Thursday, June 26, 2014

Are we there yet? Part 2

Are we there yet? Another way of saying, "Have we arrived?" Well, we all know the counseling profession - like the practice of counseling - isn't about a destination, but instead is closer to a scaffolding of levels. Today, we're talking about how you know when you've arrived at the level of readiness for professional practice, agency or private. I've scoured the archives of some of the best counselor bloggers out there to help me arrive at the right answers. Here's what I've come up with since Part 1. 

Before you have reached the level of a counseling professional, you must: 

Know how to communicate your value as a counselor to others. Many of us stumble when it comes to asserting our own value. Especially where you are now, it feels like you are barely competent sometimes. But you DO offer your clients value, and you need to know how to identify and develop that. One great way to practice demonstrating value (and attract clients in the meantime) is to start a blog. In "Ten Types of Blog Posts for Your Therapy Website," Becky DeGrossa nails the many different ways to express yourself and develop your self-confidence through blogging. 

Be comfortable with the financial compensation you earn as being commensurate with that value. This is where the process can really break down. You may be able to accept that you have value, but putting a price tag on that? Ouch. Whether it's accepting a salary or setting a private practice rate, you need to overcome "Counseling Fee Shame," as this outstanding video by Camille McDaniel demonstrates. 

Match your daydreams with reality. This may not mean what you think it means. It is important to balance the more unrealistic dreams you may have with the reality of everyday life. But it is EQUALLY important not to limit your daydreams because you think that it's not something you can accomplish. You are called at a deep level to serve others. It is okay for that to follow a non-traditional format if that's what it takes to fulfill your soul calling. In, "The Dirty Secret Behind Success," Elizabeth Doherty Thomas shares her 10 steps to real, self-actualized success. 

Do you find any of these goals intimidating? Do they feel less than possible for you? 

Part 1 was about professionalism at a surface level. In Part 2, I want to encourage you to take your thoughts on professionalism to a deeper level.

What does it mean for you, to be a counseling professional?
What limitations do you think you have as a counseling professional, and why?
How do you define success for yourself?
What is your biggest professional daydream, and do you think you will allow yourself to achieve it? Why or why not? 

Professionalism is not an event. But it can be a paradigm shift that is a turning point for the rest of your career.

I would love for you to put one of the answers to the questions above in the comment box, so as a community, we can support you in your professionalism. Would you do that right now?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Are we there yet? Part 1

With the upcoming Mind Your Own Business Conference Challenge: Clients Unlimited, private practice has been ON THE BRAIN. 

I'm collecting tips and picking brilliant people's brains (want to interview geniuses? Host a conference) and all I want to talk about is making your counseling dreams come true. There's nothing like talking to these private practice leaders to make it feel like the future you've always wanted is right within your grasp. 

But some of you aren't AT your future yet. You're still thinking about it someday down the line, after you get your license, or after you've worked in an agency for a while. Some of you want to consider it part-time, some of you want to know what you can do RIGHT NOW as an intern to get started.

If that sounds like you, what you need to determine today is what needs to happen either BEFORE you're in private practice or in order to know you're ready for private practice.

In the spirit of my conference preparation, I'm pulling from some of the best minds in the business together to tell you how you can make sure you are more prepared before you step into your own amazing private practice someday. 

But what if I don't know if I want to go into private practice or not? What if I want to work at an agency?
If that's true, don't stop reading. These practices are necessary steps for your success as a professional counselor, no matter where you work! 

Research your market.  Tamara Suttle walks you through market research for therapists on her blog post, "Do You Know What Your Colleagues Are Up To? Market Research in 9 Simple Steps." This is not to foster competition, because you know I believe that we don't have to compete with others to be successful. You have something to offer that no one else does, and researching your market helps you highlight your unique gifts and offerings. 

Have an idea of what you want to DO in your practice. In "10 Signs You Are Ready To Go Into Private Practice" Amy Flaherty says that you need to start with having a business plan before you try to open your doors. I agree. (And I didn't do that, by the way...and wished I had.) If you don't know what you want, how will you know when you get it?

Have a solid self-care plan in place BEFORE you start.
Working for yourself is HARD. That plus a business that is about giving to others on a daily basis is a recipe for DISASTER without a self-care plan. In "10 Self-Care Strategies for Private Practice Shrinks," Julie Hanks gives you ten practical ways to do just that. 

Create SYSTEMS to prevent yourself from working too hard on the wrong thing or doing the same thing over and over again. Oh my goodness this was so hard for me to learn! I tend to be a big thinker but an in-the-moment doer...and that doesn't work long-term. You'll end up stressed and avoiding things you don't like to do, which, contrary to expectation, won't make those things go away. Tracey Lawton solves that problem in her article, "5 Systems For Success Tips."

Be okay with failure. Failure happens, so there's not much point in taking it personally. Besides, it's all in how you define it. In, "Have You Failed Lately? 7 Reasons You Should Try To Fail..." Miranda Palmer gives you seven excellent reasons failure is not something to avoid.

These are just some of the important things to have in place for your private practice before you start! 

Again, if you are thinking about going into another line of counseling work, don't think these don't apply to you. Every professional counselor needs to have a goal for their career (like Amy says) and practice good self-care (like Julie told you!) These are important pieces of preparation for life as a professional mental health therapist. 

Watch this spot next week for more steps to professional success in "Are we there yet? Part 2."

What is your dream for professional success? Comment below! 

Friday, June 13, 2014

*Cough* *Cough*

That's pretty much what I've sounded like for the last two weeks. On a Monday, I came down with a vicious 3-day cold that turned into bronchitis. Right now, I think I'm almost over it, but time will tell.

Two weeks out sick is no fun...period. But if you're a private practice counselor, it can mean it also severely impacts your business. Cancelled clients mean loss of income, not to mention the worries about letting down your own standards of professionalism by late canceling or having a coughing fit in the middle of session. 

When you're "sick & tired," it's even hard to manage the things you have to do to just be sick. You have to cancel client appointments, field new calls and emails and often put off important items on your to-do list. Even if you have the support of a group or agency taking care of the calls, there's networking events you may have planned on attending or an email newsletter you were scheduled to write. 

It's a lot! And it feels like a lot more when you're sick, cause everything feels harder. 

My method of coping with this problem mostly consisted of feeling guilty and panicking at 4 a.m. when I realized I didn't follow up on the steps I needed to transfer my domain name. (All my marketing materials pointed there and Google finally likes me...what if I lose it?)

It's not an approach I'd recommend. In fact, it was really stressful! What I should have done was prepared a plan of action before I ever got sick in the first place. But I didn't think about it...just like probably many of you never thought of it either. It just doesn't seem like a big deal, until it is. 

So that's why I created a free download for you, a done-for-you plan of action for therapist illness. It's just a few simple steps with pre-scripted outgoing email responses and voicemails, but it will save you a world of headache when you are drugged up on cold medicine and your head feels like you're wearing a hat 3 sizes too small. 

Download it now, and save it in a place where you can find it easily the next time you're sick. Read over it first, as there are a few steps you can take now to greatly increase your success with the done-for-you system. 

When you're sick (and come on, everyone gets sick) you need to be ready and able to focus on taking care of yourself, not trying to haphazardly extricate yourself from obligations and check off items on your to-do list. Get this free download now to avoid all that nonsense. 

Check it out! 

What do you think of the download? Comment below and let me know! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Are you afraid to be specific?

Have you ever had a client that just wasn't getting a concept you KNEW that they needed to understand to complete the transformation they desired? For example, when a borderline client absolutely refuses to see a situation beyond one extreme or another, and you KNOW if you can just get
through to them that it doesn't have to be an absolute, it will completely change their life? You just want to shake them and say, "Just because I'm saying something you don't like, it doesn't mean I don't care about you! In fact, it's BECAUSE I care about you that I share things with you that you just don't like to hear." If they could just get that, here's what would open up in their life:
  • A profound sense of freedom from the emotional ups and downs of borderline personality disorder.
  • Realization of the love and support from people in their life that they thought were enemies.
  • Freedom from the desire to self-harm or self-sabotage.
Can you think of what that would mean for a client? Just think about all that would open up for them. Now think about how hard it is for a clinician, like you or I, to watch that happening while KNOWING that freedom is just around the corner.

That's how I feel when I see a counselor (private practice, agency, or otherwise) insisting that they want to serve "everybody." When I have time I coach counselors in marketing, private practice profit, and creating a business that serves them, not the other way around. Recently I had an introductory session with a counselor that I just knew right away wasn't going to be a coaching match for me.

Because she didn't get that it was okay to be specific in what you wanted to work with.

Let's face it, there are clients that just don't float your boat. And there are clients that you speak with that give you this super-profound feeling of connectedness to a divine purpose, satisfaction and completion when you work with them. If you're being honest with yourself, you'll know I'm not exaggerating. You've had that feeling - sort of a combination of the exhilaration of a roller coaster ride, a rush of energy, and relief, because you know you fulfilled your purpose today.

It's okay to hold out for those clients.

I'm not a fan of discrimination or refusing to serve those you are qualified to help. But here's what I am a fan of:

  •  Actively attracting those you love to work with.
  •  Sharing your excitement about these groups with your bosses and potential referral sources. (People LOVE to send you clients that you really want to see.)
  • Choosing not to invest your energy in attracting "everyone" because ultimately it wastes resources you could be using bringing in those you love to work with.

If you're advertising, it's a waste of money to put out the ad for 'general counselor looking to serve every Tom, Dick and Harriet.' (This phrase really should include some extra x chromosome.)

If you're talking to referral sources, it's a one-way ticket to the trash bin to hand your card to someone who doesn't know the people you just love to work with.

If you're in a multi-counselor agency or group practice, you're heading for burnout if you don't make your preferences known.

But here's why people (i.e. YOU) often don't want to be specific.

  •  I'm afraid it will drive clients away. You're right. It will drive away the ones you don't want anyway. It will bring in more of the people you do want.
  • What if people don't feel like they can call me because they're not in my specialty? Trust me, they'll do it anyway. Ask anyone with a specialty. Anyone. You still get "regular clients."
  • What if I change my mind about what I like to work with? So what if you do? You can have multiple specialties. I do. (Teen anxiety, premarital counseling, sexual abuse…and counselor business coaching!) Just focus on one at a time. You don't have to eliminate anything,
  • But I need money/hours. You have to make your own decision about how hard of a line you take on this, but I want you to consider this fact: every non-ideal client you accept is taking the space that an ideal client could be filling. Ideal clients generally stay longer (more money/hours) and give you more job satisfaction to work with, extending your energy and staving off burnout. Think about it.

Seeing counselors afraid to be specific is the biggest heartbreaker for me personally as a coach/mentor. Because I know it's keeping them - keeping YOU - from your counselor mission.

That's why I want you to consider today challenging your fear of being specific OR further defining your ideal client here for me below. Comment in the box about who that client is and why you feel passionate about working with them.

If you're not 100% sure yet, don't let that stop you. Share who you want to work with now. You will refine that, and it may change with time. That's okay. But writing it down here today provides accountability that you are not going to be one of the counselor generalizers. You know who you're here to work with and why.

Who is that client… for you?