Today’s guest post is by Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist and expert on Postpartum Mental Health, Women’s Emotional Health, Grief & Loss, Motherhood and Parenting. Dr. Hibbert runs a successful private practice in Flagstaff, Arizona, housed in the same location as her husband’s dental practice.
A few years back, after I had my fourth baby and we inherited our two nephews (that’s a long story for another day!), I quit working in the group practice I’d been with for four years. After staying home for two years to put our new family together, I felt it might be time to open a practice of my own. Being a mom of six, I was very nervous about adding a private practice to my already jam-packed “to-do” list. Thank goodness my husband was thinking for me.
“Why don’t we build you an office behind mine?” he suggested one day. My husband has a dental practice in downtown Flagstaff, Arizona. The office is a little historic home that was converted years ago. It has a white picket fence and a hand-painted sign hanging from a shingle out front. Very quaint. Flagstaff is known for its interesting combination of businesses (airport/beauty salon; antique shop/physician), so why not dentist/psychologist? It seemed to make sense.
Hiring an office employee, especially if it’s the first time you’ve done so, can feel scary, overwhelming and stressful. Where do you find trustworthy employees? How do I know they’re doing the billing correctly? Isn’t it less personal if clients have to talk to someone other than the therapist?
Many therapists in private practice are reluctant to hire office support for a variety of reasons. The two most common reasons that I hear in my consulting practice are: 1) cost – “I don’t want to pay out more money” and 2) control - “I don’t want to give up control.”
I had to overcome these two common barriers before I hired my first office manager.
I love sleep. I need sleep. Very few things can get me to happily wake up at 3:00am, especially on a Sunday morning. The only one I can think of right now is going to the hospital to have a baby. But last week, I added another reason I’d sacrifice my precious sleep—the invitation to interview live on the national Fox News Channel.
Last Wednesday I received an email from Fox and Friends Weekend inviting me to interview live on Sunday morning at 7:20am to give tips on how to stop whining. They’d seen my interview in The Wall Street Journal a week ago in the article “A Nation of Whining: Therapists Try Tough Love.” I called the show booker to discuss the interview details and confirm my availability.
I quickly realized that the 7:20am interview was Eastern Time, and would be 5:20am Mountain Time, and that I would need to arrive at 4:50am. That meant I’d need to leave my home at 4:15. So, I set my clock for 3:00am to give me plenty of time to get ready. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to fly to New York City for the interview, but I they did send a car to transport me to and from my house to a local studio in Salt Lake City.
It’s mental health month! Like many of you, I’ve been actively sharing mental health information as a way to increase education and reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. While it’s an honor to be in a profession that focuses on supporting the mental health of others, being a therapist often requires regularly going to “dark” places with clients, and that can take a toll on our own mental health.
After nearly 20 years in the field, I’ve noticed that a lot of therapists (myself included) tend to be caretakers, people-pleasers, and self-sacrificers, making us particularly vulnerable to neglecting our own mental health in the name of caring for others. I have learned to become fiercely dedicated to self-care, self- awareness and to maintaining my own relationships in order to protect and nurture my own mental health.
I wanted to reach out beyond my own experience to therapists around the world to see how they nurture their own mental health in a profession that can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Live in the present
“I make myself more present by asking ‘Where am I in space right now? What do i hear? What do I feel? What do I taste and smell? What do I see?’ ” Natalie Robinson Garfield.
“I find 20 minutes a day to escape from the world and enjoy the peace and quiet.” Deborah Serani, Ph.D.
What do you think of when you think of professional networking? Private practice therapists who I’ve worked with in business consultations usually consider networking to be meeting with other like-minded professionals for lunch or handing out business cards to physicians offices.
While those are important ways to make connections that build your therapy practice, there are other ways to get the word to thousands and thousands of people in one shot, instead of just a few folks at a time. Rarely do shrinks think of networking with reporters.
Over the last few years I’ve focused on responding to reporter queries seeking quotes from experts on a variety of mental or emotional health issues, and family relationship advice. There are a few who now contact me for quotes when they are pitching new articles or stories. I’ve had a great time corresponding with them by email or talking by phone.
This month I am thrilled to have quotes in:
Cosmopolitan Magazine (June 2012) article “Are we boring”
Wall Street Journal (today May 15, 2012) “For a nation of whiners, therapist try tough love” (with a photo included)
Twitter home feed can be overwhelming for new users. The more people you follow, the more tweets show up on your profile page feed. Who has hours every day to read thousands of tweets? I sure don’t. That’s where Twitter “Lists” come in.
I received this question from a therapist via email earlier this week, and it echoes the concerns of many therapists I’ve consulted with. How do I highlight users that I’m really interested in so I don’t have to sort through the home feed?
I would like to follow more people on Twitter, but I only want (and have time) to see posts from about 15 select people every day. Is there a way to separate those I want to see daily from the rest so I don’t have to skim over tons of others?
An interesting theme emerged in my private practice consultation group last week. It may seem like an odd theme for a business group - resentment. As I shared a few of my own experiences in private practice it became very clear that I had used my feelings of resentment as a guide to lead me to my ideal private practice.
May is Mental Health Month! It’s a great opportunity to speak out and educate about your mental health specialty areas and raise awareness about topics you’re passionate about. I’d like to challenge other private practitioners to participate in APA’s Mental Health Blog Party May 16th.
Here’s a link to 2 toolkits with additional information and resources to use in your blog post.
(cc) photo by khawkins04
Last week’s post How To Get Paid For No Shows prompted some excellent discussions and follow up questions about how to enforce cancellation and payment policies. One comment in particular, posted by “Paul” brought up a valid concern.
Do your policies go both ways? How do you handle the situation when you, the therapist, no show for a session due to a scheduling error, inadvertently double book a session, or cancel a session at the last minute due to illness? Here’s what he wrote: