So we’ve talked about saying no in our practice. We’ve talked about making sure you’re fitting your practice into your life (rather than vice versa), working when you want, marketing the right way for you, upholding your no show and late cancellation policy… I could go back over alllll the blogs and I’m guessing 90% of them mention at least something boundary-related.
It’s not that I’m obsessed with boundaries. Not really. It’s just that those boundaries are the difference between working a job in your practice vs building the kind of practice that meets your needs.
And here’s the tough part: when we don’t set and maintain boundaries in our practice, when we’ve essentially built the wrong practice, we are the ones that suffer the most. It’s not worth it to give up the stability of an agency job if you’re going to work what feels like an agency job where you just happen to be responsible for the overhead.
Much like a romantic relationship where you continue to allow the other person’s needs to take precedence, a low-boundaried practice will leech the joy from something that has the potential to be beautiful.
I have a new theory about why it’s so hard for us: In our work lives, we’ve been able to pass the buck thanks to policies and rules we had no control over. Sometimes these rules were at odds with what we wanted to do, sometimes they were convenient excuses.
“I’ll need to refer out because we have a 12 session limit.”
“I can only see you once every 3 weeks.”
“The office closes at [5:00].”
“I have to check with the administration about that.”
“My supervisor suggested…”
When we’re out on our own we have to stand behind our own policies. We can’t scapegoat a system (well, maybe insurance panels sometimes). We are responsible for creating, communicating, and enforcing whatever boundaries we create for our business.
We’re coming from frameworks wherein we had to fit life around our work schedule and it often feels opulent to say, “I don’t work after [4:00]” or “I take a 2 hour lunch.”
We’re coming from frameworks wherein we had to ask permission. For vacation, to leave early, to take a long lunch, to have a sick day. To decide to take a vacation and absolutely NOT work during that time is important.
We’re coming from frameworks wherein we weren’t impacted in the same way when we had a no show. Saying “I’ll be charging your card for that no show” can make us uncomfortable.
And the kicker, there’s no one else to blame it on if someone is unhappy with the policies. Often we’re fine if our clients don’t like us all the time, but we don’t want to be seen as bad business people or money-hungry or callous. And here’s the rub: the more you let those boundaries slide, the more your business doesn’t meet your needs, the more you WILL become a bad business person, money-hungry, and callous.
So, in the absence of passing the buck, you’ve gotta step up. Only set policies you’re willing to enforce. Enforce those suckers. If you keep not enforcing them, know that it is absolutely something you need to address. Like, the your-business-and-life-require-it, code red, don’t pass go, get it done ASAP kind of need to address it. I’d be happy to help or it may be a job for your therapist.
What boundary are you committed to enforce this week? Let us know in the comments!
Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. After retiring her individual consultation services, she opened the Abundance Party, where you can get practice-building help for the cost of a copay. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.