At first glance there would seem to be absolutely loads of reasons why therapists fall out of practice and I bet, as a therapist in private practice, you can relate to all of them at one stage or another along the way. Discovering the one reason why you feel doubtful about your practice, may in fact save it.

Being in business as a therapist

Let’s take Joanna, for example. Joanna is an imaginary therapist  who, for the sake of explanation, I’ll endow with every therapist’s fears. She left her busy whirlwind job in the city with one ambition in mind: to really help and make a difference to the people she worked with.  Full of the joys of spring, she set up practice and only then started to realise that getting clients, seeing clients, running a business and being emotionally well herself was such an isolating experience.  I mean, it’s not as if she can say to her clients: ‘you think you’ve got problems!’.  She is there for them and there’s no one there for  her to share the stresses and strains of her clients as well as all the other bits involved in running a business. Joanna often wonders to herself how she can continue to work in this business feeling so isolated and alone.

Do you know what supervision’s meant to be?

She’s got herself a supervisor which is prescribed by her professional body but she’s not quite sure what supervision is meant to be like and whether it’s doing all it could.  And then there’s that altogether more tricky business of continuing to work on herself which she knows, in her heart of hearts, she really paid lip service to during her training.  She came from a formal educational therapy background and came through it all with flying colours.  Now though she’s becoming aware that a lot of the’ stuff’ that clients are telling her is just like her unresolved stuff – and she hasn’t worked hers out yet!  Suddenly she realises that she’s starting to feel a bit of a fraud.  And then she gets a few clients whose situations seem impossible to relate to!  They tell stories of such great sadness or suffering that are so extraordinary that her words, in the sacred theatre of the therapy room, just seem pathetic.

Fears in practice

She takes all these worries and concerns out of her therapy room and continues to worry about them in the evenings.  She goes over her client notes, reads up on some of the techniques, approaches or case studies that might shed some light.  She takes her clients to bed with her. They knock on the inside of her head all night with ghostly invocations: “Ha, so what are you going to do about me?” or “How can YOU help ME?”. She gets up in the morning and decides to just struggle on one way or another.  She trusts it will all fall into place sometime soon.

She realises that the nightly rituals of worry and fear are constituting a performance anxiety that is dictating how her therapy sessions actually run.  She becomes really grateful for the clients who just seem to get it and full of dread for those that don’t seem to be ready.  She toys with the idea that perhaps her clients aren’t ready to work on themselves – and maybe that’s true – but she doesn’t really want to consider the alternative.  That is, that she’s got her own fears to deal with before she can ‘hold the space’ for anyone else.

I know! Let’s do some CPD

She determines to go on a range of courses to extend her practice and at great expense, books herself on to a CPD course, even diversifying a bit to see if that might offer her that je ne sais quoi.  Subsequently she realises it gave her a few techniques but she’s still lacking that elusive security.

It’s at this vulnerable stage in anyone’s therapy practice when we might be considering going back to the day job.  At least we had some company, were not bound to secrecy, didn’t have to take on the responsibility of running our business AS WELL AS nursing the broken hearts and minds of our clients, and could sleep peacefully at night.

Finding a mentor

Now I’ve experienced all of this early in my practice but how grateful was I to be able to stand on the shoulders of some amazing mentors and inspiring therapists. They gave their time freely to ensure that I continued to do my personal work, facing my fears and fuelling my curiosity about the human condition.  These mentors were humanists: people who broke the rules, who worked with their hearts, who had a well developed intellect, who were not dictated by brittle norms and protocols, who could see the human being beneath the ‘stuff’.  And they weren’t all therapists.  My life-long mentor, the Leader of the humanist Buddhist movement I follow, was an incredible inspiration in those early days of practice: encouraging me through his written word to always look for the human being in myself and in my clients.

The importance of your own journey of awakening

This magical mystery tour from the very outset, has made my therapy practice one of self discovery and sharing, one of fellow traveller with my clients to find their answers with them.  At times I’ve not known the way, but my faith in life, in the process and in people’s capacity to find their answers has ensured that we find A way.  As an eclectic, integrative, transpersonal hypno-psychotherapist – well what else do you call it? – sometimes that process is fast and sometimes slow. Either way, knowing yourself deeply enough means you can know others too and intuitively work with them.

The number one reason why therapists fail

The number one reason why people give up their therapy practice, is because they do not have a mentor to coach and inspire them.  There’s no one to help them seek deeply inside themselves for the answers they think are in the text books or courses that they’ve spent thousands of pounds on. Mentors, according to Richard Rohr, are too few in today’s world.  We are a mentor-less society who behave like the proverbial blind leading the blind.  Mentors hold wisdom not knowledge, courage not strategy, and compassion not control. And in our world of the removing of suffering from others, being one step ahead of our clients, tacitly leading the way by raising our own consciousness, getting to know ourselves and our dark places and knowing that we do not have to deny them, nor deny them to our clients: all this in and of itself, transmits healing. It makes your work effortless and natural. It ensures you never burn out. And it ensures a good night’s sleep!

If I match up to those lofty ideals of being a mentor, I know it’s my job to pass that baton on to the next generation of therapists. Join me at one of our meetings near London. Dates and details all on the Open Mind Therapist home page.


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