Hi! I’m Tom Bulpit, and I’m the Managing Director of The Empathy Project CIC. We’re a small community team of counsellors working together to deliver low cost and accessible counselling to the people of Southampton and the Isle of Wight. We’ve partnered with Konfidens to make that mission a reality.
My own clinical background began during Covid-19, where I worked as a counsellor for a young person’s crisis service, and then transitioned through a number of roles for that charity. Like many counsellors however, I became frustrated with the long waiting lists my clients faced, and having to work within a limited-session model when so many of the teenagers and young adults I worked with clearly needed more than that.
The answer for me was going into private practice in July 2022. I very much enjoyed being my own boss and being able to work how I wanted to. However, there are certainly many challenges to working privately, particularly the isolation and the struggle to build a client list. It took me time to reach full capacity, but I was working full-time comfortably after six months.
Getting clients is one thing, but I think there’s a mid-way point in a private practice career when we begin to have too many clients. By January 2023 I was holding up to 27 client sessions per week, not including initial consultations and messaging clients out-of-session. I found the admin of managing bookings, cancellations, onboarding clients and chasing payments exhausting.
For counsellors in private practice, we’re limited by our emotional capacity to hold multiple clients in a busy caseload, but also by only having so many hours in the week to do admin. Trying to manage both, whilst achieving an affordable income for us to live, can be really challenging. The stress of trying to get (and keep) paying clients can over time lead to burnout, and it’s critically important that we hold our boundaries and take breaks where we can.
Working in private practice has many benefits, particularly the perks of being our own boss and being able to make our own decisions. At the same time, it can also be isolating and even lonely. I decided in 2023 to try and do something about it, and so clubbed together with five other counselling to form Southampton Counselling Practice.
We essentially worked as a rent-a-room scheme, but with a twist. We also included a shared website and joint marketing, and the room hire fee helped cover those costs. I was able to use the same time in marketing my private practice to market us as a group effort instead, and the room hire fee paid for my time, allowing to generate a small profit. In return I was able to attract more clients for my team and share referrals. We created a peer support group and things began to feel less lonely.
That worked well for us over the Summer, but the more I spoke to the other counsellors in my team, the more I heard how the admin, stress and burnout impacted them. We all had different schedules so organising meet-ups was difficult, and snatching 10 minute to chat between shifts was the best we could do. We felt like a collection of individuals rather than a team, still with many of the struggles of working alone.
I began to form an idea instead; what if we changed the model, and brought us closer together? I began to research the ways we could do this, particularly around what our corporate identity should be; a partnership, a limited company? They have pros and cons. What about a charity, since the work we do provides a public benefit? The regulation for charities however is burdensome and not worth the benefits.
I finally landed on a Community Interest Company (Limited by Guarantee). We’d have all the freedoms of working as a limited company, but we’d have clear Government approval that we had a genuine social mission, and we’d be able to apply for financial grants to help support us, and even run discounted or free counselling sessions for people who struggle to afford it.
I mentioned burnout earlier, and increasingly I realised that very much included me, too. How could I run my own client caseload, manage a team, do all the admin, marketing, accounts – and not fall over? With the support of my clinical supervisor and personal therapist, I realised I couldn’t. So I started by asking two of my team to become co-Directors and help me run the service, where we could divide the workload in a reasonable way.
But the big question was how could we run the admin for so many clients, for so many therapists? Checking that clients had paid by bank transfer alone would be a full-time job.
That’s when we discovered Konfidens, who have developed an online platform that automates so much of what we do. It’s specifically built for counsellors in private practice, but adapts well to clinics or small organisations like ours. It allows clients to book self-service through an app-style experience, stores their information and client notes secures, takes card payments and gives you a clinical overview to manage both your individual caseload and wider team.
After speaking to Konfidens, we realised that our values were very much aligned. Konfidens already exists in Norway and about 10% of all Norwegian therapists use the platform. They’ve now adapted it for the UK and it’s due to exit Beta and be fully released by January 2024. We’ve agreed to help them get set up in the UK, and part of that is writing blog posts like this, and helping run their Facebook community group here. In return, they’re giving us some financial support to help get us off the ground, too.
We’re excited to be transitioning our entire clinic to use Konfidens in early 2024. I’ll be writing this blog to keep you updated on our progress, both the advantages we find as well as any challenges or “lessons learned” that we face.
If Konfidens sounds like a good idea for your Practice, you can sign up using our unique referral code here. You’ll get a 50% discount for the first year, and a further 50% discount for the first three months because you’ve used our code. Konfidens is inexpensive but saves therapists a huge amount of time, stress and admin. We like what we see so far and hope you will, too.
Tom Bulpit MBACP
Managing Director, The Empathy Project CIC