Kelly Smyth-Dent shares her journey scaling Up From One-to-One Counseling Private Practice to a Training Company. She focuses on assisting small businesses and enterprise level companies train their staff. It is a fun and exciting business to be part of and she will teach you how to do it too! Lets spend some time with someone I consider a pioneer!
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:
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2174406112863019
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/the6figurepractice
Chat with me on messenger: https://m.me/the6figurepractice
Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCITSmYvj-vpwuWrOuwqYr5w
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.
How I Started A Counseling Private Practice And A Training Company With Kelly Smyth-Dent
Sasha Raskin: Hi, Kelly.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Hi, Sasha.
Sasha Raskin: Hi. I am super excited to talk to you, kind of like with what I just said before we started the call, I'm excited to have this call with you because you stepped out of the comfort zone of therapists so much in terms of there is so many other ways, additional ways, you can help beyond just one-on-one sessions with clients which I think is like a great combination of both you creating a bigger positive impact on the world and maximizing your time and also good for the business. So they can work together.
So maybe a good place to start would be if you can tell a little bit about what do you do and who do you help and how.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Okay, so I'm an LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker. I trained in Denver, Colorado which is how I met you, Sasha. And it was a great place to train. There were so many great resources there. I now live in Reno, Nevada which I also love it here. I started a private practice in Denver and I started it right out of grad school which is kind of unusual, a lot of states don't let you start your own practice until you're licensed, and in Colorado that's not the case.
Sasha Raskin: It's a happy place to be.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, and really honestly I think community agency work is fantastic and there's an important place for that but I realized pretty quickly that that was not the place for me, and so I was really grateful to live in a state where I could start a private practice right out of the gate. And also personally it worked better with my lifestyle, with my husband and being able to see each other and things like that while he was in residency and a nine to five job with a strict schedule really would have hindered my personal life quite a lot at the time. So I was really grateful to have that opportunity.
But I was super nervous, so that's actually where Sasha and Michelle got together and helped me build my website and help build confidence and did head shots and all of that because I was super nervous to get started. And it really wasn't as hard for me as I thought it was going to be, so that was really unexpected and especially because it's the market I was always told is so saturated, in Colorado, that it would be hard to start. But what I found was because I had a really specific niche in the EMDR world and because I did my training there I think I was more well known in some different circles already that it was much easier to get that started than I expected.
So I started a private practice full-time and I still have a part-time private practice now, but I realized pretty quickly after doing full-time private practice that for me personally full-time private practice was going to be a little ... it wasn't the right thing for me. I really realized part-time private practice was going to be best for me, I think for two different reasons - one because I'm very introverted and it's really hard for me to be giving to people all day long and then to still have anything remaining for my personal life and my family life at the end of the day, or two years or so as I did that it was fine, but I realized pretty quickly long term that that was not going to be a sustainable option for me personally. So I was already thinking, "Oh, crap. I just did all this training, like I started a private practice and now what else am I going to do?"
So that was happening, at the same time I also have a background in non-profit management and I naturally have kind of a systemic view of helping people. And so as much as there's a lot of fulfillment that I found in the one-on-one intervention because you get this individual feedback, right? They come back, they're feeling better, they're seeing changes in their life and EMDR works so quickly, I mean, symptoms reduce so quickly, you get really fast feedback oftentimes from clients feeling better. And that's really fulfilling. And there's so much going on in the world and I felt like in my little private practice I wanted to scale it, I wanted to continue the work that we were doing in my private practice and I wanted to scale it in a humanitarian type effort.
And so what happened is I went to a training during that time by Dr. Ignacio Herrero who's in Mexico City, he's an EMDR therapist. And he created EMDR in a group setting called the EMDR integrative group treatment protocol. And so I went to his training and I got this vision of just like, "You can serve hundreds of people at one time with this intervention in a very short period of time. You can serve hundreds of people in two days and get significant results." And I just thought the scalability of that in a humanitarian world or in, you know, I'm thinking community agencies that have wait lists of 1 and 200 people, right? Major services, what do we do with those people? So I went to his training and I connected with him.
And I also read an article by a man named Ralph Carriere called scaling up what works, and it's all about using Ignacio Herrero’s protocol, the IGTP, the EMDR IGTP, in a humanitarian setting, because his argument in this published article was that ... and he worked at UNICEF and at the United Nations and he's a economist and a humanitarian worker throughout his career, not a mental health therapist, but his argument was that on a systemic kind of root level a lot of the humanitarian issues that we have are kind of like passed down trauma or it's trauma through poverty or it's trauma through other things that then kind of manifest in different ways that create other issues over time.
Sasha Raskin: Yes.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: And so if we could get to the root issue of the trauma then that would help enhance all of the other humanitarian work that we do. Some of which is helping with the symptoms, of the root cause, right? And so that's where I got my inspiration to create my other business which is called scaling up, it was based off of that article and Dr. Herrero’s protocols.
Sasha Raskin: That's wonderful. So if you think about the whole journey, how long have you been in private practice in total?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Let's see. I think for four years, four to five years.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, so you moved from the one to one to the one to many pretty quickly, right? It doesn't need to be ...
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Probably within about two years.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, and I think that's such a good example, if it feels right you don't need to wait like five years to do agency work and ten years of doing one-on-one private practice and then maybe thinking about doing something ...
Kelly Smyth-Dent: I wasn't even licensed yet. So the first few years of my full-time private practice I wasn't licensed yet, I was in supervision, getting licensed. And then by the time I launched scaling up I had just become licensed, so that was about two years. And scaling up does a variety of different training programs, research and humanitarian work.
Sasha Raskin: That's wonderful. So moving back kind of to the beginning, you said it was pretty scary which later on turned out to be less difficult than you thought it would. Kind of reminds me I think it was Arthur Conan Doyle that said, "All my life I was scared of things that never happened."
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah.
Sasha Raskin: What was the most scary thing for you?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Well, I think for me at the time I had never started a business before and I wasn't licensed yet, I was just when I started my private practice I was just graduating from my master's program. And I was just barely trained in EMDR, and even though I had great consultation and supervision and support around me I just felt ... and I was young, I mean, I'm still young, I'm 35, so I was about 30 at the time, so I was young. I also look very young for my age. And so I had all these components going on that just kind of internally told me like, "Who do you think you are that you think you can do this?"
Sasha Raskin: I am too, right? Fill the blank, I'm too young, I'm too new, I have ... right?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, I don't have enough to offer, I should have a PhD or I should have more experience or I should, whatever, fill in the blank. But I had good people around me, you being one of them, who were just like, "You can do this. You can do this." And they kept telling me that and I was like, "Okay, I'm going to take their word for it. They're seeing something in me that I don't see right now."
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, it's the fake it till you make it kind of.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yes.
Sasha Raskin: First jump into the water and then swim.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yes, and honestly there was a moment, and I won't give names regarding this, but there was a moment where I was networking, I was meeting with different therapists in Colorado and I was getting coffee with somebody, a perfectly nice therapist, but something about our interaction just kind of made me wonder how competent she was or how business savvy she was or ... it just kind of gave me pause. And when she said that she had a waitlist in her private practice I was like, "Huh, like you don't ..." I feel like ...
Sasha Raskin: If she can do it I can do it you mean?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: If she can do it I can do it, yeah, that was the exact thought that I had. It was like, "Huh, this person can build a private practice with a waitlist and I think I could do it better than this person." And so that was the moment that I changed the inner voice and decided I'm going to choose confidence and I'm just going to jump in and see what happens.
Sasha Raskin: That's huge. So that was kind of the moment when you drew the line in the sand in terms of changing the framework. I can do it and I can do it even, some healthy competition it sounds like.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, I think there was like a healthy level of confidence that I found in that moment and that I chose to grab onto. And also grabbing onto the words of other people, using to listen to other people that said that I could do it and believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. And just doing it, I was going to do it either way, I just had to find some confidence along the way so that I wasn't just torturing myself the whole time.
Sasha Raskin: It's so important to surround, at least for me, to surround myself with people who'd done things that feel impossible to me that I would like to do but they're real, living, breathing proof that this is possible. Right now I'm in a group coaching program as a participant and there are like people there who are creating huge, huge positive impact on the world which also translates into money and they're making, some of them hundreds of thousands per month from their products and it's like, "Oh, this is doable?"
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Right.
Sasha Raskin: And one of my coaches says, "If you're the most interesting person in the room you're in the wrong group."
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Right, yep. I remember my husband said that to me one time, he was like, "I don't think the circles that you're spending time with are challenging you enough. You're the challenger." He was like, "You're the challenger in these circles and you need to not be the challenger. You need to be challenged." And I was like, "Whoa, you're right. That's humbling." And then how do I find those people? And sometimes they already exist in your life, sometimes you find them through networking groups and stuff, but sometimes you have to pay for it, and I think that's something I learned too is that investing money into yourself to find those mentorships and those leaders and those communities to guide you who are already ahead of where you want to be is a really valuable investment that I think a lot of therapists hesitate to do.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, and it goes around, right? If I'm as a therapist don't have a therapist myself or if I'm as a coach don't have a coach myself, and then because I'm "saving money" and then I talk to potential clients and expect them to invest in me, right? It's like, "Uh, something feels weird here," right?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yes, exactly.
Sasha Raskin: And it comes across too.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Exactly, yep. So there is a level of fake until you make it that goes on. It's very intimidating.
Sasha Raskin: I'm actually curious about what did feel off about that person, the therapist in terms of her business savvy?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: I think it was things like not having an LLC, for example. Like, some basic structure or not having an accountant or not having some basic things like that or like still using paper documents instead of investing in an online system, not that any of those things are bad but I think there's certain things that people will do if they're kind of like staying up to date with the times and they're streamlining their services, and like any advice that you would get from a business coach, for example, or a professional in that field would be to do some of these different things that I had learned about that I was already kind of on top of.
And then I don't know what it was about our interaction, I think it was maybe something because we were both EMDR therapists, I think it might have been something about the way that she talked about EMDR or her clients or something that I was just kind of like, "Something just felt kind of off." Like, I was a new therapist and I already knew like some things about EMDR that she didn't or I was doing things that she wasn't doing and I was like, "But you have a waitlist. And I just wonder how good of an EMDR therapist you are based on what you're saying." But clients don't know the difference is the thing, for better or worse, they don't necessarily know what to expect, you're the one that has power in the room. So that doesn't necessarily translate.
So I was just like, "So how does she have a waitlist? Like, where does that come from? How does that happen?" And it just made me feel like you don't have to have it all together in order to be successful in your business. Not to say this person's clients weren't benefiting, they probably were and I hope that they were, but something about seeing that helped me realize like I'm pretty on top of things and I feel really competent in my EMDR skills, and so if she can do it I think I can do it if I believe in myself.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, sounds like what you didn't see is treating her business as a business. It was kind of like a hobby, right?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, which is a lot of therapists do that.
Sasha Raskin: Totally.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: I think what's interesting about the mental health field that can be really psychologically tricky for therapists is there is ... there can be sometimes this martyr mentality of I'm supposed to not make money, I'm supposed to give all this free pro bono service to help people and if I don't that means something about me. And there's a lot of shaming in the community around wanting to make money, and I think that was something I really wanted to stay away from as a therapist because I've worked in the non-profit field and I love non-profit work and I have my masters in non-profit management, and I thought I was going to go in that direction and went the therapy route instead.
And one of my takeaways from that background was that I actually didn't want to start a non-profit. I wanted to start a business. I didn't want to write grants and get donations and stuff for my work. I wanted to get paid for my work. And I wanted to find my own way of making compensation that felt good for me and also help people, right? I love to do humanitarian work and I do a lot of it in different ways that don't look like a sliding fee or free therapy, but it translates in other work that I do like going to refugee camps and working for free and paying for my own travel and things like that and some sliding scale in our training programs and things like that. So for me I kind of found what that sweet spot was that doesn't sacrifice my personal life in a way that didn't feel right and congruent for me.
I think that's a very personal decision that people need to make.
Sasha Raskin: Sounds like what you found in your practice is if we think of Venn Diagrams, two circles that don't completely overlap, but there is some overlap, one of them being ethical and helpful and knowing what you're doing, the other one being business savvy, having a successful business. Yeah, sometimes you don't have overlaps, right? And how sustainable it is if how you know to help in a really ethical but you're living paycheck to paycheck and all burnt out?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Right.
Sasha Raskin: And the other extreme is like you're a really good business person but you're not really efficient enough in terms of how you help, right? The EMDR example that you gave. And what if there was a possibility of an overlap - having a successful business where you get to help people and have a nice comfortable lifestyle. And it sounds like what you did the change from the private practice, one to one to one to many, was around your lifestyle, right? So what's the lifestyle I want to have versus what's prescribed to what is "possible" in private practice or for counselors in general?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Right. Oh, yeah, and the burnout in this field is so high for obvious reasons. I mean, the amount of effort, energy that we put into helping other people. One of the things I thought about in my private practice is I was like I'm in a good stage of life right now, I don't have children, I'm not sick, I'm not caring for an elderly parent, and I have a lot to give right now, but as life would have it that's not always going to be the case, some things will happen and I'm not going to be able to show up. I know I personally will not be able to show up to the therapy room and be able to give it what I'm giving it now, and that's just the way it's going to be, and I don't know when that's going to happen but there will be a season of life where that will happen at some point. And what will that mean for the security that I feel in my business? How am I going to pay my bills if that happens? And I can't see clients for whatever reason; maybe I'm in a grief stage of life or whatever. I mean, it could be anything. So how do I keep making money during that time?
And for me having a comfortable lifestyle helps reduce that burnout and actually gives me more ... it allows me to give more in whatever generous ways that I want to that feel good for me in a more sustainable long-term way.
Sasha Raskin: Yes. So making sure that it's all in harmony.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Uh-hmm, yeah.
Sasha Raskin: I want to go back just for a second because you said something so important about that person not having LLC and all those other things. Many times when I speak to counselors or coaches who are struggling they'll get like really hyper focused on how do I find clients, right? As if this is the only thing they should be focused on. And I think what you said kind of zooms out into what are all the parts of the business that need to be there. And I'm starting this new free online workshop, the three pillars of the private practice, thriving private practice, talking about all three of them. It's not just the marketing and finding ... having clients find you is just a small part of it. But it's also the sales part, how do people actually hire you? And the third one is the operations, how do you have a good foundation for your business in terms of you really know how to help and you have all the logistics in place, right?
I just finished a coaching call with my client, a therapist, who's overwhelmed with paperwork, right? And it's like our goal is like how do we take this and automated and streamlined so that he would be spending just a few minutes a day.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yes, automating is one of my favorite things.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, say more about that. That probably is a strange word for some of the people who are listening.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yes, yeah, I joined a business coaching program that was all about automation, and it was an entirely new world to me, like I was just so overwhelmed, definitely technologically-challenged. I'm very organized by nature but not tech savvy by nature, and so there was definitely a big overwhelming learning curve for me. But I remember in grad school when I was starting my private practice I was talking to one of my professors about it because I was trying to decide if I was going to get on insurance panels or if I was just going to do private pay, and one of the things that he mentioned is he said, "You need to think about the amount of time that you're putting into each case versus the amount of money you're making."
So if you're making let's say a hundred dollars or eighty dollars in reimbursement for insurance, but you're also doing ... so you're seeing the client for an hour and then you're also doing an hour of paperwork, you're actually making forty dollars an hour.
Sasha Raskin: Very good point.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Right? And so he's like, "The reason I like," he said with his private practice he said he could charge a higher amount, he doesn't have to deal with the paperwork. And so I did that, I did 50 minute sessions. I think I started out at 100 an hour then I increased to 130 and now I do 150. And because that was what I was comfortable with kind of growing at the time which I also think it's important to do what feels good to you at the time, so I had to kind of grow into a higher amount over a year. And I do 50-minute sessions because then I have 10 minutes to go to the bathroom, have a snack, I charge people, I put their new appointment in and I write my case note all in those 10 minutes and then I see my next client. So when I would see back-to-back clients I would finish five to eight people in a row and I would be done, all my paperwork would be done, everything would be done for the day, all the charges are through, everything.
All the intake paperwork gets submitted in advance so they don't do paper charts or anything, it all gets emailed to them, they sign everything, their credit cards in the system all before they show up on their first appointment. And there's a lot of questions that I ask in the intake, so I know a lot about their history, I've asked a lot of really important questions, all of which I'm reading before they walk in the door. So we already have kind of a leg up when we get started so we can kind of jump in pretty quickly to the deeper work and all the paperwork is just taken care of.
Sasha Raskin: Could you say more about the decision to go into business coaching especially as a "younger therapist" when you don't have a lot of cash flow?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yes, so the areas that I invested in initially when I first opened my private practice my husband and I set aside a certain amount of money that I would be investing in the business that I needed to pay back to us that we both felt comfortable with. And initially I invested the money in you to help me build a website and do my headshots and all that stuff and kind of get things going. And so I think initially I had about three or four thousand dollars that I initially invested in you and the down payment for my office space and the furniture and things like that. I found somebody to share the office space with so that really helped cut the cost a lot. That was really helpful financially.
And I put myself on Psychology Today, I announced it to my network and I started getting a couple of clients kind of right off the bat. Not that many, but enough to be able to cover the costs. And then I think within maybe six months or something I was able to pay myself back for the investment. And then after that I tried to put together like set aside a certain amount of money I was saving for myself, paying myself taxes and then investment in other programs, because I wanted to kind of have that aside so that when I decided to invest in a coaching program or something I kind of felt free to spend it.
So I do that in my personal life too, so my husband and I have fun accounts, right? So we have a certain amount of money each month we put into our fun accounts and we can each spend that on whatever we want. If I want to go get a massage, if I want to buy some clothes that I don't need or whatever, go on a trip with some friends, it comes out of my fun money and my husband does as well.
Sasha Raskin: Guiltless.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: What I spend it on, and I feel free to spend it because it's already sitting there, I can physically see it and that's what it's there for. So for me that's kind of how I mentally play those tricks on myself to feel comfortable spending the money.
The first coaching program I invested in I actually found it was a Facebook ad that kept popping up, her name is Grace Lever, she's an Australian coach.
Sasha Raskin: Speaking of automation, right?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, do you know Grace? Yeah, exactly. Speaking of automation. And I was always very skeptical of things that came up on Facebook ads but she kept popping up and something about her, she offered a free webinar I went to and I was so skeptical the whole time. It was an expensive program. I think I dropped a thousand dollars or something after the webinar. And what hooked me about her program is she was like after 30 days if you don't like it I'll give you 100% of your money back, all you do is let me know. So I was like, "Okay, that's pretty risk-free, like if it's worth it."
And I've made way more than a thousand dollars back in that coaching program, and so it was obviously well worth the investment. But that was the first coaching program I was in. I was in it for several years. It's very valuable.
Sasha Raskin: And it's interesting to this moment of taking the risk, right? It's like drawing a line in the sand. And why would you invest in a business coaching and not another counseling training, right? That's a big question, because I noticed that when they have conversations with potential participants in the six-figure practice program, the private practice accelerator, like it's a part of the world to invest in counseling training, it's like not a biggie and kind of expected. But for some it's like a revolutionary idea to invest in something that they actually don't know anything about which is business, and I find it curious. How did you make the decision to go for it instead of maybe learning another very helpful like EMDR training, for example?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: At the time I invested in business coaching?
Sasha Raskin: Yeah.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Well, at the time I had already invested in EMDR training, but the way that I ended up doing the EMDR training is kind of similar actually to where you're getting at. So I was in grad school. And I loved my grad school program, it was the MSW program at DU, and it was a great program, not perfect by any means, but it suited me and I got a lot from it. But during my second year internship I was realizing that trauma was walking in my door constantly, all the time, right? And I was validating and reflecting and validating and reflecting and using all the few skills that I had in grad school to try to help these people and I just found myself ...
Sasha Raskin: Nothing would change.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, I was like, "There's got to be more that I can offer people." And I just wasn't getting enough skills and trauma training in my program to know what else to do, because a lot of the training is very theoretical in grad school and I don't know about a PhD program because I haven't done that yet. But that's where I think those trainings for specific interventions outside of grad school are so valuable. I did emotionally focus therapy training at that time because I was working with couples and the attachment understanding and interventions was so valuable at the time when I was working with couples.
And then the EMDR training also was so valuable. I mean, now if trauma walks in my door I'm like, "I know exactly what to do. I know exactly what outcomes you're going to get. This is what's going to happen" The confidence that I have now in working with that is so high.
And I have a specialty area so people come to me specifically for that. So if people come to me I know exactly what I'm going to do for them, they know exactly what I'm going to do for them, this is how it's going to work, and this is roughly maybe how long you're going to be in therapy with me depending on your goals. It's very clear to me, very highly specialized.
Sasha Raskin: It's a pretty "groundbreaking idea", right? Study what you don't know versus more of what you do know, right?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah.
Sasha Raskin: And I think it's a good trajectory. You got out of grad school, it's all coaching training, if it's good and you got a few, like hundred hours of training like of training you're good enough, right? And build your practice, invest in your business training so you can get that initial cash flow, and then go and invest guiltlessly in any clothing or trips or that additional training to be more efficient as a helper.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Oh, yeah.
Sasha Raskin: But many people have it like the other way around, right? I'm going to invest in all this clinical training but where are the clients that I'm supposed to help, right?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, exactly. Both are so valuable and you need to invest in yourself and other people. If you're only investing in others you're only going to make so much of an impact and you're only going to be able to sustain it for so long, so investing in the business actually helps other people and you. Because part of what I learned about marketing which was something I used to be very uncomfortable with, and still am in new marketing areas, but one thing that stuck with me as I learned this from my business coach was those that do need what you offer need to be able to find you.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: And find you because you market yourself and you make yourself available, which is exactly what happened with my business coach, right? Had she not had that Facebook group, she lives in Australia, how the heck, I wasn't going to randomly find her website.
Sasha Raskin: Exactly.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Right, and click on it and be like, "Yes, this is a good idea for me." So that was really helpful mindset change for me. And I think the more niche I became in my practice, I remember people saying, and this was one thing that you used to say to me when I was building my website and stuff is like, "You need to be kind of niche. You need to have your area so that when people are coming to find you they're coming because they know exactly what you're going to offer them and they want what you have, and then you give that to them." And I remember it was hard to kind of narrow it down initially, and over time I've become way more narrow and now I'm super niche. And the more niche I've become the more successful I've become.
Sasha Raskin: And you kind of became the person with group EMDR training, right?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Right, yeah.
Sasha Raskin: Could you share a little more about that journey of moving from one to one to one to many that you did? And if someone that is listening either wants to do it right now or just wants to have a vision of what's possible in the future for them, how did you make that transition?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: So that was something I learned in my business coaching. And I think in some ways that was some of the value in automation, so I learned about things like membership programs, online communities, things like that. And one thing I realized is therapy is incredibly valuable but it's not the only way to experience healing, right?
Sasha Raskin: Oh, it's not.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: It's not. So it's one of many ways in which people can experience healing. And there are many ways in which you can create programs online, in person, retreats online, in person, all sorts of different ideas in which you can help a lot of people and provide a lot of value for them in addition to therapy. And so initially I thought to myself, "Well, maybe I can scale up group EMDR in a way ..." You actually can do it online now, but at the time you could not do it online, it was only in person. So it was trying to find ways to logistically do that which ended up not really becoming my focus but that was kind of where my mind went initially.
And then I had some ideas that were great at first that then kind of fizzled out or weren't as successful. So that's part of the entrepreneurship journey too that I've had to embrace is you kind of launch something and see how it goes, and either a hit and you scale it or it's not and you try the next thing and you just learn from your experience. So that was initially my mindset was how do I make this information and skill set more accessible to people through a membership program of some kind. And then my scaling ended up being a lot more about trainings for therapists and communities for therapists, advanced trainings for them than it did for clients. So now my focus is actually more with therapists than it is with clients.
Sasha Raskin: How did the narrowing of the niche happen? I know that many counselors and coaches get stuck when they plan it in their heads, right? It needs to be perfect niche and I need to figure it out before I actually go and do it.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: I didn't have it figured out initially, so when I first opened my practice when you were helping me we created a website that was focused on individuals and couples and families. And I did all age ranges like kids up through adults because I enjoyed all of those things. And I did EMDR and I worked with Spanish-speaking clients, right? So I kind of had all these different ...
Sasha Raskin: And with families of doctors, right?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Oh, yeah, right. And I specialize with some people in the medical field too. And so I kind of at the time, and you guys graciously kind of helped me figure out how to do that, but what I found over time was that of all of those areas the area that I was the most passionate about and excited about was one in particular. So I still love all of those other things, and I don't love them as much as I love EMDR and specifically the protocols that I do with Dr. Herrero. And part of that is because for me my life mission work is way more around humanitarian work, disaster response, crisis intervention, and so I travel around the world and work with NGO's and non-profits and I go to refugee camps and I respond after natural-made disasters and help therapists be able to provide support for their communities because I have that skill set. And that is what I'm the most passionate about, so over time I kind of naturally just started doing more and more in that area and then kind of allowed the others to fizzle out. So I still see a few couples, I still do some of those other areas but I don't market myself that way anymore.
Sasha Raskin: It reminds me of two things, one in Steve Chandler's book, Time Warrior, one of the quotes he brings is ... I don't remember who said that, but it's a good one, "Find what makes you feel alive and then find a way to make a living off it." And the other piece is this research about finding your purpose, I think it was Princeton that came out in the beginning of 2020 about this illusion that you can think your purpose into reality and how futile this experiment is, right? It's more about putting yourself in different situations where you can have the actual living experience of, "Does it feel good? What part of it doesn't? And how can I pivot?" So you launched the website, you had a few different issues though, and then from having the experience of working with many clients it's like, "Oh, okay, I think I got it, right? It's this thing that makes me feel most alive."
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, and somebody, my mentor, Dr. Herrero, calls it fire in the belly.
Sasha Raskin: Oh, that's a good one.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, I like that.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: I started kind of paying attention to my passions really specifically and I remember sitting in a coffee shop reading the article by Ralph Carriere, scaling up what works, and as I read that article I just got that fire in the belly, I was like, "This is what I want to do with my life." It was this moment that I remember exactly where I was in Denver at that time. And I didn't know how I was going to do it, I wasn't that connected with Dr. Herrero, actually I wasn't connected at all with Dr. Herrero at the time, I just knew that that's what I needed to do, that's what I wanted to do with my life. And so every decision I made had that in mind. So even if I chose the wrong thing or I didn't know what I was doing I always was moving in that direction.
So a couple of things that I did was like I made a website. So after I worked with you I kind of built confidence in building my own website, I was like, "Oh, Wix is easy enough. I can figure this out. And it's not the prettiest thing, but it works." And so I built my own website after that.
Sasha Raskin: It was so interesting to see it transforming. I would kind of keep looking at it, it's like, "Oh, it's like a version 2.0, 3.0."
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, oh, my gosh. I was so proud of it and it was like now I look back I'm like, "Oh, gosh, that was not the prettiest thing I've ever seen." But you know what? What came from that this experience of like as I did start getting to know Dr. Herrero who I work closely with now, when I built the website and I sent it to him he kind of responded with like, "Oh, our missions are aligned." And he was able to see how serious I was about it not just hear me talk about it, right? Because one of the things he shares in the story of how we started working together is that all the time people in his trainings talk to him afterwards and they're like, "I do this work and I would love to do this, this and this." And he's like, "Great, here's my email," and then he never hears from them. And he's like, "I'm shocked how many times I give out my email and I don't hear from people."
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, just show up.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: And that's what I did. I emailed him, we Facetimed, we emailed back and forth, I showed him my website, he invited me to do a research project in Mexico and it just went on and on. And part of it was just building the website and putting it out there. And what I found, I find a lot of people tell me, "You're a really good networker." And I don't exactly know what that means because I don't really see myself that way. I see myself more as if somebody gives me their email I'm going to follow up with them. If they email me I'm going to follow up with them and I'm going to ask them questions. And if I think about them and this article then I'm going to send it to them and ask how they're doing. And I'm going to follow up. If somebody gives me the name of somebody and it's like, "You should contact this person because they would be really interested in what you're doing." I'm going to call them or I'm going to email them and I'm going to follow up. And if that's what you call networking then I guess I am good at that, but to me that's not very difficult.
Sasha Raskin: It's like being a good human being, right?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: You just show up, you know.
Sasha Raskin: It's like being interested in others.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, even if you don't know what you're doing, you just show up.
Sasha Raskin: Not ghosting anyone, right? All the good stuff.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, exactly. And just see what happens. Sometimes they don't respond, sometimes the door doesn't open, but more often than not the door opens and I just walk right through it. And I don't know what's on the other side but I don't know unless I choose to walk through. And I'm constantly surprised, pleasantly surprised, by what happens.
Sasha Raskin: I think a big shift that happens for the participants in my program is when they figure out that marketing is not a different beast and networking, it's just having conversations which is (1) something that we do naturally as human beings, (2) something that they actually been trained in having conversations, right? It's like it doesn't really matter if you do it through emails with people you want to collaborate with, if you do it through a compelling text on your website. And it sounds like what really captured his attention was the content, right? The text that you put on the website and were like kind of vulnerable and spoke honestly about your values, right? It wasn't about the perfect website or the most amazing design.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, exactly.
Sasha Raskin: Right? Obviously it was good enough to get him started reading, right?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Exactly.
Sasha Raskin: It's wonderful.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, what got him interested and like what is she up to. Still skeptical, he was very skeptical about me in the beginning, but enough that he was curious to check it out and see, "What is this girl up to? And should we work together, should we not? Do I just need to keep an eye on her? Is she weird? What's going on?"
Sasha Raskin: Yeah.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: And there was a moment in this process that I realized that giving myself permission to change my mind was really powerful, because I don't always know exactly what I'm doing when I'm walking through the door or if I want to walk through that door until I do it. And so I've started things that I've stopped or changed or I built a website and then I changed it and then I built this program and then I changed it.
And initially that used to make me feel insecure, like you can't make up your mind. You built a private practice and now you're saying you don't want a full-time private practice, you want something else in addition or whatever. And that's just kind of how I am. I've learned that sometimes that's just how the entrepreneur brain works. And not everybody's like that but entrepreneurs are definitely like that and I'm an entrepreneur. And I just had to embrace that, that it doesn't mean I'm a failure, it doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing, it just means that sometimes I'm going to change my mind and I'm going to give myself permission to do that.
Sasha Raskin: Well, it's having the flexibility is a part of being a good business owner, right? It's like thinking about all the hundreds of years that bridges would collapse because they were made out of material that was way too strong, right? Once they started, well, in the Western world, once they started building them using flexible materials they could move with the wind and with the weight. It's okay to pivot, it's okay to change.
I remember my first website as a counselor was all about counseling with teenagers and then working with teenagers because that's how I was comfortable doing that work for a decade before grad school. And at some point I'm like, "Oh, my God, I'm both out of my mind with those one sentence answers they give me. I'm done." And like if I'm being very honest, right?
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Teenagers can be tough. It's its own specialty.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, and then I just removed it.And it was great for a decade for me, right? So don't get me wrong. But I removed it from my website. Done, redone, added more other niches I was ... same thing with removing individual counselling. I think about half a year ago it's like I'm just interested in working in couples, with couples. And there's always fear in that, "Well, more people are looking for individual therapy than couples' therapy." And I'm full, right? So it's okay.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, there's tons of people that want couples' therapy and family therapy. The other thing that was very empowering that I realized after I'd worked with you is that I can figure a lot of things out more easily than I thought I could. So for example, within scaling up we created the scaling up school which is an affordable program to help people who are starting their practice to build all of it on their own, right? You can build a website on your own without any web building experience with the amount of tools that exist and like templates that exist, it's really not that difficult to create a simple website. So if you don't want to spend thousands of dollars hiring people to build a website for you, things like that, like one thing I never wanted was to hire somebody to do something for me and then me not be able to update it, change it, fix it myself.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, you want the freedom.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, I was afraid that every time I needed something I'd have to drop a hundred dollars to somebody and wait three weeks for them to have time to fix this one little thing on my website. I was like, "No, I don't want that." And so we built this program called the scaling up school where we actually walk people through like, "Here's a 15-minute video on how to create your website." So literally within a day you could kind of walk through this stuff, you could build your profile online so you're launched, you can put your website, this is how you do all the paperwork online and just streamline everything in a super simple way just to get off the ground.And then once you're making some money and you feel more financially comfortable you can upgrade from there or you can change things, but you don't need to like go into massive credit card debt.
Sasha Raskin: It's not rocket science. You do need to learn it, right? And it would be easier to learn it, for example, from you than to do and put the time in the effort in trial and error.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yep. And then you know how to do it, like you know all the ins and outs of the business. So even if you choose to hire somebody down the road to upgrade and do it better than you did you still know how to do it.
Sasha Raskin: Exactly right.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: And that's really empowering.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, if people who are listening to us right now want to find you, how do they do that? The scaling up and also the EMDR training that you're doing.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: We have a couple of websites. So the EMDR training that we're doing can be found at scalingupemdr.com. If you want to learn a little bit more about me and my private practice you can go to kellysmythdent.com. And then if you want to learn more about the scaling up school you can go to scalingupschool.com.
Sasha Raskin: Wonderful. Last two things, one tip that you would like to show with people who are just starting their private practice, in a sentence or two.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: I would say jump in, find your support whether it's something where like the scaling up school where you're doing it on your own, whether it's a coaching program with Sasha or somebody else. Find the support that you feel like you need and just jump in. You don't know if you can do something or not until you try and then give yourself permission to pivot and adapt along the way as you're learning and as your needs change. You're a human being, your needs, wants and desires are going to change throughout so what you initially create is not necessarily going to stay the same the whole time nor should it as you grow and change.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, and different stages in life too.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yep, exactly. Expect it to change. You're not locked into anything that you create.
Sasha Raskin: Good. And advice for people who already grew their private practice and thinking, "Well, what's my next adventure?"
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Oh, yeah, with that one I think doing some deep work into finding that fire in the belly. Like, there might be a lot of things that you enjoy doing, that you're interested in but if there's one particular area of passion or interest right now in your life that really gets you going even if it's something massively big, like I never thought I'd be traveling and getting paid to travel to refugee camps and travel to Paris and Thailand and Mexico and all these amazing places to do the work that I do, never in a million years I imagine that I would be offered that, and I have before Covid. Now I'm at home all the time.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah. Hopefully it's going to change soon.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yeah, hopefully that'll change soon. But I never imagined that and I never imagined that so quickly. And so just find that area of passion and go after the fire in the belly, whatever that is for you, and then just see what happens. Walk through some doors.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, for sure, and which is a good segue way. I have a couple's therapy consultation call in a minute.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: That sounds fun. Thank you so much.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, speaking of fire in the belly.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Yes, exactly.
Sasha Raskin: Kelly, thank you so much. And I'm so excited for everything you're doing. This is such a great example for therapists and coaches and educators of what you can achieve if you're giving yourself the permission to try and fail.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Excellent, I totally ...
Sasha Raskin: Again and again.
Kelly Smyth-Dent: Thank you so much, Sasha.