where we can shape what and how we offer our services in a way that suits us.
1267750Visualisation: We begin to imagine what our own practice might look like. We have seen how others have done it, and we know what we like and don’t like. We begin to imagine the location we’d like, the clients we’d like, and how our life will be when all our visions turn to reality. Read more

Internal Locus of Evaluation

In his famous book, On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers talks about the “Locus of Evaluation” (or the perceived source of values) from two perspectives, that of the client, and that of the therapist. He supports a view that the therapist’s task is to think and empathise with the client within the client’s own frame of reference, respecting the client’s own valuing process. [1] This, he says, facilitates the client’s ability to develop their own internal locus of evaluation. This Rogers says is perhaps the most fundamental condition of creativity.[2]

Developing an internal locus of evaluation is an important goal in the psychotherapeutic process, enabling the client to live their life more creatively, as an agent of their own desire for themselves. Read more

John’s Story

I have written on many occasions on the link between our beliefs and values about money and wealth and the direct impact they have on our ability to create a financially viable therapy practice.

Recently, I have been working with a client who has been exploring his struggle to earn a decent living in his small metalworking business, and to create financial security in his life.  His name is John, and I have his permission to tell some of his story here to illustrate in concrete terms how beliefs that we have carried since childhood shape our way of being with money. These beliefs are often swallowed whole without subjecting them to any scrutiny. Read more

CAO Time

Car.

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. Read more

Reviewing the Situation

I’ve written before about my belief that money is a bit of a shadow in our profession, and probably for everyone at some level. It’s a subject I have a lot of interest in, having some money related trauma in my past, and my earlier career in accountancy. I recently came face to face with a visual image of one aspect of my own money shadow which I thought I might share with you today.

shadowWhy is it important to look at our own money shadow? For the same reason that uncovering any shadow aspect of ourselves is important, because as long as it stays in the shadow, it uses energy to keep it hidden, and it is in danger of sabotaging us in some way. Read more

What do Smoking and Building a Practice Have in Common?

I started smoking when I was about 14. I didn’t much like the taste of cigarettes, but I persisted. There were lots of cigarettes about which made it easy. My parents discouraged us from smoking, but since they smoked themselves, it didn’t have much effect!

117Smoking filled a lot of needs for me. Like many teenagers, I was socially awkward, and smoking helped me to feel more grown up. I saw my two elder sisters smoking, and wanted to be like them. Most of my friends smoked, and when I smoked, I felt that I belonged in that group. There were a gang of boys that I was interested in, and they also smoked. Read more

I Don’t Want To Be Like That…

For some time when I first started practice, I was plagued by calls from an online advertising agency who wanted my business. Their approach was pushy and aggressive, persistent and intrusive. They always managed to call when I had just started to eat, or relax with a book. It drove me mad. I felt like I was being assaulted in my own home.

stop handMy upbringing asked of me that I always be polite, and respectful of what other people had to say. I can find it difficult to say “No” directly. So I was polite to these callers, and declined their services as best I could. The calls kept coming. Eventually, I found a way to manage it by asking for my number to be removed from their call list. Read more