If you’re anything like most therapists I speak with, you’re probably interested in running groups at some point in your private practice. But how do you know when you’re ready to branch out from one-on-one therapy and start leading groups?

In the beginning stages of building a private practice, advertising yourself for one-on-one work is generally the easiest. Most new therapists build their clientele, start earning income and gain experience through one-on-one work.

After a while, you start to hone in on your niche, you get more interested, passionate, and excited about certain topics, and your creative juices start flowing—so much, that solely engaging in one-on-one work isn’t taking as much energy from you as it used to, and you’re ready to offer more.

So, when is the best time to consider running your first group? Here are five ways to determine if you’re ready!

You have an established practice.

It’s not impossible to run a group when you’re just starting out. But, unless you have a pool of people to draw from who already know, like, and trust you, it’s going to be hard to fill a group and get it going.

One of the biggest frustrations in running a group is spending all your time coming up with an idea, putting the material together, finding a space, marketing your plans…and then only one or two people sign up.

By waiting until you’ve got a full caseload of clients and have seen a number of them already (at least 50 on your current and past roster), you increase the likelihood of a good turn-out. By sharing the information with both current and past clients, you also expand your reach, because those clients will, in turn, share the information with people they know.

You’ve identified your niche.

One of the things that makes a group successful is having specific purpose and content. If you try to run a group and the topic is too broad, it’s unlikely you’ll attract anyone. A group for “anxiety” is going to be a lot less popular than a group for “creative, self-employed mothers experiencing burnout.”

The second topic is going to speak directly to a target market. People will be more likely to sign up because they receive the message that the group is just for them. A group about “anxiety” doesn’t really speak to anyone in particular, because the topic is too broad.

When you know who you love to serve (and who you’re good at serving!), identifying your niche market and deciding on a topic that’s perfect for them will set you up on the right path towards running highly successful groups!

You are excited about a particular topic.

Here’s the thing, if you’re not excited about what you’re offering, people will feel it. Don’t just run something because you think it will be popular, or because it’s easy. The lack of energy and inspiration you feel by doing that will be felt by your potential participants, and they’ll be much less likely to consider joining.

When you LOVE what you do, and that creative energy, inspiration, and passion goes into everything you do, the right people will be drawn to you automatically.

You have received additional training on a specific topic.

Running groups is a lot different than conducting a therapy session. You’ll find yourself in the “hot seat” a lot more frequently than you do in one-on-one therapy. Now you’ve got 5, 10, or 15 people looking to you as the expert, rather than just one.

Of course, you don’t need to know the answer to every single question you get asked, but be prepared for a lot more questions. Participants tend to get inspired by one another, and more rich and complex conversations will arise within your group.

Ethically, if you are going to lead a group, you should have additional training on the topic so that you are competent in that area. This allows you to support your participants effectively.

You’re passionate about teaching and sharing information.

Not every therapist is cut-out to lead groups. The skills required in one-on-one therapy are not necessarily the same skills needed to lead groups. Of course, your compassionate nature, good listening skills, empathic reflection and validation skills will all be required—at even higher levels when you’re holding space for so many people.

However, running groups also requires you to have the awareness to hold space for numerous people at once. You have to track how everyone is doing, speak in front of a small crowd, and unlike therapy, you’re actually in the seat of a “teacher” for part of the time, rather than just being a therapist.

If you plan to run groups, make sure that you genuinely like (or love!) teaching and that you hone your skills in that area before you begin.

Running groups can be a lot of fun. It’s also a great way to diversify your income streams, get creative juices flowing, and serve more clients than you can with one-on-one therapy alone. But there’s a lot to know!

If you’re ready to take the next step in private practice and add groups, courses, or workshops into your repertoire, feel free to reach out at christine@christinehakkola.com to see how I can support you along your journey.

p.s. If you need support with your private practice, please schedule a free Business Mentorship Consultation.

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