By Rich Simon Clearly these are challenging times for psychotherapists. In university training settings, public agencies and private practices around the country, there’s more and more pressure to do briefer and briefer work and less time than ever being devoted to discussing our cases and reflecting on our craft. Even veteran practitioners used to long waiting lists are seeing more and more appointment hours yawningly empty, while newer clinicians can barely keep their financial heads above water. Managed care has increasingly limited visits and lowered reimbursements for talk therapy (regardless of so-called “parity” laws), but not for drug treatments. No wonder therapists from every corner of the country are struggling just to stay economically afloat.
Does this mean that we should all just fold up our tents, close our offices, and become dentists, pharmacists, or investment bankers? Of course not, if for no other reason than we’re still needed—economics or not. Researchers consistently find that talk therapy, not medication, is the best treatment for most people needing help with emotional problems.
So, what should we do? First, we have to realize that the rules for building a viable practice have changed drastically over the past 20 years. Unfortunately, virtually no therapy training programs currently include anything very helpful on how to actually build and sustain a practice. Therapists have to learn how to do things they never thought about in training—which includes marketing themselves to people who no longer think of themselves as clients or patients, but consumers, with their own ideas about what they want from a therapist. What’s more, knowing a single generic treatment model is not enough. Therapists now need to master a wider range of skills to help them respond more effectively and efficiently to the range of problems demanding mental health consumers bring to us.
We need all the help we can get to keep developing and adapting our skills as well as to become economically self-sustaining practitioners. We simply cannot do it alone sitting in our isolated offices. We need the help of our community, our colleagues who have explored this rough terrain before us, as well as fellow voyagers who can commiserate and encourage us through the process of career building in rocky times.
That is why it has never been more important to take advantage of the unique opportunities to connect with the wisdom of your professional tribe that the Networker Symposium provides. No other event in the field offers you such a range of skills, along with chances to connect with so many creative innovators who are showing all of us a way to grow professionally and thrive in today’s competitive mental health marketplace.
In addition to over a 100 workshops highlighting the latest developments in clinical craft, we have a number of offerings specifically geared toward getting you on your feet if you are new to practice, helping you recover if you are losing your economic footing, and showing you how to thrive at whatever stage of your career you find yourself. There will be A Day for New Therapists, led by Lynn Grodzki, and the Build Your Community of Practice workshop will show you how to set up and engage an ongoing community of colleagues that can support and inspire you.
Making First Sessions Count will give you the tools you need to conduct a first session in such a way that even the most demanding clients will want to come back for more, while Marketing Your Practice will help you learn how to increase your caseload and enjoy the process. If you’ve been thinking about coaching, come to From Therapist to Executive Coach, and learn everything you need to know about how to make this difficult transition.
In a society that needs therapists more than ever, but so often fails to support them, the Networker Symposium is your best chance to learn how to thrive in a field that has never been more important to people’s well-being—no matter what the bean-counters say.
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