How well do you know yourself? It’s a fair-ish assumption that as a therapist you have decent insight. You were bright enough to get into grad school and survive. You are aware of thoughts and feelings.
I thought I was totally clear on who I was and how I did life. I knew I wasn’t done growing (since y’know, I’m still breathing), but going into business taught me things I never thought to explore about myself. Sometimes it’s like a naked therapy immersion with all of your exes and all of your relatives and all of the people you ever felt self-conscious with. That’s just an awkward way of saying it’s sometimes super-vulnerable and weird.
If you’re on the private practice path right now and find yourself confronted in ways you didn’t expect, you’re doing it right! If you all the sudden feel like the most incompetent therapist to ever look a client in the eye, welcome to the club. If you’re feeling socially anxious and stammering over your words in ways you haven’t before, you’re on the right track.
Some people assume that this is a sign that they should head back to agencies. If you truly can’t tolerate it, I’d agree. If it’s hard and you’re crying like you did as an angsty teen or short-tempered instead of always-gracious, THIS IS NORMAL. You’re growing and just ask any of your clients, the growing part sucks.
A couple entrepreneur friends and I were recently talking about how having a business completely mirrors your unresolved issues right back at you. You can’t hide and be successful. So as you put yourself out there your insecurities are going to leap out at you. What will people think of my website? Who am I to go into private practice? Do I sound smart enough? Am I too old for this? Am I too young for this?
So what does this have to do with walls? Something I’ve learned about myself that I couldn’t have learned in agencies is that when I’m truly passionate about something I am working on, I go way too full steam ahead. I forget to have fun. I forget to take a break. I forget I had to pee an hour ago. The problem is that I love what I’m doing and I don’t want to stop. It doesn’t feel necessary. And then, you saw this coming, I burn out. I hit that metaphorical wall and it gets covered in tears and snot and maybe a touch of martyrdom.
Luckily, this is totally avoidable. Because I see this pattern in myself, I now schedule self-care time. I have lunches with friends. I leave my computer at work. I exercise in ways that are fun. I put my phone in the other room when I play with my daughter and husband. I pamper myself with facials and massages. I reground with Reiki. I look for new hobbies to try. I do my best to be quiet and still a few minutes a day.
Your pattern may be different. Maybe it’s procrastination-based (I can’t get those new photos taken until I’ve lost 10 lbs/gotten botox/have the right clothes). Maybe it involves emotionally overeating or drinking an extra beer when you get home. It may be a resurrection of a pattern you thought you’d tackled. You may not be able to predict what your pattern is now, but rest assured you’ll probably have one.
Don’t let that scare you off. Remember, you can handle being uncomfortable or sad or overwhelmed. Your patterns aren’t bad unless they’re unchecked. This is one of those things that will make you stronger, more empathetic, and maybe even better looking.
Take two minutes right now. Yes, seriously just 120 seconds before finishing this. Set a timer on your phone, I’ll wait.
Take two minutes and ask yourself:
- Am I familiar with my patterns?
- What are the early warning signs of my pattern?
- What works to stop the cycle?
- Am I willing to do what works to stop the cycle?
In my experience, number 4 is the kicker. It’s the lack of willingness to interrupt the pattern that really screws us. I do it. The Abundance Practice-Building Group members do it. My clients do it. It’s pretty human, really. We have all sorts of excuses for why we need to trudge ahead with something that doesn’t work. Figure out how to stop your cycle. Let it tap into what works for you, like how I schedule it. I am not flexible enough yet to just fold it into my day seamlessly so I put it in the only thing I let rule me, my beloved calendar. Know how to set yourself up to succeed.
Owning your own business, being an entrepreneur, takes a strength that you might not have accessed. You need an outlet. You need support. You need self-care.
Well, you will know what you need. Make sure you do it.
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, and get help from Allison and a small group of new, close friends in Abundance Practice-Building Group. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.