And some informal research I conducted after doing my psychotherapy training suggests that most post-diploma students see on average only 6 people a week.
It’s a bit of an indictment that the professions supposed to be helping the rest of us live well haven’t quite cracked it themselves, don’t you think?
This was something I was discussing with a colleague recently. We’re both successful in our own respects, currently morphing our work to become even more congruent with who we are, both working across therapeutic and coaching modalities. And we were talking about the challenges inherent in all of this.
“Nobody teaches you how to do any of this,” we said.
And it’s true.
Few trainings spend time helping you think about the business side of things at all. Never mind how, if you’ve been in practice for some time and want to change, how you do so and stay profitable.
There’s little guidance from within these professions on how you attract a different kind of work to you.
How you maintain good relationship and ethical practice in the process of switching.
Or how, heaven forbid, you work with integrity across different skill sets.
Here are, however, four insights I’ve had at the coal face.
Business skills are as critical as professional skills
Coach and therapy trainings focus on building your skills of supporting people change and grow. But there’s little on how you take these skills to the world in a way that’s of mutual benefit to you and it.
Over the course of a four-year part-time psychotherapy training, I had one evening’s lecture, at some point towards the end, on how to run a practice. In a nutshell the advice was: set up a bank account; get business cards printed; make sure you’re listed in the key directories. Oh, and if you’re feeling brave and have some money, get a website.
Nobody taught me how to consider my practice as a business, much less how to make a profit from it. In fact I’d go so far as to say that my college had a bit of a problem with the idea that therapy work wasn’t some sort of charitable venture. Which I guess is okay if you’ve got an inheritance or a rich spouse. But rubbish for those of us who want to make a difference and fund ourselves well in the process.
I was fortunate that my first career was in the commercial world. Still, it hasn’t stopped me investing a small fortune on supporting myself to build my business smarts.
It’s all about serving the client
In both coaching and therapy there’s so much bullshit. Models, jargon language, standard diagnoses.
Sometimes we need to upend the applecart and see things through our client’s eyes. What has she come for? What kind of language is she using to describe what she needs and wants from you? And can you meet her there?
Look at most therapist or coach websites and they’ll talk about what they do. In fairness it’s just them implementing the business advice in the first point above. But thinking about what it delivers is quite something else again.
That takes practice before you know the sort of results you do indeed help create. And that needs you to build a belief that you’re potent.
I’m a player in the whole thing too
In both coach and therapy training, the implicit client-getting model is that it’s all done by referral, and you should be pretty happy when someone – anyone! – comes along. And pays you whatever they’re offering. Normally not a lot.
In contrast, we’re also taught that good outcomes depend on good relationships. And the last time I checked that meant that both people needed to have skin in the game.
Many folks come into these professions believing that they can work more on their terms. Wanting to be as present as they can be for their work.
But then there’s scant regard given to helping them think about what that means in practice. Who their “best-fit” clients are likely to be. How much of the work they want or need to do. What kind of money they want and need to be paid.
That requires some marketing knowledge on the one hand, and the ability to value yourself highly on the other.
Both require the kind of work that’s not often addressed in college.
Who I am at work is not static
In both coach and therapy training, we spend a lot of time focusing on how to support people through periods of transformation. We consider how people are not static, and how the world’s labels can constrain the soul. How important it is to “live your truth”.
Then we allow coaching and therapy to become their own form of boxes. As defining and constraining as any other.
Add to this the snobbish dividing line that separates forms of coaching and therapy, and the paucity of good supervisors who understand the power of using different modalities and can hold all of your practice, and you realise how tough it is to live your truth as you work within them.
Again a huge paradox give the nature of each beast.
So, those are my learnings. How does any of this jive – or not – for you? I’m curious to hear your reflections!