Personal Crisis in Private Practice

*Trigger warning. This article discusses miscarriage so if that is something that feels hard to read, please stop here.

This month, I was fortunate to be a part of a Love Your Partner Series with Robyn D'Angelo. (You can sign up here for the entire amazing series!) She asked me to share about how to love your partner through a miscarriage. This is the first time I have gone "public" with my story but after my own personal work through my grief, I am finding it helpful not only for me but for others to open up about my journey.

The reason I have chosen to write about it here is because while we share so much about building a practice, we haven't discussed a whole lot about what to do when your own life is in crisis and you are still trying to run a business. 

Our work is unique in that it require an emotional presence, handling emotionally intense topics and is not something we can just show up for and sit through (at least I hope we don't want to do that). To be actively participating in someone's emotional landscape does take a lot of energy. It is an act of giving.

My second pregnancy my body knew what to do and I started to show very early. Having been pregnant before and in practice, I wanted to wait til I was past my 12 week mark before I brought it up to my clients so we could discuss the belly in the room (just like an elephant, but literally my growing belly.) At 13 weeks I told my clients. The next week, I was to see all my clients in one day, on a Thursday. The early morning hours I awoke to the start of my first miscarriage. 

First lesson - have someone you can call when there is an emergency.

Part of my professional will has therapists who will be given passwords and access to records should something happen to me. Miranda is one of my people. It makes sense because she knows me so well and we work together. I called her from the ER and then she called my clients. Your person needs to know how to handle your clients clinically. She didn't disclose what was happening but rather informed them that I couldn't meet and would plan to see them next week per usual and that I would call to check in later. 

Even though my clients know I have an emergency backup, when you get a call from the emergency backup - it makes them curious and worried. That day I had surgery and started a whole other journey of grief. A few days later, I called my clients to check in and some of them asked if I was ok. I told them I was. In our next session, I talked about no longer being pregnant. The responses ranged and really opened up a chance to talk about their own losses. This was one of those moments wherein I was giving and receiving from my clients. It's nice to acknowledge that we care about each other. 

Of note, I am comfortable disclosing to various degrees with my clients and I do it with the intention to help them. My transparency and ability to hold them is important. I recognize some of you may not want to disclose anything and that is totally ok. Thus, my next lesson.

Second Lesson - get clinical consultation.

It can get blurry when you are in pain and you are showing up for another person's pain. Sometimes it is easy to separate and sometimes it isn't. Be sure to talk to another clinician who has some expertise in counter-transference and dealing with what you are going through. It will help you to be supported. Just like if you are in crisis in your personal life and need support, get all you can in your practice.

It has been asked of me if I went back to work too soon. Physically I was cleared by my doctor. For me, I really did consult on this and felt in my heart of hearts it would be good for me. It wasn't about pushing through or being heroic. It was healing. That may or may not be the case for you. All I can recommend is to listen to your gut and if you try to go back and it's too much, it's ok to stop.

Third Lesson - be financially prepared.

Savings is important here if you do decide to not work. Or you may want to invest in having a short-term disability policy to cover when stuff like this happens. I hear many stories of therapists working when they really don't feel able because they need the money. So if you are reading this, start looking at your finances and get something in place so you aren't in that position. 

I had 2 more miscarriages. All coinciding with bootcamp launches (and no, it wasn't due to stress). These are ones that were "silent". My clients didn't know. However, one of them landed on a clinical day again! But I had a days' notice to tell my clients that I had to cancel that week.

Each time I went through the process of evaluating what I needed to heal. I landed back in my own therapy, thank God for that. It was my chance to break the silence for myself. Which leads to my next lesson.

Fourth lesson - take care of yourself.

You are the essential tool to your work. You have to take care of you, cherish you and be self-aware. That is the hardest part when you run your own business sometimes. For me, I love my work and can do a lot of it. Sometimes I can work and forget to take care of me. So maybe this isn't a lesson you need to hear. But if you do, I really hope you will reach out for support and help.

My practice has "survived" pregnancies, miscarriages, moving, transitioning from brick and mortar to virtual work - and I think it is because of the 4 things above. Life happens and if you are reading this, I am sure you have been through your own crises, loss and pain. My heart goes out to you and I hope you are being taken care of so you can do the work you love to do.

I also recognize that there are some crises that bring you to the point of re-evaluating your life and some of you may choose to no longer be in practice. Closing your practice, which maybe I should write about as well, is another grieving journey you will face. 

I am prepared to the best of my ability through my business plan which allows my business to be able to run without me for some period of time. I have wonderful family and friends who have been supportive and I have great clients that I have loved to work with.