Dealing With Private Practice Naysayers

By Allison Puryear, LCSW, CEDS on October 21, 2020

Starting your own business brings devil's advocates out in force, but starting a private practice can also really amp up your own self-doubt and negative self-talk. How do you keep from letting naysayers get in your head?

As you get started, and as you keep building, take time to check in with yourself. Are you getting what you want? Does your practice fit in with your lifestyle? Are you making choices rather than sacrifices?

What do you want in your practice? On a deeper level, what do YOU want for yourself? Think about work/life balance, think about income, think about ideal clients—what is your ideal life?

You have agency over your practice. You can set it up however you want. However, there are a lot of reasons and justifications out there to tell us why we can't have what we want. So, when you imagine what you want, some rebuttals are likely to arise regarding why it's not possible or reasonable.

Here are a few truths: if you're marketing well, you can set your practice up however you want and fill it. Rebuttals are not always accurate.

Many of us have acquired some learned helplessness from the agencies we've been a part of. Sometimes, that's compounded by experiences in our childhood or adolescence. I think most of us have always assumed that work is work and we shouldn't expect it to be amazing.

But then again, why is it that most of us don’t consider our work to be something amazing? After all, it can be. Yes, you still have to write notes, but in private practice, you don't have to deal with an inappropriate boss, or a threatening client, or a 12 hour day.

Another truth: there are PLENTY of us living a pretty damn good life as private practitioners because we’ve set things up exactly how we want them. There's no reason for why I should get to have that and you shouldn't. You deserve it as much as anyone. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are influenced by those around us. That may reinforce some doubts. 

We're even impacted by negative influences. People who insist that "private practice isn't a cakewalk; you work long, hard hours and barely take home more than you did in an agency, and the pressure is all on you," can actually be speaking some truth if you’ve done a poor job setting up your practice. The key takeaway here is this: don't do that. 

We're influenced by naysayers who say private practice "doesn't work." That statement has absolutely no truth to it, nor is it based on any real evidence—just falsehoods. 

We're influenced by shamers who say things like, "Oh, you don't take insurance? Well, I'm not in it for the money," or "You work with a niche? I believe everyone deserves help." Shamers can be quite toxic, as they present their judgments as righteousness and don't have insight into the fact that your choices about your practice and your life are just as valid as theirs. 

Finding a good community is vital. Having examples of different practices that are inspiring is imperative. Yes, you can see teens during school hours, even outside of COVID. Yes, you can work 3 days a week. Yes, you can charge $200/session. Yes, you can take a month off. Yes, you can have a sliding scale. Yes, you can make insurance work for you.

We all need good examples, information about what people learned along the way, and supporters.

I rarely encourage anyone to spend more time on social media, but if it feels like you're swimming upstream and looking for a better community, there are some great social media groups for private practice owners out there.

* The content of this post is intended to serve as general advice and information. It is not to be taken as legal advice and may not account for all rules and regulations in every jurisdiction. For legal advice, please contact an attorney.

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