Practicing DBT Can Help You Run Your Private Practice

Running a small business on top of holding the stories of your clients and caring for them can quickly fill your time and energy reservoirs. Intrinsic to running a private practice are the multitude of moving parts that always seem to require attention. Invoices have to be made, insurance billed, emails and voicemails checked, appointments made, and a host of other day-to-day tasks that come up. Whether you are just starting out or have seen clients for years, your practice may not be big enough to hire someone to take care of your administrative tasks (see more on this article when to hire help). So, you are the one who is charge of all of all facets of your practice.

Having started my own private practice 9 years ago, I know this anxiety well and continue to strive to figure out the best ways to handle all of the moving parts of running a business and balance them with attempting to care well for my clients. We like to think that as therapists we are calm, collected, and relationally and internally at peace with ourselves and others, and therefore can handle life. But, attending to the business side of things can trigger our struggles with our own fears of failure, shame of working out of our natural inclination, and a host of other issues, all of which can be quite overwhelming leading us to either frantically work all the time or paralysis.

In order to tackle the overwhelming list of things to do and care for our own mental health we may need to use the same skills we teach our clients in session. Sometimes the life skills we teach our clients become so familiar to us that they actually become somewhat abstracted by our talking about them vs actually knowing them in a lived bodied way by practicing them in our own lives. One skill that can be immensely helpful is the DBT skill of Radical Acceptance. This skill is a submission to reality vs an attempt to fight reality.

When we can radically accept that we are human and therefore not able to accomplish all of the tasks that need to be accomplished immediately, we can then begin to problem solve by determining what is most important, doing one thing at a time, and letting go of the anxiety that everything must be done immediately. By doing this, we are able to lower our own anxiety, making us more able to attend to the business portions of our job with creativity and open up ourselves to be more emotionally available to our patients.

On a practical level this might mean creating a list of the most important to the least important tasks that need to be done each day, each week, and each month. As you begin to tackle them, you will realize that some things don’t get done right away. This is ok. Remember, you own a private practice, which means that you are practicing. Progress may come slow, but if you are consistently working, you will be able to look back and see areas of growth.

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