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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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Our Small Town Bank Locks it's Doors . . . and reminds me of a "road not taken" . . . and an Opportunity!!

The letter . . . For privacy reasons, the full letter is available to my email subscribers.

The letter . . . For privacy reasons, the full letter is available to my email subscribers.

Our small-town bank locks it's doors . . . a road not travelled . . . and an opportunity!

A bank employee will now let you into the building . . . but only with the proper ID.

Our town only has a population of 2,000 . . . and it's in the middle of a rural area, in a state that has been referred to as "fly over country." So it's a bit shocking to get a letter like the one in the photo. I mean, this "ain't New York City!" to adapt the advertising slogan. We're used to leaving our doors unlocked, the keys in the vehicle, with the naive confidence that people generally "mean well" and can be trusted. No, this isn't "Mayberry" from the Andy Griffith show. But it's close. 

A quick side-note. Our site has grown over 60% this year. Thank you to everyone for visiting our site, recommending us to others, subscribing and and following our blog. We will continue to offer content through our blog, email list, and  our free eBooks in 2018!

Anyway, this letter reminded me of an event that happened about a decade ago. A bank President called me. She asked if I would be interested in setting up a state-wide Critical Incident Stress Debriefing network for her bank. At the time I was the Executive Director of a counseling center and had worked with bank leadership on a couple of her work-teams. 

I told her that we might be interested, but that I would have to find out more about what setting up and running a state-wide CISD network would require. My first call was to my professional "guru." He told me right away that the state operated a CISD team and that I should contact the head of that department. I did.

The result was disappointing . . . at best. It was clear that contact with this state-run program would be of no help what-so-ever. The program, to be fair, was designed to help "first-responders," an admirable ambition, and it was clear in the conversation with this bureaucrat that there was no room to provide this service to anyone outside the governmental system. To his credit, he was brutally clear; the legislative focus was on government and, as such, they would not provide advice, training, support, or even make available the names of counseling professionals they used across the state for their CISD services. It was a complete dead-end.

I called back the bank President. I described the experience with the state and informed her that, without being able to tap into existing resources, we simply would not be able to develop and provide this service. We were not equipped to identify, train, support, and provide the services state-wide as a small center with less than a dozen professionals on staff. It was not the right opportunity for that organization and my focus, at that time, was on building up the organization--not seizing on the opportunity to contract with the bank to develop and deliver this service.

But truth be told, it bugged me. I've never worked in government--but I have had a number of grants and contracts with legislative branches--and I am fully aware of the constraints under which they serve. What galled me was that here was a legitimate need and it went unmet. Being a problem-solver by nature it just didn't seem right to drop it. But we did.

This experience did teach me a few things that might be of use to you, my readers. Mostly, that their are unmet needs all around you and if you can uncover them, and find ways to help, you will never be without work to do and people who will pay you for the value of that work. But, more specifically . . . regarding this opportunity . . . 

1. Banks, fast-food restaurants, retailers have lots of attempted, and some completed, robberies that never make the news (in fact, in many cases, they work hard to make sure they don't!).

2. These events can cause significant turn-over and often negatively impact employee morale . . . directly impacting the "bottom line" of the bank.

3. There is no established system for addressing this need in the for-profit world. (at least not here or to the knowledge of many professionals I have asked in the past decade)  and despite training on what to do in such events and some education of the effects, there is no systematic follow up or support when the events occur.

4. There is no recognized standard way to recognize those that have expertise in helping these organizations (no state licensure or certification for CISD/M in general). Psychologists and counselors often get referrals for people who have been traumatized by these incidents and who are experiencing anxiety or other symptoms but it is rare (excepting, perhaps, public school settings) to provide this support at a group level.

Conclusions?

This is an untapped area for private practice consulting for professionals who want to get trained, develop expertise, and market these services.

 

 

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