- on September 9, 2015
How to Build a Thriving Therapy Practice: Walking the Business and Vocation Tightrope
I have always loved helping people. It is something that I feel passionate about. I heard early on that it was a “calling” of mine and many people encouraged me to pursue a career in counseling.
So during my time in full-time ministry I was most often drawn to the aspects of pastoring that involved counseling and pastoral care. I had an undergrad degree in psychology, but very little experience in actually counseling people as I understood the word then. And when I did my Master of Divinity degree I didn’t do any counseling classes.
But it was in about my third year as the college pastor at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles that I realized I needed to go back to graduate school for counseling if I was going to be effective as I wanted to be as a pastor. I could refer students out to other therapists, but I loved the pastoral counseling aspect of ministry and wanted to dive in deep.
So off to graduate school I went to pursue my Master of Science in Marital and Family Therapy while I was working as the college pastor.
When Vocation and Business Collide
I had pursued counseling and therapy because it was something I was passionate about. It was a calling. It was true vocation for me. That is why I got into therapy.
But something happens along the way as you find yourself in a therapy practice and launching out into private practice. It happened to me and it’s happened to most of the therapists that I know who set out in private practice as well. My calling and vocation came colliding into the realities of the business side of running a private practice. That was a very sobering moment for me. There was a lot of emotions that I experienced at that time (that’s for another post) and I struggled with how to keep both my passion alive for therapy, while dealing with all the aspects of the business side of therapy: session fees, notes, marketing, advertising, networking, referral networks, training, etc.
What had always just been a passion, and really a hobby of mine…helping people…was now a business. And if I didn’t learn how to treat it as a business, my doors wouldn’t be open very long, and I wouldn’t be able to use my gifts to live out my vocation and help the people I wanted to help. But I also wanted to remember that it was first and foremost a calling and vocation of mine.
This struggle brought forth a huge mindshift for me and something that I’m still learning to improve on. In fact, last year I did some extensive work with two therapy business coaches to help me better learn how to navigate both the vocation and business side of therapy.
Be a Responsible Steward of Both
I want to encourage you in closing to be a responsible steward of both your calling/vocation, as well as the business side of your vocation. They both need each other.
When I’m responsible to only my vocation and not the business side of it, it becomes impossible to have a healthy, viable practice, that keeps its doors open and provides great therapy to those who are in need of it. When I ignore the business realities I may find that my vocation will soon only have its practice and expression in the confines of friends who want therapy advice.
When I’m responsible to only my business and the realities of it, it becomes impossible to keep the passion and calling alive that first brought me to the world of therapy in the first place. I get caught up in all the details of the business that it can become quite easy to obsess over marketing or income, and many other things that take the focus off of vocation. When I ignore the vocation realities I may find that my business will soon only have its practice and expression in the stale confines of a passionless practice.
Vocation and business. Both need each other. A private practice needs both. So I encourage you to never lose the passion and calling that brought you to this wonderful vocation. I can’t believe how lucky I am to get to do what I do each day. It’s a real blessing. But I also encourage you to remember that a private practice needs smart business savvy in order for it to be healthy, viable and available to all the people you desire to work with.
So do things that feed both vocation and business and you will find yourself with a private practice that you love.