Barriers to Freedom

Marketing and Practice-Building for PsychotherapistsIn my last post, I shared with you what freedom means to me, and how much I appreciate the freedom I’ve created in my life. For many of us, this is exactly what brought us into the field. The freedom to make a difference in the world without sacrificing the lifestyle we envision for ourselves.

But my experience training and coaching therapists has taught me that this dream of freedom is elusive for many. Why? What makes it so difficult for so many people to reach what they desire the most? Here are the barrers I see most frequently.

  1. Fear – Stepping into freedom is a big unknown. You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen and how it will all turn out. If you have a touch of control freak (like me!), then this can be a scary proposition for you. Taking a leap requires faith. Faith in yourself, faith in the universe, faith in what you have to offer to the world.To really get in touch with your fear, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I truly take a leap into something bigger?” Really think about this idea and write down your greatest fear, your worst case scenario. For me, when I was struggling, it was that I might lose my house. My house represents my stability and the idea of losing it really worried me. So I looked it in the face, and determined what I would do if that happened. I created a plan of action. Either I would sell my house and rent for a little while, or I would move in with my sister Sarah (shh, I never told her about that contingency). I knew what would happen and that I would be okay. That took the fear away from me.

    Think back over your life… Have you ever been faced with an emergency you weren’t able to handle? My guess is that you’ve been faced with some doozies in your lifetime, and that you’ve dealt with them all. And you will be able to deal with whatever arises for you in the future.

  2. Not Being Fully Prepared – Perhaps you’ve heard the expression: “luck is when opportunity meets preparation”. People don’t just “get lucky” in private practice. It isn’t something that just happens for any of us. On any given day, you are surrounded by myriad opportunities, any one of which could be “the one”. But if you aren’t prepared for them, they won’t even enter into your awareness. Or perhaps you’ll be aware of them but won’t really take any action on them.

    When I’m coaching therapists, I will often hear them confess ┬áthat they often don’t return phone calls from potential new clients. You may be surprised when you read this, but chances are you can really relate with it as well. Perhaps you’ve even been there yourself. I’ll admit that I did it when I was starting out and had now idea how to handle new client calls. Some may consider this a “self-sabotaging” behavior, but I don’t usually see it that way.

    Instead, what I’ve come to realize is that this is luck in action. The universe has presented an opportunity in the form of a client in need of therapy. And that opportunity WILL find the therapist that is best equipped to handle it. If you are one who doesn’t return phone calls, or perhaps you’ve waited a few days before you call back, that’s just an indication that you aren’t fully prepared to answer the opportunity you’ve been presented with.

    Don’t judge yourself or feel guilty about it. The good news is that you can change this, effective immediately. Just make the decision that you are going to fully prepare yourself for wherever you want your practice to grow. Develop the skills you need to confidently handle new client calls if that’s an area of growth for you. Learn to be a confident public speaker, if you are weak in that area. Develop a system for attracting more referrals, if you aren’t getting enough now. Be aware that you must be fully prepared in order to be “lucky” enough to have the opportunities flow into your life.

  3. Not Investing in Yourself – The average cost of a Master’s Degree in 2013 was $26,042; if you earned a doctoral degree, the APA estimates that you will owe more than $75,000 in student loans. So we clinicians are ready and willing to invest in our clinical skills. In fact, we’re even willing to put ourselves into debt for 30 years in order to pay for the education. But what happens after graduation and licensure? Therapists quickly realize that they aren’t truly prepared for private practice: they haven’t gained the business and marketing skills that they’ll need to be successful.

    So here’s the part that truly baffles me: instead of investing in themselves to GAIN the business and marketing skills, many therapists give up on themselves. They’ve gotten maybe 80% of the way to their goal, and they don’t go that last 20%. That leaves many with excellent clinical skills, but falling short of following their dream.

    I can tell when I’m dealing with a therapist who hasn’t fully invested in herself because she usually has a practice that she’s worked really hard for several years to build. She’s committed her heart and soul to this, and even so, she’s just struggling to get by. She may see 9 or 10 clients per week, enough to keep her optimistic about the future, but not enough to really be considered successful.

    When I work with therapists in this situation, I can tell that the problem doesn’t stem from a lack of commitment or a lack of effort. Often these therapists are working WAY TOO HARD. The problem is they are working too hard doing the wrong things, which results in frustration and lack of clients.

    If you’re working way too hard and not seeing the results you want in your practice, you probably fall into this category. Have you fully invested in yourself to get the training and coaching that you need to realize the success you deserve?

We have a tendency to look outside of ourselves to see what’s holding us back from true freedom, but I’d encourage you to look within and make sure you aren’t getting in the way of your own success.