Anxiety about private practice progress is an insidious little beast that shows up in unexpected ways.  Here are just a few of the thoughts and emotions you may be experiencing – and what to do about them.

Ever feel like you’re not doing enough?

It feels like there’s so much to do to develop your private practice but there’s not enough time.  However hard you work, there’s always more to do – and you feel a bit panicky that you’re not going to get it done. 

Perhaps you’re feeling tired?

You’re wondering if there’s something you’re missing.  Or you think you might be going wrong. On bad days, you doubt whether what you’re doing is making any difference anyway.

Does it seem like other people are doing better?

Alongside this, you look around you and it seems as though everyone else is doing much better than you.  They’re making a success of their work and you’re worried that you’re being left behind.


Anxiety and Feeling Not Good Enough

Underlying these ruminations can be beliefs, such as:

  • I mustn’t fail

  • I have to work hard in order to be successful

  • If I’m not first (or the best), I’ll miss out

These beliefs are often connected to a thought of “not enough”.

It feels like you’re not enough so you have to succeed to prove yourself.  Because you’re not good enough, success can only be earned through hard work, study and possibly even having to be the “best”.

There’s also the belief that there’s not enough.  There are not enough clients, opportunities, or time.  So it is necessary to grasp, hold on tightly, do it all yourself – and now!

It’s exhausting.

stop anxiety about private practice

Image by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

Anxiety Impedes Private Practice Progress

The problem is, when you’re anxious, you’re stifling your creativity.

You can end up sitting at your desk wasting time not really getting anything done.  And then you start telling yourself off because you’re not achieving anything.

Another thing is that your negativity bias kicks in.  Your brain is programmed to notice threat and unfortunately this often manifests itself as negative comparison with others.  You start noticing the good that others are doing and start telling yourself you’re rubbish.

(Read this blog for more information about negativity bias: Negativity Bias)


Break the Anxiety Loop

“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got”: W L Bateman

It’s time to do something different. So, if you’re reading this in desperation because you’re not making progress:

Introduce a Pattern Interrupter

  • Put on some music and dance
  • Do a breathing exercise
  • Go for a walk
  • Stroke a pet or play with a child
  • Do something creative

Image by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Change the Script about Progress

Now, how about changing the script – and for a moment, trying on a new attitude for size?

How about acting as if:

  • You are good enough?

  • You can be successful without having to force it?

  • There’s enough time, opportunity, and clients?

Does that help you to breathe more easily?

Play to Your Strengths

It’s so easy to overthink these things and to feel you have to do the same as everyone else.  In fact, the best thing to do is be you and take the time to play to your strengths.

Back in 2018 I decided to start a Facebook group – mainly because I liked networking with other counsellors on Facebook and wanted to explore how mindset affects us.  2 ½ years later the group is 6,000 people strong. It brings me clients but most of all it brings me joy.

When we truly value who we are and focus on what brings joy, success will follow.

One of the counsellors I coached had a breakthrough when she decided not to turn on social media in the mornings.  She decided to value her own thinking process and it led to an opportunity that has been a solid source of clients throughout the pandemic.

There’s no need to overthink it.

Be helpful in the way you know best.  Be open to your ideas.  Try things out. Let people know what you do.  You’ll be surprised at what opportunities can result.

Overcome Anxiety with Kindness

Appreciate Yourself

Acknowledge how far you have come and the skills you already possess.  Perhaps re-read positive feedback you’ve received from previous clients.  Remember how someone looked when you’d helped them.

Speak Kindly to Yourself

Remind yourself that you’re learning and drop the expectation that you have to get it all right – and straight away.

Can you gently tease yourself a little? See the humour in your rigid beliefs – perhaps with an exaggeration “don’t people know who I am? I have to be the most successful private practitioner of all time!”

Introduce a Positive Voice

Can you reframe the situation?  So, rather than saying:

  • “I have to work out my niche” – make it “I get to choose who I love working with!”
  • “I have to blog” – make it “I get to share a message that will help people”
  • “I have to design a website” – make it, “I get to learn some cool new tech and impress my friends and family with my skills”

Private Practice progress takes time

Be realistic. Remind yourself:

  • Rome wasn’t built in a day
  • You’re not going to get it all right, all at once
  • The only way to move forward is one step at a time

Contrary to what the experts promise, there’s no magic wand to getting clients.  You have to try different things and see what works for you. 

But if you take the time to be kind to yourself, listen to yourself and be open to possibilities, you’ll find a way forward.

Looking for more support?

Josephine seeks to help therapists by providing them with a supportive online community.  This is both via her free Facebook group – Good Enough Counsellors – and her paid membership group called The Therapy Growth Group.  The Therapy Growth Group provides fortnightly coaching and networking sessions together with daily support via Facebook.  Contact Josephine to find out more.

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article.  Josephine  disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.