I love psychotherapists. And this fact is no secret to anyone who knows me.
The great thing about working exclusively with therapists is that I get to hang out with them everyday. And after years of having the privilege of sharing space and time with therapists, I’ve come up with this list of things I wish private practice psychotherapists knew.
1. Who You Are Matters To Us
If you hold a strong belief system, one that has affected your approach to your studies and current treatment methods and modalities, claim it and be proud! And use it in your marketing. Shine your light and attract your tribe.
I literally selected my best ever therapist because she had written on her directory profile that she’s a feminist. As a feminist myself who had just read feminist psychology, I just so happened to be looking for a feminist therapist. Part of my requirements for what would make a good therapist for me is feminism! So whatever your thing is, let it be known, stop hiding.
Self disclosure can be what allows your best fit client to see you as their best fit too. So self disclose that stuff. It’s kinda awesome.
2. We Rely On You To Tell Us You’re Not A Good Fit
We don’t know even a fraction of the stuff that you do when it comes to mental health. We feel capable of evaluating who’s a good fit for us in terms of personality, energy, who we can really talk to. But we don’t actually know the ins and outs of say, if we need EMDR or what the heck attachment styles have to do with anything.
This becomes an issue because we are in your hands when it comes to recognizing if our needs are outside of your professional scope of knowledge or service.
We very much appreciate your honesty in telling us if you’re a good fit in terms of your expertise or guiding us on our path towards someone who is.
3. Don’t Take Rejection Personal
This saying no thing goes both ways. If we come in for a first session and we don’t call you back, it’s because we found someone who is a better fit or we decided not to start therapy right now.
I know it’s hard not to take it personally but we’re doing the best we can with trying to survive life. Therapy is a big investment both financially and emotionally. We need to make our investment carefully and very wisely.
The last time I was looking for a therapist, I saw 6 therapists for a first session before deciding on one. It wasn’t that I didn’t like therapists #1-5, it’s that I wanted to find my best fit. I was looking to do some of the hardest and most important healing work yet and didn’t make the decision lightly.
Ultimately my decision was based on who I felt the most comfortable opening up to, who had a specialized and experience in my pain (adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse), and who shared a core belief that was important to me (feminism).
4. We Have No Idea How Hard Being A Therapist Is
Like seriously no idea. None. And we shouldn’t have to care about this.
But as a therapy client turned therapy website designer, my eyes have been completely opened to how hard it must be to be a therapist.
First, let’s talk about the obvious thing of how therapy sessions can get intense. It’s like you see someone’s emotional tornado and jump into the eye of that storm. On purpose. Like how do you do that? Most people avoid walking towards pain in life and you, out of compassion, raise your hand and volunteer to go there. It must be scary sometimes but you do it anyway.
Then, after you’re already completely committed helping, you’re like, “how can I help even more?” and you like sign up for EMDR program to follow your intensive sensorimotor psychotherapy training.
Going to these trainings doesn’t seem hard for you because you are just so passionate but that doesn’t mean it’s not challenging to stay on top of the research, constantly learning and growing. You show up and serve clients in deeper and better ways over time but we normal people don’t really grasp how much time and energy that takes you.
I also regularly see therapists reaching out to other therapists for help on tough cases or in situations where they want to make sure they are guiding their client in the best possible way. All that supervision and consultancy stuff is also unseen.
I think the most surprising observation to me so far is that even though you show up at each session totally pulled together and ready to help us, it’s not like you have your own stuff figured out all the time. You’re also human, working on your own hard stuff too. From where we clients sit on the couch, it can be easy to forget that.
5. We Also Have No Idea How Hard Being In Private Practice Is
If we’re also a business person or an entrepreneur, it may have crossed our mind that the business of being in private practice takes a lot of work. But really we’re investing in therapy so that we have time to be selfish, not to be concerned about the emotional roller coaster and financial ups-and-downs of your business.
So something like thinking about how it might hurt your pocketbook when we cancel is not crossing our minds. We are thinking about ourselves when we cancel, not about how multiple cancellations a week could stack up and directly effect your livelihood.
We also have no idea about all the other stuff you do like billing, taxes, notes, or the many hours each week you’ve put into marketing. We don’t know what “CEUs” are or that taking insurance can suck. We don’t see you doing your tech security risk assessments and have no idea how much courage it took to leave that agency job.
You do stuff that isn’t even on our radar when we think of you. In fact, most of us just think you spend all day lazing around on that couch in your office waiting for us to come by for our appointment. So know that we don’t know what you are really going through. If our actions seem self-centered, it’s because we don’t have the whole picture. If we really knew we’d be blown away by all that you do beyond just our therapy session.
6. You Should Be Charging More
And by that I mean, charge enough so that you can be fully present and show up for us.
I’d rather pay more for a therapist that is fully present then less for someone who is still reeling from the 7 previous sessions. Charge a rate that is fair to you. The clients that are a good match for you, and that value having a therapist that is really there, won’t blink an eye.
Also, charge more because you’re worth it! And deserve a vacation now and then. And when’s the last time you had a spa day? Or got that extra fancy coffee without questioning if you’ve been spending too much lately?
Therapists that are burned out and exhausted help no one.
We clients deserve care and healing and you deserve a life that is comfortable. The two are possible simultaneously, regardless of any money mindset stuff that might be telling you otherwise.
7. You Are Magical, We Can’t Thank You Enough!
You’re there for us, you walk beside us in the dark, you communicate excellently, you hear us and see us in a way that no one else in our life can. And for that we are truly grateful.
Even if we struggle to say it, thank you for helping us.