Many clinicians feel scared when it comes to the decision to take the leap into private practice. It’s important to note that any time we step outside of our comfort zone, it is normal to feel some level of anxiety and fear. In this instance, your fear and anxiety is a sign that you are taking risks and headed towards growth.
Often we think “I’ll wait until I feel less afraid.” However, the paradox of this is that often the “doing it” comes before the fear goes away. It is my hope that this conversation and series on facing fears of entering private practice, helps you to realize that you are not alone in experiencing anxiety and that your dreams can become a reality.
A Conversation with Sarah Berger, Ph.D.
I had the opportunity to interview Sarah Berger, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Washington D.C. Sarah shared some of her insight and experiences from years of experience in the field.
1. If you could go back and tell yourself something when you were first starting out in private practice, what would you say?
Have more confidence in yourself; at the same time recognize that the anxiety is normal and will hang around for a while. I also wish I could tell myself to continue just being myself. Being authentic helps me attract the clients that are truly a best fit for me and my practice; however in the beginning of the transition, the fear of not succeeding can lead to a desire to take on any client – not just ones that are truly a good fit. I wish I could remind myself to have faith that the clients will come.
2. What is one thing that was very helpful to you in starting your practice?
I had a clear sense of what works best for me. I knew I was someone who had a low risk tolerance so I made a slow transition. Thankfully, this was an option for me. I realize it’s not an option for everyone. I took on one day a week at first, subletted space before signing a lease, joined a group first then started my own private practice.
With each step, I gained confidence to take the next step. This also worked best for my young family, both logistically and financially. I am also someone who benefits from a strong support network. I attended workshops on how to make the leap to private practice and I have two fantastic peer consultation groups that were able to provide logistical and emotional support.
3. What is your advice for those who are feeling scared to make leap from agency work to venturing out on their own?
Recognize that you will probably always fear “the leap” – the fear alone is not enough of a reason to stay at an agency. Ask yourself what your fears are, is there a way to get help with it – whether that is getting support, breaking it into smaller steps, etc. How can you take the fear with you?
Face Your Fears
Ultimately, it’s important to “practice what we preach” to clients in terms of taking risks and stepping out of our comfort zones. If you are passionate about starting a private practice, I would encourage you to begin taking small steps towards that goal.
I am so grateful to Sarah for taking the time out to talk with me and share her helpful and sound advice. Stay tuned for future articles to come featuring more interviews on this topic with experts in the field.