I hear of many, many people volunteering long after they’ve qualified. Sometimes it's a genuine desire to ‘give back’ to the community, which is admirable.
However, sometimes it's because of something else, something to do with fear and that step into taking private clients feels terrifying.
So what do we do? We put up blocks and tell ourselves we can’t because X, Y and Z - and I know this to be true, because I’ve done it too!
So it’s time to do what we do with therapy clients: explore those blocks, and remove them.
Aah, the misconception that as a therapist we have to somehow become self actualized! We communicate assertively, have stepped out of the drama triangle, replaced our defense mechanisms with something more useful and are stress free.
Oh, and all our relationships are fulfilling and meaningful.<sigh>
That would be nice. Possibly.
But the truth is, therapists are just normal people with normal problems: sometimes we shout at our kids, we swear at people when driving, we gossip, we drink, we get things wrong.
Being a professional counsellor doesn’t mean you have to be perfect (thank God!).
No, being a therapist means you are not only interested in other peoples growth, you're seeking you own.
We never stop learning - every day, with every person we meet or situation we handle we are learning something new.
If you live to be 100 (and I hope you do!) you will still be learning, you'll never know it all so give yourself a break.
You don’t have to have all the answers, you just need the right questions.
This is the biggest myth of all. You have to be qualified, insured and have supervision to practice, you don’t need accreditation.
If you intend to do EAP work, or want to find salaried employment you will most probably need accreditation, but you can take private clients to make up the 450 hours necessary.
You may WANT accreditation, but you don’t NEED it to get started.
'I’m qualified but in order to see clients with X issue, I need to do X course first’.
Okay, I totally get this! I'm the same, I want to be as knowledgeable about a subject as I can be before I feel confident taking clients with that issue.
But if you’re qualified, you can see clients safely with the knowledge and skills you already have.
You don't have to be an expert on your clients issues, your clients already are, you just follow their lead.
I’m not saying you don’t need to seek out further appropriate training - there is not only a requirement for Continued Professional Development, it’s good practice to be always learning.
If you get an enquiry from someone that has complex issues, it’s absolutely okay to refer them to someone that’s more able to help them.
Read more about this in 'Shall I get another qualification before I start in private practice?'
If you've passed your driving test you'll know that learning to drive properly is vital and needed to drive safely, but most of the learning comes after passing the test through experience. It's the same with counselling.
There are people out there that need you right now, just as you are. You can totally help them, you're ideal for them: you just need to be there. Because when you've done more training, you might be more suited for a different person.
Maybe, rather than investing in another course at this time, you could invest in some coaching or business skills to help grow your private practice? After all, it leads to helping more clients.
There is no doubt about it, you DO need a website, but right at the start if you don’t have much money to invest, you can get by without one.
A really simple way to get an online presence is using About.Me which is basically one page that’s (you guessed it!) all about you. It’s what I had before I got my website - in fact here it is! https://about.me/janetravis
Taking private clients means the money earned can be used to get you online.
And even then, it doesn’t have to cost much at all. WordPress.org is free, you'll just need hosting which is about £6-£15 a month - I use Siteground, which has brilliant customer service - and there are some beautiful free templates.
Squarespace starts at just £14 a month which includes hosting and has some beautiful drag and drop templates to use which look amazing.
And Wix is very affordable, and also has a free option
Obviously if you have the cash you can afford to pay someone to make it, but they are so simple to put together now I do recommend giving it a go. Start now, take it slowly. Honestly, it doesn't have to be perfect.
You need a safe place to see clients: it doesn’t have to have a leather chair and fine art on the walls.
Think of the places people access therapy: prisons, schools, GP surgeries, shelters, womens aid… they often have very basic rooms for counselling.
A classy room is something to work towards, but you can still change clients lives in something a little more basic.
Taking private clients will give you some income to build up to a beautiful room: ultimately you need 2 chairs, a coffee table and a lamp. And the lamp and table are optional.
It’s okay to have doubts, it’s okay to lack confidence but as counsellors it’s always good to reflect on what’s holding you back.
It might be something mentioned above or it may be something else.
Write in your journal about it, see what comes up.
Related post: Beat Imposter Syndrome
When I first started out I knew I wanted to take private clients but I just wasn't confident, which was made worse by a supervisor that wasn’t a good match for me - I almost gave up counselling.
I changed supervisor, and the new one gave me the reassurance I needed that I was ready. So use your supervision to talk this through and talk to the counsellors you trained with.
Start where you are, use what you have and the money you make will fund the business to move forward.
Sometimes you need to believe in yourself and start before you feel ready. Because the longer you wait, the less ready you'll feel.
If you're ready to start taking clients, check out the Grow Your Private Practice Club. It includes a Foundations course, which will get you off to the best possible start and a Quickstart course, showing you how to get started fast, no website required. Just click the button below for more details and to join.
Jane lives in beautiful Lincoln with her 2 boys and rescue dog. When she's not talking about herself in the third person, she's usually found with her feet up and eating Maltesers. Sometimes she even shares them with friends.