At SimplePractice, we love the idea of therapists building efficient and successful practices — so last week, when I read a Facebook post from a seasoned but frustrated therapist asking the question, “What if having a full and sustainable private practice doesn’t actually exist?”, it made me curious about the sense of scarcity among therapists.
The idea of a scarcity mentality was outlined by Steven Covey in the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People: “Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else.”
Among therapists, you can find scarcity conversations in many forms: in the undercutting of fees in referral groups, in repetitive insistence about market saturation, and in their underlying frustration and angst about the future of their practices.
It’s not all that surprising when you think about the uniqueness of people in the therapy profession. We’re born to serve others, to do it all with having no issues ourselves, and all while not charging for it. Then you add in the messages constantly bombarding us in grad school summed up in a single sentence: “You didn’t go into this to make money.” (If I had a nickel for that sentiment, I actually might be rich). On top of that, internships pay next to nothing and there is little training to prepare therapists to run a business.
It’s enough to make anyone feel hopeless for the future of his or her practice.
I started to wonder, Is this actually true? Is having a full practice really impossible? I reached out to a couple different Facebook groups to find out if anyone actually had a full and successful practice (defined by them) or if everyone is one client termination away from a new career. I found dozens of people successfully making it as private practitioners.
- “I started part-time in August and have been full time since mid-January. I’ve been seeing 18-24 clients each week since then. And my less than 20 a week were during weeks I took a day off.” Bina Bird, LMFT, Haslet Counseling
- “100% possible. I started last May and have been consistently ‘full’ since last August. ‘Full’ for me is 25+ clients a week with a caseload of 55 clients. ‘Full’ also means being able to live comfortably and not have anxiety about how I am able to pay the bills, which for me is probably 15-20 clients a week depending.” Danielle Kepler, LCPC, Chicago Counselling and Therapy
- “I’ve had my practice for 5 years. I’m full. So full in fact I hire people and they are full. We have a waitlist. We are 100% private pay, I cannot imagine this will change unless the economy collapses.” Amber Hawley, LMFT, Fremont Counseling Services
And this was only from a quick poll on social media. Every day, I talk to therapists who are making great money doing work they love during hours they’ve chosen.
Whether your practice is thriving or not, we are all subject to feeling like there’s not enough to go around. But how can we shift to a more abundant mindset that flows, “…out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security” and that “results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.” (Steven Covey)
Here are a few ways that you can start to shift to an abundance mindset that can ultimately contribute to a thriving practice:
- Acknowledge where you are. Identify areas where you’re operating from a scarcity mentality. Do you feel jealous of your colleagues? Are you afraid to invest in your business? Do you panic when you lose a client? Diving a little deeper into what’s underneath the fear can help clear a path towards more abundant thinking and open up possibilities.
- Practice giving. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more you give, the more you get. Giving comes in so many forms. Perhaps you start a supportive group, or call to check on a colleague, or refer a client better suited for someone else. Share your time or your knowledge and provide value to those around you.
- Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude! This is on everyone’s list, and for good reason. Practicing gratitude helps you focus on the good in your life. It also reveals your many strengths and the possibilities that exist all around you. Try writing down 10 things at the end of each day that you are grateful for to build that muscle.
- Choose to see evidence that supports your vision. If you are looking at the world through the filter of “no one is successful,” you will certainly find plenty to prove it. Flip the conversation and begin to talk to successful therapists in your area, or seek support from other motivated and growing private practice owners.
- Quit comparing yourself. Constant comparison is a thief of joy and abundance. Social media feeds the fire of comparison as much as anything. Take a break from your media consumption and spend some time offline reconnecting to your own strengths and contributions.
Building a successful private practice, like any business, takes time and strategy. It may not be easy, but it is absolutely possible. Growth begets more growth, just as scarcity perpetuates feelings of lack. Sometimes it just takes a few small perspective shifts to see the abundance that already exists in your practice and in your life.
In the comments below, I’d love to hear about your own mindset shifts in building your practice. What has worked for you or what is an area that you’re working on? Let us know!