This article has been written by Jude Fay who is an experienced psychotherapist practising in Co Kildare. She also supports other practitioners to establish and develop their practices. You can view more information here




I often talk and write about having a plan and a budget but I know from my work with therapists, that plans (or budgets) are not high on the list of priorities.

Before training as a therapist, I worked in organisations driven by a goal or planning process. This process is so popular in business because it works. But when I went to therapy school, I learnt that in a therapy context, goals and outcomes are held much more lightly, and often seen as inappropriate.

Like many new converts, I took this as permission to throw out my former way of life and began to see goals as the work of the devil and to be avoided at all costs.

But I soon came to see the error of my ways.

Like all other aspects of business, goal setting has a gift for us. This is usually greater than the outcome of the task itself, or the satisfaction that might come with achieving the goal. The hidden benefit of goal setting is to bring us into relationship with our resistance to setting goals. And when we come into relationship with our resistance, we heal, and we grow.

Our resistance to setting targets for our practice is often resistance to having to put the plan into action. If we never make a plan, then we don’t have to deliver on it.

And a lot of our resistance to taking action to build our practice is the result of things that have happened (or haven’t happened) in the past. In short, we don’t want to experience the pain of the past again.

Perhaps we worked for a very difficult boss or had little control over our working conditions, or it might have nothing to do with work at all. Perhaps it brings up memories of our school days all over again or our relationship with our parents and family. Or something we really wanted to do or be when we were young, that never came to pass.

When I started to explore my own past experiences of goals that had gone awry, I learned a lot about my relationship with success and failure.

For example, I set out to get an additional qualification which was desirable but not necessary in my job. Shortly before my exams, I miscarried. It was a very difficult time for me. I sat the exams and failed, not surprisingly. My career was in no way affected by my not getting those exams, but my confidence in setting goals and making plans was.

Another time, I worked with someone who was good at the blame game, and for whom financial targets were set in stone, no matter what happened. Punishment for non-achievement was swift and harsh. No surprise then, that when I became self-employed, I was ambivalent about setting and holding myself to any kind of plans, because they reminded me of these (and other) past events.

But how does this relate to creating or developing a therapy practice?

If our past experience is telling us that taking risks will result in pain, we’ll find a way not to succeed, and we won’t take the actions that might benefit our practice.

If you were to make a small goal for your practice today, what would that goal be? And what would it feel like to take action to bring you closer to that goal?

If you meet with some resistance to the idea, perhaps you have some exploring to do!

I’m a practising psychotherapist in County Kildare in Ireland and a chartered accountant. I bring my business background to the support of my fellow therapists to help them with the business side of establishing their practices. I’m the author of “This Business of Therapy: A Practical Guide to Starting, Developing and Sustaining A Therapy Practice,” available from Amazon. You can view my website here, and I offer a free 20-minute consultation as well as coaching and workshops.