When I graduated from my masters program in mental health counseling and art therapy, I looked around at the profession as a whole and decided the best option was for me to open a private practice.
I did not like what I saw, and so I opted out.
Yes, that came with its own set of challenges: completing necessary legal paperwork, figuring out how to run a business, learning to do marketing, etc (you can read all about that in my essay Starting a Therapy Private Practice as a New Graduate).
And yet, those challenges have led me to be a far more knowledgeable, experienced, and expansive therapist. My business also continues to fuel my internal growth as I face my fears and anxieties that arise (you can read about that in my essay When Our Internal Fears Keep Coming Back as Therapists).
Had I chosen to stay within traditional mental health jobs (agencies, organizations, group practices, etc.), I’m not sure the challenges presented would have led to similar growth.
Many of the challenges with the mental health profession are related to systemic issues: low pay, high caseloads, exacting paperwork, evaluations tied to “performance” statistics, and more. I wouldn’t be able to treat my clients the way I want, nor myself the way I want to be treated.
If I worked for someone else, I would have little power to enact change. Yes, I could express my views, but that likely would not lead to much. I would simply have to learn how to exist within the challenging environment. I would have to accept that certain needs of my own were not met or honored. I would have to shrink.
As a private practice owner, I can see the problems and enact change. I limit my caseload size to honor my energetic capacity. I cap the number of clients I see in a day so that I can greet them with ease and let them have a truly powerful experience. I design the physical environment of my art therapy studio so that my clients can feel welcomed and at ease. I choose not to work with insurance, so that I can avoid all of the injustices it purports (you can read about that in my essay Why I Don’t take Insurance).
I get to design my practice so that it honors my needs and those of my clients. I can provide the highest quality of care for my clients AND myself.
I also am free to write essays like this one, without fear of retribution. I can name the harmful things I see in the field and discuss them openly to enact change.
This is true liberation.
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