Editors note. This is a guest post from James Trone. We occasionally have other practitioners share their story of building a private practice. James offers some great insights into this process. if you have ideas you’d like to share with our readers, click here to contact us for more information.
As I write this, I am keenly aware that the only authority I have regarding this subject is my own experience. With that said, I have experienced the slow maturation of a practice with the ups and downs that I think any business sees as it starts from scratch. These are reflections of what has helped me as I have grown into my own practice and continue to evolve. I must say on the front end that I have not necessarily figured this all out but have discovered ways that have really helped me get started.
1. Your passion for your work and clients will be the key motivator in getting you through the lean times. Like any profession, if you feel called to it then you will find a way to make it work. I have found, like anything worth pursuing, where there is risk there is reward. Rarely in any profession, do you step into a work situation where clients / referrals are just handed to you. In some cases, that happens such as stepping into a thriving practice group or church situation where you immediately and frequently get referrals. For most, that is not the case. It was not the case for me. I found that I had a lot of extra time and I didn’t know at first what to do but slowly figured it out as follows…
2. Get established on the Internet, and choose a specialty. Determine the field in the counseling profession that you are most passionate about and go after more training around that specialty. Use the open time when you are not seeing clients to read, train, and research on that field specific to your interest and passions. Then create a website that really highlights and vocalizes your specific skill set. Initially, I was told it was cost me several thousand to create a professional website. The problem was that I needed to use those funds to helps me train / stay the course / survive instead of just one more expense. Then I came across www.squarespace.com and found it extraordinarily easy to use in creating your own website at a cost of $10 per month instead of thousands. Then, use that time your not seeing clients as a time to build up a website presence. I have found that I received more clients through the Internet and then as time went on clients started referring clients as well as from other therapists. A referral network just takes time (years more than just months).
3. Conduct a job review on yourself. Do this by taking an inventory of the number of clients you have seen since you started practicing and count up the number of client sessions you average per client. This can be done easily through an excel spreadsheet. If you are not licensed yet, you will need to do this anyway. Once you have the information down, it can really be helpful in reviewing how you are doing. With this data, look at the average number of client sessions you had. If they are lower like 2, 3, or 4 sessions then that might be helpful information about client attunement and alignment or other causes for client drop offs. There certainly is no correct / right answer but it is great information. For example, you may notice that you see individuals longer and that your marriage clients sessions are low. You can then use that information as motivation to get more training in couples / marriage counseling.
4. Keep working on your own. This is probably not new information but it is so important. If cost is a factor, start attending a 12-step group that you can relate you. 12-step programs are not just specific to alcoholics or addicts. There are great groups such as Adult Children of Alcoholics or Dysfunctional Families (ACOA) meetings that really resonate with so many people. Also, invest in attending to therapy that you want to practice such as Emotional Focused Therapy (EFT) or EMDR, etc. I heard a phrase a while back that says, “You cannot take someone down a path that you have not gone down yourself”. I believe that the more of our true/authentic self we bring to our clients the more it aids them in their own story.
5. Be flexible and open to change. Keep after looking for new ways and perspectives on what helps people through crisis, trauma, and towards healing. I have found that I have completely changed perspectives from three years ago.
James Trone is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Nashville, Tennessee area. He specializes in sexual addiction and marriage therapy. You can learn more about James’ practice on his website www.JamesTrone.com or you can follow him on twitter @JamesTrone4.