Marla, a psychologist in private practice for a decade, says there are months at a time where she feels that her therapy business operates effortlessly. In the early years, she did a lot of hard work--making contacts, finding the right office, getting her policies to reflect her values, building her reputation and her skills. She joined associations to keep her name out there, spoke at any conference that would have her, and learned how to fill a practice with referrals so that she could side-step managed care and stay independent. "My practice stays as full as I want it to be," she says. "I make good money, I gross over $100,000, which is enough to support myself and my family and to have the life-style that I want. I love the clients I work with. I love the work I do. I get to take whatever training appeals to me to stay fresh and motivated. I feel very connected within my community and have a lot of professional support around me. I don't have to hustle or promote myself in any way. Good referrals come in regularly, from all the contacts I so carefully made in the past. I can be very selective and only see clients I want to work with. After a long day of seeing clients, I don't feel drained. Instead I feel full, as though I just finished a very satisfying gourmet meal."
Meanwhile, back on planet earth, we therapists are mostly still trying to reconcile the ethics and values of our chosen profession with what we often feel are the unsavory truths of the business world. And yet, it's the business itself, our own business, that gives us the most freedom to practice our vocations with the greatest degree of integrity and personal choice. As therapists, we often consider ourselves to be masters of change. If we can begin to see that our businesses are themselves evolving organisms, with their own identities and strengths and weaknesses--just like our clients--we might be better able not only to master the process of their change and development, but to enjoy watching them, and ourselves, grow.
Lynn Grodzki, L.C.S.W., P.C.C., is a psychotherapist and business coach in private practice. She's the author of Building Your Ideal Private Practice and 12 Months to Your Ideal Private Practice: A Workbook and editor of The New Private Practice: Therapist-Coaches Share Stories, Strategies, and Advice . She can be reached at her website: www.privatepracticesuccess.com. Address: 910 La Grande Road, Silver Spring, MD 20903. E-mails to the author may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to the Editor about this article may be sent to Letters@psychnetworker.org.