Keeping it Real When You Start Your Practice

This month's guest post is by Amanda Dutton, MS, LAPC.  Amanda is an active member of the Abundance Practice-Builders Facebook Group (hop in!). When I say active member, I mean she really puts herself out there, supports the hell out of the other folks; she helps make it the incredible community that it is. Amanda's been a part of the Facebook group almost since the beginning and I'm so happy she wrote a post for you guys that exemplifies what I admire most about her: her authenticity. Her encouragement to check in, her honesty in what has been difficult for her, and her vulnerability in her journey as she is building is awesome. Here she is:  I opened the doors of my practice in November 2015. After one month, I had one client. Two months, still one client. Three months? Yep, still one client. I was reading about others that were almost full in that amount of time! Surely I was missing something. I was marketing, connecting, I had a defined niche. Yet, I just couldn't seem to push beyond that one client. What was I doing wrong?!?!?! Absolutely nothing. I had gotten caught up in comparisons. I wanted that instant gratification of “Ta-da! I am a private practice therapist!” I wanted immediate success and was disappointed when it didn't fall in my lap. It's kind of like those advertisements on t.v. for the various weight loss tricks. They say you'll lose all this weight, but in tiny letters on the bottom of the screen, there is a note that says “results not typical.” I always used to miss that part. I missed that part when I started my practice, too. So before you start wondering if you're going through this alone, or if you're wondering if you're doing something wrong (like I thought), review a few things and remember to keep it real:

  1. Check yourself (before you wreck yourself) – we want to have a full private practice and we want it YESTERDAY. Don't let yourself get frustrated when you hang out your shingle and instead of a line of people waiting for you to open your door it's the sound of crickets and a few tumbleweeds rolling by. It takes time to build a successful private practice. Remember, this is something you chose to do for your own reason (getting away from the agency game, having control over your fees, your hours, the type of clients you want to see, etc.). If you jump too quickly into making compromises in your practice (I was about to lower my fees out of desperation), is it really going to be the venture that you want?
  2. Check your connections – do you have the supports in place to keep you motivated and on track for the goals you have set? Connecting with like-minded peers (like those in the Abundance Practice Builders group) can really keep you motivated and your expectations in check with regard to where you are in your private practice journey. Know your resources, reach out to them, and give back when you've learned something new. You may be providing information for someone else that is starting out on their journey, too!
  3. Check your reality - are your expectations realistic for where you are in your journey? If you're just starting out in private practice and aren't yet fully licensed, you may not get the influx of clients that someone who is already licensed gets. There also may be a difference in the speed of referrals depending on if you are on insurance panels versus being fully cash pay (weigh this option out really well. While you may get clients quicker in the beginning with insurance panels, you'll also have the paperwork and the decreased fee reimbursement to consider. Self pay can be a slower growing start, but it also can be a fulfilling practice experience when you consider getting your full fee every time and not spending extra time jumping through insurance hoops).
  4. Check (your own) progress – are you comparing you own journey to the journey of others? Is it even a fair comparison? Are you looking at the progress of those who are living in areas that are more populated or have less competition? Those who serve other populations? STOP IT! The success or struggles of others does not define how you will do in practice! Only you can determine your outcome!
  5. Check your purpose – yes, we have a business. We want clients and we want to make money. But what's your PURPOSE in your practice? What do you represent? What's your vision? Make sure you have your goals in order. Define your niche in a solid way so that you know that when a client DOES walk through your door, you can confidently say “yes, this is the type of person I want to work with, and I will enjoy helping them because, darn it, I know this is my favorite type of client!” At the same time, be ready to refer them out if they don't fit that niche. Yes, it will be hard if you only have one client. But remember, you're not just building a “business,” you're building a “life.” You're building an adventure. You're building a place that you love to come to every day because it's yours, and you made it into something awesome.

The lean times in the beginning are going to be scary. There will be other lean times along the way, too. But during those times, think about why you are doing this, and keep it real. Remember the saying “Rome wasn't built in a day?” Well, neither was a good, healthy, successful practice. How do you "stay in your lane?" Let us know in the comments! Amanda Dutton, MS, LAPC: Amanda enjoys working with women who have forgotten to put themselves first. Her practice is focused on the concept that a healthy person takes care of their body and their mind. She works with women who have had bariatric (weight loss) surgery and are struggling with body image, self esteem, and the emotional issues that relate to the often underlying food addiction. This is a specialized area for Amanda since she also had weight loss surgery 11 years ago. Amanda writes for various publications, presents at conferences and workshops and maintains a professional therapy blog. To learn more about her, please visit her website.   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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