After qualifying as a person-centred counsellor I felt ready to start a private practice. At that time the main networking avenues were advertising in telephone directories, writing endless letters to doctor’s surgeries and schools and putting leaflets through people’s doors. Some of this was expensive, all of it was time consuming, and none of it brought me much work, just a trickle.
I’m a qualified counsellor, now what?
To begin with I stayed in my job as a nursery school teacher and continued seeing clients in voluntary placements. Working with a variety of client groups broadened my counselling experience, however I was eager to move on. I felt stuck and discussed this in supervision. My supervisor and I sat with the dilemma of wanting to do something practical towards building my private practice, whilst not knowing what to do.
I learnt about the value of being with the frustration and stuckness. Once that had been heard with empathy and acceptance and given the attention that it needed there was space for fresh ideas to emerge. Although the situation itself had not changed I felt more relaxed about it. I could approach networking with interest and curiosity, I had a new enthusiasm for it.
I left supervision sessions feeling more grounded and optimistic. Amazingly I would return home to one or two enquiries left on my answer phone. This occurred enough times for me view it as one of those strange and mysterious things that tend to happen when something within me changes.
How things seem to work
Gradually my private practice built up. Most of the people who approached me for counselling had heard about my work from fellow trainees or former clients. I began to get an overall picture of how things work. Basically it is all about connections and even very vague connections such as a friend of a friend’s sister can result in an enquiry. Furthermore connections can go back many years, I still have a few recommendations from parents whose children were at the nursery school.
Nowadays the internet allows for numerous connections. People landing on your website might be dismissed as a slight and fleeting moment. However in that moment a photo or a few words may catch their interest and perhaps they will return. My own impression is that it helps to be visible in several places for example, your website, reputable directories, Twitter, Pinterest and your Facebook business page. Then people can build up a picture of who you are and the therapeutic services that you offer. Contacting a therapist or supervisor can be daunting and I hope that with all the personal information available this becomes a little easier.
I enjoy connecting with colleagues both online and offline. I like being sociable and there is great scope for supporting and learning from each other. This includes therapeutic theory and practice as well as understanding social media and how to use it for networking. I have found groups that are relevant to me through my professional organisations, friend and colleague recommendations, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Onlinevents https://www.onlinevents.co.uk are a brother and sister team. They offer wonderful learning resources for people who are working in the counselling / therapy field. This includes online groups, free online CPD with therapy, networking and social media topics. They also run an online library with a collection of video interviews, workshops and conference presentations.
Social networking continues to develop and change, so when something new becomes available I check my personal and professional boundaries to decide whether or not I want to engage with it. I take into account how much time it might require and whether this is something that I could enjoy, as well as the networking potential. Before posting something on social media I always reflect upon its possible effects for clients, supervisees and Focusing students.
Every so often the networking works too well. I have learnt to take charge of my diary rather than adding in more and more appointments. I like the flexibility that comes with working in private practice. I can arrange my diary to include counselling, supervising and teaching Focusing all of which are meaningful and important to me. I make room for networking and I set time aside for self-care, personal and professional development.
I have discovered the joys of networking. For me it is a creative and sociable activity. I find that I can be openly myself whilst also taking care to post sensitively. I enjoy developing relationships with peers that are mutually supportive and helpful.