Hello, Wonderful Readers and Fellow Mental Health Professionals!
This blog post is about coping with a personal crisis while running a private practice — something I’m sure many of you can relate to.
I’ve had some big struggles in my personal life lately, which has left me low on motivation. I’m great at keeping up with my regular work tasks (returning emails, seeing clients, writing a weekly blog post for Psych Central), but it’s hard to tap into my creative side and think longer-term about my business goals when I’m preoccupied with pressing issues.
So, for two weeks I just did the minimum. And that was hard given my perfectionist, workaholic tendencies! I gratefully used some guest posts on my blog. I didn’t do any work on the book I’m writing. I declined giving an interview and an opportunity do some presentations. I knew I just didn’t have it in me to take on anything new. I also know that these kinds of projects always take more time than I anticipated. So, I said no to anything that wasn’t essential and took care of myself.
Therapists aren’t immune to personal crises; sometimes things don’t go according to plan. We experience health problems, financial ruin, relationships falling apart, and natural disasters just like everyone else. So, unfortunately, it’s probably inevitable that you’ll experience a personal crisis (or two or three) while running your private practice. If you’re experiencing a personal crisis, these tips may help you manage your work and personal needs and emerge from your crisis as a healthy and productive therapist and business owner.
Tips for coping with a personal crisis while running a private practice:
1. Ask for help. Now is not the time to try to do it all yourself. Reach out to friends for emotional help. Ask family members to pitch in at home. If you can afford it, outsource some of your cleaning, shopping, yard work or other mundane tasks. During a crisis, you may also need the help of a trusted colleague to help with client-related needs. This might be someone who can call clients to let them know you’ll be out of the office for the week, be on-call for you when you take time off, or to refer new clients to. Ideally, you’ll want to identify these colleagues and get them onboard before a crisis strikes.
2. Don’t take on anything new. Reserve your energy for what’s already on your to-do list. Even if some exciting opportunities drop in your lap, I encourage you to be very mindful about committing to anything new. Instead, focus on what’s already in front of you and try to trust that more great things will come your way when the timing is right.
3. Back out of existing obligations, if needed. A big, extended crisis may mean that you can’t keep up with your current client load, administrative or supervisory responsibilities, or the workshops and speaking engagements that you’ve already booked. Cancelling clients or backing out of other commitments is really hard for most of us; we don’t want to let people down or sully our professional reputations. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to cancel to take care of ourselves, our families, or stay aligned with our values and priorities. In my experience, often the negative consequences of canceling aren’t as awful as we imagine. And some people will gain new respect for our commitment to self-care and integrity.
4. Put yourself first. As therapists and social workers, our jobs are emotionally demanding. We have to show up and be emotionally present and able to hold other people’s pain. This is a tall order when we’re experiencing a personal crisis. We all know how important self-care is; we simply can’t do this work if we don’t replenish ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When we’re in crisis, we have to give even more to ourselves because we need more. Listen to your body, thoughts, and feelings and let it lead you to greater self-care and self-compassion during your personal struggle.
A personal crisis always presents particular challenges for practicing psychotherapists and self-employed entrepreneurs. Often a crisis forces us to reevaluate our life and our business. It’s not easy, but we can weather these storms by asking for help, slowing down, taking care of ourselves, and having faith that we will emerge with greater empathy, wisdom, and perspective.
Wishing you well,
Additional resources to help you navigate a personal crisis as a psychotherapist in private practice:
Personal Crisis in Private Practice by Kelly Higdon
Building Your Business Through the Adversities of Life: Episode 124 of Selling the Couch Podcast
©2017 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com.