The Secret Diary of a Private Practice Counsellor

This is my honest account of the rocky journey transitioning from a secure corporate counseling job to diving headfirst into private practice. I spill the beans on the doubts, struggles with finding clients, financial worries, and the unexpected perks I stumbled upon. Remaining anonymous, I delve into embracing the challenges and unexpected rewards of this new counselling path.

The Secret Diary of a Private Practice Counsellor

Building the right tech stack is key

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How to choose the right tech stack for your company?

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What to consider when choosing the right tech stack?

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What are the most relevant factors to consider?

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What tech stack do we use at Techly X?

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As trainee counsellors, we are taught to accept ourselves and our clients' vulnerabilities. Even though I will not be sharing any confidential information, I have chosen to accept my struggles within the world of private practice, protect myself and my own vulnerabilities, and have chosen to remain anonymous.

As many of you might relate, I enrolled in counselling after experiencing a life-changing event. I have previously been employed in customer service roles and had a passion for helping people, which wasn’t being fulfilled by answering a telephone call with words along the lines of ‘How may I be of assistance today?’.

My main goal I wished to achieve from enrolling on to my course was only to complete and enjoy the course in the hope that one day I might become a real-life counsellor, but that dream was five years away, so at the time, my main focus was to receive good grades and progress on the next run on the ladder to make this dream a reality.

It wasn’t easy, as I’m sure many of you can remember for yourselves, and some modules of coursework I found more interesting than others.

The years shot by, and before I knew it, I was in the final year of my diploma. For our second-to-last module, we were asked to create a piece of private practice marketing material that would individually represent ourselves and the counselling profession and give a short presentation.

The presentation aspect did not faze me, it had more to do with my mindset, as I had set my mind against working in private practice. I had mentally weighed up the pros and cons of working in this sector of counselling and had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me. I was planning after my diploma to continue with my degree and then work for an organisation who, unlike private practice, would be able to pay me a secure salary, knowing that my income would not affect me if I was unwell or took an annual holiday, plus the organisation would source clients for me. For those reasons alone, private practice was definitely out of the question.

Or so I thought. After my degree, I accepted a counsellor role for a well-known healthcare provider as a remote EAP. I was assured in the knowledge that I would receive a monthly amount of money and that there would be plenty of clients, but what I have taken into account is how this role was going to affect my mental health. I was working sporadic weekly shift patterns, which would start very early in the morning or finish very late at night. Now I know what some of you might be thinking—this is part of the job, and yes, you are correct, but I was finding that the days where I finish early, all I wanted to do was sleep, and the days when I was working evenings, I was spending the whole morning and early afternoon in bed, trying to catch up on sleep from the shift before.

It wasn’t just the hours but also the KPIs, which were having a knock-on effect, trying to navigate the internal system, which felt like consideration of a 100 drop down, free text, or tick boxes after every call.

I told myself at least I was receiving a monthly paycheck and clients, but there is too much of a good thing on average, I was speaking to 12 clients a day.

I started to feel lethargic both physically and mentally, handed in my notice, and said goodbye to KPI’s, IT, and system problems.

But I needed another source of income. I very quickly started to revisit my views on private practice. At great haste, I shelled out on counselling directories of all the big names in the industry, wrote profiles, and carefully chose a picture of myself, which, to my surprise, one friend commented, ‘Don’t you think that picture makes you look older than you actually are?’.

And I waited for the phone to ring off the hook and my inbox to be flooded with inquiries, it never did. I begin to second-guess myself, was private practice such a good idea? I knew of peers of mine from university who were making their businesses a success and earning thousands of pounds a month, so why wasn’t I? One friend even suggested maybe I should get a part-time hospitality job.

I opted to join a certain US-based platform in the hope of clawing back some form of client base and revenue after my failed attempt from the directories. In my first week, I made an impressive sum of £8. Yes, a whole £8. That’s not going to keep the light on, food in the cupboards, and a roof over my head, I thought to myself.

I shared my concerns with a friend and fellow counsellor who also works in private practice. They explained to me that client inquiries are like buses, some days you won’t get any, and other days you’ll get three. They also opened up about their personal highs and lows and the loneliness of working from home, which I have personally experienced there've been days where I haven’t even left the house. Myself and my friend now constantly support and check in with one another.

I have only been working in private practice for approximately a month, minus directories listing and supervision. My take-home pay for this month is £366.48, which isn’t going to cover my overheads.

I am in the fortunate position that I’m not destitute and extremely optimistic. I can re-edit my listings and change that profile picture. Also, working in private practice gives me more hours in the day to creatively collaborate with other counsellors and professional projects. I can set my own hours, bye-bye night shift! And the number of clients, I don’t have to answer to anybody if the odd session runs over the allocated 50 minutes, and I certainly don’t have to listen to dreadful hold music when calling to complain to IT support about how the server has gone down again! I no longer cry on a Sunday evening at the thought of going to work or trying to eat my weight in comfort food from the stress. I get to spend time with my friends and family, but most importantly, I’m 100 times happier for working in private practice.

Yours sincerely,
A counsellor in private practice.

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