Guest Blog: Nicole Lilloia
I’ve been in private practice for just about a year now and it’s been an amazing experience. I actually feel more connected to others through my work now than I’ve ever felt before. However, throughout this time I’ve heard many other therapists with a private practice talk about how lonely and isolated they feel with this work. I’ve even talked to therapists who are afraid to start a private practice because of their fears of feeling alone in the work. Many therapists think peer supervision groups are their only opportunity to connect with other people about work.
Staying connected while having a private practice is quite different than working at a company or agency because you don’t automatically have a team of co-workers at your office everyday. I’ve discovered that there are several things that you can do to decrease the feelings of loneliness when you’re in this situation and own your own business. Here are 5 strategies that I use to connect with others and decrease feelings of isolation since I started a private practice.
1. Choose your office location carefully.
Make sure to choose a location for your private practice that will give you access to other people. I chose to have a private practice in a town with a busy main street. I can walk to several coffee places, restaurants, shops, and even a bookstore during my breaks. This makes it very easy for me to connect with other people throughout my work day. This is also an area where there are a lot of therapy practices, which gives me many opportunities to connect with other private practitioners without having to search too hard to find people in a similar work situation.
2. Take advantage of continuing education opportunities.
Continuing education courses are another way to become connected with like-minded people. Make it a priority to take at least one class a month and you will meet many other people who are interested in the topics that you’re interested in. Don’t limit yourself to local courses either. I clove to travel to continuing education opportunities all over the country because it gives me a break from my office, and it allows me to really immerse myself in a learning experience with other professionals. I often stay in contact with my new peers after the course is over through e-mail and phone calls — connections don’t always have to happen in person.
3. Go to networking events.
Look to connect with other business owners at local networking events — you can find these near your office and your home. We often think that we need to connect with other therapists so that they can provide us with referrals, but it’s most important to connect with like-minded professionals and business owners who have similar values to you. Networking events are a great place to find these people and you can find these events with a quick google search, checking out meetup.com, or looking at the events page of any organizations that you belong to.
4. Continue to keep a part-time job or work as a consultant.
It might be easier to slowly shift into a private practice while still doing part-time or do consulting work as you get started. This will not only decrease the financial pressure involved with building a business, it will also provide you with a network of co-workers and colleagues. You’ll also have more time to build relationships with other private practice owners so that when you do go full-time you’ll already have a supportive network to turn to!
5. Try out some new extracurricular activities.
As a private practice owner, you’ll have the ability to plan your schedule the way you want. You may only work longer hours a few days a week or maybe you’ll work some days only at night or just in the morning. It’s important to take advantage of those extra blocks of time by trying out some new activities. You can involved with a gym, or try out a new yoga studio, or maybe even connect with your neighbors and set up regular walking dates. These are all opportunities for you to make new connections and develop a bigger social group (and it’s great for some stress relief!). It’s important that your focus not always be on making new business connections, but also increasing your opportunities to make new friends.
Nicole Liloia, LCSW helps smart-yet-stressed women center themselves, develop self-care plans that stick, and transform their relationship to stress for life so they can stop feeling overwhelmed and start having fun. She has a private practice in Ridgewood, NJ and you can find her online at http://nicoleliloia.com/. Don’t forget to brainstorm your own solutions for ways to decrease your loneliness when you have a private practice!