Recently, a coaching client of mine told me this story. She was amongst therapist colleagues, and they were congratulating her on how well her practice was growing. She thanked them, but said part of the credit was due to the coaching and consulting she was doing with me. She was very surprised at the negative and critical responses she got from them after they heard that. She wondered why people are so down on working with someone to grow their practice or modernize it with technology.
Although I was not surprised by this response, it is something I have wondered myself from time to time. Here are some of the reasons I have noticed, along with my translations:
- “I’m too old to learn about technology.” AKA, “I have internalized ageism and am now using it to assert that I no longer am required to learn anything new.”
- “My practice is doing fine just the way it is.” AKA, “Although I have noticed a decline in my referrals I will continue to assert that it is insurance, the government, or patient resistance that is to blame, not my disinterest in change.”
- “I can’t afford to pay for supervision, coaching or consulting.” AKA, “I have decided that supervision, coaching, or consulting is optional rather than integral to starting a therapy business. I have furthermore planned to launch or grow my business without having an operating budget.”
- “I don’t have time to make an appointment with a coach, consultant or supervisor.” AKA “my unwritten business plan (because I didn’t have time write it) is that I plan to rent out someone’s office for 4 hours a week and market in my spare time.”
- “Those people who do coaching are only in it for the money.” AKA, “Despite my clinical training which taught me to see global thinking and negative attributions about people as a sign of pathology, I have decided that these people are one-dimensional. Furthermore, I am hoping that I can split off that part of me that wants to make money doing therapy while at the same time make money.”
- “I can get everything I need from my peer supervision group, and it is free.” AKA, “I truly believe that by surrounding myself with others who are trying to build up their practice, I will get lots of referrals (thus eliminating the need for a business plan) even though this group is least likely to give away referrals because they too are trying to build up their practice. Besides, I find our shared complaints about the field comforting.”
- “Ok, I know I should hire a coach, consultant, or supervisor, but I am afraid to take the plunge.” AKA, “Despite what I have learned about insight being necessary but insufficient for change, I’m going to express my feelings and hope that that ‘counts’ as change, and take that insight as the goal rather than the starting point.”
Part of what I am gunning against here is the surrounding of oneself with internal and external naysayers. Julia Cameron, author of the Writer’s Way, talks about crazy-makers, and I think that naysayers are a particular type of crazy-maker. Naysayers operate solidly from within the depressive stance. These are the folks that say you can’t make it in private practice, or that it is harder nowadays, and that things aren’t the way they used to be. Take a good look at them before you buy into it: Do you really want to take pointers from someone with a failing business?
Yes, things are different nowadays. And in many ways that’s a good thing. Health Care Reform is going to provide more people with more coverage for mental illness than ever before. But my prediction is that it will be a two-tiered system, where insurance pays for symptom reduction and chronic mental health conditions for the most part. Therapy for insight, relationship improvement and quality of life issues will become more and more private pay, and/or more and more time limited if insurance does cover it. Hey, wait Mike, aren’t you being a naysayer here?
I don’t think so, because I think that both parts of the system will have places for therapists. I think that people who want to work primarily in a medical model will find they have a steady flow of brief episodic treatments, and folks that want to work in a private model will have a vibrant practice if they set it up like a business. If anything, the only people I think who are getting short shrift here are the poor, whom our government will treat as if they have no inner world. But therapists will have plenty of opportunities. If you work for them. What will change is this idea that getting into telephone books and on insurance panels is the extent of the work you need to do. And that in many ways is what people are complaining about.
If you want to be in private practice full time and make $200 an hour, I have no problem with that. Unless your business plan is to sit in your office like a film noir gumshoe with your feet on the desk. Nope, for top dollar you’d better be generating content outside the therapy hour, whether it be a book, podcast, video or workshops. That will be how people can determine “why you?” and that will be what sets you apart from the legions of gumshoes who are sitting in their offices waiting for the phone to ring, or commiserating in groups.
Am I saying you should hire me? Not necessarily. In fact, if this post annoys you you definitely shouldn’t, because this is my style and modus operandi. I give away a lot of free content, but I’m not gilding lilies. What I am saying is hire someone, after you do some research. Look into a person’s recommendations on LinkedIn or their website. Follow them on Twitter for a while. Look at their online and offline content to be sure they are more than hype. But then take the plunge, and invest in your business, i.e., pay someone. And if a colleague of yours says they are working with a coach, applaud their initiative rather than criticize them.
There are plenty of reasons people don’t hire a consultant, coach or supervisor, but I have yet to hear a good one.
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