Many therapists in the mental health field view our profession as a calling. The same is true for me. I heard the calling to provide mental health services when I was finishing my undergraduate degree in 2001. But I didn’t know exactly what area within mental health I would be working in. Should I be an academician, a researcher, or a therapist? During the first year of my graduate program in 2001, I felt a strong sense that I should be a therapist, but not just in any venue, in my own private practice! Then, I got lured away by the sexiness of research and the Ivory Tower and spent a few years honing my skills in those areas. All the while, in the back of my mind, I heard the faint whisper that being a therapist was what I was meant to be.
Six years later, in 2006, after my internship at the James A. Haley VAMC in Tampa, Florida, I took a job as a therapist (and worked for the VA for 8 years until 2014). All the while, the whisper of being a therapist was getting louder and louder. I began to have problems sleeping at night and would craft my “about me” section for my future therapist website in the wee hours of the morning. Even while I was doing these things, I felt I wasn’t ready to step out on my own. I didn’t know when I would be ready, but I trusted that if I listened well, I would know when it was time to act.
Three years later, in 2009, I had my first child. So many things changed for me during that time. Identity crisis, role changes, balancing acts between work and parenting, and a lot of reflection about the future. Overall, I felt less settled. The whisper of being a therapist in private practice began to feel more like a moral imperative. Over time, a fuzzy vision began to form. Then, I was introduced to the book Visioneering, by Andy Stanley. This book, literally, changed my direction with regards to how I would be a therapist in the world.
In the first chapter Andy Stanley writes “visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be.” This is exactly where I was! Despite being a new mom, I stayed up late at night reading this book, treating it like a course, and writing down my answers to all the questions that Andy asked. It felt critical.
In his book, Andy notes that most visions require us to wait. While we wait, three things are happening:
1. The Vision Matures in Us
Between 2001 and when I first opened my private practice in January 2015 (14 years!), the vision was maturing. I began to think about what I did well, and why I did those things well. I began to reflect on how the vision of being a therapist in my own private practice would impact my current, and future, life. I began to think about how being a therapist in my own private practice could influence my community…and eventually my legacy. As the vision matured, finer details of my own practice became more clear to me.
2. We Mature in Preparation for the Vision
From the time I began having the vision of being a therapist in my own private practice, I never felt that the time was right to open my own doors, although I desperately wished it was the right time. Honestly, I didn’t know when, or how, I would know, I was choosing to trust my intuition. In hindsight, I can see the benefits of the varied experienced I had, from specialty training in insomnia to chronic pain to working with the veteran and the geriatric population.
3. God is at Work Behind the Scenes Preparing the Way
During this 14-year vision creation, I developed more confidence in my skills as a therapist. I learned more about people. I learned more about the struggles of being an early-career therapist, adulthood, becoming a new parent, being away from family and home, grief, and financial struggles. I also learned about the power of waiting, the power of asking for help, the power of building a tribe, and the power in reflecting. I learned about starting a private practice from the generosity of our own community. You can read more about my anxieties about starting out in private practice here. This 14-year wait was preparation time to help me be a better therapist and a better business owner.
Fast forward to present day. I have my own solo practice…the vision became reality! Interestingly, I am now hearing more whispers, and I can see the outline of another vision…an expanded vision! Now, it’s time to reflect, prepare, and wait so that I can be the best therapist I can be and build a business that further reflects my needs, strengths, and life goals! Maybe “visioneering” is never finished!
Dr. Melissa Leedy, Ph.D., is a psychologist in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and owner of Legacy Counseling Service. She specializes is helping client adjust to health problems, insomnia, depression and anxiety to that they can get back into life fully! She loves to experiment with cooking, to practice yoga, spend time with her family and friends. She also loves sharing what she has learned about starting a private practice with other therapist.