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?