I’ve been asked recently what’s the worst business advice I hear therapists receiving. One of my all time least favorites is this one.
Bad Advice: To build a therapy practice you need to compromise as much as you can on who you're willing to see, your fee, your methods, and your schedule.
Truth: You need to get clear on what puts you in your zone of genius. When you work in your zone of genius, you can build a more successful practice with less effort.
It’s not your fault if you’ve taken or given this bad advice. You hear it all the time from well-meaning colleagues and even some practice building coaches. “Lower your fee. Be flexible about who you’ll see. Add more convenient hours. Use the methods clients are looking for most.”
You’ve heard this so many times that you may not even notice that it’s based on an assumption. It starts to just feel true.
When you have a downturn in your practice, you immediately begin to lower your fees or offer hours you don’t want to work, or you take on clients you don’t really want to work with. Maybe you start researching a new insurance panel, even though you decided you don’t want to accept insurance.
You begin to look for places to compromise AWAY from the business of your dreams. You look for ANY way to bring in new clients.
You may be able to pay the bills this way, but you won't get the business of your dreams.
Maybe you tell yourself you’ll get the business of your dreams later. You tell yourself that once you’re successful, then you’ll start working the way you want to. Then you’ll set your schedule and fee the way you’d like and you’ll focus on working with the clients and methods you’re the best fit for.
If you’re making compromises that take you further and further away from the kind of private practice that you do the best work in, you’ll never get there. You’ll end up with a private practice that drains you.
You’ll still be a good therapist and you’ll still help people. You just won’t be as great as you could be, and you won’t be as successful as you could be.
What should you do instead of compromising?
Focus on finding and stepping into your zone of genius as a therapist. That's the path to building the practice of your dreams.
What’s your zone of genius?
It’s the zone you’re in when you’re doing what you’re uniquely good at, and when you’re adding the most value to those around you.
You know you’re in your zone of genius when you experience flow (losing your sense of time) and you feel most energized by your work.
When you’re clear on what it takes to get into your zone of genius as a therapist, you can take steps to do more of that and less of everything else. That’s the path where you’ll help more people and build a successful business.
Step back and figure out how to set up your life and your business so that you’re working in your zone of genius more of the time.
In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks makes the argument that when you insist on doing the work you are meant to do and nothing else, you increase your success and creativity. He cautions against settling for working in your zone of competence or even in your zone of excellence. Your job is to insist on getting to your zone of genius.
That’s a pivotal part of my method. In my Superpower Method For Therapists™ Program, I take therapists through a process to step back, identify their Superpowers, and then rebuild their practices around those Superpowers. I say “Superpower”, Hendricks says “zone of genius”. Tomato, tomato. Potato, potato.
Even after you decide to go after your zone of genius, it takes some courage to stay on that path. When you have a downturn in your caseload, you need to breathe and slow down for a moment and remember your strategy.
When you’ve found your zone of genius and built your practice around it, you’re not going to be in flow every minute.
Even when you’re charging a fee that works for you, working your ideal schedule, and using the methods you love with the clients you work best with, sometimes this work is hard.
Sometimes you hit a place with a client where you feel stuck or muddled.
That’s what consultation, training and self-care are for.
This is not about living a flawless life. Rather it’s about returning to that center of your best practice over and over again.
Worried that searching for your zone of genius will take too long because you've got bills to pay NOW?
If you’re thinking “But I don’t have time for that! I need to bring in clients now," here’s my answer.
Let's look at an example of a therapist working through the zone of genius/Superpower issue:
A therapist I’ll call Latrice learned EMDR. She went through training levels one and two, started using EMDR with many of her clients, and found she was helping people faster and more profoundly than ever before. For several months, she focused on doing as much EMDR as possible. She increased her session length to 75 minutes so she had time to take her clients through the process.
Then Latrice’s practice dipped. Her caseload and her income decreased. She panicked and began looking for compromises to bring in clients fast. She applied for an insurance panel. She answered requests asking for therapists with different specialties. She changed her schedule back to 50-minute sessions to accommodate more clients per day. Within a few weeks, her attention was off of building an EMDR centered practice, and on to building whatever kind of practice she could. When she asked her colleagues for advice, they encouraged her to take what she could get.
Let’s look at what Latrice might do if she ignored that advice and went after her zone of genius instead.
She would take on the singular goal of building a private practice around her EMDR skills. She would use some of her temporary down time write articles about the way she uses EMDR to bring transformation to her clients. She would get together with colleagues and tell them about her experience with EMDR. She would offer EMDR when appropriate and helpful to all of her new clients. She would reach out to other EMDR therapists and find a consultation group to help in her learning and to build her sense of professional support.
So is there no room for compromise?
Compromise has a place in every practice. It should allow you to help more people within your successful practice, not allow you to scrape by.
At times you may choose slide your fee or make other compromises IN ORDER to be in your zone of genius. You may adjust your methods to meet a client in the right place.
You won’t be compromising out of fear, rather you’ll be compromising out of generosity.
Take one step toward your zone of genius.
Begin to shift your practice so that you are in your zone of genius more and more.
Here are a couple of questions to chew on to start figuring this out:
How would you set up your practice if you could only do the work in which you feel the most effective and most inspired?
When was the last time you felt inspired and energized by your work? Write down or talk about everything that contributed to that feeling.
If you’re ready for a process to help you find your zone of genius, I’d love to be your guide.
Want more advice to build your unique and successful practice?