I'm excited. I'm turning over a new leaf in my business. As one of my business mentors says: this is the time (in the way the stars align) for it! I am working with a new web designer from the UK who is so far very in sync with what is emerging from my work and I will be meeting with this mentor later this month to consider the seminal work we did a few years back that seem to now be coming forth in my work.
A little more than a year ago, I was again striking out - on my own - in the psychotherapy and life coaching landscape. This, apparently is the way now, across the marketplace and in particular, in certain industries like mine. I used to think 'am I the weird one?' but many are saying everything is going in shorter 'cycles' these days in the markets.
I won't go into more specifics, but after a couple of negative experiences in working with a group and in corporate America, I'd clarified that going solo was the best way for me to do my best work, both for my clients AND for myself.
It's so challenging being a therapist in today's America. And never more invigorating. In my case, I learned quite a bit this past year about growing my solo business. Things that have worked for others with their websites haven't panned out for me. Google keeps changing it's algorithm and writing for one's website is more complicated than ever. I am doing my best not to go down too many rabbit holes on this one.
My video counseling (tele-mental health) practice is growing!
But other things I hadn't intended have worked out well. On the therapy side of my business, I've been successful launching my video therapy services! Wahoo. Recently, I posted some positive observations on how that's played out this past year. Bottom line: I have a number of clients who only want video therapy. They are routine outpatient folks. I don't see clients by video if they are too ill. And I only work with adults which keeps that simpler, as video therapy with children has more wrinkles.
Secondly, referrals have come primarily from four places:
1) Insurance plans
2) A therapist directory I pay that promotes therapists. I have a profile on their site that rocks!
3) Word of mouth - yes, several clients have referred me friends, co-workers and relatives!
4) Returning clients - folks I've treated at other times and places
I know that it's particularly a sign one does 'good work' when you get that second sale. When people return and when people trust and like you enough to refer people they care about to you.
On the other hand, the work of building a business - any business - requires lots of time, work and hard won wisdom. I've made mistakes.
Mistakes are always a tough pill to swallow. I sometimes don't read enough fine print! That's not my strength unfortunately, so I will re-look at that this year and see how I can better protect myself. My strength, I've learned, lies in the area of bigger picture thinking/the visionary.
I've been very disappointed with the results my current web site is achieving. It's a beautiful site - I built it and put my heart and soul into it. But it's lacking a lot of 'behind the scenes' tweaks that I'm discovering and finding ways to address. Building a web site today versus ten years ago is much more intensive. Standing out for your uniqueness requires much more savvy.
As I said I found out the software I was using is not SEO friendly. I tried to stay away from Word Press (and still will) because it's way too much to do for a solo practitioner doing their own website. I am now building on a better SEO type of software and have a web designer doing it for a reasonable cost. The proof will be in the pudding: what will my organic rankings look like one year from now? Hopefully much better than right now.
So what makes me different from some of my fellow counselors and therapists?
You do have a lot of options in the mental health marketplace today. In addition to individual practitioners, there are an increasing number of counseling companies out there, trying to get your business. And, I will say, their economies of scale allow them to offer some things a solo gal or guy like me, may not be able to offer.
But is the extra worth it? One of my experiences this past year was contracting with one of these agencies. Needless to say, our partnership ended because for the fee they were paying didn't cover all they expected in return. And that is a danger always facing mental health professionals. We do intensive, emotionally-focused work. We deserve to be paid a fair wage and we need certain protections - if you will - to allow us to live a healthy life so that we can continue to serve our clients best.
One of the most important reasons I left a group practice was just that. In order to pay their high overhead, they were taking a high percentage of my earnings. As a result I had to continue to see large numbers of clients (usually 10 or so a day) which was burning me out. I note that younger, less experienced therapists (or any therapist for that matter) can keep to that pace in the short run, but can't usually in the long run.
As a solo practitioner who divides her time (almost perfectly 50% in office and 50% video), my overhead is lower. The result is that now I see less clients and provide a higher quality level of care. For example, I always do a 60 minute session with my clients unless they request or 'need' less (as in obviously don't want to go more intensively). Many of my clients do want to work in a deep way with me. So many times if I'd been limited to a 45 minute session (which seems to be 'the standard' these days), we'd have missed out on a truly transformative discussion. This is solely my judgement based on what seems to work best for the type of care I provide.
When I can take my time (and I don't always schedule these hours back to back or if I do, I don't schedule more than a few that way), I can truly listen for what my client is saying. Having worked in practices or environments where I was rushed, this didn't always occur as much as I would have wanted. That's the wisdom of letting people work solo in the marketplace: someone with my education, expertise and good judgment is able to decide what's best for my client, not some arbitrary time limit or insurance company.
Another problem with seeing so many clients is the work that generates OUTSIDE OF the therapy or coaching hour. Each client, to be served best, usually requires resources research, treatment planning before and after each session (ie: time to think about what to do during the next session). Often they are needing paperwork completed as well for other providers, doctors, employers, jury duty, disability, you name it. We are not paid for much of this work. That's why it's covered with what often seems like a high in session fee to hopefully recoup this lost time.
Today's clients are better consumers of care than ever. They expect a high level of service. You can't slide or glide. You've got to be as engaged as they are.
Why am I the therapist for you?
Well, truth be told I may not be. But you won't know until you try. Yes, that's usually how this therapy and life coaching things works. You have to sample, yes, that's just like most of life. Test drive it! I am not in competition with anyone else. I believe in matching a client as well as one can to the therapist available. So I have sent some of my clients this year on to other therapists, with my blessing. Sometimes it's me suggesting it. Sometimes it's the client realizing it (that is rarer but really cool to see).
I may be the therapist or coach for you right now. I may have been in the past, but not now. We don't know until we connect. I do know that I've been doing this work over 30 years and I still remember many of those I've helped.
I have an extraordinary memory. I will not forget working with you, if we worked together for any period of time. Why? Because part of my talent and genius is being an elephant spirit. Yes. Much more to come on what that all means to come...
In addition to my memory, I have the uncanny ability to approach you always with a 'beginner's mind'. Meaning: with low to no levels of judgement.
So here's my invitation to you: if you've been considering reaching out for support on your life's journey, let's talk. I offer brief, complimentary phone consults to help us decide together. Call me 410-967-3848, leave a message with your availability and I will call you back to schedule a time that's convenient for you.
Please note: my work is for those who aren't in an urgent or emergent psychiatric crisis. If that's you at this time, please call your area emergency resources (911, mobile crisis, the number on your insurance card, your primary care doctor/psychiatrist) or, if you don't know who that is you can always start by calling: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)