By Sarah Marandi-Steeves, LCSW
From the moment I knew I wanted to be a therapist, I also knew I wanted to be a therapist in private practice. This was a long-time dream of mine and I remember spending time envisioning myself in this role. What my office would look like, the clients I would serve, the feeling of happiness I would undoubtedly experience. However, this dream was quickly squashed upon starting graduate school. I remember sitting in class, feeling so discouraged as the professors always eluded that private practice work was something which needed to be done “way down the road.” When you hear something enough, you begin to believe it. Fast forward to working in the field following graduate school, and I felt as though that dream was moving even further and further away.
See, if you are like me, you graduated with your MSW and felt full of hope, promise, and excitement. You dreamed of doing BIG things in the mental health field and your passion for helping others made you feel as though you were on top of the world. Then, slowly, agency life starts to chip away at that excitement. High caseloads, long hours, unpaid overtime, crisis after crisis, as well as little resources and even less support begin to change the way you think about your career-path. Long story short after years in this setting, I was burnt out, overwhelmed, and seriously considering a career change.
I couldn’t believe that same girl who was full of so much excitement and hope was seriously considering leaving the field she loved so much. Then I had my “ah-ha” moment. It wasn’t the field that was making me unhappy, it was my setting. Despite my stress, I absolutely loved the clinical work I was doing. I loved working with my clients. I loved being a therapist and above all else, I believed in the power of mental health treatment. What I realized was I just didn’t love being a therapist in an agency setting. So, I decided to make the biggest change of my entire life. I decided I was going to start my very own private practice.
Having this idea was one thing, but carrying it out was quite another. Remember when I said I was trained to believe owning a private practice was something you did “way down the road?” Remember when I said that when you hear something enough you begin to believe it? Well, all of the self-doubt, negative self-talk, and anxiety came flooding in, as I had essentially convinced myself a private practice wouldn't be in the cards for me until I was “much older” (aka retired from agency life.) I mean, I was in my late 20s for goodness sake! What did I know about running a business?! Couple my own self-doubt with the doubt from others and I was a perfectly packaged ball of anxiety.
Then it hit me. How can I support, encourage, motivate, and inspire my clients to follow their dreams and reach their goals if I wasn’t doing the same for myself? I knew this was the next step for me and I was not going to let my anxiety stop me from finding my happiness. And here’s the kicker, the anxiety I felt was totally normal and appropriate. I mean here I was, thinking about starting a brand new business. Making a major life change. Leaving my comfort zone (and yes, even though my work setting at the time had me feeling miserable, I was still comfortable in that misery because it was familiar and what I knew.) The difference was I wasn’t going to allow that anxiety to dictate my decision making anymore. Instead, I used that anxiety to fuel me going forward.
If you’re reading this and feeling as though this information resonates with you, you are not alone! I have yet to connect with a therapist in private practice who didn’t feel the same way upon starting their practice. My hope is that after you read this post, you are going to change that fear to fuel moving forward. My hope is that after you read this post, you’ll know you can follow your dreams, too.
So, how did I do it? How did I manage the anxiety around starting a private practice?!
I stopped listening to anyone around me who had negative feedback about this decision. Now, I am in no way saying if you don’t like something someone has to say just ignore it because I did have people in my life who were giving me sound advice to ensure I was considering everything prior to making this jump, even when the information they provided was difficult to hear at times. However, there is a big difference between someone giving you advice in your best interest vs. someone being straight up negative. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, motivate you, inspire you, and want to see you succeed.
Pro tip: Ditch the haters.
I continued to seek my own therapy during this transition. I have struggled with anxiety my whole life and having my own therapist to support me during this transitional time was incredibly helpful in not only reducing my anxiety, but helping me better manage it to ensure it was not becoming a barrier.
Pro tip: Do some reflection around whether or not this may be an applicable next step for you as well.
I consulted with other mental health providers in private practice to learn more about the process. This was incredibly helpful for me and gave me so much insight into the ins and outs of private practice. This also helped me see that having my own private practice was 100% attainable.
Pro tip: This is where 1:1 coaching services are incredibly valuable! Hiring my business coach, who was also a licensed mental health therapist, was a game-changer for me and one of the best investments I made for my business!
I surrounded myself with like minded individuals. I started to spend more time connecting with other entrepreneurs, and not just entrepreneurs who were therapists, but entrepreneurs in various settings. Being around other entrepreneurs who understood what my “new normal” looked like was incredibly helpful in navigating the changes which came with starting this new chapter in my career. I no longer felt isolated and felt as though I had a solid group of people who “got it.”
Pro tip: Social media is a great way to connect with fellow entrepreneurs!
I read. A LOT. I’m a bookworm by nature and I love to read. However, reading books about business, money management, entrepreneur empowerment, and self-love really helped in reducing my anxiety during this process. Reading these types of books helped me feel more confident in myself as well as motivated to keep moving forward.
Pro Tip: Not sure where to start? Check out books by Gabrielle Bernstein, Rachel Hollis, Jen Sincero, Timothy Ferris, Daymond John, and John C. Maxwell!
Similar to reading, I listened to a lot of podcasts around the same topics, too! If reading isn’t your thing, try a podcast!
Pro tip: Some of my favorites are “Thinking Like A Boss” by Kate Crocco, “Selling The Couch” by Melvin Varghese, PH.D., “Goal Digger” by Jenna Kutcher, “Practice of th Practice” by Joe Sanok, and “Rise” by Rachel Hollis.
I embraced my anxiety. Anxiety is often looked at as a negative, however, anxiety is not always a bad thing. If it weren’t for my anxiety, I don’t know that I would have been as motivated to succeed as I was. I channeled my anxiety and used it to help me move forward in this journey.
Pro tip: YOU GOT THIS! If you struggle with anxiety, think about how you can channel that anxiety to help you, not hinder you!
I shifted my mindset. I went from “I can’t” to “I CAN.” From “Maybe…” to “I WILL.” From “one day” to “TODAY.”
Pro tip: If you want to start your private practice, write down all of the fear based reasons holding you back. Then, write down all of the reasons why those fear based reasons are just that, FEAR BASED. We are therapists and we know how the brain works. We also know how sneaky and tricky anxiety can be! Combat those fear based thoughts with logic and I guarantee you’ll be surprised to see that the dream you have of starting your own practice really isn’t as far out of reach as you think!
I stopped looking at agency life as a burden and started looking at all of the opportunities which were available to me in that setting. I had access to so many wonderful training opportunities, both clinically and administratively. I gained an irreplaceable amount of knowledge, training, and experience that I would not have obtained otherwise, all of which helped me in my private practice.
Pro tip: Look at all of the ways your current work setting can prepare you for your own practice one day. Every opportunity, whether good or bad, is an opportunity for growth and learning.
Are there more ways to reduce the anxiety around starting your own practice? Absolutely! However, this post was meant to serve as a starting point for those looking to start their own practice and I am hopeful these tips will serve as a great start for anyone reading this. It’s a new year, full of new opportunities for growth. For me, I am entering 2019 with a thriving, fully booked private practice. I have financial freedom, a schedule which is conducive to my lifestyle while still serving my clients, as well as true happiness and peace. My worst day in private practice is still way better than my best day in agency life. So, what will YOUR 2019 bring?!
Sarah is a licensed clinical social worker who owns and operates a thriving therapeutic private practice based in NY. Her practice specializes in mental health treatment for children, families, and young adults. Sarah also offers 1:1 coaching services for mental health professionals looking to build their own private practice and even created an 8 week digital course which focuses on all of the ins and outs of starting your own practice. Sarah has a blog which focuses on mental health, wellness, and entrepreneurship as she loves sharing her wisdom and expertise with all of her readers! Sarah has dedicated her career to helping others and firmly believes everyone is entitled to live their best life as well as believes everyone can achieve true happiness and success. Sarah has a passion for the mental health field and considers herself an advocate in reducing the stigma around mental health. Sarah has worked hard to build a career and lifestyle which not only are conducive to her needs but also serves so many others in the process. It is because of her ability to achieve happiness, success, and overall wellness that she believes others are capable of doing the same. Her goal is to inspire and motivate others to achieve their goals and create the life they want to live without fear, anxiety, or self-doubt holding them back.
Where to Connect with Sarah
Digital Course: https://www.smsteeves.com/digital-course
1:1 Coaching link: https://www.smsteeves.com/coaching
Hello! Welcome to my Blog on self care . I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Yoga Teacher.