The stories you tell and the stories that are told about you and your counseling practice matter. As a health care professional in private practice, it’s important that you make a conscious choice to take charge of your stories.
What are the stories that you tell about yourself?
I attend networking events for mental health professionals every other month. Two months ago I sat by a guy who spent the entire 90 minutes talking about how “depressed” the economy was, the negative impact it was having on his client load, and how difficult it is for him to get clients to not “drop out” of counseling with him. Sound like a cheery guy that you would want to refer your clients to? I don’t think so and he wasn’t a very good marketer either.
He could have spent that time talking about what he is learning because of this downturn in the economy or ways he is helping his current clients deal more effectively with today’s stressors or what he is doing to keep the rest of his clients engaged. He could have inquired about my practice habits and learned what I am doing to keep my practice vibrant and growing right now. If he had done so, then perhaps I would have left wanting to reconnect with him or refer to him or at least not avoid him at the next networking event.
Think about the stories that you tell others . . . . Do they highlight your strengths? Do they focus on your leadership skills or your listening skills?
Are they upbeat and optimistic?
Woe is me! Or so it may appear to others if you are struggling to find the joys of private practice. Potential clients and potential referral sources will pick up on your mood. If the current state of your practice is less than ideal . . . for whatever reason, make sure that you are selective in the stories you tell – to others as well as to yourself – about your work. Make sure that those stories don’t sound like whining and pity-parties.
Do your stories include space for other people to join in and tag onto your own experiences? Or do they crowd everyone else out of the room screaming “Back to me! Back to me!”
And, equally important, what stories are others telling about you? Are they associating you with relief and care or are they associating you with struggles and disinterest?
Take a moment right now to reflect on the last story or snippet of a story that you shared with someone else about your work. Notice the tone – was it upbeat, service-focused, cranky, sour-grapes? Regardless of what your tone was then, what could it be the next time that you shared a similar story with a colleague? I hope you’ll take time to comment below to let us know about the many stories that are being told by mental health professionals about the work that we do.