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If you practice like no one else, your practice can be like no one else!

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Some of our giveaways I got to share with my colleague at coffee. (Graphic Design by Andrew Miller (andhegames.com and andhedrew.com)

If you practice like everyone else, your practice will be like everyone else!

Throughout my almost 30 years working in the health care field I have had great colleagues. These experts provide critical services for individuals, couples, and families. They are specialists—true experts—in their scope of practice and I happily refer to, collaborate with, and respect them for their work.

However . . .

Considering the “State of the Art”

Colleagues in our field as a group, perhaps like most industries, generally talk, month in and month out, about the same repetitive topics . . . referrals, going “fee only” (or dumping insurance), recruiting new professionals, insurance contracts, and procedures or techniques they are learning or implementing. Go to coffee with many in the behavioral health industry and you are sure to wind up talking about these issues.

There’s nothing, at all, wrong with that of course.. These are the daily concerns of the typical practice and the variables that owners/providers need to focus on to be successful. Many are happy to confine their “work life” to these issues but some of us are not.

For the “others” these topics, while necessary to deal with, are often redundant, task-focused, conversations that—like chores—need to be done but rarely result in a “bounce in the step” after the conversation. After almost three decades in the industry, while these continue to be necessary discussions, engaged in regularly, I find myself more interested in conversations about the national melodrama of politics, the latest cool product (currently Darn Tough socks), new technologies, or woodworking projects. Maybe you can relate?

A different practice

I was reflecting on this after a recent coffee meeting with a colleague. No, not because the conversation was a better version of the typical topics, quite the opposite, because it wasn’t—at least not the vast majority of the meeting. A meeting that I left feeling energized, excited, and ready to push my business forward. Why? What was different? What was different is we weren’t just talking about the same-ole-same-ole topics.

My colleage isn’t just practicing like everyone else. He is more entrepreneurial that the average clinician.

Through serendipity and the encouragement of others less risk-aversive, I have learned, despite my natural tendencies toward the opposite, to do the same. So our conversation wasn’t about insurance, referrals, recruitment and all the old repetitive topics. Instead, the conversation was about an upcoming training we are doing out of state, demonstrating for him a game we newly licensed to use in our training, possible opportunities with a local manufacturing enterprise, and discussions about developing our own new software games for training. All factors of my practice not being defined by the typical “private practice” label.

Sustained changes

This week, under this broader umbrella of Human Systems Consulting, we will be billing an engineering firm for coaching. Signing a training contract with a government agency to use games to train leaders on teamwork skills. Continuing our monthly trainings of other professionals on becoming consultants. Talking to a non-profit about the status of a 13 year old contract to determine if it will continue as is, change, or be terminated. Continue discussions about developing a communications/teamwork game with a software developer. None of this directly related to my full time private practice as a mental health professional.

If it sounds like work, it is. Is it But its work, I find, that invigorates. It’s not boring. It’s new. It’s mine. No one else, outside my team is doing what we are doing. It continually challenges me to grow and expand my learning, my skills, and, assumably, my value to systems who need some help. It also protects from some of the inherent risks in healthcare. All factors that makes the private practice less anxious, more sustainable, flexible, and versatile.

Normative vs. transformative

Now, if you tend toward the stable, comfortable, personality that enjoys routing, likes tweaking and improving know systems, and are perfectly happy with continued discussions listed in the first scenario—then good for you! You likely are not looking for something different or more. However, those who crave learning new things, challenging themselves to do more, want new vistas or horizons to explore . . . even if you are good at putting up with the first scenario . . . then this latter scenario is much more invigorating. In my experience, it is an antidote to burnout and makes you more enthused about both.

What would you like your practice to look like if you could choose to do whatever you wanted?

What services or products would you be excited to provide?

What’s stopping you?

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Broken shovels and new handles.

The poor old shovel . . . yellow fiber-glass handle finally gave out!

The poor old shovel . . . yellow fiber-glass handle finally gave out!

Sometimes you just gotta do it. I was replacing my mailbox post when it happened. The old shovel handle broke. I've been expecting it. This old, yellow, fiberglass handle was never the best. It quickly began to weaken; the digging becoming a maddening-test-of-stubborn-resistance as the handle flexed, twisted, and alternatively held it''s rigidity as a project progressed.

Now it was caput. Finished. Should I "pitch it" in joy of the cessation of the frustration and hold a wake to it's demise? No. I would replace the handle with a good, solid, wooden one. I grew up in that era. Don't through away things that still have value. Even if the time, the replacement parts, and ultimate finished product are less than ideal.

Changing that handle (see the finished product below) reminded me of the process of helping professionals with "old" skills upgrade to "new" ones. Learning to add contracting or consulting to their professional practice. The tools essentially remain unchanged but the experience is transformative.

Check out our no-coast, no obligation, webinar on Private Practice through Contracting!

Almost makes me look forward to digging.

Almost makes me look forward to digging.

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Professional Burnout

Photo by  Yaoqi LAI  on  Unsplash

Photo by Yaoqi LAI on Unsplash

My private practice, it seems, has recently become an oasis for professionals experiencing burnout in their careers and personal lives. I’m not talking about professionals who just can’t cope or who have personality traits that make them doomed to burnout; I’m talking about successful helping professionals–experts who have been practicing and thriving for 15 to 35 years who suddenly cannot stand the work they once chose and loved.

While I’ve written about ways to prevent burnout in the past I am still learning things as I help these experienced professionals–who are often very insightful and creative in their own right–reinvent their professional and private lives to make their work-life balance manageable and sustainable forms.

I wrote this almost two years ago, and I followed it with some reasons I think successful professionals suffer burnout. (My original follow up post was entitled "Regaining the Joy of Your Career!"

Reasons successful professionals experience burnout:

  • There is an emotionally overwhelming triggering event.

  • They have an exaggerated personal accountability for their work.

  • There is denial of the effect of exposure to traumatic emotional events.

  • Self-care is seen as optional (and sometimes selfish!).

  • Accountability is universal (I have to do everything well!) and not subject to rank ordering.

  • Unrealistic comparisons to others lead to a lack of balance.

  • The isolation of the profession diminishes their perspective of life.

  • Emotional avoidance of guilt, fear, shame, rejection often underlies unhealthy behaviors. (just like our clients . . .)

  • The “supporting cast” of family and/or friends reinforce unhealthy functioning.

  • Band-aids are applied when surgery is needed.

At the time since I wrote this list, conditions in the profession seem to be exacerbating the problems. (Faithful readers may remember when I challenged myself to state what our field needs in just 4 words.) Today, some insurance companies are requiring professionals to pay application fees and annual fees just to be on their boards (the customers don't pay the overhead now the service providers do?), cutbacks in public funding is threatening services, demands for "validated" therapies threaten to make healthcare the paper-pushing cousin to education, and professionals in other fields are developing services that challenge the mental health industry.

More and more professionals I talk with are seeking a way to mediate these negative forces, or leave the healthcare industry through adopting private pay or concierge practices, marketing life coaching, contracting directly with organizations, retooling into another industry, or retiring.  (Not all experts are the same Organizations need people-experts to advise them.) Often professionals, unprepared for a shifting healthcare context, burnout under the vicarious trauma of a long career. Seeing more clients that is sustainable in a healthy manner. Today, more than ever professionals often need a backup plan and exit strategy.

What can you do, in the short-term, to prevent burnout? Here's a few ideas:

  1. Don't expose yourself to additional trauma through your entertainment choices.
  2. Limit your clinical work by mixing in other business ventures.
  3. Find and maintain restorative hobbies, activities and friends.
  4. Listen to music and turn off the news.
  5. Take a break--a long one--from social media.
  6. Create a long-term business/career/life plan that includes diminishing the heavy clinical load.
  7. Broaden, or narrow, your niche to include activities that are not saturated in traumatic material.
  8. Develop a network of social contacts that are not from the healthcare industry.

Good luck!

Read: The greatest leadership lesson I ever learned.

 

 

Interested in decreasing your dependence on insurance? Check out Private Practice through Contracting. It will help you "think outside the box," encourage you to seek work you love, guide you into paths that are sustainable . . . and it's free.

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Regaining the joy of your career

Photo by  Devin Avery  on  Unsplash

Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash

In an earlier post (on professional burnout) I told about some of the lessons I am learning about why experienced and successful professionals get burned out. Today, I’m going to share with you some of the solutions. 

Regaining the joy of your career:

  • Only do what no one else can do. (Many professionals can teach basic parenting skills but few can talk from their own experience what it is like to stay married for 35 years.)
  • Rank order your responsibilities. (Your family's needs before additional networking contacts.)
  • Consider a leave of absence . . . with a plan. (Sometimes a break will reinvigorate and help you redirect your energy in the right places.)
  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to traumatic material. (You get enough of that in your work as a professional . . . it should not be your hobby as well!)
  • Set your own goals and stubbornly maintain them. (After all, if you don't who will?)
  • Formalize and prioritize your self-care. ("All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" they used to say.  It's true.)
  • Consider what it really means to you to be "at work."
  • Use an advisory team to find new ways of providing your services. (Too many professionals go it on their own. They don't value or utilize a professional coach or mentor. This can be a path to burnout.)
  • Do “a little . . . well” or “a lot . . . well enough.” (Don’t be perfect. Don’t be the best . . . right now. Unless you limit your focus to one thing.  Some can do this and be very successful. Some can't and some shouldn't . . . know who you are and what works for you.)
  • Ease back into your career one step at a time. (If you are "toasty" and can't stand what you are doing . . . try to get a break.  But once it is over don't just jump back in! Prioritize and transform what and how you are as a professional.)
  • Consider changing careers. (In the final analysis or some it is just time to make a permanent change.  Better that than decades of dread, inefficiency, boardroom, and failure.)

All the best!

Bryan

P.S.  One way I have avoided burnout is through contracting and consulting.  If you haven't already downloaded our free eBook, Private Practice through Contracting, feel free to check it out.

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