5 ways to be a modern therapist
Updated: Oct 24
Raise your hand if you’ve heard one of these statements before:
“You have to pay your dues before you can go into private practice.”
“You won’t get any clients if you don’t work evenings and weekends.”
Or my personal favorite, “You don’t become a therapist to make money.”
Unfortunately I heard all of these statements from grad school professors and supervisors early on in my career. And I know I’m not alone. This martyr mentality is rampant in our field. But fortunately, that is changing! I have worked hard to be part of that change, and I want to help YOU be part of it too.
Here are 5 ways you can be part of the change as a modern therapist:
1. Do Your Own Healing Work
Being a modern therapist probably means different things to different people. But in general it is a movement to reimagine how we function in our role as therapists, allowing ourselves to show up as our whole selves and honoring our worth as human beings. It’s about questioning how things have been, envisioning new possibilities for how it can be, and having careers that align with who we are as people. It’s moving away from feeling trapped in our own practices and moving toward recognizing that we have options and can choose what is right for us.
Sound familiar? You probably have this conversation all the time with your clients! That’s because what we’re talking about is boundaries and self-worth. Except this time we’re focusing on ourselves. Most of us became therapists at least in part – consciously or unconsciously – out of our own need for clarity and healing. So we’ve got to do our own work – for our own benefit and for our clients. Because how can you guide clients to a place you don’t know how to go?
2. Know What You Want – And What You Don’t
Being a modern therapist means knowing who you are – and who you aren’t.
I know I don’t enjoy (and am not that effective) working with clients who are early in their personal growth process and who have limited insight and low motivation. That is just not my thing. I also know that I can only be really present and show up for my clients in the way that I want to for a certain number of hours per day. So I have designed my practice to provide EMDR Intensives, which is a high value service for self-aware and motivated people with a price that reflects that.
This means my marketing is intentionally tailored to people I am excited about working with and who are looking for the service I provide. So if a potential new client calls, but they aren’t someone I’m excited about working with and they aren’t looking for the service I provide, then it’s a “no” for me.
Gone are the days that you have to work with a client just because they have requested your services. And gone are the days that you have to KEEP working with a client if you don’t feel it is a good fit for you. You can make ethical decisions about client care and still honor your own preferences.
3. Practice What You Preach
Being a modern therapist means that I no longer talk about self-care as something I do in the cracks and crevices of my life, when I can squeeze it in, in order to recover from my overly demanding work week. Self-care no longer means that I took a day off sometime last year when I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown if I didn’t.
As a matter of fact, I no longer talk about self-care at all because I conduct my practice in a way that fits into my life, not the other way around. Instead of self-care, I think of it as self-worth, and it’s baked into my life – and my practice – as a whole.
4. Give Yourself Permission to Evolve
Now I can hear some of you saying, “Well, good for you. You’ve got it all figured out. But I don’t see how that’s possible for me.”
I get that. I’ve been there. I’ve looked around and seen all these other therapists with their snazzy looking private practices, with their podcasts and their blogs and their online courses, and wondered how I had gotten so far “behind.” The truth is there’s no difference between you and me and them.
If you’re asking yourself how other therapists got there, the answer is – one step at a time. Who you are as a person and as a therapist will change – we evolve and grow over time. You can allow your work to evolve too. Just because it has always been a certain way, doesn’t mean it has to continue to be. But you can’t have the 2.0 version of your practice until you create the 1.0 version. Give yourself permission to learn, grow, make mistakes and change.
5. Don’t Wait to Get What You Want
The earlier in your career you do the work of self-discovery and knowing yourself, the easier it will be.
Don’t let other people’s limiting beliefs become your reality. They likely have their own healing work to do (or not – they have the right to stay stuck if they want to). Like those mentors who told me that “You don’t become a therapist to make money.” In my mind I was saying, Um, actually….I DID become a therapist to make money because I planned on it being my JOB. There are times when people work and don’t get paid – that’s called being a volunteer. #notinterested
You’re reading this blog, so hopefully you won’t wait as long as I did to make some changes. Get around likeminded people who will support you in challenging outdated ideas in the field. Find mentors who have practices that look like what you want, and learn from them. Develop a peer group of other therapists who believe that a rising tide lifts all boats and who value collaboration over competition.
That is being a modern therapist.
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