Josephine Hughes (she/her) (00:01.038)

I vividly remember when my youngest was born and I had three very small children. The song, High, by the Lighthouse Family was on the radio. The words, “when you’re close to tears, remember one day this will all be over”, was one of the things that kept me going. We humans have great coping abilities and I believe that as you face challenges in developing your counselling practice, you’re capable of finding your way through.

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (00:39.118)

I wonder if you’ve had an experience where day after day it’s been a challenge to keep going. It might have been that you found daily life at school difficult or you were in a difficult relationship or a difficult job or perhaps you faced personal challenges in your health or have lost people you love. Many counsellors tell me that they found their inspiration to train as a therapist from when they took their own troubles to therapy.

Being able to process their difficulties made them want to help others to do the same. It may not even have been as explicit as that for you. It’s possible that you’ve always had a desire to help others heal from the pain that you’ve experienced, or maybe that you want to prevent the pain that is inflicted through intergenerational trauma. I think for so many of us, counselling is not just a job.

It’s actually a vocation. We long to make a difference to people’s lives. And that means it can be incredibly frustrating when it’s difficult to be able to find work, either as an employed or a self-employed counsellor. That’s what I’m going to address today. How to be able to find the courage and strength to continue even in the face of obstacles because…

What you want to do is vital for the individual people you help and to our society as a whole. People who are healed are able to make better choices and live better lives and that helps us all. Part of what inspired me to create this episode was a meditation which asked me to honour the times that have made me the person I am today. 

It took me back to the moment where I realised, that I am the person I am, not despite the troubles I went through, but because of the troubles I went through. They taught me what was important to me as a person, and that helped to shape my values. They showed me the truth of my own humanity, which enables me to empathise with others. And the fact that I survived them showed me that I’m far more capable than I tend to give myself credit for.

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (03:04.846)

In the wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert workshop that I attended recently, she asked us to write a letter from what she called that mama bear part of us, that fierce part of ourselves that stands up for us and won’t allow us to quit or does allow us to quit when others are telling us we can’t. And we had to ask ourselves, what did that mama bear have to tell us? 

We started to write ourselves a letter with the words, dear, insert your name, I am your resilience and this is what I want to tell you. My resilience reminded me of the time I’d drag a large suitcase in the days before they had wheels from place to place during university holidays because to go home, in inverted commas, to my parents was more than my spirit could bear. 

Resilience gave me the audacity to ask people if I could stay with them, the fortitude to cope with their jokes about the size of my massive suitcase, which contained everything I needed for the three months of the holiday, and the capacity to tolerate the discomfort of relying on others. In the letter, resilience also reminded me of how I got through those early days when my children were tiny. And it reminded me that it gives me the strength to stand up for them now that they’ve come out as transgender.

Perhaps when you’ve finished listening to this episode, you may like to listen to what your resilience would like to tell you. I wonder, what would your resilience like to say? Maybe it will tell you, it gave you the courage to leave or it gave you the courage to stay. It gave you the courage to continue to live and it gave you the courage to be the person you are. Most importantly, I think resilience would like you to know that it is here for you now. 

There’s no doubt that many of you find it tough to find paid work as a counsellor. And that’s why I do the work that I do to help you with practical advice on how to market yourself. And please do check the show notes for the handouts that can help and keep listening to the podcast for the practical how -to episodes. I know that many of you feel discouraged and it can be particularly hard when you’re at the start of your private practice.

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (05:30.606)

and the measures you’ve taken to market yourself don’t seem to be working. I’d like to reassure you that success is on the way, but it takes time. It can take time both for people to hear about you and to take action and for you to find ways to market yourself that work for you. So what can you do to sustain yourself and keep yourself going in the meantime? 

This is where your resilience can help you and why it’s so helpful. Take time to reflect on the strength it has given you in the past. What did you tell yourself during challenging times that enabled you to cope? What strategies did you use to get through each day? What gave you the strength to make the changes that you did? And a little side note here, sometimes the strategies we’ve used in the past weren’t the most healthy of choices. But let’s take a moment to acknowledge that you did what you could to survive.

Now you know more, you can make different choices, but you did what you could at the time with what you knew then. You can still thank your past self for all that it did to help you. You may never have given yourself time to honour the ways in which you’ve coped in the past. Perhaps you’ve shied away from it because it feels boastful or you’re thinking, well, if I did it, it’s nothing to be proud about because anybody could have done it.

But that minimises your effort and the determination that you made. You probably wouldn’t say that to yourself if you were your own client. It’s not about being boastful or full of yourself. It’s about acknowledging that you found it tough, but you’ve come a long way. It’s helpful to name the ways you got through. Those strengths are still there and you can dig deep and use them to continue on your path now. 

You have got through things in the past and you can get through things now. 

Having acknowledged how resilience has helped you in the past, I think it’s helpful to ask yourself how you could access more resilience now. What enables you to do that? What gives you the courage to continue? Actually, for me, it’s often not about finding the courage to continue, as to realise that I don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. We often discover our strength in adversity, and to be honest,

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (07:56.046)

I seem to be a master at getting myself into situations where the options are either to do the thing or to face something that’s more unpleasant. So I do the thing. If we think about carrot and stick, that is probably a stick. Do it, or you’re going to experience something unpleasant. But one of the things that could be considered a carrot is to think about what it will mean to you to achieve the thing you hope for.

The very first time I sat down to develop my Good Enough Mum idea, I started to doubt and question myself. My inner critic got going and asked, who do you think you are? What makes you think that you’re good enough to do this? That thought stopped me in my tracks. But when I spoke to my business coach, she gave me the formula that really does make a difference to me. She told me to think about the people I was trying to help. 

For me, the carrot is thinking about the lives that will be changed if I take action. It does motivate me if I imagine that there’s people out there in pain who need help. Somehow my own fears then seem a lot less significant. And I also know that it brings me joy to make a difference to people’s lives. It’s not all about altruism, though. It fulfils a part of me that wants to make an impact on the world.

And yes, I’m motivated by the thought of earning money because earning my own income and being an independent woman in my own right is important to me and enables me to contribute more to society. There’s quite a few carrots there, quite a few reasons for me to keep going when times are tough. If we put this in the context of your private practice, I think it may be helpful to ask yourself some questions such as what is it you’d like to achieve and…

What’s your deeper motivation for that? You could perhaps journal around these inquiries and or create a vision board of what you’d like to achieve. If you’re seeking to survive a quiet time in your private practice, digging deep into why you’re doing it can really help motivate you to continue. It’s the carrot. It will give you that determination to do the difficult things like pressing publish on a piece of marketing.

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (10:20.014)

greeting a room full of strangers at a networking meeting or standing up to give a talk. There’s many other ways to find the motivation to continue and I’ll perhaps cover those in a future episode. But for this episode, I’d like to focus on another couple of important points before I finish. It’s good to acknowledge your feelings if you’re struggling at the moment. 

It’s understandable to feel disappointed, discouraged or frustrated because running a private practice can be challenging. However, you’re going to be paralysed into inaction if you listen to the inner critic who’d like to tell you that you’re rubbish, that everyone else is able to do it but you can’t, or that you’ll never be able to make it work. Let’s see if you can change the narrative. 

As well as reminding yourself of how far you’ve come, it can also be helpful to reframe the current situation.

Remind yourself that it takes time and effort to build your practice. But ultimately, it’s a skill that you can learn, just like you learned the skill of counselling. Finding it hard to grow your practice doesn’t define your worth as a therapist or indeed as a person. You’re not alone in this. Believe me, if you check out any of the Facebook groups for private practice, you will find other people encountering difficulties too. 

So if you’re experiencing a setback, don’t make it personal. It’s not that you don’t have the intelligence or the business acumen. You’re still learning. See it as a puzzle you’d like to solve. Ask yourself what needs to change? How can you refine your approach to reach the clients you work well with? But if you’re feeling very stressed, that’s also an indication that you need more support. How can you support yourself?

What works for you to help you feel more relaxed? How can you prioritise your wellbeing and recharge? 

One of the ways that my resilience has helped me during my life is to reach out and ask for support. That’s why I’m so keen to foster communities. I truly believe you’re never alone in what you feel. You’re human and it is very likely that there’s another human being out there who feels what you feel.

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (12:43.854)

For example, when I had small children, I connected with other people who were willing to acknowledge that feeling of being at a complete loss of knowing what to do with their kids. It was a great source of comfort for me at 3am to know that one of my friends was probably awake too and we’d be able to share notes and commiserate with each other in the morning. 

Human contact is so important for resilience and that’s why I facilitate spaces where counsellors can connect. And much of what I do in Therapy Growth Group is about giving therapists the chance to express their doubts and fears and to be supported and reassured that they’re not alone in their feelings. I believe it really helps to know how common it is to experience feelings such as imposter syndrome or fear of being visible. Because when you know it is not just you, it is part of the process.

It gives you the courage to continue and it gives you the courage to reach out to clients with your marketing. And the more you reach out, the more likely it is that you’ll attract clients and build the private practice that will both fulfil you and make a difference to the lives of the people who see you. 

Thanks for listening. Do come and join my Facebook community, Good Enough Counsellors.

And for more information about how I can help you develop your private practice, please visit my website, If you found this episode helpful, I’d love it if you could share it with a fellow therapist or leave a review on your podcast app. And in closing, I’d love to remind you that every single step you make gets you closer to your dream. I really believe you can do it.