How do you find your vision in a faith-based practice? What direction is your private going in? How much faith should you bring into your practice?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Whitney Owens about setting the vision for your faith-based practice and tips on how it has worked for her.
Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counsellor 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.
In This Podcast
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Whitney Owens about setting the vision for your faith-based practice with tips on how it has worked for her.
From working as a part-time therapist to going full-time, Whitney takes us through the vision of her faith-based practice. As her practice grew, she asked important questions like, “what kind of life do I want to live?”, “what suits my lifestyle?” so that when she outgrew, she knew exactly when to add clinicians.
If we don’t know the direction we’re going in, we’re not going to go anywhere.
How do you find your vision?
A vision statement mission is always helpful as it gives you a vision of where you’re going and keeps you accountable.
In Whitney’s case, when she started out, she focused on her ideal client first (see the previous episode if you missed it). She wanted to be the best teenage therapist in the area and she knew there was a niche in this client audience.
First, start by asking important questions like why you want to have a private practice to begin with. What things do you value in yourself and the community and how can you add that into your vision?
Stop living in that fear and start living in faith.
You can change your course at anytime
An important part of discovering your vision is also accepting that it could change at any time, as you grow. Your vision can be a short term vision and long term vision which can change at any time. It needs to be reflected and thought about over time. Your ideal client can change over time and it’s important to be open to that change.
Whitney’s ideal client is not always teenagers anymore. Know that you can change your course at any time, and creating a vision now, doesn’t mean it needs to take you through to the next 10 years.
At Whitney’s practice, her vision has also become the practice’s tagline. This is “Rest, risk and be restored”. It has helped all the therapists follow through with consistency, in the same vision, making a unified practice.
Bringing faith into your practice
Figuring out how much faith do you want in your practice is entirely up to you and the vision you see for your practice. It’s really up to you how much you want to incorporate into your practice. Have a vision statement that reflects your faith as boldly or subtlely as you see your vision.
Thanks For Listening!
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Welcome back to the Practice of the Practice podcast and YouTube channel. Really glad that you’re here today. Today we are with Whitney Owens, who is our resident expert on faith in practice and faith-based practices. Welcome back Whitney. How are you doing today?
[WHITNEY]: Doing good.
[JOE]: Awesome. Well yesterday in the previous podcast we talked about attracting your ideal clients, your faith-based practice. Go back and listen to that one. This series is sequential. It kind of builds upon itself, so if you get this today, I’d highly recommend going back to part one. Today Whitney, we’re talking all about setting the vision for your faith based practice. So where do you want to start with that?
[WHITNEY]: Yes, well, kind of a Bible verse actually that always pops out. That’s a Proverb. It’s Proverbs 29:18 says, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ And that’s always kind of something that’s running through my mind. If we don’t have a direction that we’re going in, we’re not going to go anywhere. So I think it’s really important when you first are starting out in private practice, you start putting in on that ideal client and figuring out where do you want to go to get that client to meet their needs in your practice.
[JOE]: Yes. How did you do that when you first opened Water’s Edge?
[WHITNEY]: Yes. Well I knew that I was really good at working with teenagers, so I did try to think through how do I meet that ideal client and what direction am I going in. I just wanted to fill the practice part time so that I can make some money, I can help some people, get my name in the community. I kind of wanted to be known as the best teenage therapist in town. There really was a lack of therapists that like working with teenagers, so I saw that as a really good niche to kind of start it out in. So that was kind of what my vision was in the front end. And I do believe that as your practice grows, your vision changes, it grows over time, you dream bigger. So that was kind of where I was at the beginning.
[JOE]: Yes. And then I know we’re going to get into how you kind of developed a group practice, but when you are moving from kind of a part time practice to wanting to go more full time, how did that vision change? Did it stay the same? Like take us through just the vision lens of kind of setting up like, “I’m not going to just do this part time anymore. I’m going to actually amp it up.”
[WHITNEY]: Yes. Well I’ve always kind of been part time. I’ve done three and a half days a week. I’ve always been that so it was always really important to me. My own personal vision was being able to work but also have time with my family, personal time, time with my spouse and just all the chores at home, being able to kind of care for the house at the same time. So when I started to find that I was growing and I wasn’t able to continue the vision by myself is when I started growing a practice to be able to help meet that needs that I wasn’t working five days a week.
[JOE]: No, I think that’s great that you started with, “What’s the life I want to live? Okay, this is how many days, how many hours that works for my family, for me, for my pacing.” And then when we outgrow that, then it’s time to add more clinicians to the practice rather than, a lot of people just say, “Oh, like I’m just turning away money. I did all this marketing and I guess I have to work five or six days a week.’ And then they hate their world. It’s like that you’re not going to be the best therapist kind of showing up when that happens.
[WHITNEY]: Absolutely not.
[JOE]: Now, I know a lot of people will have a mission statement, vision statement, all that sort of stuff. Do you recommend that when people vision out what they want their practice to be or like what kind of structure would you say people should go through to figure out their vision? If they’re like, “Whitney, I have no idea where to even start.” Like where should they start in kind of setting up their vision?
[WHITNEY]: Yes. If somebody were to ask me that, I would say, “Well, why do you want to do private practice? Why did you go to grad school to be a counselor?” Like starting to explore some of those questions and I think a lot of therapists on the front end feel really nervous or scared are like, “This isn’t going to work,” or, “Am I going to get enough money,” or, “Should I really take the step in private practice?” I just encourage you to stop living in that fear and start living in, I guess faith. Let’s start asking these fun questions and make it exploratory, make it exciting instead of making it scary. So it is really fun on the front end to think about, “What do I actually want? Where do I want to go? Why do I want to do private practice?” And start writing about it, start making notes about it. And I think also with your vision, it will reflect your values. So ask yourself, “What kind of things do I value in myself, in my family, in the community, and how do I make that a part of the practice that I do?”
[JOE]: Yes. And I think that a lot of people will feel like things are static in the sense that, “I just set up my practice and it goes, and then I’m stuck with that,” whereas I would say it’s way more dynamic than that; that if you change your vision later on or if you find that, “Wow, I thought I liked working with 20 teens a week. Actually I think I can handle only five.” Like, you can change. Obviously you’re not going to fire all your clients, but you can change the direction over time. And so I think that, at least for me, when I realized that it took a lot of the pressure off when I started to see a couple of types of clients and said, “That’s not my jam, but I’m still getting these calls. I’m going to hire a part time 1099, which is fine in Michigan.” That made it way easier to say, “Okay, I’m going to shift away from this type of client and move towards the ones that I really feel like I’m doing good work and that I also enjoy.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. That is some of the joy about having a group.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. You asked about vision statement as well and I do think that’s really helpful. I don’t think it’s something that you have to be intense about all the time that you have to follow this one statement and everything has to revolve around that. But I think it’s good because it does give you kind of a vision for where you’re going. And for me, my mission statement’s kind of the tagline of my practice. And so our tagline is to rest, risk, and be restored. So, we —
[JOE]: Rest, risk and be restored.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. So when people come into the counseling room, we’re thinking, okay, they’re exhausted, they need a place to just sit down and have a cup of coffee and talk. So we kind of bring that place of rest and ask them from that relationship, we ask for a risk, you know, that they’re going to step out and be challenged, take a leap of faith. And then when they do that, they’re restore. Like, they will have renewal. And so when the clients are coming in, and that’s kind of what all of our therapists are functioning within, even though we all do that during differently. So having that vision and mission statement really helps us know kind of where we’re going.
[JOE]: It then kind of gives some consistency where even if you’re working with one type of client, someone else’s working with someone else, that at least, that way that you guys approach it in the way that you articulate it makes it easier to kind of say, “Oh this is a unified practice rather than just a bunch of people that happen to share offices.”
[JOE]: Do you feel like that has helped you in regards to hiring clinicians, to have that kind of mission statement and direction to either weed people out or you know, bring people in?
[WHITNEY]: Yes. Well, we do review that every interview but I haven’t necessarily felt like it’s weeded people out because when people come in for an interview, they all say they love it because they want to be hired. But I mean I guess what kind of does help in that respect is people that come in and say, “I’ve looked at the website and [inaudible 00:07:48] thought through your mission and I can see that on your website.” Those people that are interviewed do stick out to me in regards to that instead of the ones that come in and don’t necessarily say anything about reading the website or researching in advance.
[JOE]: Yes. In regards to vision, I mean we’re talking faith-based practices. How much of it during that kind of exploratory time is, I guess like figuring out how much faith you want in your practice. Or is that part of that part or is that kind of later on?
[WHITNEY]: Definitely part of it. I think it’s all in what the counselor wants to be. Like if you’ve got someone who feels that faith is extremely important and they want to be a part of every session, they want to be talking about it with their clients and that’s the kind of client they feel drawn to, they should have a mission statement that definitely reflects their faith. And that’s the vital part and you can even see in my mission statement that it doesn’t necessarily say, you know, ‘Christian practice faith,’ but those are definitely faith components in this idea of water and being renewed as a faith-based component. And so that’s how I incorporate it in to my practice. But it’s important that you’re thinking about how much do you want to incorporate your faith in creating a mission statement that reflects that.
[JOE]: Like ‘Jesus is my co-therapist?’ [crosstalk] Just have that empty chair next to you. Yes. I think that’s important during that phase also. What else around vision do you want to make sure that people consider as they’re kind of thinking through the vision for their faith-based practice?
[WHITNEY]: Yes, I think just going back to this idea that it can be short term vision and long-term vision and that vision does change every time. So when I first started my vision was just filling a part time practice and being known as the teenage therapist in town. Now as my practice has grown, that is not my vision at all anymore. In fact, I don’t really want to see teenagers anymore. It’s not really, it’s kind of been draining me. And I think for a lot of counselors, their ideal client can change over time and mine has. And so, letting yourself be open to those changes and so now my long-term goals are a lot more about the practice as a group and about me individually and meeting greater needs in the community. Like before I could really only meet a very small amount of the community’s needs, and now I can do a lot more with more people.
[JOE]: Oh, that’s so awesome. Well there’s more resources over at practiceofthepractice.com/faithinpractice. In our next episode we’re going to be talking all about marketing and branding of faith-based practice. So we’ll talk to you tomorrow.
[JOE]: Whitney, that was such a fun interview there. And we have a webinar coming up on November 12th, 2019 at two o’clock Eastern, one o’clock central, 12 mountain, and 11 Pacific. It’s all about faith in practice where you’re going to go deeper talking all about these issues, but then adding more, doing some Q&A. What sort of things are you excited about in regards to this webinar?
[WHITNEY]: Yes. Well, I’m excited to answer your questions. I know that starting a practice and growing your practice is not only a lot of questions but then when you’re specifically talking about how do I make my favorite part of that, we’re talking about a whole new world. So being able to kind of meet people where they are in that and specifically address this.