One of the big shifts of going from a school counseling setting to private practice was my lack of having a regular rhythm. Having worked in education for 16 years, I was used to the rhythm of the school year and (crazy as it was), the rhythm of each day.
Life, naturally, has a rhythm to it. Day becomes night, winter turns into spring. But, when it came to opening a private practice, my first year felt like I was on constant alert. This was because I wasn’t sure what each day, week, or month would bring.
Daily, I was juggling and adjusting my schedule, losing consistency in self-care habits, and operating out of reactionary mode. This is a common counselor pattern, even though we know darn well it’s ineffective and leads to burnout. It also keeps our wheels spinning in the same rut – expending lots of energy and making no forward progress.
I realized, by year two, that something needed to change. And, that something was to create a better system for having a cadence of success, both personally and professionally. Below are those steps that have lead me down a much smoother, proactive path in my day-to-day decisions.
Know Where You’re Headed
I’m a visionary person. Visiting and revisiting my purpose and vision in professional and family life is essential to me. I have a personal and professional mission statement, which keep me grounded in staying ‘true to course’. They are nothing fancy, but my missions were developed after a lot of inner reflection on the deepest desires of my heart’s calling and why I want to do what I do. My personal mission is “Encourage in others their highest self”, and my business mission is “Reflecting Christ through mental health services that support the wellness of children & families”.
I take the time twice each year to revisit my mission statements and to write out (yes, write it out) what I would like that to look like in the upcoming 6-18 months. For instance, living this mission may include family vacations in your personal life. Or serving 25 clients a week in private practice. It’s really up to you.
Develop Action Steps
Knowing where you want to go leads to more clarity in decision making and understanding the smaller steps to get you there. For instance, you may realize that your practice vision includes speaking to audiences of parents. This could lead to a goal of creating a parenting presentation and developing relationships within your community. This clarity may also illuminate some things you’ve been doing that aren’t part of your vision. Like running all of those groups for teens that takes a lot of your time and energy and that you’ve realized you really don’t like to do. Write out some concrete actions and goals that will help you get to your vision over the next year.
Create a Cadence of Focus
Life feels haphazard if we don’t set some sort of routine or rhythm. One of the best ways to ensure you’ll follow through on something that takes time, is to create a system or routine around it. I’ve picked up the habit of designating each day of the week to particularly focus in my practice and life. Below is my personal rhythm of focus:
- Monday – Set priorities for the week and support clinicians in my group practice
- Tuesday – Content creation
- Wednesday – Paperwork and financials
- Thursday – Volunteering and family
- Friday – Professional training and developing community connections
Some weeks have a stronger focus in a particular area than others. But, this cadence of focus helps me to keep the big picture of areas in my professional (and personal) life I’d like to nurture.
Own Your Schedule
Knowing where I want to go, and having a daily area of focus, is helpful. But, getting things done is another thing. I have found that having a command of your schedule is essential in private practice, otherwise your clients will run you to the ground.
One thing that really gets me off track is the dabble method of getting work done. You know…dabble a little here…see a client…dabble a little there…see a two clients…have a two hour break, get lost on Facebook….see a client. This is the all-too-common experience of many therapists and it’s not very effective. I prefer ‘batching’ work to be more effective. In private practice, this means I need my schedule chunked, not spread out. I stack client appointments in a reasonable way without compromising quality of service.
This method allows me freedom to take two days off during the work week, rather than seeing clients all week with lots of space between sessions. This gives me time to offer better focus for taking care of things in that cadence for my business. And, I feel more effective with my time and ability to manage my self care and family life.
Success in private practice doesn’t just happen. It takes a deeply rooted purpose and vision and the initiative to act on it. Having a cadence and routine that supports your steps is key to seeing your vision realized and becoming your highest self!
Wishing you much success as you thrive in your most awesome private practice.
Jenna Fleming, M.Ed, LPC, NCC is owner and clinician at Georgetown Child & Family Counseling, located in the beautiful hill country of Texas. Her practice and work specializes in children, teens, young adults, and parents. Jenna is author of the Deeply Rooted Parenting program. She writes and speaks on topics for parents, educators, and counselors. When not engaged in her work, you’ll likely catch her being silly with her husband and two kids, practicing yoga, or enjoying delicious Tex-Mex.