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Friday, 02 January 2009 11:16

Our Businesses, Our Selves - Page 7

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Marketing is itself a daunting word for therapists, who generally loathe any suggestion of self-promotion. To help them conquer this hurdle and begin taking marketing steps networking, becoming involved in community activities, teaching courses at local adult ed colleges, writing articles for local newspapers, etc.--I imbue them with the basic principle that should undergird all their business-building efforts. Base your actions on love, not fear. Fear-based marketing, for example, would be a therapist who grimly settles down to make phone calls to people he doesn't know well, detesting the whole process and saying, "I loathe doing this, but if I don't, my practice won't survive." In coaching sessions, we talk about these feelings, and I ask, "Is it possible to imagine a way of doing this that might not seem so bad, might even make you like it?" Generally, we get into a discussion of the clinician's love for her own work and pride in her vocation, her deep belief that she does have something good that will truly help people, her realization (beneath the reluctance to make the call) that the person she's calling might be glad to hear about what she's offering and welcome collaboration.

One clinician I worked with called an oncologist she knew. She told him how much she admired him and his reputation for kindliness and patience with scared, desperate patients, and said she wanted to let him know that one of her own specialties was working with very sick or dying people and their families. This clinician made the call in a spirit of love for her work, for the good she knew she could do, and from a conviction that she and the physician might make a very good team. The doctor felt both flattered and receptive--here was someone to whom he could refer people for the kind of help he didn't have the time or expertise to give.

At this heady stage of entering orange territory, feeling an upsurge of personal power and emotional zest, many therapists become aware of a small, tough little worm gnawing away at their euphoria, signified by the words ambition and profit. These terms, along with competition, so normal to the business world, are often anathema to therapists. John, for example, would be energetically talking about potential new opportunities when suddenly, looking crestfallen, he'd say something like, "Boy, I'm beginning to sound like a real estate developer, not a therapist."

Again I asked him what it might be in his family of origin that made him so uncomfortable with ambition and profit. "My father was in sales and worked for a variety of bosses," he began. "He often complained about his current boss and how owning a company gave a person a swollen head. We weren't poor, but he was always worried about money and it was a constant source of tension in our family. I want to be able to retire someday, and I need to make more money. It's now or never. But I get a lot of negative thoughts and feelings when I try to stretch too far in the direction of seeing this as a real business and making more money. I begin to feel that I'm selfish and attention-grabbing, and I can hear my father saying I'm getting too big for my britches and setting myself up for a fall."

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Last modified on Sunday, 11 January 2009 18:49

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