I love private practice. It changed my life. It changed my family’s life. It made me love therapy more than I ever had. It opened up opportunities I never knew were available.
I have also had moments of hating private practice. The weeks without phone calls. The insecurity. The inconsistent income. The many new skills I had to learn.
As a Private Practice Proselytizer, I want people to know that they can have so much of what they want in life through private practice (assuming they want time, freedom, autonomy, and a great income). I try to keep it real about how it can be hard and scary but I frequently talk with folks who feel surprised by the fact that starting a private practice isn’t as joyful as they’d hoped.
There’s an underbelly to the transition to private practice. Sometimes the toxic agency work environment that you’ve been attributing all your unhappiness to didn’t actually earn all of it. Maybe clearing out the agency issues helped clarify that there are some other things you need to address in your life. Usually when we say things like “things you need to address in your life” we aren’t talking about fun things. Ultimately this is a good thing, right? We believe in looking at what needs to be looked at, not hiding, etc. But it’s hard. Especially with a new business and a new learning curve.
You are not solving your problems by going into private practice; you are choosing different problems. In order to not feel like a basket case, you need to have some solid emotion regulation skills, a strong support system, and a plan.
I traded in being overworked and underpaid, not being able to take PTO I’d earned, and walking on eggshells for having to learn things that didn’t always come naturally to me (feeling stupid), having to address tech issues (immense frustration), getting my own clients (high anxiety), finding ways to stay on top of DSM or ICD changes (feeling lost). I chose these problems, which doesn’t mean I don’t get to complain about them. (Let’s complain if it’s actually helpful.) I chose these problems half-unaware of what I was getting myself into.
Do I regret going into private practice? Not for a second. Not for a fraction of a second. Do I love the problems I chose? Hell no. You don’t have to love them. Over time they just have to feel better than the problems you had before.
There’s this Tim S. Grover quote I remind myself of when I feel less motivated to get a task done that needs doing: “You don’t have to love it. You just have to believe it’s worth it in the end.” If it doesn’t feel worth it, it’s a good indicator that it’s not what I need to focus my time & energy on. If it does, I knock it out like I did half the assignments in grad school that felt more like a means to an end than a passion project.
What problems are did trade in and which did you sign up for as you chose private practice over agency work? Let us know in the comments.