Recently, on a Facebook post I made for the free live online workshop, “The path to a 6-figure practice” I’m running once in a while, someone left a comment saying: “not a good reason to be a therapist – imho”
I felt torn about answering since I know what most often than not can become the result of 2 different views meeting on social media.
However, that person was making a really good point. At the same time, something was missing in that statement, probably because it was such a short one. The thing is, simplifications are just that. Simplifying a complex reality is always at the expense of the nuances.
I decided that it would be a wonderful opportunity to write a blog post about making (a good) living in your private practice, and to expand the discussion in order to look at the complexity of combining the altruistic and oftentimes difficult work of supporting someone as a therapist or a coach, together with building a successful career.
Building a 6 Figure Private Practice
In short, a 6-figure counseling or/and coaching private practice is not a goal by itself. It is simply a good measurable way to assess a thriving practice, from a few different standpoints. If you have a 6-figure coaching business or a counseling business there is a very big chance that many of the following are happening:
- You are creating an income that covers all of your living expenses, all of your business expenses and allows you to have some extra to save and live a life of a healthy life-career balance.
- You are a good coach/therapist and are creating a positive impact on people’s lives since your clients keep on seeing you and appreciate the work you’re doing together
- You’re respecting your time and impact and charging what you worth
- You understand how business works and run your private practice as a business and not as a hobby
- You have a system that creates a consistent stream of clients for you
That being said, a 6-figure income does not guarantee all of the above. You can definitely create a 6-figure income also by working too hard and feeling burnt out, you can become a good salesperson but not invest in your coaching/counseling skills and not serve your clients powerfully enough, or not have a predictable system in place to continue to maintain your success. And this is why it is so important to do it the right way!
Going back to the Facebook comment, to be honest, I would be a little scared as a client going to a therapist or a coach whose sole purpose was to make 6-figures a year. So I completely agree with the statement that this person made; earning good money is not a good reason on its own to go into any profession, let alone counseling or coaching.
Luckily, I see a very different reality than the scenario described above: my colleagues, my counseling students, the participants at the 6 figure practice program, they are all good people who are motivated by a strong desire to create a positive impact on the world. Filled with hopes and good helping skills, counselors for example, finish their 3 years of a counseling master’s program and they have mostly 2 career paths in front of them: working for a company or starting a private practice.
There are some wonderful companies/agencies out there that do a lot of good for the world. Sometimes, however, the counselors will be paying the price, by being underpaid, overworked, and burntout.
I believe that if you feel it’s your path, you can create your own environment to work in, be building your private practice. You can create a lot of freedom with that path: time freedom, financial freedom, location freedom, the freedom from authority (you’re your own boss), the freedom of a real security (you can’t be fired and if one client leaves you still have other clients), and the freedom to see the clients you feel most called to serve.
The thing is, there are 2 big obstacles that stand in your way if you are a fresh counseling graduate or a coach: You probably have not received any real business training that is required to run a private practice, since it is a business. Second, not like an employee, your business will have many expenses such as rent and furniture for your office (if you have an office), insurance, marketing and advertising, bookkeeper, state registration fees, and of course taxes, to name a few. And guess what, you won’t have an employer to help you with your pension fund, you’re on your own.
So my goal with creating the 6 figure practice program, as well as offering free trainings and resources for therapists and coaches to grow their practice was to help them to acquire these skills, and implementing them in a predictable and fast way so that they can actually build a full private practice and serve the clients that they were taught to serve. Because if you don’t have clients, why did you go into the field in the first place?
By the way, why did I choose to call the program “6 figure practice” and not “be a great therapist/ coach and help others tremendously”? Am I just being greedy, and looking for other greedy therapists and coaches to join?
Not exactly. I called it the way I did for 8 main reasons:
- People who join the program usually already are good therapists / coaches. That’s not the problem they’re dealing with. They’ve already put the time, the effort and the money in their clinical/ coaching training, and let’s not forget that many of them are more than $100,000 in debt as a result. Their problem is that they want to build a private practice to use these skills (on their own terms, not by working for a middleman – and it’s their choice to make), but they don’t have clients, and they struggle financially. By the way, if the therapist or a coach is struggling to pay the bills, it’s not doing them or their clients any good: they will either not be able to serve their clients as powerfully as they could have, or at some point they will leave the profession completely.
- I have counseling clients in my private practice who will tell me about their biggest trauma during the first session, but if I don’t ask them about finances and money they won’t go there for months. Counselors and coaches are the same. Money seems to be such a big taboo. I get it. It’s never just numbers, it’s all the difficult emotions that come up when talking about money. That being said, especially if you’re running a private practice, which is a business, you have to talk about money, become very comfortable talking about money, and become financially literate.
- As I mentioned, you have a lot of expenses as a business owner. To run a private practice, and to afford a comfortable living style, a 6-figure practice is a good place to be at.
- When you earn more, you can work less, and spend more time with your loved ones, and take care of yourself, which will help you to be resourced and grounded when you work with clients.
- When you earn more, you can afford to do more pro-bono work or offer a low fee sliding scale slots if that’s what you want and are called to do, and your finances or time won’t suffer a lot.
- There is this idea in the healing /helping professions that “real work is done in trenches”, which is very similar to the “starving artist” or “starving musician” idea. There is nothing romantic about living in constant anxiety about money. You don’t want that for yourself and you don’t want it for your clients.
- At least as a counselor, you’ve volunteered hundreds of hours of your time doing free counseling. It’s OK to earn a good living after a while.
- Many times coaches and therapists would feel bad for taking someone’s money for therapy/coaching, no matter what the amount they charge. What is the price you put on changing someone’s life? I see mostly couples in my private practice. I hear sometimes them telling me, that even though sometimes it’s hard to afford it, they are consistently able to save up a significant amount for a family vacation, just to spend the whole vacation fighting. What if a small percentage of the money that people spend on leisure activities could be used towards creating the relationships and lives they deserve?
Please leave a comment below, and let’s have an honest conversation about this.
To your success!