Accessing Quality Counselling: My Personal Fundamentals in Private Practice Work
Accessing therapy has been easier than ever before. You can search for therapists online, nearly anywhere in the world! Therapists are accessible either in-person, by phone or video, and even through secure instant messaging. Our ability to expand our searches to get the support we need is more available now then it had been maybe 5-10 years ago. So, why is it so hard to get an appointment with a therapist then??
With seasonal lows giving folks a rough go in their day-to-day life, and complex issues that are bound to arise as it is, the need to access quality therapy is in high demand. Armed with your goal of gaining more clarity and learning some coping strategies, you start your Google search for therapists in your local area. Before long, you come across names, contact numbers and emails, and consultation opportunities. After all the nitty gritty searching and contacting you hear..."the next opening is in 3-6 months." Ummm....what?!
When you need therapy and decide to take that step forward by reaching out, you don't expect to hit the "waitlist wall." In my past year in private practice, I have questioned myself on how I wanted to create a name for myself as a therapist in my community and stand out from the crowd. There are so many options for therapy out there, so why would a potential client pick me? After some soul searching and professional development, I have built my practice on the following personal foundations that I wanted to share with all of you who have stumbled across this post:
1. Accessing therapy is overwhelming and daunting. Choosing a therapist that is right for you is equally as scary and uncertain. The first fundamental I offer prospective clients is a free 15-minute phone consultation. This gives any potential client a non-committal opportunity to get to know me, ask questions about my practices, and understand how I run my business. As an independent therapist in private practice, it was important for me to translate all this information to clients before they made the effort to come and see me and most importantly, pay for a first session they were somewhat unsure about. The phone consultation is one fundamental in my practice that is an informal Q&A for any new client to get a sense of who I am, as both therapist and human being, before taking the step in booking their first session.
2. My practice is built on a "no waitlist policy," in that current and potential clients are offered a variety of options to access support and therapeutic care. In-person sessions undoubtedly book up quickly, especially during particularly triggering seasons (i.e. fall and winter months). To prevent me from turning away someone in need of support, I offer virtual sessions as a way to connect to potential clients when they have hit the "waitlist wall" a little too often. Although virtual sessions aren't preferable to everyone, the ability to access therapy in a busy, fast-paced, and every moving world is the second fundamental of my practice.
3. Accessibility to book and request appointments is made easier through my online booking site. My third fundamental in private practice work is accessibility for clients. I pride myself on working for my clients, as well as with them, on their journey towards personal development. Being able to see a schedule and pick an appointment that works for you takes some of the pressure off of trying to email back and forth with your therapist, or play phone tag. Convenience is important and I know that all too well!
4. The fourth personal fundamental is my goal of making each and every client feel at home and safe in my therapeutic space. I have designed my office to look and feel like a living room; with blankets, cozy pillows, a diffuser, and dim lighting to set a calming atmosphere. I have also recently included a little coffee/tea bar for clients to kick back and chat with me in the comfort of what feels like being in a living room. Clients have expressed that they feel comfortable and at-ease in my office, which has always been a fundamental aspect of my practice, since day one!
5. I aim at being as transparent about mental health and my professional competencies as possible. My fifth and final fundamental (at least for now) is my goal of being appropriately transparent about myself as a therapist. Sometimes there is this expectation that therapists place on themselves about trying to hold it all together, all the time. But we are human too, and to be a great therapist, I believe in transparency with my clients in a meaningful way. I am open about my own struggles with anxiety and how I have received my own therapy to get through challenging times. As a therapist, I ensure that I seek my own therapy as a means to release some counter-transference (aka: taking in the problems of others as your own). This also ensures my competency to continually support my clients with a clear head and heart. I also believe in being transparent about what I CAN and CAN'T help a client overcome in their journey. Although I wish I could know all the answers or solve every concern that is presented to me, I know that is not possible. Part of being a new therapist is accepting the fact that the learning never ends and you will consistently be seeking ways to grow; both professionally and personally. When a concern or presenting issue is out of my scope of practice or I feel as though I can no longer support you at this stage in your journey, I will offer support and guidance in helping you advance to where you need to go. I aim at supporting clients where I am comfortable being able to offer support. Sometimes this means sending you to another clinician who has more experience and knowledge in the areas you need it most.
I hope this post has helped you understand my practices a little bit more, while also getting to know me as a therapist as well. Therapy is all about growth and I actively engage in my own personal growth as I encourage my clients to do the same. Understanding personal values benefits the fundamentals you strive to embody in your business. I hope this has given you a glimpse of who I am, both as therapist and person.