The Long and Winding Road: Spotlight on Stephanie Macadaan, LMFT

Written by Natasha Merchant on May 17, 2017

The individuals that make up our SimplePractice community come from incredibly diverse backgrounds and experiences. Our Spotlight series is our chance to share their stories with you, and shine a light on life as a behavioral health professional. Through these interviews, we learn about their specialties, struggles, and the epiphanies that come with experience.

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The moment I walk into Stephanie Macadaan’s office, I feel at ease. It’s cozy and maintains bright, fresh colors. It reminds me of spring. She greets me with a smile.

This isn’t the first time we’re meeting. Stephanie was one of the customers that welcomed us with open arms when we were doing local field visits back in February. It was five of us back then, grilling her with questions about how she uses SimplePractice and how her practice operates.

This time around, her office is a little less crowded, and we have time to have a conversation about the winding road that influenced her decision to become a therapist. Her story includes experiences in the technology world, life as a single mother, her strides as a therapist-entrepreneur, and much more.

Natasha: Hi Stephanie! Glad we have a chance to hang out again. I’d love to hear more about the path you took to get to this point in your career.

Stephanie: It’s interesting as I look back because in a lot of ways I always worked as a therapist in many different capacities. When I was really young, about seven years old, I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Immediately, I wanted to help other kids like me. So, I worked as a mentor for the Arthritis Foundation, where I was matched with other newly diagnosed kids. I’d go meet with them, talk to them about what I’d been through, and provide general support.

I always tell people that, in a way, I became a therapist at age seven. I went through school knowing that I wanted to pursue this career… but I ended up having my son right when I graduated from college.

At the time, it didn’t really make sense to continue on to graduate school. I was a single mom and I ended up working as a mentor for other single moms. Now I have a 23 year old, 16 year old, and 14 year old! All boys. My oldest is becoming a police officer!

N: So you basically have mentorship in your blood.

S: Yes! It started early and it was just always my experience, whether I was aware of it or not.

N: What happened next?

S: Well… I got divorced. I decided that this was a time in my life where I could start everything from scratch. I love the quote by JK Rowling, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

I figured, “Okay, this is the perfect opportunity to go back to school and do what I really want to do and use all these life experiences I’ve had”, because like I said, I had a chronic condition, and I was a single mom.

I was married, living an upper-middle-class lifestyle… and then I was divorced living in a two-bedroom apartment. At that point in time, I felt like I had so many experiences that made it the right time to become a therapist. That was the journey that led me to this profession. All of the experiences I’ve had are so helpful to the job now.

N: That’s quite the windy road! What are three things you wish you knew when you were first starting out in private practice?

S: First, I would say definitely find a niche market in your practice that you are passionate about and make sure to get extra training around it. I love working with couples, and I’m currently going through the process to get certified in emotionally-focused therapy. It’s been amazing for my practice and for my confidence in working with couples. So, that was a huge thing for me.

Second, make sure to be firm with your boundaries—like for cancellations and regarding what you charge. Have a solid structure in place that you really stick to, because I think it’s so important for clients to see that you’re modeling a consistent system or behavior.

And finally, don’t be afraid of looking for help! I got a business coach because you can’t be skilled at everything. I’m comfortable with marketing my practice and all of the technology involved, but I definitely needed help with handling finances. Getting support in areas that you may not have strengths in is key.

N: How did you get to that point where you were able to feel comfortable marketing yourself and using different platforms to propel your practice?

S: It was really tricky at the beginning because no one teaches us any of that! I think my background in tech has helped so much, especially with feeling more comfortable marketing myself. A lot of my practice promotion is through Facebook Live and even podcasts. Other people are more comfortable giving talks at a community center, which totally isn’t my thing. Different things work for different people!

N: What’s your perception of mental health and how to you make sure you’re aware of not only your clients’ mental health, but also your own?

S: It was so interesting when I started studying this and implementing it in my routine, but meditation is just so important! It’s everywhere, “Meditation, meditation, meditation.” I joined this place called The Den Meditation that’s really close to my office and the great thing about it is that you can just go in for a quick 30 or 45 minutes when you have time in your schedule. It’s a quiet place to sit for a little bit and do guided meditations. It’s something new that I’m trying out, but I really enjoy it and have already noticed the benefits. I often mention that to my clients, as well, because we so rarely quiet our minds enough to not be multitasking all the time.

N: So true. Howard, the CEO of SimplePractice, is constantly telling us about the benefits of meditation. We actually have a daily meditation now. We set aside ten minutes a day to meditate together.

S: Yeah, you only need a little bit! That’s what I always say. Even if you only have a couple minutes to do a quick breathing exercise, I think it’s really about pausing and checking in with yourself. So much of therapy involves self-awareness. That’s what I’m working with my clients on—helping them be more self-aware. Meditation is just a part of that.

N: How do you coach your clients into being more self-aware?

S: Well, to me, the idea of being self-aware is about making connections and understanding why certain things trigger you like they do. It may involve making connections to past relationships and experiences and trying to make sense of it. It’s understanding yourself more and thinking about why things impact you the way they do.

I also think there’s a lot of power in “The Pause”. So many times we react automatically to things, similar to a knee jerk reaction. Being able to implement this pause, where you actually think about how you want to respond instead of immediately reacting, is key to self-awareness because it allows you to have more control over how you respond to things.

N: So… how do you practice what you preach?

S: It definitely requires a daily reminder since it’s not something that comes naturally. It’s sort of like going to the gym and dieting, you have to push yourself to reach your goals.

I also think it’s really important to refrain from putting a ton of pressure on yourself to adapt to the habits you’re trying to form. Understand that it ebbs and flows and that some days you’ll be really good at taking care of yourself, and other days it’s just gonna go out the window. Make sure to check in with yourself and ask, “What do I need? Do I need to just lay on the couch and watch Real Housewives?”

N: What are you doing right now outside of your practice?

S: I recently moved, which took many months, but now I’m all situated. It was a really fun project. I redid our place, bought new furniture, and sold all of my old furniture. It was a very cathartic experience. It was nice that I was able to purge everything and go through the process of deciding what was important and what was not. I was super thoughtful about redecorating and made sure that there was some meaning behind it. I got a little trinket plate that lives by the front door that says, “The best is yet to come”.

Another big thing that I’ve been working on, which is somewhat related to my practice, is my support group for women going through divorce. I started it because divorce and break-ups, in general, are such pivotal times in life. There’s a lot of loss, and it can feel very disorienting and chaotic, and sometimes you don’t know where to go. But, what I’ve found through personal experience and through working with my clients is that it is such a prime time. There’s so much potential for growth, finding your strength, and empowering yourself. So many people can get lost in the pain and don’t experience the opportunity to use it as a learning experience—so that they can grow, get stronger, and amaze themselves.

N: What kind of advice would you give to private practitioners that are just starting out? Someone who’s trying to build up their client base?

S: Well… it really is true that you just have to be patient and understand that it’s a process, and it has its ups and downs. I’ve experienced periods of time where I’m like, “I might get to be full before I know it.” And then all of a sudden it’s,  “Why hasn’t my phone rang? What’s going on?” Whenever that happens, I notice that I feel more stress and tension which is hard to ignore. It’s almost like a negative energy that results, you know?

Recently I heard the phrase, being “in flow”, and I just loved it. It really resonates with me because it means you’re just flowing with what’s going on. You’re not fighting against it and you’re not stressing about it. Some things are easier than others. Sometimes you’re allowed to feel like, “I don’t care. I’m stressed, and I’m gonna be, so whatever.”

So, I think it’s really learning to kind of “ride the rollercoaster” and to be okay with the fact that it’s going to be a rollercoaster. It’s been very hard for me, as a single mom. I had to learn to not stress myself out. It’s easy to stress yourself out with all the ups and downs that come with running a private practice.


Stephanie uses SimplePractice to help streamline her practice so that she can spend more time with her clients, building out her support group, and marketing her practice.

We would love to help you spend more time on the things that matter. If you’re interested in building a stronger practice and joining the SimplePractice community, just use Stephanie’s referral link to get started with a 30 day free trial.

 

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About the Author

Natasha is the Community Manager at SimplePractice. She adds avocado to everything and enjoys spending her free time outdoors, in the sun.

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