I can hardly believe it! This year makes 27 years that I have been practicing marriage and family therapy. This week marked my 12th year in private practice. Wow!
I remember when the so called old-timers would say, “Where did the time go? It feels like just yesterday.” Now, I am the old-timer and I am thinking, “No, wait! Where did the time go?!? It really does feel like I started my practice yesterday!”
It is a testament to the fact that I got up and went in to my office each day. I showed up for those who needed me. I weathered anxieties, doubts, and challenges. (By this, I mean my own along with those of my clients). I put one leg in front of the other. And some how, by the grace of God, a lot of lives have been changed, not the least of which is my own.
While it feels like it was just yesterday that I started my practice, I have, not only the blessings, but the bruises and scars to prove that I have been practicing a long time. Each tough-knock-lesson has allowed me to learn and grow and to do things better.
As I approach my 30th year practicing therapy, I realize that one day I will no longer practice therapy. This became a stark reality recently as I reviewed a list of therapists in my community to make a referral. The list appeared to be mostly filled with those who have under 10 years experience with many who have under 5 years of experience. (What’s happened to the seasoned therapist? Did they move? Have they retired? Have they given up on the field for an easier or more lucrative one? I don’t know. But, if I find out, that might be the stuff for another blog).
Whatever the reason, the ranks of the more seasoned therapist are dwindling and the numbers of the new professionals are growing. What will I do with all the wisdom and treasures I have gained a long the way? Although, I am still young. I find myself wanting to pass on the tidbits that have made all the difference in my practice. I want to mentor the next generation of therapist or those established ones who dream of starting or growing their practice.
I have always wondered why therapists and counselors were referred to as practitioners. Why not refer to us as masters, maestros, and mavens? Perhaps, it has something to do with the inexactness of our science. But, after practicing as long as I have, I believe it is less about the science and more about the shifts and changes that occur in field and society. In order to survive long term in any clinical practice, you have to be knowledgeable, flexible, adapt, and willing to re-invent yourself. All the time, we ask our clients to change. We, too, must be willing to transform ourselves. That’s what keeps us practicing.
For example, in recent years, there has been a move to using the Internet in clinical practice. First, you had to have a webpage. As the swells grew, you had to have an online calendar. Now, you must have an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. And marketing… Forget about it! You need a “Ph.D.” in social media marketing! I was an early adopter of these electronic method. Now, I need to transform myself one more time. To avoid extinction, I am determined to earn my “Ph.D.” in social media marketing.
Perhaps, I can help you avoid some of the pitfalls that I fell into along the way. Maybe, I can coach you to maximize the efficiency of your new or growing practice. Possibly, you can even learn something from my quest to master social media marketing. Then you too can transform your practice into one that is lucrative and has staying power. After all, it is the practice of helping and growing that makes perfect!
About the Author: Dr. Michelle Richards is an author, coach, counselor, and consultant. She is the owner of Joyful Life Institute, Inc., Lewisville, Texas. She was a former university faculty. To contact her, leave a comment. You may learn more about her services on her website: http://www.joyfullifeinstitute.com/clinicians/