A lot of therapists will be here again this time next year thinking ‘I’m not making the difference I want to’, ‘I need to see more clients’, ‘I’m struggling for money’. Most of them will have been in the same situation last year, just as they are this year.
Yet most of them will take little action to change the situation. Why is that?
Over the past few years I’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of answers to that question. Here’s what they tell us and what we can learn from it:
The number one reaction is fear.
Fear of trying and failing, fear of losing money, fear of not being good enough, fear of not doing the right things, fear of not getting results with their clients, fear of what others will think of them.
There’s a lot of room for fear in any business and in the therapy/coaching arena it’s certainly felt in a very personal way.
The second most common response is a deep seated belief that they can’t be successful.
While this could be considered a fear in itself, it is worth addressing separately.
Usually this comes down to not seeing how to make the economics work. Can I get enough clients at a realistic fee to let me keep doing this and be full time or at least deliver a living income?
The third most common response is being unsure what to do.
This usually amounted to a form of ‘option-paralysis’ - too many choices and not enough data to know which works best and how to do each of them. And yes, here again we’re looking at a fear, but one also worth considering in it’s own right.
The basic fact is that unless we learn how to bring our message to the people who need our help, then we can’t expect to help them.
We must be found and we must be understood for anyone to access our help.
This is in our own hands.
No one will do this for us.
It’s a skill to learn. We all know people who are successful. We can model their strategies, we can learn their systems, we can ask what they do and do similar for ourselves. That’s not rocket science.
So let’s look at what holds us back. Typically this is the bigger issue. Think about it, most therapists stumble on year after year doing the same things and knowing they are not busy, hoping to magically somehow be busy. They know they need to do something different, they often know they have to learn a better way to get the word out, yet they don’t take action.
We have to acknowledge that this is happening. It’s often painful to do so. Anger, bitterness, shame, and a raft of other feelings can come with it. But until we sit up and take notice of our inaction and the causes of it we’re stuck in same cycle.
Let’s look at a few possibilities for breaking through the common hesitations:
Fear – fear thrives on avoidance. The lack of definition in fears often helps maintain them.
For each fear, take out a pen and piece of paper and answer these questions, it can help to significantly reduce the bad feeling.
Be real and specific. Expect this to be uncomfortable. That’s the zone where we make progress.
I suggest work for 30 minutes at a time and schedule a session of that length each day so that it’s manageable and easier to complete.
What if I fail?
What am I doing which promotes failure?
What can I do to reduce the chance of failure?
What do I lose by not trying?
What if I lose money?
What do I gain by what I’m currently doing?
What can I gain by trying a different approach?
What do I lose by not trying?
What can be gained by persevering until I get it right?
Am I good enough?
Who can I help right now?
Who would I be happier to refer on?
Can I start by putting my message out about the things I’m most comfortable with?
Will doing so build my experience and confidence?
Can I get much better without seeing clients?
What if the client doesn’t improve?
Is that something I completely control or do they factor into that?
Are they more or less likely to improve without help?
Can I be honest that success isn’t guaranteed but that I’ll do my best?
Can I have a plan in place to make sure we only continue if there is room for hope of success?
What others will think of me?
What will the person I help, think?
What will the family of the person I help think?
Who’s opinion actually matters to me?
What will people I care about think?
Is anyone’s opinion more important than helping people?
A fear in context rarely stands up and in fact, usually shrinks letting us achieve more and do more good.
The next issue: can I be successful?
How many clients do I want?
How much income do I need to keep doing this?
Break that down into manageable chunks.
Number of clients per week _____
Fee per client ______
Weeks worked a year ______
Allow 20% for expenses if you don’t know how much they are. If you’ve low overheads that could be 15%, if high allow more.
You can multiply that up easily, or you can use this free handy tool here to work it out for you and let you test different numbers swiftly and easily to see what works best.
Again usually it’s easier than we expect when we nail down the reality.
Just 2 clients a day at 100 each or 4 clients at 50 can be an income of 40,000 a year with 4 weeks off.
That’s less than one morning each day worked. How does that sound as a starting place?
Make sure your plan allows you to live and support your family. That’s the magic number for success at a minimum.
Next: The ‘not sure what to do’ issues.
Fundamentally here is what I’ve found to be best:
1. Pick 3 places to advertise and use these only to begin with – These could be a local newspaper, a social media platform, meeting community groups, getting referrals from health centres, business networking groups, etc. Resist the urge to do lots of things badly and focus on doing a small number well.
2. Accept that it costs money to advertise, but when this delivers clients, acknowledge that your spending money just made you money.
3 Be about something specific. An ‘I help everything’ approach is counterproductive.
So here are the questions to work through if you're serious about getting your help out to more people:
1 What are the things I want to help with first?
2 What are the places to focus on getting this message out on first?
3 What advertising budget am I committing to?
I also recommend when trying a new forum, that we try for small to get comfortable then increase your budget. On Facebook for example I can advertise for $1. This lets me get comfortable with the options and see how it works before I start spending much at all.
I hope this helps. If you know anyone who it might also help please feel free to tag or share as you see fit.
I don’t expect the questions in this article to solve the whole problem, but they certainly can help move thinking in the right direction and improve our chances of success.
Right now there are people out there who are suffering or stuck. Your move...
Have a great week,
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John Prendergast is an award-winning Success Coach and and Psycho-Trauma Anxiety Therapist.
He is also the Founder of Therapy and Coaching Success that specialises in helping Therapists, Coaches and other Wellness Practitioners, connect with those in need, build their diaries and earn the income they need.
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