Often our clients only see one side of who we are as persons, which is our therapist self. Hopefully, they experience a non-anxious presence that provides safety and encourages them as persons, facilitating their growth process. Because of the nature of the therapeutic relationships, they do not experience another side of us who takes care of the charting, insurance billing, invoices, paying bills, etc. Unfortunately, if we are honest, this self, the small business self, is not as calm and collected and often is riddled with worry and anxiety as we attempt to keep our practice afloat and carry out tasks we may not have been previously trained to do. After being in private practice for a number of years, it has occurred to me that much of the anxiety I experience comes because I have failed to integrate my therapist self with my small business self.
Ironically, I have fallen into the common trap that what is needed in the counseling office is separate from what I need at my work desk. I am not sure all of the reasons that others may have taken this path, but for me I realized that I have idealized my therapist self, and therefore made it “all good” and demonized my business self as “all evil”. Part of the reason is that the business side is not something that comes as a second nature to me, but something I have to work at and because this portion of my energies and focus are geared to making money and keeping the business running, which feel counter to helping people and consequently can become “evil” to my idealistic mindset. And so, what I become is a therapist who reluctantly must runs a private practice vs a private practice owner and therapist who looks to benefit his clients.
By instead integrating these two selves we may not only short circuit our own splitting and thus our own internal unhealthy living, but we are also better enabled to help our clients and our business in the process. One area that many therapists struggle to address with their clients is the issue of client no-shows. Often, therapists begin to worry disrupting the therapeutic relationship and fear that the client will see them as just trying to get money out of them. But, to move out from this place in ourself is affirm the client’s splitting of us. If we are able to see ourselves as both a business owner and a therapist, then we can present our whole selves to our clients.
In seeing ourselves as whole beings, we begin to think both therapeutically and a with a business perspective. As integrated private practice owner we realize that the client ‘s missing sessions is a therapeutic interfering behavior and may be an indicator that the client’s buy-in is shaky or the the therapeutic relationship is ailing. As a small business owner, the no shows make it harder for us to anticipate how much money is coming in and to pay the necessary bills, making it harder to stay in business (which ironically can cause resentment in us towards our client and impact our countertransference with them).
Being an integrated private practice owner gives the therapist a solid place to step out from to openly and honestly address the no shows, thus helping therapeutic process for the client and the therapist and assures that the therapist can keep his or her doors open to help others for years to come.