One of the hardest things about going into private practice is having to put yourself out there. When we’re working for someone else there’s quite a bit of anonymity. People don’t see you as an individual, they see you as part of an organization. When you do well people say “That organization hires good people” or simply “That’s a good organization”. When you do poorly, well you can give a sigh of relief because the organization takes the blame for that too. When you’re working for someone else there’s a myriad of people responsible for your performance. When you’re in private practice, it’s just you.
Being in private practice means taking total responsibility. There’s no one to blame but you when things go wrong. At the same time, you also get to take all the praise when things go well. Due to this, when you go into private practice your peers know it must be because you think you’re good enough for private practice. If you thought you were just a mediocre therapist you wouldn’t take the risk of starting a private practice and being the one at fault when you make a mistake. For you, the rewards of representing yourself outweigh the risk of being solely responsible when things go wrong. That’s a great thing when you get to that point in your career, but it also opens yourself up to criticism from people who wish they were in the same place as you.
Being in private practice requires you to put yourself out there. There’s no other way around it. If you want clients, clients have to know you exist. That means you have to market and you have to make yourself visible. This was probably the most frightening thing for me going into private practice. I remember thinking to myself “Who am I to be doing this?” There were times when I had very strong second thoughts and almost backed out of it. It’s a scary thing because what if you put yourself out there and you’re rejected. It’s very difficult; probably the most difficult thing I’ve had to do. Would I say it was worth it? Absolutely! I love being in private practice and have never regretted it. I get to live my dream. My clients are happy with my services and refer their friends to me. I enjoy being of service to other people. This makes me happy.
Something I didn’t realize at the time but know now is that there’s another risk to putting yourself out there and going into private practice. That risk is that others will think you are arrogant. We all had dreams when we were children. My dreams were probably different from most kids. When I was 14 I dreamed that someday I would be a therapist in private practice. I immediately set to accomplishing that goal. Throughout High School I read as much Psychology books as I could get my hands on. In college I only took classes that I thought would be the most helpful to my future career. After college I took jobs that would help steer me in the right direction towards private practice. And now here I am. Is it arrogance to have a dream and then work to accomplish it?
I think that one of the problems is that people assume that success, dreams, and happiness are a finite resource. Let’s assume that all of those good things are like a pie. When you do well for yourself, people think that you’re taking a bigger piece of the pie, and now there’s less pie for them. They may even feel cheated, like you stole their fair share of the pie. They look at that and they think “How arrogant!” Of course, none of that’s true. There’s plenty of pie for everyone. But for people who have given up their dreams, it’s easier to blame you then to put in the hard work necessary to accomplish their goals. It’s easier to vilify someone else than to take a hard look at their own choices. Oh how satisfying. Those of us that have “made it” did so by taking that hard look at ourselves. You have to be willing to be brutally honest with yourself about your flaws and constantly strive to improve. Critics love to criticize others while ignoring their own flaws. Imagine how different their lives would be if they decided to spend their energy working on improving themselves instead of gossiping about others.
Does this mean you shouldn’t put yourself out there or go into private practice? No! There are always going to be critics. You could be the nicest most giving person in the world and there are still going to be people who will hate you. It’s just part of existing with other people. Just accept that negative people are out there and understand that their negativity towards you comes from a place of disappointment in their own lives. Ignore the critic and accomplish your dreams despite them. Otherwise, you’re just as bad as they are.