Over the last year, I’ve had more than one conversation with art therapist Amy Maricle about the business of private practice. And, every conversation has had the same thread running through it – personal integrity.
When she offered to write this guest post on building the business you want, I knew that was just her language for personal integrity.
Actually, I don’t think she even thinks about it in terms of “integrity,” but I do.
And, I think, what Amy and I both know is that in the ways your values line up with your actual practice . . . .
That alignment is both what sets your practice apart from your colleagues and also what allows you to practice and grow your business effortlessly.
(If you are interested in writing a guest post, check out the guidelines here.)
A Guest Post by Amy Maricle
Redefining the Business of a Therapist
I wanted to do something that was equally challenging, stimulating, and dynamic, but without the commute, and with a more flexible schedule.
I had vaguely considered private practice in the past, but had somewhat dismissed it because I couldn’t see myself sitting in my office all day with a stream of clients rotating on and off my couch.
Still, returning to my old job was not an option, so I got to wondering if there was a way to structure a private practice that would allow me to do the kind of varied, multifaceted work I love.
Luckily for me, I came upon some great resources, including Tamara’s blog, and began to envision how I might create my own brand of private practice.
Business Is Not a Dirty Word
It turned out I had a lot of misconceptions about private practice.
One of the most basic ones was that private practice should not be run like a “business.”
Isn’t the purpose of a business to make the maximum profit for the minimum cost, as often as possible?
That seems at odds with what a therapist should be doing, doesn’t it?
Most likely, you and I chose this field for the same reason – because we believe in people’s ability to change and grow and we love being a part of that.
You could have studied any number of subjects to earn triple your salary.
But you didn’t.
Being a therapist pays you back in ways that few other professions would.
Because therapists want to help people, and not gouge them for their money, that means that they can’t be running a business, right?
But I am here to argue that there is more than one way to run a business.
Business is not a dirty word. Nor is money or payment,or bill.
Did you cringe when I said any of that?
I still do a bit.
Somehow we were taught, whether in grad school, by our parents, or our culture at large, that therapists are altruistic and therefore should care about the clients, not the money.
Why can’t we think of ourselves of being in the business of caring?
We deserve to get paid fairly for the very heart-centered, caring, and important work that we do with people every day.
We don’t seem to have these hangups about massage therapists, nutritionists, acupuncturists, or other helping professionals so why do we think about ourselves this way?
Let’s Be Honest: Like it Or Not, You’re in Business
People like Tamara have proven by example that you can care tremendously about your clients while also caring for yourself, your work life, and your financial stability.
Pretending to yourself or your clients that it’s not a business is not a sound way to take care of yourself, your clients, or your financial life.
Getting honest with myself about the fact that I am running a business has helped me deal more effectively with finances with clients.
I used to ask for payment very awkwardly at the end of session, which often led to running over, missing my bathroom and note breaks, or forgetting to ask for payment all together!
Were you as awkward with payments as I was?
Create Your Kind of Private Practice
The more I learn about private practice, the more I realize that getting down to the business of my business is a great form a self-care.
Admitting that I am running a business and feeling comfortable with that has freed me to imagine and create MY kind of private practice.
We all know that great self-care is one of the elements that makes for an effective, ethical therapist who avoids burnout and gives her best to her clients.
What else would you add to your private practice if you had no fear?
In the Business of Helping People
I have always been a therapist who partners with people to seek wellness in a creative, body-oriented, and strengths-based approach.
But now, I am also incorporating my other passions into my business through an art therapy consultation group and art workshops.
These endeavors provide me with multiple income streams, a wider array of services to offer folks in my community, and a way to stay invigorated and interested in my work.
I have no idea what other endeavors I may undertake, what parts will succeed, and which will fall away, but I know that I am in the business of helping people one way or another.
What about You?
What has helped you create the vision for your private practice?
Do you offer any kinds of services besides therapy?
Share an idea you have had for another service you might provide.
Is it a group or an educational class to supplement your therapy services?
A consulting role you might play?
Private Practice from the Inside Out is an amazing, positive, and energetic group.
Why not take advantage of it’s power and bat some ideas around with others right here?
About the Author: Amy Johnson Maricle, LMHC, ATR-BC is an art therapist and blogger in Foxboro, MA. She has a private practice focusing empowering girls and women to put themselves first, overcome anxiety and depression, set good boundaries in relationships, and find creative self-care outlets.