Posted on September 08, 2020
This blog article will provide 5 tips for new therapists starting out such as logistical tips for getting started and practical advice like handling clients, emotions, etc. This should tie in Advekit as a great way to get started and connect yourself to clients.
A masters degree in social work, or even a Ph.D in clinical psychology, may be the legal requirements to become a licensed therapist, but they aren’t the only qualities that make a therapist or counselor great at their job. Many fields and careers demand more than a basic education and understanding, and therapy truly falls into this category.
A successful therapist will not only be knowledgeable, but also possess a natural ability and desire to connect with people. This connection must be organic, genuine and authentic. Any efforts that feel forced or mechanical will hamper the effectiveness of patient treatment. Some of this ability to relate to other people can’t be taught, but there are a few things counselors and therapists can incorporate into their practice to make this connection with people from the very start that will set them apart from all the rest.
You know the somewhat tired analogy of the airplane facemask? Well, it’s well worn for a reason. You can’t be a great therapist without putting yourself first. This work can be emotionally draining, so it’s important to keep your own mental health in good shape to be able to help others. Make self-care a priority. Eating healthy, exercising, and sleeping well will help you physically feel your best. But, it’s equally critical to care for the mind and spirit. Find a therapist of your own through a therapy matching service, create a mindfulness practice, and implement clear and sustainable boundaries to prevent burnout. If you know yourself well, and have done the same therapeutic work that our clients are seeking, you will automatically be a step ahead of most therapists out there.
This seems like an obvious tip for how to be a successful therapist, but it is an easy one to forget as you become mired in the day-to-day workings of your business. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that you got into this practice because you genuinely like people. First impressions mean so much in establishing that therapeutic relationship. The appearance of your office to the way a person is greeted when they come in the door can make or break a new client’s perception of you and your practice. If you have office staff or a receptionist, be sure they are friendly and welcoming. Take the time to create a waiting area and therapy room that feels homey and inviting with comfortable seating, plants, soft lighting, and decor that reflects your personal taste and interests so your patients remember you’re an actual person.
Don’t be afraid to go deeper with your therapy clients. Yes, it’s important to maintain a level of professionalism and politeness. And, protecting your clients and their confidentiality is something to be taken very seriously, as we should. Sometimes though, when bigger emotions surface with clients during a therapy session, newer therapists tend to shy away or back off from it. A good therapist will help amplify emotion rather than avoid it. In the end, clients value that push because it ultimately will lead to more breakthroughs, progress, and success in therapy.
This is a very small but impactful action that can take you from being a good therapist to a great one. Get in the habit of doing this early on in your career so that it doesn’t ever feel like you’re going above and beyond; you’re just doing your job. When people call, text, or email to ask questions or set up an appointment, they feel a sense of urgency. Returning messages and inquiries promptly just lets people know you care. Besides that, it is just a good business move. You never know who might be “shopping” counselors, and usually the first to respond is with whom they schedule. Additionally, a rescheduled patient is a patient who did not cancel, which means that money is not lost for that week. If a client is contacting you with business outside of rescheduling, then gently remind the client those topics are to be addressed at their appointment time during their session. Using a therapy practice management platform that offers online appointment scheduling could also increase patient service and save you time.
If you are in private therapy practice, you are running a business, which means you have competition. It is a mindset of scarcity rather than abundance, but it’s important to remember that there are more than enough therapy clients to go around. Though it may seem counterintuitive, networking can help with marketing for therapists because the more you can collaborate with other therapists and professionals, the more referrals you will have.
Create as many connections with other therapists in your area as possible. This requires letting go of the "scarcity mindset" and adopting an abundant mindset. Creating authentic, collegial relationships with other therapists allows them to know you and your work, and you to know theirs. In turn, you can create a trusted network of colleagues, who often end up being some of the best referral sources for therapists.
In the spirit of collaboration, find a mentor. No matter how skilled a clinician you may be, your first years in practice are filled with challenges, and having access to a seasoned therapist that understands and has overcome similar issues is an invaluable resource. Be vulnerable and allow your mentor to help guide you and learn from your mistakes (which you will inevitably make along the way), support you in times of need, and celebrate your wins.
Remember, a mentor is usually someone who is willing to give you compassionate encouragement or advice without payment. As such, it is wise to make sure you are clear on what the expectations are in your relationship as some mentors do charge for their time after a certain point.
If you are new to your therapy practice and are looking to grow your network, Advekit can help. Learn more today.
Alison LaSov, LMFT
Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.