Risks of Private Practice
I used to teach Active Parenting, and one of the many good ideas in that curriculum is the definition of courage as taking a known risk for a known reward. Almost everyone wants a level of certainty and security in their lives, so overcoming the fear of the unknown and the fear of failure requires some courage as well as some risk taking. Perhaps one the biggest risks of private practice that we take as therapists is that one day one of our clients might commit suicide. There are lesser risks known to us, such as financial problems, embarrassment at making a mistake, or loss of peace of mind, like when a client with a borderline personality disorder files a complaint with the licensing board to avoid paying the bill.
Some of the rewards of having a private practice are also known to us, like freedom, helping people, and self-fulfillment. I get great satisfaction from someone improving their attitude, changing their behavior, or making a difficult choice for what is best for all concerned.
Purchasing professional liability insurance guards against some of the damages of the risks taken in private practice. Good supervision, constant consultation and being a lifelong learner can increase a therapist’s ability to feel courageous and be willing to take known risks in order to be available to our clients, their families, and our community.
When encountering a risk, I like to call the fight or flight response the Turtle Reflex. Understandably, like turtles, people pull into their shell to find protection. Also like turtles, people are unable to make any progress unless we stick our necks out. One aspect of therapy for our clients is to create a safe environment where they can experiment with trying life a new way, and to cope with their fears. One aspect of our Self-Care is to recruit enough support for us to experiment with facing our fears of risk and loss courageously and effectively.
A private practice should not be entered into carelessly, but courageously, preparing carefully for the risks and anticipating joyfully the rewards.
Dr. Ray Smith is the most sought-after counselor and relationship coach for physicians in Spokane. After graduating with a Doctor of Ministry from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, he worked with doctors in Galveston, Houston, San Antonio, Spokane, and Memphis, where he earned a second doctorate, in counseling. His background in parish ministry led to pastoral counseling and coaching for Christian MDs and the creation of physicianscoaching.com to help G.P.s and specialists deal with their unique stresses in medicine.
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