Launching: Support in Finding Our Professional Voice and Growing A Therapy Practice

From the Mars Rover Curiousity
Control Room!  A team effort!

“There seems to be a way in which once licensed [as a psychotherapist] we feel a sense of having to do this work of growing a therapy practice in isolation – not sharing with each other how incredibly vulnerable it is to put our own artistry in the work out there and to be held in relationship as we grow in this practice and our own vulnerability. We really can support one anothers’ work, help each other find an authentic way to launch our business by sharing our vulnerabilities and asking for support when we need it.”

-Traci Ruble

 

 

Originally Published @ Psyched in San Francisco

Author: Traci Ruble, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Let me out my inspiration for this posting before I get started.  Over the last two weeks I have had many conversations with interns and licensed therapists alike, about their personal sense of value in this work, growing a therapy practice and what are the deeper workings at play that might pinch our own sense of self as a professional.   Is this article only for therapists? No. If you have ever had to put yourself out there on a date, at work, as an entrepreneur, within the legal or healthcare system, or inside your own family then you will get something out of this blog.

Putting ourselves out there is fraught with risk and vulnerabilities.

  • What if someone doesn’t like my work?
  • What if I can’t make enough money?
  • I am an introvert so how does one market if talking to people is exhausting?
  • I am an extrovert so if I talk about my work people will think I am self absorbed?
  • Psychotherapy, as a field, is so broad and personal that talking about its value means I have to talk about my value which feels so vulnerable!
  • I hate technology which is how most people are marketing.
  • I don’t want to ask for support because I should have it together, right?
  • I have some old baggage from my past that says something bad will happen to me if I feel entitled to being successful.

For most therapists or interns I have talked with, this backlog of feelings and beliefs need to be worked through in order to fully step out as a competent therapist.  But working through is not a linear process.  I believe it isn’t a: let’s get to these core beliefs and challenge them, nor is it a process of learning how to market.  Yet most of the help I hear therapists receive narrowly focus on these two and the costs of coaching services to support them are shockingly expensive.  If you are getting great help from this support I am all for it – don’t get me wrong . And, will you stay with me and be curious anyway?

Why are we not reaching out to one another for support and celebrating success among us therapists?   I see this happening all the time.  There seems to be a way in which, once licensed, we feel a sense of having to do this work of growing a practice in isolation – not sharing with each other how incredibly vulnerable it is to talk about our own artistry and personal style of doing therapy.   Maybe we have a belief system based on scarcity – that there isn’t enough so “my peers are competitors so therefore I shouldn’t  tell them I am scared or ask for supportive or whatever I feel and need”.  Or maybe we have a hard time receiving support in general.

I certainly felt isolated when I was interning and believed that I had to do it on my own but thought that was just my own psychology at work.   You can imagine how stunned I was to talk to many of you who are feeling your own version of isolation and having to go it alone.  Bottom line is, psychotherapy is profound work.  We use our very selves instruments in the room with clients and often we aren’t promoting just change but also deep self acceptance, not always honored in this change-driven culture of ours that says “we have to compete to survive”.

I wonder if therapists have bought off on this outcomes driven, scarcity idea ourselves even though it may not be what we advocate in the room.  How?  Well here are some of the things I have witnessed.  I have deep empathy for all of them and have caught myself doing a few of them myself but find them incredibly isolating.

How are budding therapists coping in ways that might not serve them?

  • Fear based marketing practices: scaring clients that if they don’t come to therapy they are screwed forever.
  • The Guru: serving oneself up as a Guru who is the expert but from a place of fear and manipulation rather than authenticity.
  • Competing with one another: this school of therapy is better than another school.
  • Money: money scarcity can lead to overselling, leaving clients feeling like objects.
  • Holding back: but opposite of above, fear of being seen as any one of the above, not putting oneself out there and embracing one’s full competence.

I came from a corporate sales and marketing background.  Authenticity and truth are not often the first words that come to mind when you think of a sales person or a marketing person.  I have been lucky, over the years, however, to work with talented professionals who have taught me that you can tell the truth and be authentic in these professions with a real eye towards partnering with your client and each other   I became successful by teaming with my sales and marketing colleagues rather than competing with them and in that I  felt a deep sense of creative collaboration, play and belonging in the work I was doing.

I realize the same is true for us therapists.  I am grateful to my other Psyched in San Francisco blog mates and my co-founder, Tom Rhodes, MFT.  We started this blog from a deep honoring of our own vulnerabilities and a deep wish to be of service to the community but also to one another.  I am also grateful for my weekly consultation group where we deeply hold each other in our therapy work and grow together.  And finally, to my core marketing support group that has just started to meet monthly and who inspired this blog, thank you.  You, my community, have been the wind beneath my own wings.

We really can support one another’s’ work, help each other find an authentic way to launch our business by sharing our vulnerabilities and asking for support when we need it, and offering support to one another.  I hope you feel supported and I hope you just might be more willing to reach out to one colleague this week and ask for or offer support.