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Recession-Proof Your Practice

Recession-Proof Your Practice

Review, recommit, rebrand, reinvest

by Lynn Grodzki

During a recession, hiring a business coach may seem extravagant, but when Dina left a message on my voicemail, she sounded too desperate to care: "Lynn, you don't know me, but I have one of your books. It sits by my bed, and I've been reading it when I wake up anxious at night. As you might imagine, it's bad here in Michigan. A lot of my clients have lost their jobs and can't afford to see me, so my client count is way down. I'm trying to stay calm, but if I can't shore up my practice soon, I don't think I can keep going. Please help me!"

According to a national survey in the October 2008 issue of Psychology Today, 55 percent of 1,500 clinicians polled say the declining economy has hurt their practice. With more than 2.6 million people in this country having lost their jobs in 2008, according to the United States Department of Labor, and disposable income shrinking, many therapists have lost clients who no longer can pay for therapy. According to national surveys, this economic downturn deepens a decline in therapists' incomes that began in 2005. Inevitably as the recession worsens, some private practitioners will close their doors.

Other practitioners will thrive. Businesses often get better at what they do only during bad economic times, and recessions offer unexpected opportunities for those who know where to look. Today's economic climate exposes not only vulnerabilities, but also unrecognized resources. The therapists I coach learn to analyze the bare bones of their practices and scan the horizon of the marketplace for hidden possibilities. In the process, they unearth their own resilience, creativity, and leadership.

At our first phone-coaching session, Dina told me she'd been working as a marriage and family therapist and seeing individuals for 17 years. "I take some insurance and used to work a caseload of about 25 client-hours a week. But this week, I saw only 11 clients, and last week, 8. I'm really worried," she sighed. "I need help yesterday!"

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