Have you ever considered running a practice with your partner? Would you like to know some of the challenges you might face and how to overcome them? Do you want to hear from a couple who has successfully built a practice together?
In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks to Emily and Ryan Russ about running a practice as a couple.
Meet Emily and Ryan Russ
Emily and Ryan live in Little Rock, AR with their 3 young children and 1 Goldendoodle puppy. When Ryan was finishing up grad school at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS 15 years ago, they knew one day they wanted to work together in private practice. After being on staff at Capstone Treatment Center, where Ryan received extensive training and certifications in Trauma, Sexual Addiction, Multiple Addictions, EMDR, Mindfulness, and Brainspotting, they nervously took the plunge into opening our own business.
Ryan’s main specialties are Sex Addiction, Trauma, Custom Intensives, and Custom Personal Growth Intensives for other therapists wanting to do their own therapy work. Emily’s specialties include administration, client hospitality, and juggling all the clinic details while raising 3 children and potty training a puppy. Client care and the “Art of Therapy” is at the core of their clinic, and they see their family-owned and operated clinic as more than a business, it’s a ministry.
In This Podcast
- What Challenges One Might Face when Running a Business with your Partner
- How Emily & Ryan Came To Working Together & The Misconceptions They Had
- Setting Boundaries and Separate Work from Home Life
- Benefits of Working with Your Partner
- The Importance of Communication
- How To Market a Christian Practice without Pushing People Away
- Advice for Christian Counsellors
What Challenges One Might Face when Running a Business with your Partner
The main challenge they both faced was fear and stepping into the unknown. Ryan was scared but felt prepared which really mitigated the fear. Emily felt that as a stay at home mom and wife, entering into their own business was a very scary and risky thing.
How Emily & Ryan Came To Working Together & The Misconceptions They Had
I really underestimated what she could pull off.
Ryan thought that it would primarily be him doing most of the work and Emily would help out occasionally but she ended up taking on a huge role and really helping the business a lot.
Setting Boundaries and Separate Work from Home Life
Try to schedule specific times to discuss work. It is important to be able to switch off at home after a long day. Emily and Ryan have decided to try out a working lunch date once a week to try and maintain a good boundary between work and home life.
Benefits of Working with Your Partner
- It’s easier to hand over some of the control to your partner. You’re able to trust in them completely and know that they know you and your business. Ryan was able to focus on his counseling while Emily handled things like the logo, website, bank accounts, etc.
- Not every couple has the blueprint in their personalities to work together. Emily feels that God put them together to do this particular ministry and task. It is very comforting to have your partner there when things are tough.
- In Ryan and Emily’s case, Emily knows what Ryan does, she knows the lingo and how to communicate with the clinicians. She was able to join the business with barely any training.
- Your partner knows your vision and artistry, making it easier for these things to come across in the work that they do.
The Importance of Communication
It’s important to be able to say ‘This is OK, or hey this is working for me, this isn’t working for me. Because one practice might do something one way and then you’re doing it a different way because that’s the way that works for you’.
How To Market a Christian Practice without Pushing People Away
The copyrighting on your website is very important. You want to portray Christian concepts without being overtly Christian. People tend to be afraid of counselors judging them. It’s important to convey the message that you are safe and non-judgmental.
Advice for Christian Counsellors
Don’t be afraid of your faith, don’t be afraid of your values. Go ahead and unashamedly, unapologetically, be yourself!
- Give it time. Your reputation will come through. Show people that they will be comfortable and coming into a compassionate space with no judgment.
- Use scripture but be careful not to misuse scripture, Ryan thinks that so much harm has been done where scripture has been used and abused.
- Stay true to yourself, don’t shy away from your beliefs. Let people know your views and if it offends them you can work through it.
- Mike Michalowicz on using Profit First in Your Practice | FP 22
- Irvin Yalom
- Email Whitney: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Faith In Practice Facebook Group
- Free resources to help you start, grow and scale
- Apply to work with Whitney
- Consult With Whitney
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.
Thanks For Listening!
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Faith in Practice is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts that are changing the world. To hear other podcasts like Empowered and Unapologetic, Bomb Mom, Imperfect Thriving, Marketing a Practice or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
The Faith in Practice podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network. A network of podcasts seeking to help you start, grow, and scale your practice. To hear other episodes like the Imperfect Thriving podcast, Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered an Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
Welcome to the Faith and Practice podcast. I’m your host, Whitney Owens, recording live from Savannah, Georgia. The purpose of this podcast is to help you start, grow, and scale a private practice with a faith-based perspective.[WHITNEY]:
Today, it’s Episode Number 23, an interview with Emily and Ryan Russ on running a practice as a couple. That’s right, running a practice as a couple. I love that concept. And it’s becoming more and more popular in circles that are running into, that people are business owners, they’re needing some assistance, and then they get their spouse to jump on. So, Ryan and Emily do a great job explaining the concepts of running a practice as a couple. How do we set boundaries in that? I actually, ironically, have been with my husband in three different settings where it was work related. We first worked together at a campus ministry – that’s actually how we met – and we got married while we were both working there. And then after that, he worked at my graduate school while I was in school for counseling. And then just a few years after that, we both worked at a psychiatric hospital together. So that made for a lot of really fun stories. But I want to point out a story – when I was at my graduate school, he was working there as well. While I was in class, his office was just down the hall. So, it was always really nice to be able to walk down there and say hey between classes. But in one of my classes, the class on theory, we had to do something to represent our theory in an entertaining way. And so, my husband came and acted like Ivan Pavlov. And he brought this ginormous stuffed dog – and there’s another long story about why we have this dog – and he brought the dog, we put syringes on his mouth, and I did an interview with Pavlov, and people loved it. But what’s so funny about it is I don’t think people really knew that I was doing this with my husband. And so, he would walk around the school and people would say hello to Pavlov. And they didn’t really know exactly who he was. And so, it was really entertaining, but working with your spouse, in whatever setting you’re working with them in, can be so much fun and so entertaining, sometimes challenging. And I love in today’s interview, Emily and Ryan are just totally authentic in the way that they talk about their experiences in working together. So, let’s jump right into the episode. [WHITNEY]:
Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. This is Whitney Owens and I have here Emily and Ryan Russ with us today. So, Emily and Ryan live in Little Rock, Arkansas. They have three young children and one Goldendoodle puppy. When Ryan was finishing up grad school at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi 15 years ago, he knew that one day he wanted to work together with Emily in a private practice. After being on staff at Capstone Treatment Center, where Ryan received extensive training and certifications in trauma, sexual addiction, multiple addictions, EMDR, mindfulness and brain spotting, they nervously took the plunge into opening their own business. This past year, God has far exceeded their expectations for business growth. Ryan has maintained a whitelist most of 2019 and over half of his revenue is from out of state, repeated intensives with clients. In 2020, they hired three additional therapists to grow into a group practice. Ryan’s main specialties are sex addiction, trauma, custom intensives and custom personal growth intensives for other therapists wanting to do their own therapy work. Emily specializes in administration, client hospitality and juggling all the clinical details while raising three children and potty training their puppy. Getting to work together as a married couple has its challenges and mostly rewarding. Seeing how God has created skill sets so oppositely and yet so complimentary has been a really neat gift in the past year. Client care in the art of therapy is the core of their clinic, and they see their family-owned and -operated clinic as more than a business. It’s their ministry. Well, great to have the two of you guys on the show. [RYAN]:
Yeah, thank you so much. [EMILY]:
Thank you. [RYAN]:
It’s good just hearing the way you talked about our life, you make it sound really great, but it has been, I guess. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. Yes. And I spin that Southern accent in there so it’s even more fun. Great. Well, you kind of did share a little bit about… in the bio, a little bit about starting your practice, but if you want to talk a little bit about what were some of the challenges at the very beginning when you’re thinking about starting a practice? [RYAN]:
Hmm, well, I think fear… just stepping into the unknown was a struggle at the beginning, but we really mitigated that risk by being very prepared as far as financially being out of debt. And really, I worked for quite a long time for large agencies, or for places where I really felt prepared to take that leap. So yeah, I don’t know. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, that’s really great. [RYAN]:
Yeah, Emily, for you. I don’t know any… What are your thoughts on that? [EMILY]:
Yeah, I was pretty scared. I mean, you know, just as the wife and the stay-at-home mom, just entering and doing your own business, that’s a very scary, risky thing. But it turned out very quickly that we saw that God was really blessing Ryan’s business and it was growing far more than we anticipated, which also means that the needs in our location, and really just everywhere, are growing very fast. And they… we need good clinicians. So. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. So, when you started private practice, was it just Ryan doing his practice? And then Emily, you came on after it started growing? Is that how it worked? [RYAN]:
Yeah, well really, that’s where we had a misconception, I thought it’d be primarily me, and then she would help me some. I really underestimated just what she could pull off and what she would do for this business. And she has really stepped into a huge role. In fact, Emily, you want to talk about that some? [EMILY]:
Yeah, yeah. So, when we first started out, I actually had a… I’ve been in administration and bookkeeping and that sort of thing for many years and had a bookkeeping job at our church. And Ryan started this practice and I thought, oh, I’ll just do the bookkeeping for him on the side. Well, it quickly grew into, you know, just with a business, it’s more than just about doing the therapy. It’s about all the other hats you have to wear, administratively. And that’s not really Ryan’s gifting, but it is mine. And it just quickly snowballed to where I needed to quit my job at the church and focus really full-time on the practice. And so, I would say probably six months into it, we realized, oh my goodness, this is a much bigger beast that we need to tackle together, not just him individually. [WHITNEY]:
That’s beautiful. And it just makes you think back to the way couples come together, and having different strengths and different weaknesses, in the business world and outside the business world. And what a compliment, Emily, it sounds like you are to Ryan, so I love that. [EMILY]:
Yeah, thanks for that. [RYAN]:
Yeah. For me, I’ve got ADHD by history. And so, the joke is I married her for her organizational skills. And, I actually did say that over the years. I mean, she’s beautiful and I love her, but she really did complete some of those things that I wasn’t strong with. And we didn’t really see how that was gonna play out in the practice, but she’s done an incredible job really filling in those gaps, which frees me up to be the talent that I am doing the therapy work in the room. So, it’s been great. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, well, I’m seeing more and more this dynamic of couples going into business together and would love to spend some time talking about that because I think a lot of people have questions about that dynamic. So, could you share a little bit about how do you… first of all, how do you separate work from home life when you’re working together? [RYAN]:
It’s been really hard actually. We’ve done it, but we’ve had to have those reminders where it’s so tempting to talk about a new intake that Emily got, or to talk about a detail or a tweak. And it’s exciting and fun, and we really enjoyed that. But I think I’ve just had, every now and then, to say, nope, I’ve had enough tonight, I can’t. So, I’ve given those reminders. I don’t know… Emily, for you, I don’t know, have you…? [EMILY]:
Yeah, I definitely would say it’s been a learning curve. We did not do that very well in the beginning. And we’re still working out the details of that. But because when you work with somebody and you live with somebody, it’s easy just to always be dialoguing about it wherever you are, because things pop in your brain. But I have had to learn, you know, Ryan does a very full caseload of therapy. And when he comes home, he’s tired. And he needs to rest. He doesn’t want to engage his brain anymore about the job, where with me, I’ve been doing the job, but I’ve also been doing home stuff and kids stuff, and I’m ready to talk about it. And so, I need… I have had to learn to actually schedule times during the day with him. You know, we were talking about scheduling a date lunch every week. And that’s also like a working lunch so we can really talk about things and not just talk about things after we put the kids to bed. So yeah, it’s kind of an ongoing, fluid process. And it’s not something that’s always easy, but we’re working on it, so… [RYAN]:
Yeah, that’s a new thing we’re doing now is I think we’re actually scheduling that time, that Friday lunchtime, for us to actually talk business. And we just added that in. And I think that’s really going to help our process. [WHITNEY]:
That’s such a good tip. Love it. And so, do you have any other tips that you would share for couples that are maybe considering starting a practice together? Or maybe already have? [EMILY]:
You know, I get a lot of people saying, oh, that’s so awesome that you’re working with your husband, that’s such a great thing for your marriage. And it has been really great for us. But I always tell people, not every married couple has the blueprint in their personality to work together. And I think that’s fine. I just think God has put us together to do this particular ministry and task, and He has equipped us in this way. And so, I don’t think that any married couple should just plunged into this unless they do feel that it’s a calling and that they do have the blueprint in their marriage to sustain this. [RYAN]:
And for me, advice to anybody doing this is: do your own work, therapy wise, is what I could say. We’ve done marriage counseling in the past, and through that we have a much more secure base to handle the conflict back and forth of taking this on. It’s been a challenge in many ways, but our prior work has helped us. So, I’d say do your own work first, on yourself. [EMILY]:
Yeah, we definitely… we went through some marriage counseling together several years ago, and we would not be where we are, or be able to work together, had we not gone through that marriage counseling. [WHITNEY]:
That’s great. [EMILY]:
So yeah, we’re big believers in, you know, we’re selling the stuff and we’re also buying the stuff too, because we believe in it. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, I actually have worked with my husband in three different settings, which is really odd to say; I’ve had three different jobs where he was there. And we actually worked at a psychiatric hospital together. So that was very interesting. But it was nice to have him around whenever they would call the codes like, the codes where there was an aggressive patient in the intake area, boy he would dart downstairs, and so I knew if that code went off I’d see my husband real quick. So, it’s speaking to the idea that you’ve got an advocate with you at your job. And I’m sure, especially for Ryan, that probably is very comforting to know that your wife’s there when you’re struggling with your clients, you know? [RYAN]:
Mm hmm. Yeah, it is good. It is good. [WHITNEY]:
Do y’all have any interesting or funny stories of a time where, yeah, maybe interesting as in enjoyable or maybe not as enjoyable, working together? [RYAN]:
I do. There’s one memory I have of us. We were going up to a [unclear] City, doing a road trip with the kids. Emily got the season pass and she really wanted to celebrate that and have that for the kids. And we were listening to Gordon Brewer’s podcast in fact, and I saw her get, all of a sudden, a lot more interested in the business and really putting her stamp on it. And Gordon was talking about G Suite and I don’t like doing notes and structure, and I saw her light up and really take an interest. And it’s just… it stands out in my brain as, this is a cool thing. This is a cool thing we get to stamp on the world, and we get to do this together. And I really realized I get to share this with her, and she gets to be an active part of it. That got me excited. [WHITNEY]:
That was a really beautiful story. [EMILY]:
I’ve never heard that. I had never heard him say that. That’s sweet. [RYAN]:
How about you, Em’? [EMILY]:
Yeah, I think… Yeah. Well, I think for me, I mean, when I think of a funny story or something, I mean, this really has been an evolution this last year, 2019, of me coming on board and us actually working together. In the beginning, Ryan was seeing clients full-time and he didn’t have time to start this business. So, getting a logo, getting a website put together and doing all the ins and outs, and I really timidly stepped into starting to do the website. And I was really nervous about that because Ryan is an artist and he has a vision for everything, and he loves to do the art and the details of everything. And so I think it took us a while to realize, you know what, Ryan needs to let go of this and let Emily take over these parts, including the website and the logo and all that. And he has. I think it was it was a challenge for him at first but realizing that he doesn’t have time to do it. And I’m, I’m actually gifted in these things. [RYAN]:
Absolutely, if I can real quick on that? Yeah, I had this… as an artist kind of person, I always want the perfect idea, like the perfect therapy or the perfect image. I really had to let that go and just trust Emily. She can do it well. And, what’s cool is she gets me and so the way she would pick clipart and imagery for… I’m like, wow, okay, I need to let go. And in fact recently that’s what I’ve had to do a lot of, is just to trust her, and to let go of this sense of control or even, that illusion of control, and it’s been neat how she’s really come through and shone. Go ahead. [EMILY]:
Well, I was gonna say… a funny story, if you want something kind of funny, Whitney, I was thinking about it and I was like, what can be funny? So, we bank at a local bank, and I know the tellers and they know me, and they saw me setting up the business accounts and the LLC and all that. And then I would go and make the deposits and one of the… I guess it was mid-year, this last year, the lady saw me coming around more and more, and she’s like, wow, you’re really doing a lot more for your husband’s work. How’s it going? And I was like, it’s going well, and yeah, I’m doing a lot more and I’m staying really busy. And she’s like, well does he pay you? And I said, well, no, he doesn’t pay me. I mean, we’re married, and his money is my money and vice versa. She goes, well, do you at least get to go buy the shoes that you want? And I was like, oh yeah, actually, I do. She said, well, good. He can pay you in shoes. And I was like, that’s a good deal. So that’s kind of alright. Our deal. [WHITNEY]:
I love it. Yeah, I like that a lot. You know, I love, Ryan, how you just kind of spoke to this concept of getting things off of our plate and being able to trust somebody else. What are some of the other tasks that Emily has taken over with the practice that you were doing before? [RYAN]:
Intake calls on the front end. And really, as we learned more about the role of a virtual assistant, through some of the material we understand now, she was already stepping into that role and that was huge, but she knows me. I mean, she knows my specialties, trauma and sex addiction, inside and out. And she knows how to talk the lingo. So that was huge. When we began to scale and bring on other clinicians, trusting… communication interaction with them. She just… she has the vision and the time for it. And so, a lot of times, she’ll work out things with them that I’m not even aware of. And that’s just, I think, my original mindset, I would have wanted to have known everything that’s going on. Thank goodness she’s doing more of that. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, it’s absolutely vital that when you start handing things off, you can trust the person you’re handing them off to. So, it’s really great. You don’t have to get to know somebody new or worry about any of that you can fully trust the person that’s working with you. That’s amazing. [RYAN]:
Yeah, for sure. [EMILY]:
Yeah, and I think one of the benefits is he hasn’t really had to train me because I’ve been along this whole road with him with all of his certifications. And I understand what he does, and it’s just kind of a second nature for me to make those intake calls or… Yeah, there wasn’t a lot of training and we communicate so much anyway, that I know his vision. I know his artistry and I know what he likes, and so it just works. [WHITNEY]:
So, Ryan, you’ve been doing some intensives weekends with clients. I’d love to hear more about what that process is. [RYAN]:
Yeah, I absolutely love it. At first, we didn’t realize how big of a deal it would be. But half of my revenue has come from doing intensives. So, I spent the last six years at Capstone Treatment Center doing some very high-end, high-level work, and having a lot of uninterrupted time with my clients, I was able to accomplish a lot. And I wanted to have those kind of results at the outpatient level. So, we started offering them, where clients could come for one full day, two or three full days in a row. We do eight hours of therapy per day – of course, we take breaks – but the results are incredible. And so that’s been a huge part of my business. And I do various different types of intensives. Would you like me to go into that some or…? [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, tell us a little bit about that. [RYAN]:
Yeah, so my main specialty is sexual addictions. And so, I do a lot of intensives around that. We do a disclosure intensive. We don’t always use the polygraph, but sometimes we do, where a person that’s in recovery sexually has so many secrets, and lies upon lies, that they need assistance with really coming clean. So, we do one where they have a polygraph to back up a disclosure statement that they’re telling the full, complete truth to their partner. That’s just one of my intensives that I offer but most of mine are not that – most of them are trauma intensives. I’m trained in EMDR and I’m certified in brain spotting, which is like an advanced form of EMDR. So, I do a lot of trauma intensives with individuals about past attachment wounds, sexual abuse, sexual trauma, and that requires some significant time and some creative modalities. So, I do a lot of those as well. [EMILY]:
I love what Ryan says about dial-up verse high-speed. Do you want to say that, Ryan? [RYAN]:
Yeah, that’s what I felt like. As a therapist, I was always obsessed with the result. Like, what’s working for these people? What’s not? The worst feeling in the world is having a client where it’s not getting better. And I know we can’t, I’ve had to really work on that, because we’re not God, and we can’t play God. But I’ve always wanted to be as effective as possible. I mean, they’re paying you for something, and I want to help them, really, in the most powerful way. But I feel like regular outpatient therapy felt like dial-up internet versus the intensives, which feels like high-speed where you can accomplish a lot more, with a lot more efficiency to get breakthroughs. It’s hard to get a breakthrough whenever you’re having to check in and talk about your week every time and you don’t get that sweet spot of work done. So. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, so let me make sure I understand. So, you’re traveling to where the client is. Is that right? [RYAN]:
No. Well, sometimes I do. Sometimes I travel to them, but most of the time, they’re coming to me here in Little Rock and doing the work here in town. [WHITNEY]:
And then you just do a full weekend with them. And do you do multiple weekends, or just one? [RYAN]:
Yeah, it’s during the week as well. Oftentimes I do Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or I’ll do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or I’ll do a two-day. But most of my clients that have an intensive, they get so many good results, they come back and do follow up. I also do pre-intensive phone consultations, post-intensive phone consultations in the meantime, to keep track with them. [WHITNEY]:
I love it. That’s such a great service that you’re offering. And it is something I hear more and more often, is the power of an intensive. So, I’m glad that you’re doing that work. [RYAN]:
Yeah. And one area that I’m really excited about now is clinicians coming and doing their own personal therapy work. Oftentimes, it’s hard in your hometown when all you have is the competition around you and you have a real issue. But what I know is that some of the very best trainings I was able to receive were intensives where we really had to do our own work, talked about our own wounds, deal with our own trauma. And I think the best clinicians are the ones that know their own stuff. There’s a saying out there that you won’t take a client further than what you’ve gone yourself. And if you’re not comfortable with your own Deep End, you’re not going to be totally comfortable with their deep end as well, or at least not in the way you need to be. And so, with trauma, you have to be able to dwell on the deep end and to just operate at that level. And so clinicians that maybe have some unresolved work, or they think that’d be cool to do, I highly recommend doing an intensive as far as personal growth, but also the quality of what you’re doing with your clients is greatly impacted by that. [WHITNEY]:
So true, so true. Well, let’s change it up a little bit here. What would you say are some of the… or go ahead and give me one of the problems that you’re having in your practice, where you’re feeling stuck? [RYAN]:
For me, there’s more going on than I can keep my brain around. And so, I’ve had to just trust Emily with a lot of this. But it’s tough because I have this guilt feeling like, I’m putting that on her. And so, I think I am wrestling with just how many moving parts are going on, and my mind set as a guy that wants to have calm and Zen or a sense of control. So that’s been a sticking point for me recently. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, in private practice, and owning a business, we’re never gonna have peace and control, I think. Right? I mean, obviously, we have that in Christ. And we have that sense of peace, even when the world is chaotic around us, like mental health is just a crazy world. And then owning a business is a crazy world. And so, there’s always going to be those things you come up against, but so great ya’ll have got that team of each other to work through that. You know, Ryan, I’m thinking about systems. Do you feel like there’s areas that you could put a system in place that you don’t have to think about something as often? [RYAN]:
I do. And we’re switching electronic health records. And I’ve actually been happy with SimplePractice. But I mean, I hate health record stuff. But it just… what I’m finding is it’s just a matter of consistency over time. Basically, Emily just has to patiently remind me again, and again, this is how we’re doing it now. This is how we’re doing it now. And so, I’m having to just allow that to unfold with repetition over time. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, and the most important thing is communication; so, you might think you’re annoying somebody but them letting you know, hey, this is okay. Or hey, this is working for me. This isn’t working for me. Because one practice might do something one way and then you’re doing it a different way, because that’s the way that works for you, and works for you and your wife. [RYAN]:
Mm hmm. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. So, what about with marketing? It sounds like we’ve previously spoken about, how do you market a Christian practice, have you been able to figure that out? [EMILY]:
I don’t think so. No. I mean, no, because I mean, a lot of the referrals we’re getting are people that know who our clinicians are and know that they’re believers. And so those are great. But people off the street, they may not know that. And I guess that’s one question that I have for you, Whitney, is, how do you market a practice that we don’t want to slap a big Jesus sticker on the website, we want to gently kind of let that ooze out of who we are. And we want people to know that, yeah, this is a Christian practice, but we are also open to all kinds of people. Because we know that our beliefs inform what we do. And so that will inform our clinicians in their practice. So, how is that a gentle thing without saying we are a Christian practice, per se? [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, I think it’s a great question, and I do run up into that question a lot. I think it starts with your copywriting on your website, because that’s where people are going to first hear about who you are. And so, you want to write in such a way that you portray Christian concepts without being overtly Christian. I actually… another person I’m going to be interviewing on the podcast, I had a conversation with her, and I love the name of her practice. It’s Sparrow Counseling. And so yeah, you’re sitting there thinking cool, yeah, ‘his eyes on the sparrow’. I know that verse, that’s beautiful for counseling, but someone who’s not a therap… not, sorry, not a couns… aaah, not a Christian. Someone who’s not a Christian is going to hear that and they’re not going to know that Bible verse, they’re gonna think, oh a beautiful bird or that’s a cool name, or maybe they’re not gonna think about the name, but we know what that is. So, using imagery also on your website that speaks to Christians, so maybe water or rebirth – concepts that are in the Bible that a non-believer wouldn’t necessarily know about. That way, you’re still drawing in people who are Christians, but you’re also not turning away people that are not Christians.
It’s amazing. On my website, I have people that call, and they say, yeah, I was looking for a Christian practice and I saw your website. And it makes me laugh because there’s nothing on the website that says we’re Christian. Yeah. It’s just the way that we talk on the website that makes people get the impression that we’re Christians, and that draws in faith-based and not faith-based.[RYAN]:
Yeah. And for me, I think it comes down to trust. A lot of Christians have this fear of counselors being some lefty liberals that are going to brainwash them. And I think a lot of people have been turned off by judgmentalism in the church, and I don’t want at all for people to not choose us because they think we’re going to be judgmental. If anything, Christians should be a compassionate and understanding type of person. So, it’s a weird, nuanced message to send where you want to tell people, we’re safe. We’re not going to automatically tell you to divorce somebody right off the bat. But at the same time, we’re not judgmental. So, I guess it’s just a matter of dealing with polarized opinion. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, I think over time, people are going to see that about you and your practice, that the more clients you see, you’ll get a reputation in town for not being the uber-duber Christian practice, but for being Christian in a way that is comfortable for people. I mean, it’s great because there are some practices, even in my town, that have a very strong biblical background in what they’re doing, and that does meet the need of a certain type of client. But for the types of clients we want to see, you know, they would be turned off by that. And so we’re gaining this reputation of, we’re a practice that is faith-based, but not throwing a Bible over your head and people feel really comfortable coming through the doors and they do see that compassion without judgment. And so, you know, Ryan, I think you probably portray that with your clients based on my relationship with you. I’m sure you’re giving them that and over time, people are going to see that compassion come out of you. [RYAN]:
Yeah, and that’s how I have integrated it. Basically, just who I am, it kind of exudes that. And I will reference scripture, but I’m always careful not to misuse it, because I think so much harm has been done where scripture has been used or abused in people’s world, but I’m going to authentically be myself. I like the work of Irvin Yalom, and he talks about existential psychotherapy, about having radical honesty with your client, so I’m not going to shy away from it. I will let people know my views as a Christian and hold space with them and allow them to, if that offends them or not, to work through it. So, I’m not gonna hide that. So, anyway. [WHITNEY]:
I love that you’re a Yalom fan. Like if I could sit down with anyone and have a conversation, it would be Irvin Yalom. So maybe I need to ask him to come be on the podcast. [RYAN]:
Oh, that’d be… Yeah, I love him, love his work. [WHITNEY]:
Definitely. Well, I ask everyone this and you can each take a turn answering: what do you feel like all Christian counselors need to know? [RYAN]:
I think, don’t be afraid of your faith. Don’t be afraid of your values. Go ahead and unashamedly, unapologetically, be yourself. I find that I have had fear of that and the fear of offending, to the point where I’ve left it out at times, and I’m not being fully me. So be who you are in your faith. And don’t be ashamed of that. [EMILY]:
I like that. Well, I am not a Christian counselor. So, I don’t know that I can speak to that as well as Ryan can. Yeah, I think just come in with the understanding that what we’re doing here is… ultimately has eternal value, and it’s not just, let me just, you know, go into the session and make this money and make this person’s week better. But ultimately, it’s, this is eternal stuff that we’re talking about. And yeah, I think just come in with that mindset. And you know, I do that, I mean, I do intake calls, so I’m not doing the therapy, but I know that the people who are calling have eternal souls and eternal value, and when they’re coming to me, I’m their first contact, I’m there, they’re in crisis, they need someone to show compassion, and to help steer them in the right way. And so, when I’m talking to them, I have that in my mind. And so yeah, this is powerful work and to be a Christian in this line of work is a real calling and a privilege and oftentimes a burden because, you know, it’s heavy stuff and it’s eternal. It’s eternal work. So. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, you said that so beautifully. And as I’m hearing you talk, I’m thinking about my assistant as well and she does the same thing; she gets on the phone with someone and she sees that, she prays with… prays for them in her mind, and helping them find healing is such a beautiful thing. Yeah. Well, guys, it’s been so good to have you on the show today. [RYAN]:
Yeah. Thanks so much for having us. It’s been great. [EMILY]:
Yeah, thank you so much. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, well, thanks for your time and being here. [EMILY]:
Okay, we’ll talk to you soon. [WHITNEY]:
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