Many of us with advanced degrees have a strong work ethic. We have high expectations about ourselves and our work, and like to have things planned out. When it comes to earning an income it can be hard to move away from the stability of a salary and settle into the idea of having to actually build a counseling business that may be less than perfect. We wonder: “Can I really do it?”, “What if I fail?”, “How can I start when I don’t know everything I need to know?”
These thoughts can keep you in a cycle of constantly second guessing yourself. During down times of your counseling practice, you may struggle with confidence. During busy times, you may beat yourself up for not knowing how to manage your time. During all seasons of building your counseling business, you may feel like you are one step behind trying to keep up with the latest technology or marketing strategy. There are just too many balls in the air to keep everything going at once. It can be overwhelming!
Here are four tips to help you handle the uncertainty of starting your counseling business and keep you steady:
1. Practice What You Preach
We are really good at helping our clients identify, and practice, good self-care strategies. But, many times, we fail to do that ourselves. Developing our own self-care strategies is paramount to being confident and rested. When you are confident and rested you have the ability to effectively work with your clients and market your counseling practice better. I’m going to ask you some questions, and I want you to be really honest with yourself:
- Do you practice what you preach to your clients about taking care of yourself?
- What is your morning routine like…does it inspire feelings of calm and energize you to start the day?
- Are you getting adequate sleep (if not, check out these tips here)?
- Are you making time for fun, family, and friends?
- Are you seeking therapy or consultation if you need it?
Spend some time now thinking about what you need to put in place and how willing you are to make those changes. Seriously… what’s one thing you are willing to do?
2. Check Your Thinking
How do you feel about your counseling business when things are going well? What about when things are stagnant, or worse, when your therapy practice is struggling? What type of thoughts do you notice you are having? Do feelings of anxiety or disappointment usher in thoughts of failing or that you don’t have anything to offer?
Make sure that you pay attention to how your thoughts and feelings are impacting your motivation, creativity, and willingness to do things even though they may not be perfect, or you are not 100% prepared. As much as you may know about cognitive distortions, it may be helpful to review them in light of your thoughts and situations and spend time challenging those thoughts. Or perhaps you need to examine your thoughts from a different angle. Check out this video that might help you recognize the “rectangles” that are your automatic thoughts and focus more on the “triangles.”
Left unchecked, the negative inner dialogue can create a downward spiral in your behaviors and leave your confidence, and your business, suffering.
3. Build a Support Network
Having people who support your vision, and your daily self-care strategies, is really important. Life can get busy, and unpredictable, and it can be hard to maintain your confidence and your routines. Think about who you surround yourself with and if they inspire and energize you. These people don’t have to be fellow therapists or counseling business owners. They just need to be the type of people that encourage you to stay true to your path, even though it may be messy and scary. Perhaps you need a mastermind group, or perhaps you just need a lunch bunch to meet with every other week to help you take a break. So, the question is: who are three people that you are actively going to engage with regularly to create your support network?
4. Just Do It
Nike was genius in their marketing! How many times have you told yourself to “just do it” even though fear and uncertainty were your companions? It’s hard to take a leap of faith, especially if you like to have all your ducks in a row! But, we know, from watching our clients and from our own experience, that sometimes you do just need to keep doing “the thing” and trust that the confidence, skill, and joy of the action will follow.
Dr. Melissa Leedy, Ph.D., is a psychologist in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and owner of Legacy Counseling Service (link: www.legacycounselingservice.com). She specializes in helping adults adjust to health problems, insomnia, depression and anxiety so that they can get back into life fully! Her morning routine involves doing 20 minutes of Bible study, 10 minutes of mindfulness, making a green smoothie, and emptying her dishwasher!