Why Taking A Career Risk Was Worth It

Today marks the one year anniversary of starting my solo private practice. As I reflect on this past year, I really surprised myself at the risk I was willing to take and the new found confidence I now have in myself. Early on in my career as a therapist, when asked if I was going to go into private practice, I would almost always reply with an excuse about how I “did not know enough yet” or how I “knew nothing about running a business,” etc. Soon after I became licensed, I accepted a job at a group private practice (one where the clinicians work for someone else) even after discussing plans to share office space with a friend of mine. Looking back on that decision, I realized that it was out of my own fears, self-doubts, and lack of confidence in my abilities as a therapist back then, that I made that decision.

Years passed and my confidence in my abilities as a therapist grew. I received great feedback from clients, saw them making progress, and began making a name for myself in my area. Still, I did not feel ready to be completely on my own. I still felt like I needed the referrals from the group practice, the support of co-workers, and the guidance if something went astray with a client. A few more months passed and I realized that other clinicians in the group practice were coming to me for guidance with their clients, their paperwork, and talking to me when they had a particularly hard session. It was around that time that I realized that I had begun to rely on the support from the group less and less, that I was beginning to develop the confidence as a therapist on my own. It was then I knew that I DID have the ability to run my own practice and no longer needed the support of a group practice.

I realized that I no longer had the same fears I once had or maybe those thoughts became quieter. I realized that I was ready to take the risk and open my own practice, that my ability to be an effective therapist would still be there even when I worked for myself.

A year ago today, I opened my doors to my own independent practice. I became my own boss, my own administrative staff, my own office manager. No one was holding me accountable but myself. Soon, the fears came rushing in…

  • What if no one calls?
  • What will I do if clients don’t like me?
  • What if I am not as helpful as I once was?
  • How will I handle all of the messy administrative issues?

Guess what? People did call!

Guess what! Clients continued to say I have helped them make a great deal of progress!

AND I have been able to handle all of the messy administrative things that come with being your own office manager too!

Are those thoughts still around a year later? ABSOLUTELY! Do I let them control my actions like I once did? No way! I tell those fears where to go and I continue being the best therapist I can be!

I was watching Shark Tank a little bit ago and something Mark Cuban said really stuck with me. “Perfection is the enemy of profitability” he said to one hopeful entrepreneur who had taken many years to test his product, wanting to make it perfect, before taking it to market and getting any sales. “You will be testing it for 72 years!” the Sharks said to him. “It doesn’t need to be perfect!”

I realized that I almost did the same thing myself, but in a different way. I was holding back starting my own practice because I felt I was not ready, whether I did not have enough experience or knowledge, I wasn’t “perfect” yet. But I’ve realized that even if I were practicing for 40 years working for someone else before opening my own practice, I might never feel 100% ready, be 100% perfect. Sure, I’ve made a few mistakes this year and am far from “the perfect therapist” but there are no perfect therapists out there! Being a therapist means constantly learning and growing. Working for myself has given me even more of an opportunity to do just that by allowing me more freedom and has forced me to learn things that I never would have gotten the chance to do working for a group practice. In a way, I’ve had to continually build my confidence in my abilities even more so since I am the one “running the show.”

What I’ve learned this year is this:

  1. I do not have to be the “perfect” therapist in order to be an effective therapist.
  2. Just because I work for myself does not mean I have to stop improving myself as a therapist.
  3. Having a bit of confidence can grow into more and more confidence, but you have to give yourself the opportunity to cultivate it.
  4. Working for myself has taught me to advocate more for myself, because no one else is around to do it for me!

My challenge to you (therapist or not!) is to let go of some of your perfection, some of your “should-ing” or “have to do this-ing” or “have to do that first-ing.” There might NEVER be a perfect time to take a risk but there is ALWAYS a perfect time to believe in yourself and your abilities–and that time is TODAY. That time is RiGHT NOW.

What happens if you fail? If you aren’t successful? Then you learn from your mistakes and try again. But if you never give yourself the opportunity to fail, then you learn nothing! Like the famous Wayne Gretsky quote “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”