Ask yourself this question: What is the purpose of your mental health private practice? Maybe the following questions will help you to focus.
Why are you doing the work you do?
After all the stress involved in applying, attending, achieving, serving and surviving graduate school we often forget why we got into this profession in the first place. Get back to your roots. Why do you want to be a psychotherapist? What drives you to do the work you do?
What problems are you solving?
Do you know what problems you help people solve? Are your clients clear on why they work with you? Are they confused? Are you confused? Any good treatment plan has goals and outlines the steps to get there. Make sure your private practice exists to solve a clear problem. You can’t attract clients if you can’t tell them what problems you help them solve (otherwise why should they invest in you?).
Is this actually useful?
I’m reluctant to say this, but someone has to put it out there. Sometimes our approaches or techniques are not useful to our clients. Maybe this is due to a poor client/therapist match, or you are using an approach that is not effective, or your execution is not optimal. People trust us to be honest about our skills and interventions. We need to be honest with ourselves and determine if the work we are doing is useful. If you find clients frequently leaving your practice or difficulty filling your client hours despite your best marketing efforts, you need to examine the usefulness and quality of your services.
What do your clients actually need?
We have very few models for providing mental health services. They boil down to 50 minute therapy hours, groups, and assessment. Our clients are a diverse bunch. They can benefit from diverse treatment delivery approaches. What do your clients actually need to make improvement or maintain gains? For example, my clients (most of whom have attentional difficulties) benefit from 30 minute sessions because they lose focus after that amount of time. Figure out what your clients actually need and offer that.
Will this change behavior?
At the end of the day psychotherapy has one goal: to change someone’s behavior to improve daily functioning. There are many ways to approach behavior change. Does your work help people change behavior? If it does, you will have a thriving practice.
Is there an easier way?
Our limited models of service delivery often leave us doing more work than necessary to meet our goals. Is there an easier way for your clients to get support and make gains? A few years ago I noticed that I was having very similar individual conversations with parents regarding their child’s organizational difficulties. I found this frustrating and boring. I figured out an easier way: offer a monthly Q&A session by phone for families whose children had problems with organization. Now I spend 1 hour a month answering these questions and the families feel supported by me and one another. What might be an easier way for you to support your clients?
Purpose and Focus
By posing the above questions to yourself at least once a year, you reconnect with the purpose of your practice. When you are aware of your purpose, your practice comes into focus allowing you to clearly articulate what you do, who you help and why it’s valuable.
Can the purpose change? Yes. Your purpose and focus will change and shift as you gain more experience as a practitioner and your life realities change. However, any shift should be noted and conscious so you can refocus and clearly articulate to your clients your practice purpose and how they benefit.
So what’s the purpose of your practice?