One of the issues that often occurs for Good Enough Counsellors is a fear around income and not having enough clients.

It takes a lot of courage to set up in private practice. Most of us are not trained in marketing or how to run a business. Private practice may not even be our first choice, but it is something we do in the hope that we will build a sustainable career in counselling.

At any point in our private practice it is challenging to have a diary with empty spaces waiting to be filled by clients. It leads us to question ourselves and wonder whether:

  • we’re good enough to be able to attract and retain clients
  • we’ll be able to build a business
  • we’re doing something wrong because everyone else is full with clients

So what do we do?

We’re Good Enough Counsellors.  We know what to do.  We roll up our sleeves and we get to work.

We narrow our niche.  We rewrite our adverts.  We take a deep breath and pay for a top spot on Counselling Directory. We trawl through Facebook and ask other counsellors what they are doing.  We chase after the latest recommendation be it LinkedIn, Psychology Today or Instagram.

And what happens?

Nada. Nothing. F**k all.

There’s that saying, isn’t there:

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”

The thing is, if we have never believed we are good enough, we have learned to approach life in a particular way.  We think that the way to win is to work hard.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to have a niche.  It’s important to be consistent in marketing. It’s important to be visible.

But when it comes to fear, there’s a limit as to what hard work can do.  It’s time to take a different approach.

When we’re living in fear, we have a narrow focus.  It’s an instinctive response to threat.  An instinct from an earlier stage of our evolution. Back then, it was important to know where our enemy was.

Unfortunately, when we’re trying to run a business, a narrow minded, fearful focus is less helpful.

Anxiety means we tend to doubt ourselves and what we’re doing. It may affect our sleep.  It may affect our work with our clients. We may find ourselves trying too hard and perhaps if we do get that all elusive phone call from a prospective client, we fall over ourselves in trying to please and put them off.

What can really help is to ease the anxiety and that doesn’t mean work.  It actually means taking time away from our business and giving ourselves time to relax and widen our focus.

We’re taking time to be kind to ourselves.  Running a business is scary.  We need to look after ourselves.

Getting away from work and doing something we love – like curling up with a good book or a box set, taking some exercise outside and enjoying the fresh air, meeting up with friends and laughing until we nearly wet ourselves – are all ways to activate our all important parasympathetic nervous system.  We move from “fight, flight or freeze” to “rest and digest”.  When we step away from our work and give ourselves time to relax, we release ourselves into calm and creativity.

The curious thing is, when we give ourselves permission to rest, something happens.  When we’ve truly unwound, we begin to be more open to opportunities and we begin to feel more optimistic. Somehow our fear around client numbers seems to lift and we are able to gain a sense of perspective.

Alongside this, we may begin to notice how well we’re doing.  We notice the small successes that we have had – the times we’ve attracted clients, the natural conversations we’ve had with people about what we do, the money we have had coming in to date.

When we feel relaxed we feel a different energy towards our empty diary.  We begin to see it as an opportunity to catch up with tasks that we’ve been putting off.  Perhaps while we were out walking we had an idea we could share in our marketing.  Perhaps we could blog about fear and what to do with it!  We might well have been able to reconnect with our sense of vision and purpose, why we’re doing all of this, and we may sense our passion for the work returning and giving us renewed energy to work towards our goals.

So the first thing to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed with fear around your client numbers is to step away from your computer. Step away from comparing yourself to other counsellors.  Give yourself time to rest and see if that gives you a fresh perspective.

In my next blog, I’ll introduce some more practical ideas to help you handle the fear around your client numbers.

 

Find your purpose, your voice and your clients

Josephine is a BACP Accredited Counsellor who offers motivational coaching to therapists to help them develop and grow their businesses.  Please join her Good Enough Counsellors community at www.facebook.com/groups/goodenoughcounsellors