What do most new therapists have in common?
I’ll give you a hint. This mistake, which almost all new therapists succumb to, is a quick way to burnout.
Doing it actually decreases your word of mouth referrals, and it’s almost always done out of fear.
Most therapists grow out of it over time due to their experience and an increased sense of confidence. But those that don’t stop this behavior usually don’t last in private practice.
Have you guessed it yet?
Most new therapists, as well as therapists who burn out in private practice or don’t stay in private practice for the long haul, all take on clients that they’re not really interested in working with.
You came into this business because you had a passion for helping people. But that doesn’t mean you love helping every kind of person with every type of issue. There are certain people, with specific presenting issues, who you love helping the most. And whether you know it or not, the people you like helping the most are also the same people you are most effective at helping!
When I first started, I took on a few clients that I wasn’t overly interested in working with. I learned very quickly that not only was I not doing myself any favors (because I felt more tired and less inspired), but I also wasn’t doing those clients any favors. By taking on clients we’re not excited to work with, we are preventing that client from finding another therapist that is a much better fit for them.
What I learned pretty early on in my private practice is that I had to be willing to let certain clients go in order to have space in my practice for the right clients. Many new therapists think about turning potential clients away as “losing clients.” However, I want to assure you that the exact opposite is true. When you say “no” to a potential client because they aren’t the right fit for you, what you are effectively doing is “screening” for the right clients.
Here’s the thing. If you are up front and transparent about the services you offer and the clients you work with, the clients who don’t align with those values will go elsewhere – and that’s great. What you’re doing is figuring out right at the beginning that you’re not the right fit for each other. By being willing to let certain clients go, or turning people away because your needs don’t line up, you are creating space for the right clients.
When you say “no” to the clients who aren’t a right fit, you avoid situations where clients will give you less than stellar word-of-mouth referrals. And as you probably know, poor word-of-mouth referrals are one of the most harmful forms of marketing for your business.
When you say “yes” to the right clients, you will enjoy your work more, be more effective at your job, your clients will get better results, and you’ll get better word of mouth referrals!
When you wait for the right clients, those clients will become your biggest fans and your most prominent sources of word-of-mouth referrals—which is excellent for you, your clients, and your business!
Even if you’re new and are feeling pretty desperate for your first few clients, I urge you not to take new clients on unless you’re genuinely excited about working with them. It might seem a bit scary at first, but by doing so, you’ll love your work more, you’ll have more energy, you’ll do a better job, and you’ll receive better referrals.
In the long run, your practice will grow faster, and your business will be more successful when you hold out for the right clients!