This week we interviewed Shari Warner, a SimplePractice customer based in Florida, about her unconventional path from practicing law to practicing therapy. As a licensed attorney, Shari has carried her professional ideals and previous experience with managing her law practice into her current private practice, Serendipity Counseling & Consulting LLC. Check out all the reasons she chose SimplePractice to help with her transition!
Hi, Shari! Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Oh boy. So my background is unusual. I am a licensed attorney here in the state of Florida and I’ve been practicing law since 1999. I was approximately 8 to 10 years into my practice when I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I liked it and I was good at what I did, but I just wasn’t fulfilled.
I truly enjoyed having a daily practice and talking to my clients. What’s funny is that we’d usually talk about things that had nothing to do with their legal matters and everything to do with interpersonal relationships and their life in general… I didn’t know what that was called. I researched it for a while, about a year and a half to two years, as to what this was called and what I would need to do in order to be able to do that full time and that’s the point in time where I began my transition out of the legal profession and into the therapy profession.
Wow, two very different fields!
They are very similar in some ways. Although, as an attorney, I helped my clients navigate the legal system, and as a therapist, I help clients navigate life. I’m still providing assistance to people who need it, but you’re right, they’re almost polar opposites!
The law is also very fact based. You’re dealing with precise facts and there are precise rules that those facts must comply with in order for you to reach your desired result. When you work with people as a therapist, it’s not quite the same. Facts may not always be facts. It’s always subjective. You’re working with emotions and there are so many other factors that go into it- it’s definitely not as clear cut as the law is.
How did you make the transition from a 100% fact-based career to a more interpersonal career?
It’s been difficult at times. From 9-5 I work at a substance abuse facility and then I have my private practice in the evening. It took me a while to realize that I couldn’t apply the same principles that I did in the legal world to my work in the behavioral health world, it just didn’t work. It took a good year and a half for me to realize that I needed to adjust my way of thinking in order to be more helpful to those in need.
Did you have any help along the way? How did you get to this point today?
I did! I had great mentors in a variety of disciplines including professionals in the social work field and the mental health field who helped guide me and shape me. They helped me find my own boundaries between being too emotional and being too factual, the happy medium that makes me more effective! I really appreciate all the knowledge and insight that I’ve received along the way.
Mentorship is key! Would you say you had a hard time learning the business aspects of running a private practice?
It wasn’t too difficult for me since I had my own practice when I was a lawyer. One of the things I was able to identify as something I absolutely needed to get started was a practice management software that would allow me to do several different things without taking me a ton of time in doing those things. So I researched countless platforms before I even opened my practice; The cost of implementation, if I’d get a good bang for my buck, what kind of training would be required… the list goes on. It was very overwhelming. In that first round of research, I didn’t even see SimplePractice! I only saw others that didn’t make a huge impression on me. I stopped my research for a while and when I decided to start looking again, SimplePractice came up! I remember thinking to myself, “Wait a minute, I don’t remember this one.”
What was it about SimplePractice that hooked you?
The SimplePractice interface is so user-friendly! I’m pretty computer savvy, but I don’t want to have to work hard to use a software. Some of the other EHR’s out there are not user-friendly at all. One of the things I really like about SimplePractice is that it’s clean. The design is clean and it’s easy to look at. When you’re documenting for two or three hours, you shouldn’t have to click multiple times to go from one place to the next- with SimplePractice you can see what you need to see. It’s clean, it’s simple, it’s to the point, it’s easy!
I work full-time in addition to running a private practice so I don’t have a whole lot of time to play around with software. I knew I eventually wanted to move into taking insurance and I was not savvy on that end at all and I needed something that was going to make things simple for me.
At the end of the day, if I want to see what’s going on, I can print out a report. I don’t have to think about it because I know that there’s a link that will take me to the screen I need, and I can easily print and I’m all set!
Tell me a little bit more about your private practice, Serendipity. Great name by the way!
It’s great word! I thought about what I wanted my practice to represent, and one of the things I’ve learned is that people usually don’t know what to expect going into therapy. Sometimes they go into therapy expecting to address one thing, but end up working on so much more. It happens to work better for them in the long run, better than they even imagined! That’s what serendipity is, it’s an unexpected happenstance, an unexpected surprise. It’s coming in not knowing what to expect and getting something great out of it. That’s what I hope to provide for my clients.
That’s awesome. Let’s move on to a topic that many therapists are familiar with. How have you gone about validating your skills in private practice?
One of the things I initially struggled with was valuing my own work as a therapist. When you’re just starting out and trying to break into the market with other clinicians who have been practicing for 10, 15 and 25 years who charge around $150, $200 per session, how do you begin to build your clientele? Newer therapists tend to sell themselves short in an effort to attract clients since they feel as if they don’t measure up to the more experienced therapists out there.
The most difficult lesson for me to learn was that I needed to maintain my worth and be okay with not getting every single client that comes my way. I can’t be willing to decrease my value as a therapist just to have one client come in, even if I am actively trying to build a successful private practice. If I maintained that mindset, I would have devalued myself, my practice, and my work as a clinician.
I had to take a really hard look at myself (and read a book or two about self-belief and self-confidence) to determine how I approach situations that involve my money mindset. Why did I think that I wasn’t worth $100 an hour or $150 an hour?
Once I pinpointed the source of my negative money mindset, I was able to work through it and say, “You know what, if I don’t value me, then my clients won’t value me”. At that point, I set a number and stuck with it. I’ve had calls from clients whose insurance I don’t take, and I give them my hourly rate and when they say “Oh I’m sorry, I can’t afford that”, I’m now okay with saying “Okay, would you like me to refer you to someone else?” At this point in my career, I absolutely need to maintain my value.
Other than developing a positive money mindset, what advice would you give someone just starting out as a private practitioner?
Talk to other people, talk to other clinicians who have been doing this, find out what hurdles, barriers, pitfalls they’ve encountered and what they’ve done to overcome them. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. There are others who have done it and are doing well. Always be open to suggestions and feedback from other people that have already been where you are right now.
Interested in learning more about Shari? Check out the following links:
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