I'm always saying KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Really people, do the work, it makes life better for you and those around you. Saying no is a good thing, I promise. Plus once you get the hang of it, it feels really good. But, and this is a big BUT, I have not always been able to have a handle on my limits as well as I do now.
I am guilty of being what I have decided to call, under the influence. No, it's not as exciting as a tale of me being over served, getting into a girl fight and yanking out some bitches hair. Although, yes that has happened. Several times. I'm from Long Island for Christ sake. Come on. The tale I'm about to tell is of the mistakes I have made being at a new job, new school, new cohort, new anything really and feeling like I had to prove myself. New situations used to make me say yes to things I knew deep down inside were a bad idea. Something would happen to me and I would become a people pleaser. A specific instance of this that still bothers me, happened when I first opened my practice.
Starting a private practice usually happens after you have been the assistant to another clinician and have taken on a part of their case load. They supervise you until you get your license, you pay them for this supervision, rent their office space, and they pass along referrals to you that they cannot schedule or do not want to take on. The other common training environment is working at a low fee clinic. In both cases, you already have patients and most of the time these patients will follow you to your practice. While you still have to hustle to build a case load, you already have a solid roster of clients who you can depend on to help support your business.
Well, surprise, I didn't. I started my practice while working as the counselor at a fashion college and after working at an inpatient psychiatric setting. I didn't have clients to move over to my practice. I was starting from scratch. I had made the decision to not take insurance, which I knew meant that it would take me longer to build a case load, but I was really okay with that, or so I thought. When you are new, friends, old supervisors, and colleagues really try to help and be supportive in any way possible. One way of showing support is to pass on your name as a referral. This all sounds really good, but in most cases this means that your name will be given to potential clients who are only interested in a sliding scale, or paying a very small portion of your fee. I'm all for this, and my license dictates that part of our work be set aside for pro-bono and low fee cases, but, one can not build an active practice on free and low fee clients alone.
Here's the mistake part...I took on every single one of those referrals. I was so eager to show my colleagues that I was appreciate of their support. And I somehow thought that having more patients meant that more referrals would come in. Yeah, because everyone is just dying to go on Yelp and talk about their awesome new therapist. I was under the influence. Sigh. Understandable, but not associated with reality. Let's break it down:
My colleagues and referral sources clearly already believed in me. Taking on a crazy number of low fee clients only meant that I was over extending myself. There was no one taking notice or throwing me a parade for taking on a ton of low fee clients.
Money. This reasoning was such science fiction. My anxiety about owning my own business totally got in the way of the facts. I STILL had a day job. A steady pay check that came every two weeks. AND I had saved a bunch of money to put into my business. Totally opposite to the crazy pants business plan I am currently operating under. I had convinced myself that I needed the money. Having one or two full fee patients would have made up for the slew of low fee patients that I had taken on. I just needed time. This would have been the smart way to go.
Now nothing disastrous happened, I had a nice and neat case load and things were going well, it's just the principle. I hate when I get sucked into my own drama. Don't believe the hype, as the saying goes. One of the things I do to prevent from being under the influence now is to check in when I am feeling overwhelmed, funky, dramatic and anxious. What's reality and what is fiction. Let's separate fact from feeling people. It's a simple little sobriety test we can do on ourselves and it saves all that drama for your momma. Yes, this fact from fiction post is coming, I promise.
Here's to a drama free Wednesday!