20 mustard yellow charts sat on my desk, all needing to be approved for compliance. I had meeting with clinicians to review cases - cases being people who were struggling and really depending on our agency to help them. There was a complaint at the front desk that I needed to respond to as well as staffing questions. Really? This was it? This is what I spent all my time in school for? I loved the people I worked with, but the work itself was getting so hard.
I remember dreaming about my work. I never envisioned private practice really. I just envisioned the people and being in a room with someone, holding something so sacred that no one else was privy to. I remember wanting to simply help.
I believe I helped, even in government work. Yes, I understood why those charts had to be reviewed. But, it wasn't what I had imagined. I felt ancy, frustrated, and I struggled to find meaning in the work.
So I gave myself permission to dream. Aside from a complete career change, I could start my own practice. It was my last ditch effort to reclaim some semblance of what I originally set out to do in the world.
Dreams. We all have them. They start when we are young. We think about what life will be like when we get older, the things we want to do, the people we want to meet, and the places we want to go.
As we grow those dreams shift and transform. As we get older, maybe the dreams aren't as fantasy-driven, like my 5-year old who is convinced she will be a Pokemon trainer when she gets older. Instead, our dreams turn into goals or a to-do list.
But we need dreams. They guide us.
For many of you, you may not have even started your practice yet, but it something you want. And when you dream a little, the fear creeps in
What about insurance? the mortgage? how will I....?
Others of you have your practice, but it isn't reflective of what you want. Do you know how many times I have been told by people they prefer to have longer sessions - but they don't. Because that's not how it's done. Who says? If you know it might be best for the client and you work well that way - why aren't you doing it?
We've talked about the cost of starting a private practice before (you can check that out here), but let's take a look at the costs of not starting a private practice or following your dreams.
When I am not pursuing my vision, my creativity gets squelched. I feel very limited. Physically I am restricted to a desk most days unless I set the rules and can come and go as a please and set up my schedule in a way that benefits my body, not destroys it. When I am not in a practice that fits me, it takes an emotional toll. This is why I believe we are seeing more and more burn out in our field. We aren't operating from our highest and best. Sometimes because we can't or we risk losing our job for not keeping up the status quo. By starting a private practice, I got flexibility. It was a lot of work and a different kind of stress, but I was in the driver's seat on how to manage it all.
There are people who need you. They need your creative, wild, knowledgeable self. If you aren't there, they are missing out on a transformative relationship with you. If you have a private practice but it isn't being run ideally, then the client will get a stressed therapist. Your stress does impact the work. Doesn't mean you can't still be great, but you want the win-win where you are enlivened by the work and the client is transformed. Sometimes private practice is the best way for you to serve. There are many many ways to be a counselor. It's great. But if private practice is your vision of greatness, the client will benefit when you follow through on that vision.
The world of mental health, the profession as a whole survives if and when clinicians are serving at their highest and best. If we operate sub-par in ways that aren't our greatest, it impacts the profession. There is a reason we are the worst paid master's degree and the solution isn't going to be found in someone else. It starts with us. It starts with our own advocacy. Being in private practice is one way to set a new standard of care because you can.
What is it doing to you, the potential clients and the profession to not have you doing private practice when it is part of your dream for your life?