I consulted recently with two clinicians who are anxious to start their private practices. Both have excellent credentials and clinical skills. They have seen everything under the sun and are well respected by their peers with a treasure trove of referral sources. Get them talking about assessment, treatment, and diagnosis and they don’t miss a trick. Ask them what kind of practice they would like to develop and the room goes silent. Why? They have been so busy being therapists and handling everything that’s thrown at them, that they have no idea how to discern what they like, what they don’t, or anything in between.
We started by writing their profile for Psychology Today.
“Quick”, I said. “You are only allowed to see four types of clients, the four clinical situations you love to work with. What are they?”
Silence, followed by, “Well, I really know addiction and I have worked with some of the more serious and debilitating personality disorders.”
“Do you like working with addiction?”
And herein lies the problem. These seasoned clinicians were not able to articulate what they found interesting, absorbing, or energy giving. They could check all the boxes and see just about presenting problem like any well trained clinician can. However, when asked what set them apart, they struggled with the idea of being able to own an area that made them eager to get into the office in the morning.
So here’s the exercise. Pretend you have all the money you need or want. In fact, you do therapy for fun. That’s right — just because you can. Pick the client that shows up in your office. Write down the characteristics that challenge you, stoke your curiosity, and compel you to do some research to offer your best work. Now, write your profile only for that client. Write it from the heart. Don’t worry about excluding the clients that you can see, write only for the client that you want to see.
Check out these two profiles. Which therapist are you going to call?
“I have an expertise in addiction. I love working with families who need help living with and loving the addict or alcoholic. I offer individual and family therapy and can help you to develop the skill set you need to be healthy and whole. My training started at the University of Maryland with a specific focus in family therapy. Later, I did an internship at the Baltimore Center for Addictive Diseases and from there, developed a practice devoted to the understanding of families that face these issues every day.”
“My practice consists of families and individuals. My training was in family therapy at the University of Maryland. Later, I studied addictive diseases. I am able to work with all kinds of issues surrounding this disease.”
I am guessing you picked the first paragraph. Why? Because that therapist used the language of engagement and attachment. I want a therapist who loves working with families, who has the confidence to tell me they have an expertise, and who can tell me they are devoted to understanding this expertise.
Who do you love? Who is the type of client you are devoted and dedicated to?