Tag: counselling practice

Hidden Agendas

As we start a new year, and may be making some new year’s resolutions, it’s a good time to ask ourselves what do we want for our practices over the coming year.

It’s a straightforward question which can have a complicated answer because often we want many things, and some of the things we want conflict with each other.

Take the example of wanting more clients, or more income. I can answer the “What should I do to find more clients or earn more income?” question quite literally with a list of things to do, but I know from long experience there’s usually a better question.

When we know what we want, and we’re not getting it, quite simply there’s something else that we want that is getting in the way. Such as safety or security.

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We all know that we keep re-creating what we haven’t healed. If poverty or lack is familiar to us, we will keep creating it until we feel safe enough to create something different. If staying out of the limelight and keeping our heads below the parapet is familiar and comfortable for us, we will find a way to stay invisible until we feel safe enough to be seen. It’s not that we don’t know what to do, it’s that we have a hidden agenda. Sometimes the agenda is so well hidden we don’t even see it ourselves.

Recently I spoke to two groups of professionals about marketing their practices. The professions were very different, the issues were the same. Marketing can be over-simplified to a series of tasks, but it is not just a question of putting yourself out there. Of course, the action is important. But the action is not solely what will bring the clients to your door, or cause them to pass you by. There is always an inner component too.

I’m sure you know people who have struggled with their weight. I have done so in the past, and I know that there were times when I was eating the way I was supposed to be eating, and doing the appropriate exercise, but the weight would not budge.

It’s the same with marketing. Two people can appear to be marketing their practice in the same way, and one can get good results, the other not. The underlying reason for the differing results is the same for marketing and for weight loss, and just about anything else you like to think of. A hidden agenda will find a way to override the efficacy of any action you take.

What sort of hidden agenda might be getting in the way of you creating your practice?

Typically, our hidden agendas are driven by issues concerning safety or identity. So, I might unconsciously fear that

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if I get what I want for my practice, such as more income, this will change how I see myself, or how others see me. Earning more income might contravene some deeply held value, such as poverty is worthier than plenty. Or I may have invested in a view of myself as always struggling, or unsupported or undervalued, and a change in my circumstances might mean I have to change how I see myself.

I might encounter fears about who or what I might become. If I like to see myself as the caring empathic helper, I may fear that a greater focus on money will mean I no longer care about others. If I believe that entrepreneurs or business people are heartless or greedy, I may fear becoming like that.

And then there are the fears about what it might mean in my relationships if I become more successful in my practice. Someone I care about might feel threatened by a change in my circumstances, or I might fear that they will resent me. If it is important to me to preserve a relationship in its present form, or if I relate to certain people in a fixed way, the prospect of changing that may evoke anxiety.

And finally, there are the fears about what might happen if my practice were to take off. I might fear not being able to cope with the increased client load, or the increased income. I might fear that my freedom might be restricted, or that more might be expected of me.

Hidden agendas can be hard to spot, but we can find clues in how we feel and in how our practice performs. So, if you are struggling to earn enough, or you are feeling a lot of resistance to taking the actions you need to take to grow your practice, this is good information for you. You’ve probably found a clue that’s telling you there’s some other objective going on under the surface.

I’d be glad to help you with your hidden agendas. Contact me here for a free 20 minute consultation.

 

 

Integrating Therapy and Business: Making Our Practice Our Own

In my last article I spoke of how the journey to create a therapy practice can also be a journey towards personal integration. In this article, I look at this journey from the perspective of the second pillar of a successful therapy practice, Knowing Your Practice.

In the second pillar, we build on our decision to create a practice by beginning to explore what our own practice might be like. For psychotherapists at least, we have all been in therapy and have worked in other practices during placement, we therefore have some exposure to what other practices look like. This may be a starting point for our own practice, as we reflect on what we like or dislike of other people’s choices.

One of the challenges of the second pillar is to make choices of our own. Choices about the type of practice we’d like to have, the clients we’d like to work with, the issues we’d like to learn more about, where we’d like to work, what we want to call our practice and so on.

Making choices is easier for some than for others. The sheer number of choices that must be made in the early days of starting a practice can be overwhelming, and it’s important to support ourselves in this process. Not making a choice is also a choice, but, as I have written about in another post, it doesn’t always serve us to allow things to go by default. Choices bring us face to face with the fear of having to decide in favour of one option, while discarding others. This can evoke anxiety about committing to a course of action the outcome of which is uncertain.

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Another issue that commonly arises at the second pillar is our relationship with identity and vision. While choosing this logo style or this colour for a website, or other marketing strategy is not a life-threatening choice, it can evoke experiences from our past where we have been judged or criticised for our preferences especially if these did not conform to the preferences of significant people in our lives. Being different, or choosing differently from others may not have been a safe experience for some. It can be challenging for some to choose what we like, without muddying our choice by imagining how it will be received by others.

Equally, we may have invested a lot in being different from something or someone in our lives. If being “not them” or “not that” has become a rule for us, we may lose the benefit or the gift that that trait or person might have to offer us. If, for example, we overly identify with our kind, empathic selves so as to avoid being aggressive, we may lose the benefit of stepping into a more empowered place, where we can take care of our own needs.

It’s particularly difficult to make a choice, when our choice impacts on others around us. For example, if you have a family, choosing to prioritise your practice may present quite a challenge if it means saying “No” to a family member or loved one. However, in order to create a practice, we will at times face that challenge.

At the second pillar, we also meet our relationship with goals and planning, and with our intentions. When we are employed by someone else, we take on their goals, their plans and their intentions. We may not like them, but at least we know what they are. Self-employed as a therapist, we must make our own goals, our own plans for achieving those goals, and our own intentions for ourselves and our practices. Not only are we responsible for deciding what those goals should be, and how we are going to achieve them, we also must commit to making them happen. If we have experienced push back from others in our life when we have tried to make plans of our own, we may be slow even to identify what we’d like to have or to be.

 

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This relationship with goals also touches on our relationship with desire. Do we allow our own desires space and expression? Or have we shut down our desires because of past disappointments? If our desire involves earning more money, either for its own sake or for the choices, power or freedom more money might give us, how do we marry that desire with our work? If we meet a client who is in need, but can’t pay, are we willing to prioritise what we want, or do we defer to the client’s need?

A related area of choice at the second pillar is around our values and beliefs, and how we would like these to be expressed through our practice. If we meet a client who has a very different value to our own, how do we manage that? Are we willing to express our value in a way that makes it clear to prospective clients what our value is? Or if we decide not to express that explicitly, how do we manage the conflict that may arise within us?

So, at the second pillar of a successful practice, where our practice begins to take the shape we want it to take, we encounter our willingness to have a shape of our own. This is the foundation work for how we will present ourselves and our practice when we come to promote and market it at the third pillar. As I have previously said, it’s a process, and won’t happen overnight. But it is a potentially life changing process that invites us to step into an expanded version of ourselves.

If I can help you with any aspect of starting or running your practice, please contact me here.

The Business of Therapy: A Journey Towards Integration?

If someone asks you what you do, I bet you tell them you’re a therapist. Okay, you might say counsellor, psychotherapist, family therapist etc, but I suspect you define your work by your client work. Am I right?

But that’s not the full story is it? Because you are also self-employed. Most therapists I know tend not to think of themselves as self-employed business owners, and of business as something that shopkeepers or entrepreneurs do. The channel through which they practice is not of much interest. I think this is a pity, because hidden in the business side of practice is an opportunity to integrate more of ourselves, to further our journey towards wholeness. Read more

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.

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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

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

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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Therapy Rooms To Let

anneleighcandp_logo_squareAt AnneLeigh Counselling & Psychotherapy our focus is on emotional well-being for clients and therapists. We aim to provide a warm and safe space in which clients can explore what troubles them, and receive support in exploring and moving towards changes that are right for them. Healthy relationships are at the heart of our philosophy, in which we seek to honour both the robustness and fragility of all those who come through our doors, be they therapist, client, parent or any other person.

To add to our expertise we would like to have a child psychotherapist available to clients. If you are an accredited and experienced child therapist and would be interested in working out of our practice in Naas on Mondays, Fridays or at weekends, we would like to talk to you.

We are also interested in receiving enquiries from experienced and accredited therapists who work with adults.

We recognise that not all those who need counselling and psychotherapy support will be able to afford our services, and would like to have some facility for offering a low-cost alternative. We welcome newly and nearly qualified therapists who may be seeking to work towards accreditation and would like to take on some private clients.

Please contact Jude, Jennifer or Evelyn at (085) 105 0337 for further details