There are two ways to ride roller coasters: holding on or arms in the air. The same can be said for the private practice roller coaster ride you are all on.
I know, you’re supposed to keep contained within your little car of metal and foam padding, but man the exhilaration sometimes causes even a rule follower like me to throw my hands in the air with a hearty fun-filled scream.
And there’s also the fact that they’re terrifying sometimes, and not in the fun way. Did you guys see that report of the roller coaster got stuck at the top at Busch Gardens? Noooo thank you!
If you’ve been in private practice for more than 10 minutes you get where I’m going with this. You’re thrown around, up, down, holding on sometimes, arms in the air others. It feels like you have no control. You know you’re the one who waited in line and lowered that bar that’s now digging into your pelvis, but you didn’t necessarily realize what you were in for.
See if this looks familiar to those of you in the early stages of private practice:
Monday: A client calls! She schedules! I AM AWESOME! IT’S ALL STARTING TO HAPPEN! Wait, another referral in the same morning?! YES! YESYESYESYESYESYES! I am the MASTER of private practice!
Tuesday: A no show. And the card I have on file is denied. And the client isn’t answering her phone. UGHHHHH. I needed that money for my phone bill this month. What if this client doesn’t come back? Did I do something in session to push her away? Do I even know what I’m doing? Will all my clients leave?
Wednesday: Yesterday’s client called back! Simple mistake! She wrote the date down wrong and didn’t check her appointment reminders. No biggie! She’s coming in tomorrow! I DO know what I’m doing. I AM awesome. It IS okay.
Met with a client I love working with. I feel ALIVE in session with him. He’s doing so well! I love this!
Thursday: Awkward initial appointment with one of the Monday people. Definitely not my ideal client but I need clients. I know I’m not supposed to take on folks that aren’t a good fit but she wanted to come back. Will I regret this? Ugh! I don’t want to screw myself over and I feel like no matter what I will.
Friday: Pay Day! Nice! I saw 10 clients a week and made a little more than I did in my crappy full time agency job. Still not rolling in it but I’m getting there.
That sounds rough, right? All over the place. Maybe even like too much to bear when combined with the financial instability and other people’s expectations breathing down your neck.
Compare it to what work in some agencies is like:
Monday: blah. blah. Blaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. I’m tired.
Tuesday: My boss is so clueless. I mean, did he even pay attention in his clinical training?! Why isn’t he just trusting me to do my job with MY client. I’m not the one that has been out of session and in middle management for 3 years. What a dick. I can’t wait to get out of here.
Wednesday: That session was awesome. If it wasn’t for the bullshit at this place I’d stay forever.
Thursday: Staff meeting… snooooooooooooooze. Blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah. Shut up, Janine. Please stop talking. Why do you feel the need to over-explain things a 3rd grader would understand? Not you too, Tom. Do we really have to debate this for another hour? I don’t caaaaaare. “Ahem, yes, I agree that eliminating the Staff Only Bathrooms will be good for eliminating the lines in the hallway for the client bathrooms. I’m okay with sharing.” Whew, did my part. Oh! I’m going to the store after work. I can make my grocery list!
Friday: Pay Day! Oh yeah, Pay day. 🙁
Either way you’re on a roller coaster. One usually triggers insecurity, not enoughness, fear of failure. The other usually triggers helplessness, control issues, and outward eagerness to please with an inward snarkiness or a flat out rebelliousness. For some it’s a quick return to being the jerk that you were at 15, at least in your head.
So what’s the solution? Hold on. Throw your arms in the air when you can and hold on when you need to in both scenarios. Use those DBT/CBT/ACT/Interpersonal/Somatic/Transpersonal/Psychodynamic/Psychoanalytic/InsertYourTheoryHere skills and trust that your ride won’t stop at the top. And if, God forbid, it does, know that there are fixes for that, too.
What’s your version of holding on when things are hard? Let us know in the comments!
P.S. Want some friends strapped in next to you? Check out the Abundance Practice-Building Groups.
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.