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.
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.
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.