How I set up my Counselling Practice
I gained my Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling through Sweet Track, qualifying in October 2015. In many other industries, gaining a professional qualification would mean that I would have started looking for and applying to jobs, however in the field of counselling, without accreditation (550 client hours), the cuts to public services over the last years and living as I do in a rural area, although I looked there are very few jobs. I took the decision to go part-time self-employed and set up in private practice.
There were several issues to work through to be able to do this, the first being, where would I work? Most therapists tend to work at home but I lacked the space and didn’t have a separate room to use, or even a garden where I could potentially have converted a shed to a therapy room. I only had a through lounge (with kids’ toys & books at one end), the usual furniture as well as a dining table. Therefore I found space to rent at a therapy centre. However it didn’t work for me as I had no client base and the other therapists that worked there were mainly body workers, so what I offered didn’t really fit. I ended up sitting in an expensive empty space a lot of the time. I couldn’t afford to wait it out and take that financial hit, giving notice after a few months.
Having exhausted other possibilities, I eventually did end up working from home with clever use of folding screens and rearranging the furniture / taking down pictures, when preparing for clients to arrive. It has its pros and cons, but mainly the flexibility suits me and I have few overheads. Also my house has never been so clean!
The next major consideration was a website. Having very few funds, I decided that I would do a create-your-own website course at the local adult education centre. It didn’t bode well when we were told on the first session that the duration of the 6 week course had been halved in length due to lack of numbers. The course turned out to be technological gobbledygook, taught by someone who obviously knew their stuff but couldn’t transmit that in an easily understandable manner to us, the students. The best thing about it to me was that I found out that the cheapest domain names and hosting were available from UK2.
I scraped together some cash, luckily my mum helped me out, and found a website designer. The first website was not what I’ve ended up with now, but it gave me a starting point and the designer created, on my instructions, my logo for me. What I discovered about website designers is, choose one who actually listens to you! I’ve since rewritten my website content about 3 times over the last 18 months or so and changed the images and look of it until now I have one that I am happy with and that reflects me and what I am offering in an authentic way – although I still retain the original logo. I found a great designer (on a friend’s recommendation) who does listen and upgraded my website to one that I can change details on myself, rather than always having to pay out to someone else to do that for me.
Other things I needed to do was take the BACP (Br. Ass. of Couns & Psychotherapy) proficiency certificate, which required a trip to Bristol and a month’s wait to see if I had passed. I also had to create a working contract, which I have altered and added to as I have evolved my practice and find out about tax and tax returns with all that entails. I needed to create an invoice & an assessment form for my clients. As well as this I had to make sure I was aware of BACP’s guidelines around CPD, data protection & updates on the ethical framework.
I also decided to take the Level 5 Advanced Diploma, also with Sweet Track. Although I found this quite gruelling with stopping and starting the business, caring for my younger children as a single parent and struggling for money, the huge advantages were that I consolidated my knowledge, got the support of a group half of whom were also setting up in practice and now I am offering a workshop based on the research project that I did on the course.
I had specialised in bereavement & end-of-life a little way into my practice; the bereavement work I loved and had a lot of experience in through one of my voluntary placements, which I continued to do as I progressed through the Level 5. The end-of-life work had always appealed to me, but I found when I went to the training days at a hospice that I simply did not want to do any more voluntary work and the role that was on offer was not in the professional capacity that I wanted. At the end of the first day I came to the decision not to continue and the sense of relief I felt as I drove away told me that I had made the right decision. Likewise after 4 years seeing clients on behalf of a bereavement charity, I realised that I needed to free up my time so that I could earn a living, or at least work towards that and that again, I was so over voluntary work although grateful for what it had given to me in terms of experience and client work.
It is over 2 years ago that I began my journey of setting up my counselling practice and it is only now that I feel fully grounded in what I am offering and that it reflects all facets of me as the person I am. This includes also offering shamanic healing and a fusion of shamanic techniques and spiritual counselling, which I have called shamanic counselling. I tiptoed around offering this for a long while as well as what to actually call my counselling work – ultimately for me I am here on earth as a spirit having a human experience – so ‘spiritual’ counselling it is!
I am glad to report that my practice is now gradually growing, but it took a lot of false trails, explorations in trial and error, as well as the determination of my own inner knowing that this is the work that I am here to do, so I better persevere despite any setbacks. I am now learning all about marketing – the journey continues!
*For more information on what I offer please have a look at: www.seeinginthedark.co.uk or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org / 07572 848925.