Counseling Therapist Avani Dilger Talks About Building A Successful And Ethical Private Practice

Avani Dilger shares her path in building a successful and ethical private practice and non-profit company. She is proof you can mix business with a charitable cause and do it well! Let's spend some time with her and learn all the tricks and ways to make this happen for you. You can have a six figure practice and give back to your community.


About the 6-Figure Practice Program: 

The Six Figure Practice with Sasha Raskin, is an online program and community for helpers such as counselors and coaches, who are building their private practice. If you’re looking for a clear, step-by-step road map for creating and marketing your private practice, you're at the right place! 

🔥 Free resources to grow and market your counseling private practice or coaching business: 

🔰 Free 22 minutes crash course - "How to Create a Thriving Counseling / Coaching Private Practice": https://www.the6figurepractice.com/free-22-minute-crash-course

🔰 Free resources about marketing for therapists and marketing for coaches: https://www.the6figurepractice.com/blog 

🔰 Free 30-minutes strategy session with Sasha Raskin: https://www.the6figurepractice.com/schedule-a-free-30-min-strategy-session/  

🔥 Our accelerator program for creating a 6-figure business: 

🔰 The 6 Figure Practice Program: https://www.the6figurepractice.com/the-6-figure-practice-program-accelerator/ 

🔥 More ways to connect:

🔻 Website: https://www.the6figurepractice.com

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🔻 Chat with me on messenger: https://m.me/the6figurepractice  

🔻 Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCITSmYvj-vpwuWrOuwqYr5w 

🔥 About me: 

My name is Sasha Raskin. I’m a Number 1 Best Selling Co-Author in 12 Countries, a Doctoral student in Counseling Education and Supervision, a coach, a psychotherapist and an adjunct faculty at a graduate counseling program at Naropa University. 

One of the things I’m enjoying the most is helping other therapists and coaches build their successful private practice so that they could actually help the clients they were taught to help, and thrive themselves. I’m almost always fully booked, so my ability to work with individuals is limited. That is why I’ve created this program to deliver powerful results and create a community where you will feel supported by each other! 

This program's primary goal is to help you build a thriving private practice, in a fun and authentic way. Counselors and coaches invest an incredible amount of time, money, and effort into building their helping skills. However, when their training ends, they usually find themselves lacking the business skills that are needed to start and run a successful private practice, feel isolated, discouraged and not knowing where to start. 

I believe that to be truly helpful to others, therapists and coaches have to learn to thrive themselves and definitely know how to get clients whom they can help. 

This is where this program comes in. If you're willing to learn and work hard, a 6-figure private practice is within your reach in a year - 2 years. This program will give you a clear outline, and detailed instructions on how to get there.

Building A Private Practice | Interview with Avani Dilger

Sasha Raskin:  Hi, Avani.

Avani Dilger:  Hi, Sasha.

Sasha Raskin:  Hi, so I'm excited about today's conversation. We'll be talking about your journey as a therapist in private practice. And with all the experience that you have I think it would be very valuable for people that are thinking about starting their private practice and also that already grew their practice and thinking, "Well, maybe there are other projects that I can explore." So maybe a good way to start would be if you could share what do you do, who do you help and how do you help in your private practice.

Avani Dilger:  So I came 23 years ago from Germany to study with the pioneers in somatic psychology, and that brought me all the way to Boulder, Colorado. And I was very dedicated to working in the field of addiction and substance abuse, and so that was really my focus. And I started out working in agencies, so I worked here in the Boulder County jail; I worked for Boulder County, so really being in agencies that serve people from underprivileged backgrounds. And I did that for several years. And I think it gave me really the best exposure to what's happening in the field and also to understand issues around social justice and access.

And it was amazing after graduating from Naropa University to work in teams with people, interdisciplinary teams, with people who had a ton of experience. So that was really, really helpful to me.

And I would say that the biggest training I really got from the people I worked with, from the people in very extreme places struggling with substance use issues, addiction, incarceration, being involved in the justice system, and there were many times I was desperate in terms of we are not helping in these systems, like what could we do different? And from that place of kind of being humbled I started asking questions and I think those were the questions that taught me the most, really asking people in the really dark places like what is actually helping and what is actually empowering?

And really I learned so much in these really difficult challenging places from people who have been in those dark places for a long time. And so I would say that really gave me a very profound understanding and then helped me seek out the training even after graduating - what I needed to do what I do now. So learning for example that what is underneath really severe substance abuse issues is actually trauma. And so now I work as a brain spotting therapist in private practice with people on the most extreme end of the spectrum, substance abuse, addiction, mental health issues, and I really like working with people who have been in lots of different treatment settings but have not gotten help around their symptoms.

So I really like helping people who didn't get help before, who feel like the traditional approaches have not worked for them, who are kind of burned out, sometimes hopeless that therapy would actually help them. And so those are the people I really like working with because I want to show people that they're not broken. Oftentimes, they don't have a mental health or substance abuse disorder, right? Oftentimes, they have just lots of natural reactions that we know happen after trauma, and so that's at this point what I specialize in. So people who deal with very severe symptoms because of trauma and then I can see that brain spotting is a really, really good treatment for them.

Sasha Raskin:  So sounds like straight out of school you found yourself in a good environment to learn and to create change. And you were busy with asking questions not just the mental health practitioners but also the clients themselves, right? What do they need?

From this environment that sounds like would be a great place for a therapist, what pushed you towards starting your own private practice? Why would you need a private practice if you have such a good network to work in?

Avani Dilger:  So I just saw, and these were different times, right?

Sasha Raskin:  Of course.

Avani Dilger:  This is 20 years ago. But it was very difficult at times within the system to use cutting-edge approaches. And so I think as therapists we really should see ourselves as social change agents and we should work on all levels, right? I think I feel inspired to work for social change on every level, and so it was good for me to work within agencies and within the system, but then I could also see the limitations, right? And so that is what really inspired me to start working in private practice where I felt like I can get this work to people who cannot get it within the system.

But at the same time not giving up on the system. So I still work within the systems, so for example, we're doing work right now with the probation department, so with women who are within the criminal justice system, because I think I'm not okay just working with people who can afford therapy, I also want to provide this cutting-edge work for people who cannot afford it, right? So for example, I go into a high school now here in Boulder and do brain spotting sessions with students who have been identified as having severe trauma.

Sasha Raskin:  Oh, wow.

Avani Dilger:  So it's hard, right? But I think that is what is important that we don't give up on these systems, that we work on the inside for change as well.

Sasha Raskin:  Nice. So you're saying that private practice allowed you the freedom, clinically, to do what you think works best, right? That may be were a bit restricted within the system. And I know that many times counselors when they think about going into private practice there is like some guilt in terms of, "Ugh, what about underserved populations?" And you're saying it doesn't need to be either or - you can work in the system and you can create your own environment for change and do the things you want to do your way.

Avani Dilger:  Yeah, I recommend that every therapist works on all fronts, right? Because, of course, a lot of the work ... I think every therapist should start a non-profit or get involved in non-profit work, because there's so much work to be done on so many levels. And then sometimes like I do a lot of work still to this day in the community completely volunteer because I think that's what I feel inspired to do. And of course, at some point you have to make a living, right? So for me in my journey that has been the ideal combination, to work in private practice to be able to make a living, to also do professional trainings where I also get paid for my work. And then that allows me to do non-profit work and do a lot of volunteer work where I feel I can provide cutting-edge therapy to people who could otherwise never afford it. So to me personally that combination really feels powerful and satisfying and where I feel like I'm living my purpose.

Sasha Raskin:  Yeah, I love that. So you're saying, "Yeah, it's important for me to create social change and help others. And at the same time I need to take care of myself as well," right? "And the combination of private practice with agency work allows me to do that."

Avani Dilger:  Absolutely, right? And I think, I mean, this is why I love our profession so much because it allows us to work in so many different ways. So I was very lucky I became a motivational interviewing trainer, and that allows me to work with change not just with individuals on a client level but I get to train professionals. So I get to change the system not just with individual clients but also helping professionals understand their work and improve their skill level. So to me that is the potential that we have as therapists, that we can also work as trainers.

Sasha Raskin:  And I assume it wasn't just luck, I think it was premeditated intention to like what do you want your career to look like.

Avani Dilger:  Not really.

Sasha Raskin:  Not really?

Avani Dilger:  So I have to say ... No, I have to say, you know what? Now in hindsight, what really helped was that I without any compromise followed my passion. And I really pursued the things that felt really meaningful to me without ever looking at financial, ever making choices around finances. I pursued my passion, but I have to say now looking back that opened doors for me that I really couldn't even imagine.

So a lot of the opportunities that came my way were kind of these synchronistic meetings of people where I couldn't have known that they would open these doors for me, where I would say now looking back it was just offering my passion, never saying no, always offering to help even if it was totally unpaid. That in my journey has opened a lot of doors where then there were also opportunities created by that.

Sasha Raskin:  So to summarize, the path is go towards what excites you and you're passionate about, say yes to things and seek them out, and also financial reward will follow, right? Not it to be flipped, right? I'm looking for whatever the financial reward is and then I might not enjoy it or it might not happen.

Avani Dilger:  Yeah, I mean, it might be different paths for different people, but in my experience, so I'll give you an example.

Sasha Raskin:  Yes.

Avani Dilger:  The first job that I took after graduating with my second master's degree was a case manager position where it was I think the requirement was a high school diploma and it was 12 bucks an hour. But it was in a cutting-edge jail diversion program that was just so visionary, so amazing, where I was like, "I do want to serve the people with the most severe mental health issues that got stuck in jail and we now have an opportunity to take them out of jail with the permission of the courts and offer them treatment." I mean, that vision, right? And to be involved in that pilot project is more important to me than making money.

So I'm so glad to this day because I feel like that that door opened opportunities for me where I now still work in the system with people in the criminal justice system that is so close to my heart. And so I would recommend that to anybody. Like, follow what excites you the most, where you feel like these are the people I want to work with.

Sasha Raskin:  Yeah, I don't remember, it's from a book I read recently and it's just one sentence and like the career advice the author gives is find what makes you feel alive and then find a way to make a living out of it. Oh, I think it's Steven Chandler in Wealth Warrior.

Avani Dilger:  Totally. And I say, I mean, I was always very responsible, right? Like, so I didn't just launch into private practice. I looked for work within an agency and then I reduced that to part-time. And I was always incredibly careful. I rented an office hourly, like I did not just in this kind of naive way follow my heart, like I was very ...

Sasha Raskin:  Yeah, follow your passion, quit your job and move to the other side of the world to watch dolphins because that's your calling.

Avani Dilger:  Yeah. No, I'm all for being mature and responsible, right? And to do a step at a time. But now in looking back, I would have to say that where I followed my passion that is what created these synchronistic, amazing, meetings with people that then opened a lot of doors for me.

I'll give you another, people ask me a lot to present in conferences or to present in communities, and to this day I always say yes. And most of the time there's no payment, right? You do this on your own time. And I presented at a conference once where they told me, they said, "Sorry, we cannot pay you. But we give you a hotel room." And I said yes. And then a person from a very, very large government agency saw me present and then advocated for me to get a five-year contract with a really large government organization to train over a thousand staff, right? And so if I would have said no to this volunteer opportunity that door would have never opened.

So that is my experience consistently that if you feel like there's something in your heart where you want to serve and somebody asks you for help and you say yes, that in the long run that has always been really, really important and powerful.

Sasha Raskin:  So throughout all those experiences you are getting exposure. Well, people are getting exposure to your expertise and your ideas and your unique way of creating change in the world, and your network grows. And I think one of the scary things in building private practice for therapists is this idea that they hear about that you're all alone and you're isolated. And you're saying, "No, you don't have to be."

Avani Dilger:  No, I mean, that's why I recommend create a non-profit or get involved with an agency, offer your support. Totally connect with the people where you feel like they're doing important work in this community. If you don't want to start your own non-profit, find the places, like if you feel like, "I want to support women who come out of domestic violence," like connect with the people in your community who do that, because you want to be known as an advocate, as somebody who's fully passionate for this cause and will do anything to support it. So I would highly recommend. At this point in the world we cannot create change by ourselves, like we need to connect and we need to support each other.

Sasha Raskin:  Yeah, wonderful. So if you think about it, for how long have you been in private practice in general? And if you think about the main milestones in the way it was growing, what were those?

Avani Dilger:  That's a good question. So I think I started probably around 2004, so that's, what, about 16 years ago. I did it part time, right? Next to my agency work, and then I got involved at Naropa University teaching, and so next to that. So I really grew my private practice based on need.

I didn't advertise much at all. It was really word of mouth, and that is to this day. I don't advertise at all. It's all word of mouth. And I could do that because of my teaching work at Naropa University and because of my agency work. I could do this on the side, really growing it organically based on need. I always kept my costs like super low, literally just getting an office by the hour. So I never had a lot of overhead costs. And so I could go with that momentum.

And I'm not saying everybody needs to do it like that, but that's what worked for me. And my experience is that really especially in a community where there is a lot of therapists, that word of mouth is a really powerful way of the right clients coming to you. I mean, that's the other thing. I just started working with a young man this Friday who had exactly the profile, like my favorite situation to work with, right? Debilitating substance abuse issues, debilitating mental health issues, failed treatment attempts. And this young man started talking about what he's dealing with, and I was like, "How did this happen? Like, how did you find me?" And he couldn't really track it. But it was just a miracle, right? A miracle where I felt like this is exactly the person I can help.

And so I don't think it's just about income, but it's also you want to be connected to the people you can really help. And so that's why I think this word of mouth situation is really important. And also being very clear like what is your specialty, right? Who do you want to serve? And what training do you have that it's exactly the right people who come to you that you can really help.

Sasha Raskin:  It reminds me of what we talked about before we started the call, that your advice to me when I was starting my private practice was there are so many people, therapists, in this town that it's so hard for people to find a therapist, right? The paradox of choice - the more choice you have the more difficult it is to make one. So you need to become the person to go to with a specific challenge.

And I think therapists get stuck for years sometimes on choosing a niche, right? They hear about you need to choose a niche and then it's the paradox of, "Well, what if I just focus on one population that I'm not going to have enough clients? Or, what if I can help all those other people too, right?" What would be your advice on ... I'm totally going to mispronounce it, specialization, and how to choose the people you want to work with so that like really magical stories like what you just shared would start happening?

Avani Dilger:  I mean, in my experience, again, different people might have different paths into that, but in my experience it was just following my passion. I was always totally clear that I wanted to work with addiction and that I wanted to support people with that. And then radically following what feels like where I feel most drawn to. Also in terms of trainings, right? Also in terms of really getting very specialized training on what you feel most drawn to and where you want to be of service.

So my sense is, and I know that lots of people talk about this, how you do your soul purpose and your manifesting things and all of that, I don't know about any of this, but what I would say looking back is the fact that I dedicated myself to being of service and to helping very, very specific people who are really in the shadows in this culture right now, and I feel like the more I am really trusting that the more people find me who need exactly that particular help.

So I would encourage everybody, just check who are you feeling passionate in being of service to and then follow that passion. And get the word out, connect with agencies and people who do this work. Create social change on that level.

Sasha Raskin:  And you completely follow this advice on your website. I just opened it up to look at like what's the first thing that I see as a visitor, and it was just that, like loud and proud deep recovery from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety and grief, right? You state very, very specifically and like in big letters what is exactly what you do, which kind of probably eliminates the clients who you wouldn't be enjoying as much working with.

Avani Dilger:  Yeah, I can tell you like people in Boulder, Colorado who look for personal growth I immediately refer them out. I'm like, "I'm not doing that." This is not what I enjoy, I do not tolerate sitting with people who just don't really have a suffering or a struggle going on. There's plenty of other people who enjoy that kind of work. I enjoy working with people who are in the darkest dark, who are really struggling and really suffering from trauma. So I just know that about myself, and so I do not keep my private practice broad, right? Like, because I know it's torture for me to sit with people where I feel like they're just doing this for person growth. That's fine. It's just not me.

Sasha Raskin:  So not being afraid to say no. Well, you're saying yes and, right? It's not no. There is a better therapist for you, here's the name and the phone number.

Avani Dilger:  Or I say to people who come to me and say, "I'd like to work with addiction but I want to keep using marijuana, is this okay with you?" I'm like, "No, I'm sorry. It's fine. I have no judgment, but I'm not the right person for you because I don't believe that marijuana is helpful. And so if you want to work with this situation you cannot work with me," right?

So in my experience the more clear I am where I can be of service and where I feel passionate about helping people the more clearly these other people find the connection, right? So I would highly recommend that, to not compromise.

Sasha Raskin:  So the process would be for someone who's trying to figure it out is what am I really passionate about, choosing the population that I can really help, get more education and more specific training about that so I become the professional who can really help with that, and then translate it into the message on my website, into the message even in my phone calls with potential clients, right? And then word of mouth starts to build as well because this is the specific thing you would be recommended for.

Avani Dilger:  Yeah. And the question where people say, "What is the kind of work that you would like to do even if you would not get paid for that," right? Like, what is the work that brings you alive and that puts you on fire? That is I think what needs to happen, right? Where you're not compromising because what you think creates an income. You go with what you feel most passionate about.

Sasha Raskin:  Yeah, because the danger is otherwise be careful for what you wish for because if you work a lot for it, it might come true, right? What if you build a private practice with clients who you don't feel you are the best fit for and they're not the best fit for you?

Avani Dilger:  Total burnout program, right? People ask me sometimes like how can you do so much, because I run a non-profit, I do professional trainings.

Sasha Raskin:  That was my next question.

Avani Dilger:  Yeah. Well, the thing is you work in a way that gives you energy, right? You don't do work that drains or you don't do work where you feel like you're compromising. You really find the work that puts you on fire where you feel like this gives me so much joy, so much energy, it feeds my soul. And then you can do a lot of work.

Sasha Raskin:  That's wonderful. What would be your advice for a therapist who's just starting out fresh out of school and they want to go into private practice and they don't know where do they start?

Avani Dilger:  Yeah, I would say don't start like that. I would say find contexts where you can work and learn, right? I think this is something that somebody unfortunately just told me in the third year of my graduate program, somebody said, "You are not going to be a therapist in three years." I was like, "Could you have not told me that before?"

So I now supervise practicum students and I say that from the get-go, "You will not be a finished therapist after three years of school." It is just to get you started. You can relax. You're not going to be finished. Like, this is your beginning to work in this field and to learn and so I would say, "Find contexts where you can learn, where you can make a living within your passion and where you have community," right? "Where you don't feel you're by yourself."

If you want to create a private practice element, that's fine, but then find part-time work where you feel like you are part of a team and you can still learn, get lots of supervision, learn from colleagues, learn from elders in the field so that you don't have this feeling of like being on shaky ground by yourself.

Sasha Raskin:  And that takes the pressure off.

Avani Dilger:  Totally, yeah. It's also smart; it's financially smart, right? Because then you get a lot of the hours, a lot of the supervision as part of your work that you're going to need for licensure and you don't have to pay it out of pocket, right? So also I think it's financially smart.

Sasha Raskin:  Rich Lipton, one of my coaches, he says, "Needy is creepy." So not having this part-time job, like potential clients can feel it, right?

Avani Dilger:  That is so important, right? Like, if your clients, and I don't think you can fake that, right? Like, if your clients feel that you are not coming from a place of abundance, right? They are not having to fill kind of a deficit, I think that's the only way it works, right? Like, that's why I think starting a private practice like on the side where it's not even any financial need creates an energy where people actually feel comfortable working with you.

Sasha Raskin:  That's wonderful. Avani, what would be your advice for people who already grew their private practice to some extent and maybe they're saying, "Okay, I have some clients now, maybe 10, 15. And I feel I'm kind of plateauing. I need my next growth or create something additional," what would be your advice then?

Avani Dilger:  I mean, I see our work as a social justice profession I learned a tremendous amount from the people who started the public achievement model which is a model around the world that really supports people, all ages, to become change agents. And Harry Boyd and Dennis Donovan who started this model created a really important worldwide movement, and I was mentored by them. And there is a therapist named William Dougherty who started applying public achievement for psychotherapists, and I highly recommend everybody who works as a therapist and as a counselor or a coach to look into that, right? So William Dougherty he coined the term citizen therapist, so that we understand as therapists that we have a lot of skills that could benefit people in a community.

And so to get very creative and to think outside of the box how we can support social change in our communities, and I recommend that to anybody who feels like they're plateauing or they just want to do more or want to have a bigger reach, to look into that, like what does that mean to be a citizen therapist and how to get involved.

And William Dougherty published really interesting articles with pilot projects of how that could look like, right? How a therapist can be creating change and work for change in their community. So I highly recommend that, because, again, if you want to get the word out, that people know about you, I think that is a much better approach than like formal marketing, where people actually know that you are a community leader with this particular issue. And then they will develop trust in you and we'll send people your way. Because it's all about working for change in our communities. So that will be my recommendation.

Sasha Raskin:  Yeah, so show, not tell.

Avani Dilger:  Totally. And also just, again, be of service in your community so people know that you are in this fight and that you are a person that people can rely on and trust, that you're not doing this work for money but that you're doing this work because of passion and because you want to be of service.

Sasha Raskin:  Avani, what would you say about further education after master's program? I see two paths, kind of maybe two extremes and I'm curious what's a good sweet spot for you. One extreme would be that you mentioned, "Okay, I have my three years of grad program. I'm good, I'm going to be a great therapist now. I'm ready to change the world." The other extreme would be just signing up for one certification under another, training, training, training but not actually applying it, right? Constantly staying in this student mode as maybe a way to bypass doing the actual work today, right? And I think you're a good person to ask that because you probably have the most letters after your name that I know of. I think it's MA, DMA, LPC, CACIII, BC and DMT and probably you're working on some others. So what would you say is a good balance?

Avani Dilger:  So I would say talk to people in the field, right? Because at this point ...

Sasha Raskin:  Connect with colleagues.

Avani Dilger:  Definitely, because at this point it's like endless, right? The amount of certifications, trainings, credentials you could get. I would say talk with the people who work in the field and serve the populations that you feel passionate about and talk to them what they see that is important in terms of training or credential or certification.

I always, because I have worked with students, graduate students now for a long time in different, at Naropa but also now as a community supervisor in a placement, practicum placement, I always recommend that people do pursue credentials. So if you want to work with underserved populations, if you work with or want to work within systems you're going to need credibility, right? That is so important. That's the reason I pursued some of the credentials to just be available to work in a school, be able to work for a probation department, right? So I would highly recommend that you talk with people, what credentials are necessary to do this kind of work for underprivileged people? So that's important.

The second is you follow your passion, right? You follow like what is the work exactly that I want to be doing and what is the best training for this work? Like, just to give you an example, when people ask me, "Okay, so I want to work in addiction and substance abuse. And I want to serve people who are in the criminal justice system." Well, then you need to pursue the credential in your state to be able to work as a substance abuse counselor. And then I would recommend training in brain spotting, because I think that is the most cutting-edge trauma training that you can get right now.

But this is like you need to talk with people in your field, right? Like, what are the cutting-edge things right now that are respected, that people really have a lot of trust in, so that's what I would recommend.

Sasha Raskin:  So you're saying figure out the outcome, right? What would you like to be doing mostly. And then do two things - education for the sake of being more efficient and second one is what are the credentials that are needed if you want to work in the system for that specific place. What would you say, just looking back at building your private practice experience and being a therapist for so long, what would you recommend not to do for therapists who either are starting private practice or further along?

Avani Dilger:  I would say definitely don't isolate. It's like all about connections and it's all about knowing people. And I know for some people who are introverted like me that's very intimidating, so the way that worked for me is to just say yes to any invitation, any opportunity to be of service, just say yes. Because I'm very introverted, for me if anybody would have told me, "You need to network. You need to reach out." It would have terrified me.

I didn't do much of that typical networking and reaching out. What I did is I just offered myself being of service, right? So that for me now has created an incredible network where people know about me and know about what I do.

And so I recommend that. And I recommend staying very humble. So not expecting that, "Oh, I can just create a private practice and people will come to me." I would say stay humble, do your work within the community, be realistic, say yes to opportunities, get involved even if it means as a volunteer first. I mean, there are places I have volunteered for 12 years before I got paid, right? Just because I felt passionate about it. And so that's what worked for me.

Sasha Raskin:  Wonderful. And for therapists who think about growing beyond or growing something passionate in areas where they can help I think your example, Natural Highs, your own non-profit is a great example, would you say more about that? And the journey of actually starting a non-profit. I'm sure that people who listen to it right now and hear your advice, just start a non-profit, everyone should, that might sound a little intimidating. Could you say more about the steps and how it unfolded?

Avani Dilger:  Yeah, so again, right? And again, people might have different paths into that, but my path was just doing this kind of service-oriented work in the community. So wherever I was invited to go, to present I said yes. Every school that called me and said, "Could you come in and do a presentation on substance abuse for teens and parents?" I said yes to. So the non-profit that I started, Natural Highs, actually began in this very organic way in terms of just being of service. "Would you run an after school class for teens?" Yes, right?

Sasha Raskin:  So it's super important, just to pause for a moment, you're saying I started with action not with planning, right? I started doing and then it just kind of grew organically versus drawing business plans or statements and all of that.

Avani Dilger:  Yeah, I mean, really and based on need, right? Like, in our case it was based on need, like a desperate need, help for parents, help for teens and just coming in and addressing this need. And it was incredibly difficult running programs for teens with substance abuse prevention intervention. You can imagine, that's difficult. And so just learning that over the years. And I think I did this work not under a formal non-profit for about 16 years before we officially started Natural Highs as a non-profit, right?

So first we ran it as programs and classes and then we ran grants under fiscal agents, so partnering agencies. So again, just a step at a time, letting it grow organically based on the community need. And then at some point it was clear that it would serve us to create this non-profit structure. And it's actually much simpler than people think, right? So that's, again, don't take it on by yourself. You want to partner with people already who have a non-profit structure. Maybe you can support them, maybe you can offer them a piece from your specialty, like a weekly program or a one-time presentation and so you get to know that kind of context. And then starting a non-profit hasn't been that difficult, right?

And then, again, once you have a lot of connections around a particular issue then it's also not that hard to create a board and all the pieces that you need for a non-profit. And then also you already have a community of supporters that then want to support your work, right? Or you have lots of background experience and success and familiarity in the community that people would give you a grant, right? I mean, all of that takes trust and experience and building that. So that's how it worked for us.

Sasha Raskin:  Avani, thank you so much for all this great information and the motivation. If someone wants to find more about what you do and the projects they can be involved, how can one do that?

Avani Dilger:  So people can find us, our non-profit, Natural Highs, healthy alternatives to drugs and alcohol with the website naturalhighs.org, so Natural Highs with an S .org. And people can see what we offer. We now with Covid offer lots of resources for teens, for adults, for parents. And because a lot of it is online now people can connect with us, we now have people connect with us from other countries, right? So the best way to find out what we offer is to sign up for our Natural Highs emails and then you are part of the community, you see all the different pieces we offer. There's a lot of them that are free of charge.

So we now do a lot of online presentations for parents, for community members, for kids, for adults. A lot of them are completely free still. And some of them we need to now ask for donation because we lost our funding from the city, the youth funds, we're cut because of Covid, but we are fine, we keep going. But just that's the way to get involved, is really to go on our website naturalhighs.org, sign up for our emails and then you get all the resources sent. And then you are welcome to pass them on in your community. If you feel like my clients would benefit from that or people I work with would benefit from that, like we just heard from a therapist in Saint Paul, Minnesota who has been using our email materials in her group that she's running in a residential treatment center, and we were like, "What? We didn't even know about it."

Sasha Raskin:  That's beautiful.

Avani Dilger:  So yeah, anybody's welcome.

Sasha Raskin:  So any therapist that's listening right now and they want to have resources for substances abuse or substance abuse prevention they can get that from the website.

Avani Dilger:  Yeah, and lots of different things, right? Like, so we do base, what, because we run Natural Highs with kids so we really organize our programs based on need. We are also part of two documentaries, one really big famous documentary from Europe, so because we are part of these two documentaries, one on alcohol, the other one on high THC marijuana risk issues, we hold regular showings of these documentaries online with community discussion afterwards. So that's another easy way for people to just get lots of resources.

Sasha Raskin:  And it's just another example of things that happened organically based on your constant work in one specific area for years.

Avani Dilger:  Yeah. Then we had suddenly a film team contact us, right? To say, "Hey, we want to come see what you do." And we were like just falling out of the sky like, "What? Like, how did that happen," right? So I would say if you pursue your passion and you dedicate yourself being of service, magical things will happen.

Sasha Raskin:  Wonderful. Thank you so much, Avani.

Avani Dilger: You're welcome. Thank you, Sasha.

About the Author Sasha Raskin

Sasha Raskin, MA, is an  international #1 bestselling co-author , the founder of  The 6 Figure Practice, a  life coach, and business coach and a  psychotherapist in Boulder, CO. He is working on a P.h.D in Counseling Education and Supervision and is an adjunct faculty at the Contemplative Counseling master’s program at Naropa University, from which he also graduated. Sasha has been in the mental health field for more than 10 years, worked with youth at risk, recovery, mental health hospitals, and coached individuals, couples, families, startups, and groups. He has created mindfulness stress reduction and music therapy programs within different organizations. Whether it’s in person or via phone/video calls, whether as  a counselor , a  life coach or a  business coach, Sasha uses cutting-edge, research-based techniques to help his clients around the world to thrive.   As a  coach Sasha Raskin provides individual and group  coaching in Boulder, Colorado, and worldwide via video and phone calls, drawing from over ten years of experience. His services include:  life coaching,  business coaching,  career coaching,  ADD coaching,  ADHD coaching,  ADD coach,  ADHD coach,  leadership coaching, and  executive coaching. Schedule your free 20-minute  coaching phone consultation with Sasha Raskin As a  counselor in Boulder, CO, Sasha provides  individual counseling in Boulder, CO ,  family therapy in Boulder, CO, and  couples therapy in Boulder,  marriage counseling in Boulder, and  couples intensives /  couples retreats, drawing from over ten years of clinical experience.  He does  couples therapy Boulder,  online couples therapy,  Online Marriage Counseling  ,  online relationship counseling,   and marriage counseling boulder.

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