In this first episode of inspiring psychologist breaking the mould of private practice, I explored the idea that private practice is not just an end goal, but a continuous journey of growth, change and self-discovery. Join me, Wendy Kendall as I discuss what I see as the core principles and values, guiding mental health professionals, embracing change within practice and the importance of community throughout this path. Learn how inspiring practices are redefining the landscape of private practice, and how you too, can break the mould by embracing the journey.
I'm Wendy Kendall, and I'm here with you in this episode to talk about the journey of being in private practice and about what it means to embrace the whole journey. How inspiring practitioners are redefining the path of private practice. So what I realised as I was thinking about how to raise these conversations about the path of private practice, was that I really wanted to offer a counterbalance to some of the narratives of private practice that are based on 10 timesing your income or focusing on the end goal of having some kind of practice that was, you know, perceived as successful by, by people around. It's not to say that we don't want to be successful. But really what I've seen more and more, and what I've experienced more and more as a psychologist in private practice, is that it's by paying attention to the path that we're travelling, that we actually ended up in a place that feels more meaningful and purposeful. And along with that, comes a lot more of the, let's say, the external trappings of success. So as opposed to getting really caught up in the comparisons that we end up caught up with. I wanted to share with you in this episode, but also in the discussions with other psychologists and therapists, who are also walking on this path. And I think it's a really important story to tell about private practice. The private practice is also about the whole journey, meaning it's not just about the successes. It's not only about, you know, the number of followers on social media, for example, having a meaningful and purposeful and impactful private practice that supports you in the life that you want to live means embracing the wholeness of the journey. I know that a lot of psychologists and a lot of therapists come into private practice, because they're actually looking for something deeper in their professional life. It's not always about a promise of, as I said, some kind of external trappings of success. And also a lot of these practitioners, the more that they tread this path, the more they tread this journey, they realise that there are conversations that we need to have about private practice, about the way that we show up as psychologists and therapists the way that we are working with communities and with individuals to create change, to have a positive impact on the mental health landscape. There are conversations that we need to have that go against the grain of what it means to be a psychologist. And in that sense, that's why I really want to talk about the stories that are about breaking out of the mould of how private practice has always been done. So starting with this, this story, and I work a lot with stories, when I'm working with people in private practice. And what I've observed is, you know, why do people come into private practice? For sure, there are definitely some people that know that private practice is for them. And they they have really felt that in their bones even through their training, even whilst they may have been in either public or private sector jobs, but they Know that private practices is going to be part of their journey as a professional. At the same time, it's not uncommon that that comes with guilt. This idea that, you know, especially within the UK, for example, and within the UK public sector, a lot of my clinical and counselling colleagues may go into private practice. And they know it's really for them. But there's an element of guilt and leaving behind their colleagues that are apparently in the National Health Service, for example. There are also a lot of stories of psychologists and therapists coming into private practice, because they're escaping toxic environments in some way. And, you know, that might be directly because they've experienced bullying in the workplace, for example. Or it can also end or it can be, because the environments that they're working with, are actually exploitative. And they are what I call extractive models of doing business. So if you've ever worked in an environment where, you know, you're working long hours, your needs aren't being accounted for, you're experiencing burnout. And maybe you have punitive kind of managerial relationships. And so a lot of people actually come to private practice, because they fundamentally want to feel safe in their working lives. And I know that part of my own story was some of that as well, creating an environment for myself having come out of UK public sector, where it was gonna feel safer for me, to to work as a psychologist, I definitely had some of those toxic experiences working in UK public sector before I went into private practice. I think there are also people who come into private practice, because they go through a big life transition, or they're facing a big life transition. And as part of that story, there are also people who come into their private practice. And almost immediately without having recognised, this is what was going to happen. They also go through a big life transition, not just associated with the private practice itself. But it's almost like the conditions that were leading to this big life transition, actually indicated to them that perhaps private practice was going to be the way to go. And something about that shift gave them enough space to then negotiate a big life transition as well. So in that sense, I really see the start have a story there, that is about how important private practice can be to the very human, and transformational journeys that people go through as psychologists and therapists, along with any of those stories, inevitably, are periods of disillusionment. And so this whole topic of experiencing disillusionment on the path is something that I work with, with my colleagues, you know, in, in the support that we offer to psychologists and therapists. Often people come to us with some form of disillusionment, either with the profession, with their experience of private practice, or with their experience of life, and where they're at at the time. And one of the things that really seems to underpin this sense of disillusionment, and it can be really interesting to try and track this down in ourselves is that psychology, as a profession, makes us somehow and in different ways, makes us exile parts of ourselves. So in order to be acceptable, in order to be successful, in order to show up in a certain way, we need to jettison or move to the edge of our psyches, some really important parts of ourselves. And I know when when, you know, perhaps at the start of a career, or maybe when you're a little bit younger, that feels like, like we take that as part of the thing that we need to do, right.
And it's as we get older, we realise those parts of ourselves that we've exiled actually were really important On to who we are. And now we're feeling a disconnect between the path we're on as professionals, especially when we're working with people, organisations, families, where we ourselves are, you know, proponents of wholeness. And so we start to realise that we're not always walking our own talk. So, you know that that is really, when I realised that was a fundamental part of my own journey. And when I saw that so many times in the clients that I have worked with, and it made me realise what an important part of this journey, the disillusionment on the path is. Also, one of the areas that can lead to disillusionment on the path is that we learn extractive or exploitative ways of being in our practice. And so when we look at, you know, some of the business models, for example, that we grow up within, when I'm, you know, some of them that we're socialised within we, we might be socialised in those toxic environments. And that's the way we know how to go about our business, driving ourselves really hard, working all the hours, putting ourselves in overdrive seconding, our needs in order to prioritise other people's needs. And those are all ways in which we get exploited as human beings and as psychologists. And we can end up replicating those because we don't necessarily know a different way of doing and being in our private practices. So starting to become aware of the difference between an extractive or an exploitative way of being in our practice, and starting to move towards more what I call regenerative or life giving models and ways of being in a private practice is some of the most fundamental transformative and inspiring work that we can do as practitioners. So I think, you know, relearning and reconfiguring, and therefore breaking out of the mould of private practice is, is so important for how we develop the future of this profession. I think, a third way in which there is delusion, disillusionment on the path is because sometimes we've come out of toxic environments. And it can lead to us imagining the isolation in our private practice, feel safe. If we feel empowered again, we know that we are the ones that can make decisions about how we, you know, how we show up. And so that in itself, that isolation can feel very empowering, you know, we get to choose, we decide what we work on, we decide when we work. But the reality is that sometimes at some point, we need to come back into community. It's a little bit kind of mirroring the process of therapy, when we've had those experiences of injuries to our, you know, relational injuries, then, first of all, maybe working with an individual feels a little bit safer. But at the end of the day, can we reintegrate into a community of practitioners, you know, always being on our own, always being isolated. It leads to loneliness, and it leads to us feeling drained. I put my hands up, I've been there and I've done that I can really speak to you know, this experience in the muscle, I know that perhaps having is about for the first seven or eight years of my private practice, and I've been in private practice for 20 years. I remember having this very dichotomous experience between getting on an aeroplane and going to work with clients and being with lots of people and then I would come back to my office, and I would be completely alone. You know, drop the children off at school, and I would be back there, and I would spend eight, nine, ten hours completely on my own. So it becomes dry. You can do that for a while but after years, it becomes really draining. We but we need we need safe community. Do we need, we need a place where we can be ourselves in relation to other people and other practitioners? So all of this to say, I feel like private practice is always the path itself. That's the thing that I've learned that feels most important to really start sharing with people. In that way, I'd like to give a couple of examples of private practices the path itself now, I'm gonna share a couple of like, couple of example stories here with you. And but these are archetypal stories. So these are stories that are kind of composites of people that I've worked with. I never feel comfortable sharing stories that aren't mine. So if you know whenever I'm asked about, well, how did you What did you do with your clients? Can you tell us stories about your clients? And I'm like, well, I could do but it would only be my interpretation of in it of it. And I don't know what my clients think about me either sharing their story, or you know, the things I'm going to miss out of their story. So these are some archetypal composites that I'd like to share with you. The first is about Dr. Emily Thompson, and she's a clinical psychologist who has always been passionate about art therapy. Before starting her own practice, Emily worked in a traditional therapy setting, but it left her feeling creatively stifled, and that ultimately led to what I call this delusional disillusionment on the path. She believed in the transformative power of artistic expression, she'd experienced that herself, and she believed in its ability to help clients explore their emotions and heal. Emily decided to create a private practice that specialises in in art therapy for children, adolescents and adults dealing with trauma. Her practice artful healing offers individual and group sessions, workshops and training for other mental health professionals interested in incorporating art therapy into their practices. The experiences of Emily though, were that she initially faced scepticism from her peers who questioned the effectiveness of art therapy. And she also struggled to find a suitable space for her practice, she had to invest in renovations to create an inspiring and NERT nurturing environment for her clients. Also, Emily had to educate her community about the benefits of art therapy, and its evidence-based results. And so when you're walking the story like this, you can see how these pathways also bring up a lot of our inner wounds around being seen and being good enough, and so self doubt creeps in. When Emily was able to join a community of inspiring practitioners, she was able to connect with like-minded professionals who were also on a similar pathway. And they supported her vision and provided valuable advice on overcoming obstacles, both the external obstacles and the internal obstacles. And, you know, sure networks can help her refine her marketing strategies, but they can also help to strengthen her to advocate for art therapy more effectively. And ultimately, that leads to building a thriving practice that helps clients tap into the healing potential of art while spreading awareness of the benefits. So that's an example of a kind of archetypal practice story that I work with, where someone really believes that there, there are other parts of them that really connect with the transformative power of art. And that, that means that they're thinking about, you know, how am I going to bring that in? What does that look like? How am I going to convince people? Where am I going to get investment from for that? How am I going to get people to believe in me enough so that they invest in me when I'm still trying to, you know, provide the evidence based provide the evidence base research and research that I you know, feel should be out there.
The important element of the stories, though, is that all of those experiences are necessary for an inspiring practice. Not only the success not only the getting of the investment, but also the experience of the criticism, also the experience of feeling exiled. Also, the experience of welcoming back the parts of you that mean so much to you but didn't have a place in your professional life to this point. So, as we look forward to the rest of the episodes in this series, I'm going to be inviting other practitioners who I know have tried along this path, and they're going to share their stories in their words. And that's why I felt like podcasts was a great option. I want to hear from other practitioners about their experiences on this path. And I want to hear all of the experiences. Because all of those experiences are absolutely crucial to helping us to break out of the mould of how private practice has always been done. In any hero story or any heroine story. There are always top mentors on the path. And I use this word tormentors because I trained as an internal family systems therapist, and I don't I don't offer therapy but I use ifs in my coaching work with practitioners, and the originator of ifs, ditch forts has this this word that he uses about, you know, the people or even the inner parts of us that show up along the path that that are kind of the villains of the story. All good stories have villains, right. And so I really want to speak to the tormentors now, no Dix talks about Tor mentors as in Tor, hyphen, mentors, because they're always there to teach us something. And I think that's true, and it's also painful. You know, just because we've reframed, it doesn't mean that experiencing tormentors on the path isn't painful to us. So, the first I'm going to speak to a couple of common tormentors on the path, the first common tormentor is the critic. And I would really like to emphasise that those critics, sometimes real external critics, and sometimes they're very real internal critics as well. So you know, the term mentors are not just internal, they're also external, they definitely show up out there. The other tour mentors that I've come across regularly, internal and external, the imposters. And there are definitely, you know, end of internal feelings of imposters, like I'm going to get found out and I'm going to be seen to not be as good as I think I am. Or even just generally, you know, the internal imposter experience of, of saying, you know, I really want to do this thing, but when I look at the other people that are out there that are doing this work, the work that they're doing is just so amazing, and I couldn't even compete with that. So why would I even start? You know, I definitely have conversations with practitioners where that's a common that internal voices are common accompaniment to them being on this path of private practice. And speaking to the existence of external imposters as well. One of the experiences that isn't often talked about, but that is often experienced is that of professional plagiarism. So I know from experience, that there are, you know, whether it's content, whether it's copy, whether it's webinars, whether it's positioning of certain products, that whenever I put my best work out there, there are places it starts to show up on the internet, you know, and consistently as well. And in addition to that, interestingly, nowadays, you know, you might think, well, you know, where do all these ideas come from, but nowadays, of course, our websites and our sales pages show us who is coming to the webinars who is clicking on the links who is revisiting Several times many times. And so we see those traces of the professional plagiarism as well. Whenever I've spoken of this topic, these external imposters that show up on the path, that are also really hard to deal with, and yet can be really helpful in our journey because they push us to, to let go of the things that we might otherwise hold on to they push us to keep travelling further and further into our individual journey of wholeness. You know, we we can't stay with our own cliches when we have external imposters, who are hoovering them up. And kind of reflecting them back to us means we have to keep growing, we have to keep innovating, we have to create, create, pardon me, we have to continue to grow as individuals as well. So Nevertheless, when you when you're on that path, and you meet those kinds of internal and external time mentors, it's really hard to deal with all of them when we're on our own, just being on our own is, is it's a very hard place to be when we come across those kinds of internal and external time mentors. And that's where I wanted to turn to another story that I like to talk about in private practice, which is how creating and inspiring private practice is like being in the Fellowship of the Ring. Now, it's like being in one of these stories, it's really important to us to have a fellowship of like minded individuals of fellowship of people who have also experienced the trials and the tribulations, who've also encountered the tormentors on the path. You know, these fellows can help you to see the way even when all feels lost, you know, if we think about some of those archetypal stories where you've had, you know, that that band of people around you, when the when the heroes experience those dark nights of the soul, and those, you know, those those deeply tormenting experiences, they, they need to have their fellowship around them to, to help them see the way back into the path. In the same way, when we become a part of a fellowship like that, we realise that it's so important for us to be a guide on a path and to not always position ourselves as a guru. So there's a whole podcast that I did on this with my colleague, Michaela Thomas, a couple of years ago, where I talked about this experience myself, of realising that I wasn't there for practitioners to be some kind of Guru that it was important to be a guy to have made the mistakes, to have experience those things to have those kinds of human frailties and vulnerabilities. And going further than that, realising they're actually in our practices, if we really going to put down the role of being in a being a guru. If we really want to take ourselves out of our ivory towers, if we're going to break out of the mould, what that also means is being with and being led by our clients and our colleagues, and so that's really where we're embracing what it means to be part of a whole community. In that way, you know, what I've also discovered is a kind of paradox with all that, which is, the more we tread this path, the more we embrace the wholeness of it. And the more that we bring parts of ourselves out of exile and bring them back into our practice as professionals. The more that private practice is a path to being more of who we are.
Interestingly, the the more we become unique within the market. And, you know, recently we participated in a mastermind programme with Carol Sanford who speaks a lot to principles of regeneration, in business, in life, with families in leadership. And one of the really important principles that Carol spoke to when it comes to being more whole, being more of ourselves in our private practice is the principle of non-displace ability. So as opposed to trying to create a competitive advantage, which inevitably leads us to these much more extractive models, you know, can we do more for less, can we get more out of people, we're actually we're playing a different game, it's a different path, we're walking a path to none display stability in the market, we're showing up as our whole, an entirely unique selves. And we're building a community a connection with a community of people who resonate with that. And that can't be copied, and also for our inner for our inner imposters? Well, there's no imposter in that either. So all this is really, you know, sharing with you some of my thoughts about what led to my own kind of journey, embracing this whole journey, which is, which can be thrilling, which can be inspiring, which can be challenging, which can lead to dark nights of the soul as well. And, you know, I didn't start my private practice on purpose. I was someone who if you'd asked me while I was in my public sector job about starting my own business, I would have been like, no way. But it was a big life transition. And it was also part of escaping a toxic environment, where I just said, I would start my private practice, and that's what I would do. But I really wondered, wondered, WA, I wandered in the wilderness for years with it, you know, I really, I did a lot of work as an associate, I got into kind of professional relationships that just weren't nourishing. And I really experienced a lot of dark nights of the soul with that. What I realise now is that I was a participant observer in my own process. So as with a lot of these journeys, it's not always that, you know, when we're going through that, that we realise what an essential part of the journey it is. And similarly, I know that, you know, when I first developed my first development programme for psychologists and private practice, which was called the psychology practice accelerator, very quickly, you know, think about the three people who join that initial programme. What I really learned from them was that private practice was about was about the personal growth journey. And that that was going to be central to the rest of the story. And finally, you know, thinking about where the business is at now with inspiring psychology practices and the inspiring psych.com website that was really born in the crucible of 2020 with the various lockdowns where, you know, in my corporate practice, where I'd been supporting companies to move people around the world, suddenly all the borders were shut, and there was a lot of uncertainty. But at the same time in this business, there was an enormous move for psychologists to go online. And I think the whole experience with various lockdowns with the pandemic and so on, really caused a lot of psychologists and therapists to really think about how they wanted their practice to be in the future. And so, that leads me to, you know, the end of this part of the story. The people in the podcast episodes that follow my fellow travellers, some of them I know really well. Others I know less well, but I still know some of their stories. But what I would say is just to really kind of round this off is if you resonate with any of this story around, embracing the whole journey of private practice and I'm walking on this path.
Make sure to follow us, make sure to subscribe to, you know, wherever you, you get your podcasts, but also reach out and get in touch if you also have a story to share, and we'd love to hear about it. That's all for now. See you in the next episode. I'd love to hear what you think about the inspiring psychologists podcast. So please take a moment to leave a review and give us a rating wherever you listen to podcasts. It makes a massive difference in helping us to reach new audiences. If likely, you're feeling inspired and moved by the private practice stories in our podcasts. Please spread the word across your own networks, and why not encourage your colleagues and friends to listen to the podcasts to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes. Please be sure to subscribe to the inspiring psychologist's podcast. You can find out more about all my guests from series one of our website inspiring psych.com That's inspiringpsych.com.