The other day I said to someone, ‘I intentionally look for ways to improve’. This is what I was doing when I came up with the idea for Planning the Practice and the Therapy Practice Planner. It really started with the planning system I was using; which I loved and attempted to get all of my colleagues to buy into it. I was also frustrated by the lack of available resources for what I was trying to achieve for my own life.
I’ve heard it said many times by others that mental health clinicians are not taught how to start and run a business in graduate school. If you want to learn how to do so, in addition to your graduate degree in mental health you also need to get an MBA, get a business coach, or know someone who is willing to help you; perhaps all three. Either way, most mental health programs do not have one single course on planning for a business. Yet almost all professors of these programs have a private practice. Why are they not teaching students how to do it?
I wanted to start an offshoot of my practice, HealingChoice Family Therapy. The new business had to incorporate a planning system, similar to the one I was using but tailored to those working in mental health care. I also wanted to focus on providing supervision and coaching, something else I am passionate about. What would be my niche?
In my current daytime job as a professor and department chair, one of the things I am responsible for is the strategic planning and assessment of the programs in my department. The proverbial light clicked on for me. I had become very proficient at planning over the years. Remember my entrance into higher education?
Planning the Practice is about helping clinicians learn how to strategically plan and focus on growth goals. We offer coaching, supervision, online courses, a system that has worked for me, and the Therapy Practice Planner. This package makes sense to me. I want to help other mental health clinicians, particularly those in private practice (but all can benefit) strategically think about their existing business or new clinicians in training who are thinking about starting their own private practice, focus on their growth goals.
Perhaps you are saying, ‘I don’t want to grow, I am happy with the size of my practice’. Great! But when I write or speak about growth goals I do not only mean growth in terms of number of clients, money, or number of clinicians who report to you. I literally mean growth in all its meaning. I will write more about this late but my personal ‘why’ for starting Planning the Practice was to make some drastic shifts in my lifestyle and provide a better work/life balance for me and my family.
In a great book I read recently, The Soul of an Entrepreneur by David Sax, the term lifestyle entrepreneur kept coming up. I won’t go into great detail about here, just recommend you read the book, but what clicked for me is that was really what I was attempting to accomplish. I wanted a better lifestyle, with less stress, more control over my day, and more time to do the things I was passionate about doing.
It took me several years to suffer through my internal processing of who I was and trying to figure out who I wanted to be before I finally turned to what I knew best; planning. I then asked myself how do I synthesize all the parts of who I am into someone I can more easily manage? That’s a big question when you ask yourself how to better manage yourself. In no particular order, I was a husband, father, professor, therapist, minister, entrepreneur, and supervisor trying to pull together all those parts of myself in the fields of family therapy, supervision, Christianity, education, business, and interdisciplinarity was challenging.
In addition to lifestyle changes and better managing myself, I wanted to grow. I am okay if my small group practice grows but more than that I want to grow as a person and help others do the same.
Perhaps you find yourself in a similar position, not sure what to do to get your private practice up and running, not sure how to strategically plan for your existing practice, or struggling with the notion of being a lifestyle entrepreneur. As someone who grew up in an entrepreneur family and operates as one now, I believe I can help.