Building Your Practice

Many people seem interested in building up their professional practice and this is admirable. We love to see success, particularly by qualified therapists using the new psychotherapies like EFT, BSFF, NLP and others. Together we really can change the face of mental health all over the world.

There is no "quick fix" in practice building. After all, if we want solid, enduring success, we should pay attention to the foundations, should we not? Here is The Lifeworks Group's tried and true recipe for successful practice building.

1 Get solid qualifications. This is not necessarily a psychology degree or doctorate. In fact, research has shown that there is no correlation between higher degree and therapist effectiveness. By working for and gaining a qualification in counselling or therapy from a recognised training institution, you are paying respect to both yourself and your field.

2 Read voraciously. Subscribe to professional journals and chat lists. Research an area of special interest. Peruse the net for the latest findings. Join a university library for continuing access to quality texts. How many different mindsets are you comfortable thinking in?

3 Arrange ongoing supervision of your work. Even the most experienced therapists have supervision, often as well as supervising others. It is the mark of a professional that he/she has supervision. In selecting your supervisor, ensure that their qualifications and experience are first class, and that they have a good outcome rate with their clients. It is usual to pay for supervision, but beginner therapists may find they can negotiate a contra arrangement. A colleague of mine located a highly-regarded psychologist and swapped supervision for NLP training.

4 Never try a new method on clients without extensively utilising it on yourself. If you think you have no issues left to try it on, you are definitely in the wrong field! Six months is probably a good lead time in which to consistently use the method before using it in a clinical situation. If you want to continue to grow personally and professionally, you should be continuing to use every tool in your toolbox anyway.

5 Commit to practising according to your professional code of ethics. The GoE has a good code of ethics for its members (see All About The AMT).

6 Keep complete records. Devise an appropriate method of systematising client data and progress so that you build up a practice reporting system right from the start. It is one thing to claim a success rate -- it is quite another to prove it in cold, hard data.

7 Only spend on advertising that which you can afford to waste! Much of advertising, especially in the early days of practice building, is certainly wasted. To minimise waste, focus your message to a very fine point by addressing just one angle. For instance you might choose "stress" and therefore every single piece of advertising you do should be about stress and nothing but stress. That way, the public is getting a strong and consistent message -- a powerful message that stays in the mind much better than if they had read about stress one week, depression another, and addiction yet another. Don't worry, you'll get all the other stuff anyway. Repetition, repetition, repetition!

Also, don't copy other people's advertising in design or content. There's nothing unethical about that, it's just that it doesn't work! Even if it does draw responses, much of the time people will just glance and presume it's the other person's advertising and still ring them, not you!

8 Always present professionally. The way you dress, the way you speak, the way you behave, the premises you operate from, the location you operate from, the advertising and marketing you do, the look of any documentation whatsoever produced by you or your clinic.

9 Budget time to work on your business rather than in your business. Use this time to run research which can be a base for marketing as well as building your reputation, or for writing press releases, or for building great relationships with media people and referring professionals like doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, community nurses, or for giving free lectures to community groups and organisations.

10 When you approach referring professionals to request referrals, do so in person and using your own track record. It looks absolutely horrendous to turn up to such a meeting carrying only other people's anecdotal reports or testimonials. Ensure your success by taking your own cold, hard data to these meetings.

11 With your client's permission, always let referring professionals know of your progress. This is a nice way to say thank you and to keep you in mind as a therapist who gets results. Don't make it sound too simple. It's best to say something like "Thank you for referring this challenging client":-) otherwise you might dent an ego, especially if he/she has majored in "Arrogance 101".

Article by Christine Sutherland
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