Many therapists report feelings of loneliness in private practice counselling. If you search Google there’s loads about how counselling can help clients with loneliness. But there’s not much to help counsellors address their own lonely feelings.
Private practice is a popular choice for counsellors who train for years and volunteer for free. It offers the opportunity for paid work.
But unless therapists address their own self-care needs, they’re unlikely to be able to sustain emotionally difficult work.
Therefore it’s really important to consider the challenges of loneliness in private practice counselling and how to deal with it.
Why does Loneliness in Private Practice Counselling occur?
It may be a surprise to think that counsellors feel lonely. They are, after all, in a people job. But in my experience, even when I’d spent a full day counselling people, I still encountered loneliness, and it was for the following reasons.
Counselling is One Sided
Obviously, when you’re working with the client, it is not about you. It’s very much about listening to their concerns.
Counselling is not a conversation where you indulge in office type chat, nor should it be. But that does leave a gap.
Where does a counsellor get social interaction if they’re working solo all day long?
Counsellors can’t chat about their day with friends and family. They must hold clients’ stories until supervision. The most difficult things are also the most secret.
Nature of the Work
Not many people understand counselling. They may shy away from counsellors. They may think they’re mind readers or keep their distance because they’re scared of the issues that counsellors encounter.
That and confidentiality means it can be difficult to feel supported.
The nature of the work also means that some of the solutions available for lone workers – such as shared office space – are not appropriate.
Having worked in private practice for ten years, Josephine is aware of how lonely it can be. So she’s created a solution – The Therapy Growth Group – where you can meet up regularly with other counsellors.
Book in for a virtual cuppa to see if it’s for you.
Why is Loneliness in Private Practice Counselling Problematic?
There are three main reasons for counsellors to address their issues of loneliness:
Loneliness increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. It affects sleep. It can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s.Read more here
How ironic that therapy can cause ill health in counsellors.
Lonely people are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. It’s helpful for counsellors to attend to their own mental health so they can sustain working in private practice.
Consider the work of Stephen Porges on polyvagal theory and the ventral vagus (read more here).
If counsellors are feeling lonely, how can they feel safe and connected? How can they help their clients engage their own social engagement system if they’re not there themselves?
Carry on reading to see ten practical solutions to loneliness.
Help is Available
Here are some comments from members of the Therapy Growth Group:
“The group has helped me to feel connected to fellow practitioners” – AnneMarie Wakeling
“It is for me such a key thing to be connected with other counsellors” – Sue Lemon
“It’s been really comforting to know the growth and acceptance of your wonderful group” – Trudy Tyler
If you’d like to see if Therapy Growth Group is for you, book in for a chat with Josephine.
Solutions for Loneliness in Private Practice Counselling
Here are some practical ideas that may help you address your loneliness.
Sharing Office Space to Reduce Isolation
Some practices rent out rooms by the hour or day which can provide you with colleagues to chat to between sessions.
Other therapists have rented a room in a shared building and network with other business owners. Both options provide the opportunity to receive referrals.
Work in a Café rather than Alone
If you’re working on your marketing or your accounts, why not take your laptop to a local café?
Make it at a regular time every week and people will get to know you. It may have the added benefit of getting you to do tasks you don’t like!
Partnership – Together not Solitary
Consider a partnership with another colleague. This could either be a formal arrangement with shared resources, or simply someone with whom you share chats, encouragement and referrals
Peer Group Networking
Arrange meetings with other therapists, attend events such as the BACP Private Practice Networking, or join a coaching group such as Therapy Growth Group where it is organised for you
Well moderated private online groups such as Good Enough Counsellors can help connect you to like-minded people where you are safe to share your thoughts without the risk of being seen by clients.
Some people say social media works best when you contribute. However for many therapists this is too scary! I know from my members’ feedback that reading the posts and receiving the encouragement of knowing others feel the same as you, is enough.
Talking with other Business Owners
Networking sounds scary but if you can find a group where you feel comfortable, it’s a great way to socialise and gain referrals.
People from all walks of life need therapy and meeting different business owners provides variety
Attend Training Events
Face to face training in your local area can be a great way to make connections and if you attend events regularly, you’ll get to know other local counsellors.
Look at places like Eventbrite, MeetUp, Counselling Directory and your professional association to find local training.
And remember, it doesn’t have to be professional training. Learning a new skill is a great way to reduce isolation.
Raise Your Fees
It’s simple, it’s scary, but have you considered your fee structure?
If you are not charging enough, you must work more to make ends meet. You must work for more clients to get paid, and you have to work harder to get more clients through the door.
That doesn’t leave a lot of time for the following activities which help to resolve loneliness.
Make Space for Other Activities
Don’t allow work to become your be all and end all. Make sure you have other activities in your life that enable companionship and joy.
Arranging regular meet ups with friends, attending an evening class, a club, fitness studios can all provide the companionship that is missing in your work.
Mix Up Your Day
You don’t have to work morning, noon, and night. Take time off. The beauty of private practice is you can set your own hours.
So get out and do other things where you’re mixing more. Even if you’re just walking the dog in your lunch break, you may find it brings more social interaction into your day.
Don’t wait until you find you’re not sleeping well and are experiencing anxiety or depression.
Look after you. You, your family, your friends and your clients, will all benefit.
You are your private practice. If you don’t invest in you, your business will suffer. It makes sense to get support for your social and business needs and this is where Therapy Growth Group helps.