Tag: practice protection

Help, Where Do I Start?

Sometimes when we’re starting up in practice, or when we hit a difficult period, it can seem overwhelming, and we don’t know where to start. So many tasks seem to be calling out for our attention, and all of them seem to be equally important. How do we decide what to do?

Lost and Confused SignpostSometimes when this happens to me, I find that I can’t do anything at all, or at least, nothing productive! I spend time doing things that are easy and comfortable (like emptying the dishwasher), or things that distract me (like reading a book), or things that are urgent but not important (like answering the phone). There’s nothing wrong with doing any of these things that we choose to do, however, they may not be the best choice at the time to bring me closer to what’s important for me. Read more

Minding Your Business of Therapy

Over the last week, I’ve been making suggestions about how you might use the Therapy Practice Business Assessment as the basis for making some changes to your therapy or counselling practice in 2016. So far, we’ve looked at three areas: Knowing Your Practice, Growing Your Practice and Valuing Your Practice. (You can read the blog posts in which I made suggestions in those areas by clicking on the links.)

Today we’re going to look at the fourth pillar of a successful practice, Minding Your Practice.

When they hear that phrase, most people think first about the practical steps of insurance and safety, and these are Therapy_1indeed important. Another important area in minding your practice is self-care, and one that is often overlooked is provision for the future. What steps could you take in 2016 to mind your therapy practice, to make it more robust, and to help create a buffer against the vagaries of life? Here are some ideas…

Hang on, you haven’t read the ideas yet!

Six Pillars of a Successful Therapy Practice

So you have a therapy or counselling practice, and you’d like it to be more successful? Or you’re thinking of starting a practice and not really sure where to start?

Since most people who set out to do something do so with an attitude of wanting it to go well, I am assuming that you want your practice to be successful. In this article, I’ll introduce you to the six pillars that support a successful, thriving practice.

But first, what would tell you that your practice is successful? (Check out my blog post on this subject here.) The point is, you need to have some idea of what success means for you, in order to have some chance of achieving it. If you haven’t done this before, it may take some time to get a bit clearer, but doing so will reward you greatly.

Six Pillars of a Successful Practice

pantheonWhatever your vision of a successful counselling or therapy practice, there are six essential pillars that you need to consider. These are:

Owning Your Practice, Knowing Your Practice: Growing Your Practice: Valuing Your Practice: Managing Your Practice and Minding Your Practice.

Don’t Stop Reading…You’ve only just Begun

Personal Safety

Working as a self-employed therapist or counsellor, you don’t have the same support structures as there might be within an organisation. Most counselling centres will have small numbers of people, and are unlikely to have security staff. In fact, you may be the only person working on the premises. This is also the case when you work from home.

It’s hard to tell in an initial session with a client whether they might become volatile at some stage, or whether they are prone to acting out their anger. Bear in mind too, that even if the client themselves is non-threatening, there may be people in the client’s life who may pose a risk to you, such as a family member or partner who doesn’t like what your client is doing.

Incidences of therapists and counsellors being threatened or attacked are rare, and it’s important not to focus too keenly on something that will probably never happen. However, there are certain sensible precautions that you can take. As the old proverb goes, “Trust in Allah, and tie up your camel!”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here are some tips:

  1. Set an intention to work in safety. Be clear about what this means for you.
  2. When client makes initial contact, ask the client to tell you briefly what their presenting issue is. They may or may not tell you enough to judge, but listen to your felt response. This will tell you whether the client is likely to be a good match for you.
  3. Make first time appointments and assessments for day time, or a time when others are around.
  4. If your workplace is located in an isolated place, you might be better carrying out assessments elsewhere, such as a serviced office which can be rented on an hourly basis.
  5. In an assessment, again, listen to your felt response. If you are uneasy about working with a client, even if you can’t explain it rationally, you might be better referring the client on to another practitioner. If you are unsure, be slow to commit to a long term arrangement. Opt instead for a short term contract of, say, three weeks. Be up front with the client about this. “I’m not sure whether I’m the best person to work with you on this. Let’s give it a couple of weeks and we can discuss then how it’s working for both of us.”
  6. If you work on your own, or if it’s not possible for others to be around, create some low, background noise, such as a radio or electrical device. This gives the impression that there are others around.
  7. If you work alone, make sure someone knows where you are, and what time you are expected home.

Ideally, if you work with clients who have a history of violence or abuse, do so when others are around. This provides a sense of security, even if the others would be of no practical help!

Think about the practical aspects of your workplace:

  1. Park in a well lit area.
  2. If there are lights over the entrance way, and in the halls, keep them on during client hours.
  3. Sit between your client and the door, so that you have an unimpeded exit route.
  4. If possible, choose a room that is close to the front door, preferably on the ground floor.

If you are expecting a particularly difficult session with a client, spend time preparing in advance. Do a grounding exercise. Visualising how you would like the session to go helps to pre-pave the energy you’ll bring with you. When I find myself intimidated by someone, I like the trick of imagining them sitting opposite me, and visually shrinking them in size (a bit like Alice in Wonderland) till they’re about 4 inches tall. This enhances confidence and reminds us of our own resources.

Work closely with your supervisor about these issues.

Finally, remember you do have a choice about who you work with. It may be that some clients are better off being dealt with within an organisational setting rather than in private practice. Don’t be afraid to say that it’s not right for you. The work will suffer if you are so nervous with a client that you cannot be present.

If I can can help with any aspect of running your practice, please contact me here for an appointment, or to avail of a free 20 minute consultation.

The Big Drop – Have You Thought About A Pension?

Some years ago, one of the financial institutions ran an ad that asked, “Are you ready for the big drop?”

The big drop was, of course, the gap between our income before retirement and after retirement. The point being made was that some people have insufficiently provided for their pension.

piggy bankAre you one of those? Have you got a plan in place for when you are no longer willing or able to work? Have you decided how you would like your retirement to look, or are you struggling to meet your day to day commitments, with nothing left over to put aside for a rainy day?

The impact of the recession on investments has left some people with less than expected to look forward to in their future, at a time when they would hope to be able to relax and take it easy.

Employers are bound by law to make a pension fund available to you, even if they don’t contribute to it, but there’s no requirement for a self employed person to do it for themselves. When we first set out to start a practice, every cent of costs and income count, so often, there is little left over for putting into a pension fund. Later, we may not make it a priority, and if we don’t, we will find ourselves having to make do with the state pension.

A pension fund will give most return the earlier you start to contribute to it, ideally it is started while you are in your twenties. The later you leave it to start, the more expensive it will be to provide you with a reasonable income when you come to collect.

If you haven’t thought about it before now, maybe this is the time to ask your financial advisor or your bank manager about how you might provide for your future. Did you know that contributions to an approved pension scheme may be tax deductible? That means that it may not cost you as much as you might think. And when the big drop comes, you’ll be glad you were thinking ahead.



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