Making the decision to go into private practice is an anxiety inducing endeavor. In my experience consulting with a number of therapists over the past few years, another challenge they inevitably encounter is how to pace themselves. From picking out a location, furniture, a start date, how to get your first patient, creating or buying private practice forms, and another million things, therapists can easily get overwhelmed. It’s important in the beginning of the work to set some guidelines for how you will pace yourself in starting and building your practice.
Start Now! No, it’s never too late to slow down or pace yourself. Remember, the key to private practice is about creating the life that you want. It’s never too early to set up or imagine an ideal schedule of your week, which WILL include breaks for the administrative tasks, days for refueling your inspiration with continuing education or training, and most importantly, lunch breaks. Many folks I have worked with struggle with bringing the same mentality from their other human services positions at agencies and institutions to their practice. These places often times push people to always try to maximize their time in some capacity, which can leave many workers feeling constantly anxious. Stop, pause, take a breathe. Yes, do it right now before reading the next sentence. You earned it. Another simple way to conserve your energy is to say NO!
Give Yourself Permission to Say “NO!” Yes, that’s right, I said it, NO! A lot of therapists struggle with this in private practice, with their patients and in other areas of their lives. Both male and female identified therapists. However, I would have to say that in my experience as a consultant, more female identified folks come to me with this issue lurking in the background of their work. This is due to issues of systemic oppression and gender expectations. Male identified folks, due to gender expectations and roles, are usually rewarded for being assertive with boundaries. With all folks I usually navigate this by listening attentively to the feelings that are coming up around saying ‘no’. Most of the time it didn’t just start with private practice. Working with other therapists in an attuned manner and being able to frankly discuss issues of power and oppression can help to illuminate the ways we have internalized oppressive messages that hinder our ability to be more liberated in our work.
Remember, you went into private practice to live more of the life you want. You will need to be firm with your boundaries. And most importantly, you get to decide what feels best for you. You heard it right, you get to put yourself, your needs, your wants and desires, first.
Energy conservation in private practice work is not something that is just simply self-care. It’s the way you are consciously choosing to use your psychological, emotional, physical and cognitive energy to facilitate healing with your patients. Take care of the demands of your practice, and attend to your own needs and desires.
If you are like many therapists who tend to think of others before themselves. They find themselves depleted by the time they leave the office and go home. Ask yourself, ‘do I really want to feel this way all the time?’ You don’t have to and thinking about the amount of energy you have at the start of the day, week, month, can be a good way to check-in with yourself and use your energy more wisely. Remember, it’s a marathon, a walk, a crawl, a light jog, a jiggle of your shoulders while you stand still.. I think you get the point, it’s not a sprint.
Aaron Skinner-Spain, LCSW is the Founder and Director of Clinical Services of NYC Affirmative Psychotherapy LCSW PLLC. NYC Affirmative Psychotherapy is a community-focused, sliding scale group practice with a special commitment to serve queer communities of color. Besides working in his group practice Aaron provides clinical supervision and consults with other therapists who want to start private practice, group practices, or those launching other types of new businesses.