Last article, 5 Common Challenges to Growing Clinically as a Therapist in Private Practice, we discussed how we can get stagnant in how we grow in private practice.
Sometimes reflecting on our journey of growth can be discouraging and overwhelming. We may think that we should be further along in the journey of growth or we are not doing enough to grow. Feelings of inadequacy and shame can come up for us. We can struggle with perfectionism so that we don’t even start the process of learning something new because it sounds too overwhelming. I believe that we can be hard on ourselves because we take pride in being the best we can be. We take helping our clients seriously and we want to do our best in serving them. Our work matters to us and people’s well-being matters to us.
However, learning and growing doesn’t have to be a burden. There can be joy and pride in taking steps to thrive clinically as a therapist. Below are 5 tips to help you get started and grow in private practice.
Attend a training in an area of interest that is relevant to your practice
There are a lot of different models out there to learn about. Pick an area of interest and attend a training in a model that addresses that area. It can be refreshing and empowering to learn a model that you can practically use to help you thrive in your niche.
Do you want to learn how to strengthen and create a secure bond for couples with distress and attachment wounds? Attend an Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) externship. Are you wanting to know how to work with clients who have issues from trauma? Sign up for an EMDR basic training. Do you want to know how to equip and empower parents to help their young child with behavioral issues? Get training in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT).
Training is a great investment to provide you with more tools to help you be more effective in helping your clients.
Go on the journey of certification
After getting some initial training you may begin to have a feel of whether a certain model may fit your therapeutic style and be relevant for you. If you feel the model is a good fit pursuing the journey of certification is a great way to keep learning.
The journey of certification provides accountability and motivation for you to keep going when the going gets tough. You may be required to keep learning through getting more additional training, supervision/consultation, and possibly recording your sessions and watching it. It will make you consciously think about how you are working with your clients and how to apply what you are learning. A lot of growth can happen on the journey to being certified in a specific model because it will cause you to be intentional in learning and provide a goal to strive for.
Record and watch your sessions
Watching your sessions is extremely informative whether you pursue certification or not.
We all have blind spots. It is easy to miss something during a session. We may overestimate or underestimate what we did during our session. Rewatching our sessions helps us slow down and observe the process of what we are doing. We can be encouraged by what we did that was helpful and keep doing them. We can also take note of things we could do differently to form new habits in helping our clients more effectively. Watching our sessions also provides us with information about clients that we missed during the session that will help us in future sessions.
I have benefited greatly from watching my own sessions even though it takes time. It can also be scary watching yourself, especially after a tough session.
I highly recommend taking a huge risk of watching your sessions with a peer and/or a consultant/supervisor that you trust and feel safe with. This can be an extremely vulnerable thing to do but the result of having validation, encouragement, and support is worth the risk. If you tend to be critical of yourself, the other person can point out the positives you may have missed. If you tend to be overly optimistic, the other person can help point out areas of growth and improvement.
Get consultation/supervision or meet up with another therapist
We are stronger together.
Meet together with another therapist that you trust and feel safe with. Share with each other your struggles, frustrations, difficulties, and successes. Consult with each other about your cases to get ideas and encouragement. Talk about the self of the therapist. Share about how your clients and sessions impacted you personally during and after the session.
In private practice, we can feel very isolated and alone. Sometimes it helps to hear honestly the internal world of another therapist’s experience and realize that we are not alone.
I meet regularly with another therapist who is also on the road to EFT certification. We talk about our couples and where we get stuck, exchange ideas of what we think is happening and what interventions may be helpful. Together, we also validate and normalize each other’s feelings of frustrations, fears, and inadequacies when we are stuck or when we had a tough session. We remind each other how much we care about our clients and the icky feelings are because we are attuned to the couples’ process and emotions.
Showing your work to someone proficient in the model you are learning helps you focus and zone in on your progress and on areas of growth.
Your consultant/supervisor will have gone through the same process of learning the model and can be a great guide and support to help you grow in private practice. They can help you sharpen your skills and provide a safe space in exploring areas you get stuck.
Learning happens best when we feel emotionally safe and secure. Having a peer or consultant/supervisor who is supportive provides a safe community and environment to grow and flourish. They act as our secure base to explore and take risks in learning new things which can be a never-ending endeavor.
Role play your clients
If you gather with a few other therapists you can practice role-playing your clients. They can be the therapist and you can take on the client. If your client is a couple you can take time in each of the partner’s role. This will help you be more attuned to your client’s emotional world. You may discover something you may have missed. You may get a better sense of how certain interventions may affect the client and what they may need.
This also takes courage and vulnerability and ensuring a safe atmosphere is vital in doing role-plays. Sharing with each other what you need and what is helpful and not is important to create a safe environment. If you find people you trust or think that you can trust, you will find the reward is well worth the risk.
Growing looks different for each therapist. The above 5 ideas are what helped me to grow in private practice. Depending on your personal wiring and your current season of life they may or may not work for you. But I hope they inspire you with ideas to help you grow and thrive as a clinician.
Casey is the owner of Rooted Hearts Counseling and specializes in Couples and Marriage Counseling with advanced training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). He gets to the heart of the matter in issues of communication, conflict resolution, infidelity, and infertility. He helps couples heal wounds, grow together, and connect emotionally.