What do you need to do to have a faith-based practice? What are some common myths about faith-based practices? What ideas are not true about faith-based practices?
In This Podcast
In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks about five myths to starting a faith-based practice. A lot of people have ideas about running a Christian practice, let’s take a look at a few myths to starting a faith-based practice.
You have to include Christain elements in your logo
This is not always true and depends of how much you want faith to be a part of your practice. Your branding needs to reflect you and your practice. If you make faith a part of your practice but not everything about your practice, your logos should reflect that. Think about your ‘why’ and purpose of your practice and your ideal client that you will attract when creating it.
You need to lower your rates
You’re not doing ministry and it isn’t a non-profit, therefore you don’t have to lower your rates. You can set your own rates and they don’t need to be less than everyone else. You need to take care of yourself so that you can care for your clients, and that starts with setting a rate that works for your practice. Base your rate on the area and your clients, so that you can meet the needs of your business, family and yourself. Think about your expertise too.
You need to pray before and after every session
You don’t always need to pray with your clients, you can pray for your clients in your own time. Some clients won’t be faith-based and they will be uncomfortable and it won’t be appropriate to pray with them. From the start, we always ask “do you want faith to be a part of your sessions?”. You don’t want to force or push faith on your clients.
You can’t work with non-religious people
Not everything that you do has to be faith-based. Christain people can work with non-religious people. A client may not be looking for faith but could want to start counseling because of the techniques you use.
You must represent an ideal Christian
You don’t need to look picture perfect. Be authentic in your sessions, you don’t have to act like the perfect Christian. They want to see that you are a real, authentic person and not an overly perfect Christian. You don’t always have to have it all together and clients can relate to that.
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Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.
Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.
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Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. I’m your host Whitney Owens reporting live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner and private practice consultant and each week through personal story and amazing interviews, I’m going to help you learn how to start, grow and scale your private practice in the faith-based perspective. I’ll show you how to have an awesome faith-based practice without being cheesy and fake and you too can have a successful practice, make lots of money and be true to your vision and values.
So, today’s episode is all about the five myths in a Christian counseling practice. A lot of people have ideas about what it means to be a Christian counseling practice and what it doesn’t mean. So today I’m going to walk through the myths that we believe about that and the things that are okay to call yourself a Christian and to call yourself a Christian practice and considering how you want to do that and how do you want to label yourself. So, I’m excited to walk through those with you today in this solo episode. I also want to let you know that Alison Pidgeon and I will be starting a mastermind group at the end of March. It’s going to start on March 31st and that group is going to run for six months.
If you’re not sure what a mastermind group is, I can give you some information about that. It is a group of clinicians that meet together online through Zoom and we talk about how to start and grow a practice from solo to a group practice. That’s going to be the focus of this mastermind. You’ll have time to give questions to the group about your practice, you’ll be able to take a course on how to grow a group practice and then come back to the group and discuss that course.
So, you’re going to get loads and loads of information, but you’re also going to have accountability and a place to ask really specific questions pertaining to your practice. It also includes a Facebook group just for the mastermind people so that you can make stronger connections, you could throw questions out, whatever you need to in between mastermind groups and between consulting calls. Another really great thing about this group that’s a new idea I feel like is that you’re going to get two consultants leading the mastermind group, Alison Pidgeon and myself, who both of us have years of experience in running groups and then helping people with groups. So that is going to be a really great opportunity for you if you’re looking to start a group practice. Also, you’ll get a free consulting call as part of this talk about if this is really the best benefit, like the best bang for your buck, getting on your return on investments.
We want to make sure you get what you need out of it. And it also includes consulting call with both of us as part of the package for joining the mastermind. So, it’s a really great opportunity. If you’ve been on the fence about masterminds or if you’re unsure if now’s the time to start a mastermind, please reach out to me, send me an email and let’s jump on a call and talk about if that’s going to be the best for you or not. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or if you want to get in touch with Alison, same thing, email@example.com. So, there you go with the mastermind. We are excited about it and let’s go ahead and get into the episode. We’re going to talk about the five myths in a Christian counseling practice.
Hello, this is Whitney Owens of the Faith and Practice podcast. So glad each of you are joining me today, so we’re going to discuss the five myths about starting a faith-based practice. I’m finding over and over again people asking me what does it mean to have a faith-based practice and how do I talk about Christianity within my practice? And there are some different things that people think that aren’t necessarily fully accurate or maybe they’re under a false assumption of what they have to be. And so, I want to debunk those myths today and talk a little bit more about what you can be and maybe what you don’t have to be. We don’t have to feel a pressure that our practice has to look or be a certain way.
The most important part about having a faith-based practice is that it reflects you and your own faith without infringing your faith on those other people and on other clients or referral sources or all the people that you work with. That we’re not forcing our faith on people, but that we’re being ourselves and we’re being open with others about ourselves and about what we believe in. Your practice is going to reflect who you are. So, I’m going to go through these five myths of starting a faith-based practice and then talk about some real truths behind each of those myths.
So, the first myth is that you have to have a Christian logo or you have to have a Bible verse on your sign or in your branding to call yourself a faith-based practice. And that just simply is not true. Now there are some practices that do have these things and that is totally fun for them if that’s the kind of practice they want to be. A lot of times the practices that have those types of logos, maybe they have a cross on their logo or they have a fish around, fish pictures in their office and people fishing or something like that. Like that’s great if that’s the kind of practice they want to be and if that’s the kind of culture they want to create. But just because you don’t have those things doesn’t mean you’re any more, any less of a Christian or a faith-based practice.
So, the most important part is that your branding and your marketing reflect you and they reflect your practice. So, if you do have a high level of integration of faith in your practice, then you probably aren’t going to have more logos and more signs pointing to your faith and your branding. And if you make faith a part of your practice, but it’s not everything about your practice, then maybe that’s not going to be a part of your branding. And that is okay too. And it doesn’t mean that you’re any better or any less of a clinician, of a practice just because of what kind of branding you have. You need to be thinking about the why of your practice when you’re creating your branding, more so than your faith. If the faith is everything, then it is going to be a part of your branding. But if your branding is about maybe working with families, maybe you want to make that a little bit more part of your branding and then you’re also faith-based practice. So, your logos and your branding are really going to attract a certain type of person. So, think about your ideal client when you’re creating those so that it’s not just faith-based or not faith-based.
So, the second myth is that you need to lower your rates and so that you cannot be as high as other counselors in your area or that Christians have to have lower rates than other therapists. And that is not true at all. I think this myth comes out of the idea that you were doing ministry and that ministers or people in the mission’s field don’t get paid the same as other people. And sometimes that is the case. I mean, you will see people in the mission field, even raising money to be able to do the things that they do, maybe seeing it more as a nonprofit situation or that you feel like you have to be a nonprofit if you’re going to do any kind of Christian counseling. And you can be those things, but you certainly don’t have to be. You can set your own rates; you can have those rates be comparable to other people with your same skillset in your area.
You don’t have to have your rates be less than anyone else. It is important as therapists, and we say this over and over again to take care of yourself because if you’re not taking care of yourself, how are you going to take care of your clients? How are you going to take care of your employees? And so, you want to have rates that do meet your skillset, your levels of experience, the types of clients that you’re working with, maybe based on the area that you’re in. But it also needs to be something that can cover your expenses of your practice, that can help you meet the needs of your family and your own needs. If you’re not meeting your own needs, you’re going to fizzle out and you want your practice to keep going. And if you’re setting your fees too low, then your practice could potentially go under.
So, it’s really important that you think through all these things when you’re setting your fees. So, think about your area, think about your expertise, think about years of experience. Think about the expenses at your practice, and think about your needs at home when you’re setting those rates. You can consider how many clients do you want to see and then what is the rate that you need to make per client to make that happen. And all therapists probably have a different answer to how many clients they want to see but consider what kind of lifestyle you want to have and how many clients does that mean and then use that number to multiply about what you’re going to set your rate at and then use that to figure out what kind of income you need to have every month.
So just because you are a Christian counselor doesn’t mean that your rates have to be any less than other people. And I think it’s important that if a pastor asks you that question, because I think a lot of counselors get asked that question by pastors or those ministers that say, “Well, those rates are just too high.” Being able to explain them just like I did that this is what you need to do for your family and this is what your rates are and that if they can’t handle that, you’re more than happy to work with them. And working with them could mean referring them to another person or referring them to someone else in your practice as a sliding scale. Or, I’ve seen in some situations with churches and groups that we would do a partnership. So, like for example, you refer your people to us and we offer you a lower fee. That way you’re getting referrals. So, then you’re able to meet the needs of the practice and your family but you’re also able to offer that sliding scale. So, if a church is referring all their people to you, you’re going to be able to pay your bills and get the clients that you need at your practice. So, you could consider some alternative ways to keep your rates where they need to be, but also be able to help meet the needs of others in your area.
So, the third myth is you need to pray before and after every session, or at least share a Bible verse if you’re going to call yourself a faith-based practice. You will find varying degrees on this topic because I have seen some counselors who were dead set that you have got to pray with your clients if you’re going to call yourself a Christian organization. And that is not true. And I personally do not pray with my clients very often. In fact, it’s on a pretty rare occasion that I’ll say to them in session, “Can I pray for you now?” I pray for my clients outside of sessions all the time. And just today I had a client that was going through a surgery and had been praying for her all day. She doesn’t know that because she’s not faith-based. And for me to say to her, “Hey, I’m praying for you,” really infringes, you know, really pushes my faith on her because maybe she doesn’t believe in prayer or want that to be a part of her life.
So, I think it’s really important that when we think about prayer or think about incorporating the Bible with our clients, that we need to know if that’s what they want or not. In our first sessions with clients, we always ask them, do you want faith to be a part of what we’re doing here? And in the intake paperwork, there’s a section for faith and it asks if they’re spiritual or religious or none. And if they consider themselves to have religion in their life today, attend a church, how important is that church, then what type of church it is and is that something they even want to make a part of their counseling because you’ll even find that some people, especially in the Bible belt, are attending church, but that’s not necessarily a part of their active life. They don’t want to talk about that in counseling at all.
So, it’s important that you’re meeting the client’s need when it comes to, if you’re going to incorporate prayer, the Bible or not. So even though my practice is a faith-based practice, I do not pray with all my clients and sometimes when a counselor asks to pray, clients feel uncomfortable. And we don’t always think about that because we have an authority in the room. It can be seen as a little intimidating when the counselor says, “Hey, let’s try this,” or, “Do you want to do this?” Especially if your clients are people pleasers and a lot of more when they come to counseling because we’re helping them set those boundaries. So, when we do that, we’re kind of almost forcing it on them. Even though we’re asking, they just don’t know how to say no, especially if it’s early on in the clinical relationship. So, it’s important that we’re not forcing that faith or forcing prayer on our clients. So, you can call yourself a faith-based practice, even if you’re not praying or reading the Bible every time you go into a session.
All right. And so, the fourth myth that I want to talk about today is that you cannot work with non-religious people if you’re a faith-based practice. So, faith-based practices often do reach out to people who are Christians simply because that’s the market and those are the people that we’re making the connections with. But even if your faith-based, you can work with people that are not faith-based because not everything you do has to be faith-based. You went to school and you learn skills, you know how to do different types of therapy that you could do those in the session without talking about faith with your clients at all so they can still benefit from your services even if you’re not incorporating Christianity into what you’re doing.
And I’m going to actually twist that here for a second, that even if you are Christian, you don’t necessarily have to go to a Christian counselor. That Christians can work with non-religious people and non-religious counselors can work with Christians. Now, some Christians aren’t going to want someone who’s not faith-based because faith is a big part and a client should have a choice if they want a faith-based counselor or not. But I have had no several situations of people I know that go see non-religious counselors when they’re faith-based themselves and they find so much benefit because the therapy is about the techniques. It’s about the relationship. And you as a client can still incorporate your faith into the things your counselor shares with you into the work that you’re doing outside of the session. So, our faith shouldn’t always influence everything we do all the time, especially when a client is not looking for that.
And then the fifth myth here is you must represent an ideal Christian if you’re going to be someone’s counselor. I think we feel this way even outside of faith because we feel like we have to be the perfect person or have our act together to do good clinical care. So, you will better serve your client if you yourself are authentic in your sessions; that you don’t have to play like you’re somebody else. You don’t have to pretend like you have it all together. And then even as a Christian, you don’t have to pretend like you perfectly do the disciplines or that you read your Bible every day or honestly that you’re praying for every single person that comes into your door. If you act that way, you’re going to come across as robot. It’s going to be really hard to ever be vulnerable. And the best way for clients to find care is to see that their therapist is a real person, a person that cares for them and that walks through life with them.
I’ve even found when clients are coming in my office that when I’m authentic, I found a lot of relief in that. And sometimes I’ll even share with them if I’m having a bad day or if something’s going on or I’ve even said, especially more to teenage clients if I’m having a struggle in my own faith saying, “You know what? It’s okay that you’re not sure about everything because sometimes I’m not sure about everything.” And it’s actually beneficial for them. They see that it’s okay, they see that they can relate to somebody, they can have a relationship with someone. So, it’s important that we don’t always have to pretend like we’re someone that we’re not. A Christian counselor doesn’t always have to have it together and they can be a little messed up sometimes because we’re all a little messed up sometimes.
So, the myths there were the Christian logo, the lower rates, praying before sessions, not working with non-religious people or that you have to represent the ideal Christian. And all those are not true when dealing with a faith-based practice.
So, I wanted to also mention here that the most important part is the authenticity and that you make your faith known for yourself. That you make it the part of the practice that you want it to be without forcing that faith on anyone else. And so, doing a good evaluation on the front end and then also considering where you’re at because sometimes I think we force our faith on others because we haven’t thought through where we’re at. So we need to consider our own questions, our own faith when working with our clients and not use our clients to be able to encourage our faith or to change who we are; that we do our own working through our own faith and that we’re not forcing that on other people. So, thanks for being with me today.
Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also, there you can learn more about me, options for working together, such as individual and group consulting, or just shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Would love to hear from you.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.