Starting a therapy practice in Dublin, Ireland

So excited to bring a guest blog from an amazing therapist in Dublin, Ireland: Karina Melvin. Therapists and healers all over the world struggle with valuing themselves as professionals. Check out her fabulous insights- and for you grammar gurus- please note the European spelling (they aren’t typos!).

How I overcame ‘the fear’ and created my dream private practice.

It’s Wednesday and I am looking into the faces of a group of final year psychotherapy students. They look glum. Is it the hour and a half long lecture with me on a cold, dark wet Wednesday? No, (phew!) they had just been told that while they had chosen a very noble career, they should realise that they would never make much money from it.

Fear #1: I can’t make a decent living as a psychotherapist- I must supplement my income!

I remember hearing much the same thing during my time as an eager psychotherapy student. It wasn’t intended to be negative, more that this career isn’t about money, but about the love of the work. My first year after graduating with a first in my MSc I was told by friends and family that my career was a hobby and I should really think about going back and re-training in something else and keeping the few clients I had as an opportunity to practice, not as my sole form of income.

The message from my own fellow graduates was worse, we all felt it was very difficult to get clients, very difficult to keep them and very hard to get paid enough just to cover the room rental and our insurance fees. Something was terribly wrong. I loved my work and I didn’t want to go back and retrain in something else. I was passionate about what I did and I couldn’t fathom not doing it. So I took the leap and committed to working in private practice.

You know that saying “if you leap the net will catch you”?  Well it didn’t. I was earning very little and seeing only a handful of clients. But I was loving it. I committed all my spare time to further studies, I thought that if I was the very best therapist I could be that the clients would follow. I was naive. Yes it’s important to be good, but people have to know you exist!

Fear #2: I have to put myself ‘out there’.

This was the next hurdle, once I had committed to doing the thing that I loved for a living I realised that I had to market myself. This is a very uncomfortable facet of being self-employed. The fear of putting myself out there was overwhelming. I procrastinated for months about getting a website up and running, making flyers, getting business cards and handing them out to people. In my enthusiasm and the misguided notion that putting myself ‘out there’ had to be painful I went around various parts of Dublin City and handed flyers out on the street. Perhaps not the most professional way of generating clients! I gave out over 250 flyers, I didn’t get one call.

Fear #3: I can’t do it alone.

As my first clinic never got off the ground I finally got a job with a clinic in the city centre. This was a big turning point. I was just delighted to be seeing clients-regularly. My fee was quite low, as almost half was going to the clinic, but I couldn’t believe that people were handing me a substantial amount of money per  session! My time working at the clinic was pretty blissful. I didn’t have to concern myself with getting clients and I didn’t have to put myself ‘out there’. Unfortunately I still wasn’t making much money. I was seeing about 18 clients a week but I still wasn’t earning enough. I have a degree in Psychology, an MSc in Psychotherapy, an MA in Addiction Studies and a number of other courses and qualifications. That’s years of study, a lot of money spent on fees and I was earning less than any other professional I knew.

Fear #4: I could never charge that amount!!

Something finally clicked for me- I realised that I was struggling to make ends meet. Yes I was doing work I loved and it was noble and satisfying but it was barely paying the bills! I started to ask the hard questions:  Why was I so unable to value myself and my time? Why did I have such a limited view of what people were prepared to pay for the service I provided? This took time, but I finally invested in a business coach- Miranda from Zynnyme- and she helped me break through these questions.

I took the leap- again- but this time I believed in myself. I created a beautiful site without an expensive designer (thank you squarespace!), I carved out time, not just for the therapy books, but also for the business books. In the space of three months my income more than tripled. I found myself with a full, thriving practice and I was charging a decent fee!

The real money block breakthrough happened for me though with a client who had been attending for about 8 months once a week. As they were finishing up and about to leave they said: “This was the best investment I have ever made, thank you”. It was in that moment that I realised that I had broken through my own blocks and inhibitions. We can earn money doing what we love- but only when we truly value ourselves.

So back to that rainy, cold Wednesday in the lecture hall- I turned to the class and told them what it took me almost five years to learn: “You can absolutely earn a good living doing this, you can see as many clients as you want and you can have the practice you desire. All you need to do is value your time, your training and what you have to offer. Work from that position and the rest will follow”.

I often tell my clients that confidence comes after you have mastered something, so embrace the fear and the discomfort and do it anyway. If the net’s not there, just remember- we learn more from our failures than our successes. In business each misstep brings us closer to where we want to be. Don’t take as long as I did, make friends with your fears and take the leap- believe me, it’s always worth it.   

Karina Melvin hDip. Psy., BA., BSc. Psy., MA., MSc. Psy. is a registered Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist working in private practice in Dublin. Karina specialises in working with people who suffer with weight issues. She helps clients achieve their desired weight by teaching that weight loss is not about what you eat, but why you eat.If you are interested in Karina’s online weight loss program click here and to check her upcoming events or would like more information about her therapy services, please visit:


Miranda Palmer

I have successfully built a cash pay psychotherapy practice from scratch on a shoestring budget. I have also failed a licensed exam by 1 point (only to have the licensing board send me a later months later saying I passed), started an online study group to ease my own isolation and have now reached thousands of therapists across the country, helped other therapists market their psychotherapy practices, and helped awesome business owners move from close to closing their doors, to being profitable in less than 6 weeks. I've failed at launching online programs. I've had wild success at launching online programs. I've made mistakes in private practice I've taught others how to avoid my mistakes. You can do this. You were called to this work. Now- go do it! Find some help or inspiration as you need it- but do the work!