How Important Are Cheerleaders, Really?

Starting your own practice is daunting. And while it’s more intimidating than it is hard (if you have a solid plan), white knuckling it and trying to do it all alone is a recipe for disaster. You can succeed without hiring a consultant but you will have an extremely hard time if you don’t have people on your side. Let’s talk about why cheerleaders are so important.

There will be times when you are convinced you can’t do it. We all have these moments early on where that sneaky gremlin whispers in your ear, “You aren't good enough. You barely have any clients. You’re going to fail.” Personally my gremlin shows up at about 2 months. That’s when I really need to lean on my support people so I don’t do something I regret like take on any client that calls me. Even if deep down you know you have what it takes (and you do!), you’re going to have moments of self-doubt.

Your cheerleaders can be your partner, your friends, other private practice therapists, your mom, your grandpa, your clinical supervisor, anyone supportive. When you’re feeling good, train them on how to respond to you when you aren’t feeling so good. I’m constantly preaching to my therapy clients “Give them the language!” Your mom may think your fear is an indication that you’re in over your head instead of a natural part of this process. Let her know it’s normal. Tell her what you need to hear if you call her freaking out.

My husband was such a great supporter. I’m sure he had moments of panic as he saw the amount in the bank account going down instead of up, but he trusted that I would turn that around. And didn’t worry about it out loud to me, which would have knocked me off my tenuous game.

Maybe your partner isn’t totally bought in. It may help to create a mutually agreed upon timeline at which point if you aren’t bringing in as much as you were in your agency, you will get a part-time job to make up the difference. While you’re in your grace period, suggest to your partner that s/he be unconditionally supportive no matter your concern. Remember that saying “I’m never going to make it and we’re going to lose the house because of me!” is probably terrifying for your partner so leave your drama at the door. An “I’m afraid I’m going to fail and I am feeling guilty that I can’t contribute much this month” will suffice.

In my experience, the best free support comes in other private practitioners. They get what you’re going through in a way no one else can. They don’t under- or over-estimate the risk. They know it’s doable even though it doesn’t feel doable sometimes early on. As you’re networking (there’s a BIG networking post coming in August if you need help with that), see who feels safe to talk to about your concerns. Ask people about their experiences starting their private practices including what worked for them and what didn’t.

Just like clients can’t recover in isolation, you can’t build your practice in isolation. Reach out, be authentic, know that it’s normal and keep moving through it. Before you know it you’ll have a full caseload and you’ll be soothing the fears of an up-and-comer.

Want some cheerleaders who really get it? Join the free Facebook Group! No bared-midriff or short skirt required!

Now you: Who is your biggest support and why is this person so awesome? Appreciate here!

P.S. Please know that I had to fight Bring It On references this entire post. It was hard, but I’m willing to suffer for you.


Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. After retiring her individual consultation services, she opened the Abundance Party, where you can get practice-building help for the cost of a copay. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.



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