Therapists spend hundreds if not thousands of hours studying and learning how to help people. But most of us have never learned how to start and build a business. Starting a private practice can feel intimidating and overwhelming. There are many hats to put on: administration, marketing, web design, accounting, finance, manager. Sometimes we are not sure what to do or where to start. Even if we know what to do, we feel ill-equipped. Feelings of inadequacy often come up in the journey of starting a private practice.
I’m an Emotionally Focused Therapist who specializes in helping couples through Emotionally Focused Therapy. Most couples get caught in a negative pattern/cycle where one partner pursues and the other withdraws. Sometimes the partner withdraws because it can be scary to feel like they are failing at the thing that matters so much to them, their relationship with their partner. Feeling not good enough can then lead to feelings of shame. When we feel shame our action tendency is to withdraw to protect.
I’ve experienced the same relational dynamic with my private practice. When I’ve felt inadequate and ashamed, I procrastinate, avoid, hide, and disengage with building my private practice. Maybe you have experienced the same thing.
Below are a few helpful ways to help address the feeling of inadequacy and shame in the journey of starting a private practice.
1. Acknowledge and Accept how you Feel
Avoiding negative emotions is normal. Nobody likes to feel bad. Acknowledging and accepting feelings of inadequacy can be hard. However, ignoring and hiding these feelings can breed shame and depression. As Brene Brown so nicely put it, “shame derives its power from being unspeakable”. There is power in being vulnerable by naming and accepting how you feel.
2. Open up to someone who is Emotionally Empathic
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
~ Brene Brown
Shame grows in isolation but dies when it is shared with someone who responds with empathy and understanding. Turn to someone you trust who is empathic and share your feelings of discouragement, inadequacy, fear, and shame. Lean on them for support whether it is your partner, a loved one, or a therapist. The emotional support will empower you with strength, courage, and encouragement to build your private practice.
3. Talk with other Professionals who have a Private Practice
You may believe that the challenges and difficulties you face are unique only to you if you are alone and isolated in your experience. You may then conclude that there is something wrong with you.
Talking to other professionals about your experience and hearing about theirs will remind you that you are not alone. You will realize and remember that you are not the only one who struggles with the challenges of building a private practice. In addition, they can provide a vision, hope, and ideas of what your private practice can become.
4. Learn from other People’s Knowledge and Experience
You don’t have to learn how to start a private practice alone. There are so many people that have gone through this journey and are starting this journey.
You can have someone guide you through the process while having group support.
These resources can provide helpful validation, support, and encouragement in your private practice journey.
5. Take Small Steps and Celebrate Little Successes
Sometimes the enormity of the tasks can be paralyzing. Setting small achievable goals can provide movement and a sense of accomplishment. Even applying one of the things mentioned above is a great start and a small step towards something bigger. This journey is a marathon and not a sprint. There are many steps, but every step counts.
We can lose sight of progress in the midst of everything that calls our attention in building our private practice. Take a minute to count and remember the progress you have made in building your private practice whether you just started thinking about it yesterday or you’ve been doing this for years.
Your doubts, discouragements, anxieties, and fears are normal. Having feelings of inadequacy and shame in the midst of learning and creating a private practice, something that is so exciting yet daunting and unfamiliar, is normal. It’s okay to get stuck. It’s okay to make mistakes. It took a lot of work, courage, and strength to get to this point of the journey you are on. It may be hard now but it will get better.
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.