Over the past 10 plus years, I’ve seen plenty of ups and downs in my client load. When the schedule is full, I tend to feel very confident and can find myself approaching my clients differently than when my schedule isn’t as full. Part of this is that I have some belief that I am the one who has built my practice, and thus when people call me, it’s a direct result of my hard work. Some of this is true, but I think it’s a very dangerous line of thinking to believe that it’s all up to you.
Here’s why. In the 12-steps, we must first accept that our lives are unmanageable (step 1) and that there is a power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity (step 2). If you’ve done any work at all with addicts, you’ll know that they cannot get well until they accept there is something or someone bigger at work. I think the same principal applies to us as counselors. We have to admit that ultimately, we are not in control of our practices.
It is not by our own amazing, skillful, gifted work that people show up in our offices (though this is an ingredient of a thriving practice). We cannot build a private practice without the grace and trust from other people. I’ve written many times about this being a relationship-based business. When we approach it as such, we have to be flexible to the natural seasons and rhythms of relationships. The beauty of this is that when the times are slow, we do not have to give in to voices of shame that tell us it’s entirely our fault for our empty schedule.
There’s another part of the ups and downs of private practice that is vital for us as counselors and wellness professionals. When we are really busy, it’s easy to feel important and as though we are God’s perfect gift to so many people (especially if the work we are doing with clients is causing them to consider joining our profession!). When we are not busy, it’s easy to doubt our abilities and wonder what we have done wrong.
Both responses are expressions of resistance to our inflated sense of importance. It is really challenging for me to be ok with myself when I am 50% full in my practice because it’s easy for me to feel like I’ve done something wrong. Just as there are seasons of difference in the weather, so there are seasons in our own lives. This is probably not a new concept, but our businesses are not immune to seasons of change.
Rhythms create space. We need to develop rhythms in both our busy periods as well as our slow ones. These rhythms help us to maintain a sense of meaning, balance, and consistency. When my schedule is slower, I tend to spend more time dreaming of new ideas and opportunities to expand my influence in the community. The slow times are invitations for us to reflect, plan, and consider new things that we otherwise wouldn’t have time for during our busy season.
Here are a few questions to consider during the slower months of your practice:
– What do I want to do differently in my scope of practice?
– Are there other business opportunities to expand my influence? (Groups, education, seminars, writing, etc)
– Are there personal matters coming up in the slow times that need my attention?
– What relationships need attention? Could be personal or professional.
– Am I filling my time with productive and meaningful work?
One last thought. I keep track of a lot of information about my practice so that I am aware of the slow and busy seasons in my business. I highly suggest you do the same thing. You can see what spreadsheet I use for that here in the Client & Call Logs.
image courtesy of InAweofGodsCreation via Flickr