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Are you interested in continuing education? How can you make a business out of continuing education? What are some of the things you need to consider in terms of approvals in your state?
In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks to Dr. David Hall about continuing education.
Meet Dr. David Hall
Dr. David Hall is licensed as a family therapist and mental health counselor. He is the head of PsychMaven, a group that provides continuing education and business/entrepreneurial courses and resources for behavioral health professionals. He is also the owner/director of the Haven Counseling Center in Knoxville, TN. David has served as the president for the Tennessee Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and as an adjunct professor with Richmont Graduate University.
Visit his counseling center website and CE and Business website and connect on Facebook and Instagram.
Click here to download free courses, tip sheets, and guides.
In This Podcast
- Continuing education approval
- Faith-based CE
- For people wanting to hear more about CE
I have a lot of enthusiasm to share lots of stuff, particularly about what I know about therapy. I don’t know everything about therapy but as I’ve learned things about therapy business, about building a private practice, about certain clinical things, I get excited, and I like to share it.
David comes from a very entrepreneurial family and has always been very entrepreneurial. He loves counseling and has always seen himself doing psychotherapy but he realized very quickly that he is very extroverted and counseling is a fairly introverted process. From a business perspective, David knew that he could only see a certain amount of clients in a week and, ethically, could only charge so much. He also had a lot of extra energy so started looking fairly early in his career for other things to do.
David’s first postgraduate workshop presentation was going to different conferences to present a book he helped write. He liked it and was naturally good at it thanks to a background in performance in theatre and as a musician. David realized that this was a scalable thing and began exploring professional training. As a young therapist, however, David’s opportunities to do presentations through other groups were limited so, in 2011, he decided to start his own group, The Narrative Institute. David knew nothing about getting CE approval and putting on independent events so had to figure that all out. He learned things over the years and turned his CE business into a larger organization in 2019 called PsychMaven – Maven being a word that means someone who has a lot of enthusiasm to share knowledge and expertise.
Continuing education approval
The approval process all depends on where you are and where you need to get it. PsychMaven has some free guides on their site that have to do with getting CE approval for running events. They also have a state by state guide for the CE approval for each state as there are very different rules in the different states. Certain states like Arizona, Oregon, and Virginia are fairly flexible and others, like New York, are really stringent.
The free guide available to download took David over 100 hours to put together and it has almost every license for every state with only a few gaps that they’re still working on. PsychMaven also offers a full course, called Profitable Mental Health Starter Kit, on how to create your own CE events. Due to lockdown, a lot of people have reached out to David wanting to figure out how to do this online so they have updated the course to include that as well. Some states have restrictions on the number of online hours you can get but those are becoming less and less as a lot of people are looking for extra income sources during this time.
David’s practice has an overt faith-based perspective. There are different things that influence that like who he’s trying to connect with. Faith-based training does shrink your market, which isn’t always a bad thing as sometimes the riches are in niches, but it is not something that PsychMaven offers.
David’s faith does influence his work quite a bit though and one of the things that he’s very interested in is how people’s perspectives influence the therapy process. People coming from more secular perspectives will say that they’re open to different perspectives but when you look at how they exercise their influence and their power dynamics in session, it’s a very shut down process for people to talk about faith. So, one of the reasons David likes to talk about this in a non-overtly faith-based setting is to invite those conversations in ways that if it was specifically Christian counseling continuing education wouldn’t have the audience that needs to hear it. Whitney agrees completely and refers to ethical training they received at Richmont where they were taught to really consider how they allow their faith to influence their work with clients – “It’s not about your faith, it’s about them and their faith.”
For people wanting to hear more about CE
You don’t have to know everything about something to be helpful to somebody else. And whether that’s as a counselor, as a teacher, if you have passionate enthusiasm, and you’re willing to focus in and do work, you have something to offer.
David has just redone their website including tons of free stuff for people wanting to learn more about CE:
- Tip sheets and guides on how to do CE events
- Practice building
- Side gigs for therapists
- Free continuing education
- Ethics webinar
They also have some more training coming out and have some teachers putting together some material for them. David has so much passion for teaching people how to do their own events and training.
Click here to download free courses, tip sheets, and guides.
Books mentioned in this episode
- John Dennis on Having a Business and Being a Christian | FP 36
- Email Whitney: [email protected]
- Faith In Practice Facebook Group
- Free resources to help you start, grow and scale
- Apply to work with Whitney
- Consult With Whitney
Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.
Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.
Thanks For Listening!
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Faith in Practice is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts that are changing the world. To hear other podcasts like Empowered and Unapologetic, Bomb Mom, Imperfect Thriving, Marketing a Practice or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
The Faith in Practice podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network. A network of podcasts seeking to help you start, grow, and scale your practice. To hear other episodes like the Imperfect Thriving podcast, Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. I’m your host, Whitney Owens, recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner and private practice consultant. In each week, through a personal story or amazing interviews, I will help you learn how to start, grow, and scale your private practice from a faith-based perspective. I’m going to show you how to have an awesome, faith-based practice without being cheesy or fake. You too can have a successful practice, make lots of money, and be true to yourself.
Today I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about the private practice Facebook group that I run, specifically for those that are running a faith-based perspective and growing their business. The group is called Faith in Practice. So, you can look it up in the Facebook, and I’ll try to post a link in the show notes so that you can quickly look at that. But it is a free group of people that are growing their practices. So, we’ve got some people that are in the new stages, we even have some people that are in graduate school. We’ve got people who have group practices, and they’re growing those, but it’s a place for us to connect not only on business aspects and resources we can provide for one another, but on the faith aspect as well, because sometimes our questions are a little different than some of the other groups out there. So, I want a place for us to throw those questions and get responses from one another. Also, within this group, I provide a lot of material which is all free, which is awesome for you guys. And I love just connecting with everybody through the group. But I get on there regularly, probably two, three times a week and do Facebook Lives on relevant things that are going on in our world, or resources that I’m finding. Sometimes I’ll go on there and give you some podcast information before the episodes released because it was a really good interview or something I found really interesting that I think that you’ll enjoy. So, I do those regularly. Sometimes I do quick interviews with other consultants or other people that I think would be helpful for you to hear from and provide materials like resources or handouts, or maybe you’re looking for how do I track time for my assistant? Or how do I create pay tiers? Or how do I help clients with different clinical situations, like, we throw all that in there. We also have a lot of people in there that are podcasting. And so, we’re able to talk about interviewing one another and helping each other out in our big ideas. So if you’ve been looking for a group to connect with other practice owners that are also doing faith based practices, look in the Facebook groups for Faith in Practice, and you’ll find us; you’ll have to answer a couple of quick questions and you’ll be right in the group. So anyway, I want you to go check that out. If you have questions, concerns, you can send me an email at [email protected]
Today’s episode I interviewed Dr. David Hall. It was so fun to interview him because he’s also an alum from my graduate program. So, it’s always good to kind of be with like-minded people and talking about the clinical world, but I also really loved interviewing David because he provided tons of really good information on continuing education credits. With everything going on in the world right now, most places, I think, are opened up at this point with the Coronavirus. I know the state of Georgia opened super early. So sometimes I forget what’s going on in other places, but we had more downtime, and so I hope that you took advantage of that. And even if you didn’t, we definitely can’t be running around and doing continuing education live. And so, David provides a really good resource and the company that he works with to be able to help us get continuing education credits, I know that the CEUs are about to be renewed here in the state of Georgia. So, I’m seeing tons of posts online right now about needing to renew, and so David can kind of give you that information here.
But, talking to other practice owners just as we’re going through this transition, opening back up. So, I want to encourage you, if you have questions about the process of going back into your business, of getting back into the office, please reach out to me. You can send me an email, [email protected] At my practice, we have been going back; half our therapists are in and half aren’t. But we have a lot of questions, not only as we’re wrestling with our personal feelings, but everything going on in the world. But how do I run a practice this way? How do I make money this way? How do I meet the needs of clients? I can tell you that you can do it. I just reacted to a post the other day where somebody said, can you actually have a cash pay practice in the world right now? And yes, you can and I’m doing it and you can do it too. And so, if you’re having these questions about how do I run a business during this time, how do I actually make money? And then how do I meet the needs of my community? Like I said, reach out to me. I’ve noticed also that people are doing more business consulting. That’s really been picking up and I’m seeing practices exploding in the consulting that I’m doing. And so, it’s really exciting because y’all, we are on the frontlines, and people are needing assistance right now. And so, we gotta have our practices in order so that we can be able to meet the needs of those around us. So, we’d love to hear from you. Also, get involved in the Facebook group, the Faith in Practice Facebook group. And I’m sure they’ll throw that in the show notes for me, the link to that, but it’s an awesome group to be able to just ask these questions and get those questions answered and reach out to me anytime. So, let’s go ahead and get into the episode with Dr. David Hall on creating a CEU business.
Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. I have Dr. David Hall here today. He’s licensed as a marriage and family therapist and mental health counselor. He is the head of PsychMaven, a group that provides continuing education and business entrepreneurial courses and resources for behavioral health professionals. He’s also the owner director of Haven Counseling Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. He has served as the President of the Tennessee Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and as an adjunct professor at Richmont Graduate University. Welcome to the show, David.[DAVID]:
Thank you very much, Whitney. Happy to be here. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, yeah. So, just in the bio there, I mentioned Richmont Graduate University. So, this is my first interview with an alumni from my graduate program. So that’s exciting. Well, David and I actually didn’t know each other at Richmont. We found each other through some other consultants and through Gordon Brewer, he’s just wonderful. So, it’s been kind of cool to be able to connect with someone who has a similar background and the way that I’m guessing that you think about faith, and the way you think about counseling. So, I’m excited to have you on the show. [DAVID]:
Yeah, shout out to any Richmont grads listening to this. I’m a big booster for the program. I feel very blessed that that was where I got my clinical training, and I’m highly biased towards it. So, if anyone’s listening that is considering different programs, the campuses are in Atlanta, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. I’m glad you’re giving the shout out. I think the same thing, like, I often think back to when I was trying to decide where to go to grad school, and I feel really fortunate that I picked Richmont because it was very clinically based, but it also brought this like spiritual component into it in this perfect way. And I feel like when I was there, I was there at this like beautiful time with these amazing professors, and just gained so much out of it. [DAVID]:
Myself as well, yes. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. So, David, why don’t you share with people your journey from graduate school and where you went and how you got into private practice? [DAVID]:
Absolutely. So, I graduated in 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia – I’m from Knoxville, Tennessee, which is where my practice is and where I live now, but I started my professional career there and worked for a group practice. And it’s funny, the visions that I think a lot of us have about what counseling was going to be like. When I first started grad school, I was picturing I’d get out and I’d have an office, and the office would have a lot of wood paneling, and it would have lots of books and a lot of leathery, tufted furniture and it’d be this huge cavernous office. And I remember the first place I did a counseling session in was a Sunday school room at this internship site I was doing and I remember sitting on… it was like a preschool Sunday school room and sitting on this really low chair and my knees almost touching my chest, thinking this is not what I imagined it would be like. [WHITNEY]:
That is funny. [DAVID]:
But it is for a lot of us. So, I graduated, I worked with a group practice in the north end of Atlanta, in the Dunwoody neighborhood and it was more or less kind of like a private practice setup. I was working for an LPC, but it was a new practice and it was a build your own caseload, and I didn’t really know much about building a caseload and had a lot of trial and error in that. And then in 1998, I moved up to my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee with my wife, who’s also a licensed professional counselor, and we went to work for a group practice in Knoxville called Ebenezer Counseling Services, which is a Christian focused counseling group in Knoxville, and was there for eight years. And then, end of 2015, beginning of 2016, I started my current group which was initially a psychiatry practice. We were called Haven Family Psychiatry at the time, and then the psychiatry part of the practice was taken over by a different group of providers and we became just a counseling center only, Haven Counseling Center’s our group now. At this point we are at 10 therapists in the group, my wife and myself included, and having more. So that’s what practice looks like for me. But another big thing that’s been part of my career is I’ve been a continuing education provider and started that as a side business in 2011. So those are the two things that definitely, professionally take up the most of my time. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, so, your wife, does she just work at the practice or do y’all co-own the practice or how does that work? [DAVID]:
I mean, according to the government and what my household looks like, we definitely co-own this practice. We do have… and this is important that we establish clear roles, you know, I’m the director of the clinic and it’s not a… I don’t think of it as a chauvinistic sort of thing, but simply for the sake of clarity with staff, somebody has to be in charge, there has to be one person. But we definitely, as a business, in our planning, if someone has a payroll issue, she handles our payroll, and so no one comes to me with any money questions. So, it’s definitely a joint venture. And what’s great is we have a lot of easy… not every moment is easy, but generally we have a really easy flow of doing business together. [WHITNEY]:
That’s so nice. Now, I didn’t ask you these questions in advance, but do you have any funny stories of working with your wife, or something kind of crazy happened, and working together? Or maybe a story where maybe there was a challenge? [DAVID]:
I mean, it’s an interesting… I remember the first time doing co-therapy with my wife, because we met in graduate school, but we weren’t… she graduated after I did and we even did internships at the same psych hospital in North Atlanta, Peachford hospital, but we weren’t there at the same time. [WHITNEY]:
Yes, I’ve been there. [DAVID]:
I hope you have only been there in one capacity though. [WHITNEY]:
Right. I thought that – I went for an interview. [DAVID]:
But I remember, I’d done co-therapy in the past and had some natural chemistry with people as co-therapy, but even people I was friends with, I remember struggling doing co-therapy with some people. And then my wife and I had been married for more than a year. The first time we did, it was conjoint couples therapy, and before the session I had a lot of anxiety about it because I thought, what if we don’t do co-therapy well together? But we do it well together and we enjoy the process. We don’t do it a lot because it’s a large expense for people, conjoint couples counseling. We make jokes about it of, you know, don’t sleep with coworkers except for us, but you know, it’s funny though, like, I don’t think a fish thinks about being wet very much. And at this point, my wife and I, we’ve owned this practice together now for four years and before that we owned our continuing education business together and she was an integral part of co-teaching some things with me and definitely running the back end of things of that business with me, and so it’s just been part of our life so much of the time and people will say, well, is it weird to do this? No more so than I think it’s weird of what we do as [unclear]. It’s a funny thing that we do, that we meet perfect strangers that begin to tell us some of the most personal things about their life within 20 minutes. That feels normal because I do it every day. But I try to remember that this is a sacred and special space I enter into with people and it’s not, you know, this isn’t normal. It’s fun; we have our moments like anybody does, but I feel very blessed that it is as congenial of a business relationship as it is in our romantic relationship as well. [WHITNEY]:
I love that you shared that story about the counseling, like, in my mind, I’m thinking okay, if me and my husband were to do this… which also, by the way, another plug about Richmont, my husband was one of the recruiters, actually, David. I don’t know if you knew that. It was right after… I didn’t hear exactly what you said. [DAVID]:
What’s your husband’s name? [WHITNEY]:
James. James Owens. So, it was always pretty funny because he worked there, and we’ve worked together in lots of capacities. But anyway, he says he knows more about the therapy world than I do, because he feels like you learn so much by working at Richmont. Yeah, so I could see us doing co-therapy and maybe like, here’s what you should do, and then him giving like, the total opposite advice, and aah, you know… [DAVID]:
We’ve even developed codes to use with each other, when we want the other person to like, pass the ball, kind of like, okay, give me the ball now. We’ve done the same thing with teaching. And when we’re co-teaching things together, the big thing, continuing education we did is in 2013, when the DSM-5 was coming out, I’d already been doing a continuing education business for two years then and a lot of people said, you need to do a DSM-5 training. I said, I don’t want to do a DSM-5 training. It just sounded so boring, but I knew there’d be a big demand. And so, my wife actually came in, she took the lead, and we co-taught it. But she definitely did the lion’s share of that. And within the first year of that coming out, we did that so many times for so many different groups and so many different locations. And that was a six-hour training that we would do, and that was a long day to spend with the DSM. But we developed our own kind of rhythm of passing the lead to one another. I’ll tell these meandering anecdotes and, you know, she figured out how to come over and kind of signal to me like, okay, let’s wrap up the story. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, y’all learned how to work together. I love that. And I love that you have like secret codes. And I think all couples need to have secret codes, it makes me think of Seinfeld when they’re like, oh, well, you know, I’ll tap the top of my head when I need you to get me out of a conversation, you know, so that each other knows. Yeah, okay, so talk some about the continuing education. What’s that company called, and how did you create that? [DAVID]:
Well, some of the journey of that. I’m very entrepreneurial, I come from an entrepreneurial family. I love counseling, and I always see myself doing psychotherapy, as long as I’m functional to do it. But very quickly, I realized I’m very extroverted and counseling is a fairly introverted process. And it’s a lot of one on one with people. And as much as I love it, I quickly realized I had a certain capacity for it that I could see X amount of people in a week and be good, but I had more time and more energy, not necessarily more energy to see more clients. And I also knew that from a business perspective that I could only see so many clients in a week and I can only ethically charge so much, and so there was going to be an upward limit of what I could do. And so began looking pretty early in my career of what were other things to do, and I actually, one of our professors at Richmont, Doug Rosenau who is a sex therapist, I worked for him for a number of years and I actually contributed to this book he came out with in the mid-2000s on singleness, called Soul Virgins. [WHITNEY]:
I know that book. [DAVID]:
Yeah, I wrote a few chapters in that. But we had the opportunity… that book was coming out as I was graduating, and we went to different conferences to present on it. And that was my first like, postgraduate workshop presentation, and I liked it; I was naturally good at it. I have a background, I’ve done theater, and I was a musician, so I have some background in performance and it felt pretty natural to me, and I liked it. And I realized, oh, this is a scalable thing. And then early in my career I read this article by Bill O’Hanlon, who has since become a friend, who’s a pioneer in the solution focused, solution oriented, forms of therapy, studied under Milton Erickson, currently is now semi based in Nashville while working as a songwriter and loving that. But Bill had this article that came out in the family therapists magazine, put out by WMFT. And the title was something like, My Indiana Jones Life as an Entrepreneurial Therapist. And he talks about the time Bill’s income was solely based on doing professional trainings and he was making a great income with that. And I thought, well, this sounds great and interesting. So I began exploring that and realized that, you know, I had limited opportunities, as a young therapist, to get hired by other groups to do presentations; I was able to get some, and so I decided, well, I should start my own group. And so, in 2011, I started The Narrative Institute, which narrative therapy is very much my theoretical base, and went through the process of getting CE approval and figuring out how to do that. And I didn’t know anything about how to do that at the time. I just was kind of winging it. And I didn’t know how to put on independent events and I just kind of learned things over the years. So that was my CE business, and then I turned that into a larger organization in 2019, called PsychMaven. Maven, a popular phrase, or word from – for those who know Malcolm Gladwell – his book, The Tipping Point. But you know, a Maven is somebody who has a lot of enthusiasm to share knowledge and expertise. And, you know, I have a lot of enthusiasm to share lots of stuff, particularly what I know about therapy. I don’t know everything about therapy, but as I’ve learned things about therapy business, about building a private practice, of certain clinical things, I get excited, and I like to share it. And so The Narrative Institute still exists as a institute underneath PsychMaven, where that’s where we kind of house our specific Narrative Therapy trainings, but it’s part of this larger group now where we do lots of different continuing education, but also have courses on practice development and other things as well. [WHITNEY]:
I love it. So, can you share, how did you get it all approved for continuing education? And do you only have it approved within your state? Or can people from other states take the courses as well? [DAVID]:
Yes. That is a complex question and I’ll give you the shortest possible answer. The approval process, it all depends on where you are, where you need to get it. Like, I have a few different approvals. The first one I did was NBCC, National Board for Certified Counselors. And I’ve added some since then. It’s an application process and actually, for those who are interested, we actually have, if you go to our website, psychmaven.org, we actually have some free guides having to do with getting continuing education approval and running events. We also have a state by state guide for the continuing education approval for each state. So, all that, it depends on what state you are. It’s amazing to me how different the rules are in different states. I’ll give an example. I’m in Tennessee, you’re in Georgia. I’ll give you an example of those two. In Tennessee, with NBCC approval, I can do full continuing education for professional counselors, marriage and family therapists and social workers. And I could do partial for psychologists; psychologists have to have a certain amount of hours that are APA approved, but they can do some that are not from some other organization. So, a little more than half of our psychologists could get with one of my workshops. So, I market when I do events, to all those groups. In Georgia, I could do… they have a difference between what’s called core and related hours in continuing education. So being NBCC, which is counselor focused, I can do core hours for LPCs, and I could do related hours for LCSWs and MFTs which is you can do a certain amount of hours related and I can’t do any for psychologists. And it’s different in South Carolina, it’s different in Florida, it’s different in… like Virginia, I can do 100% with NBCC approval by itself. Well, that and a social worker thing I have, but I can do 100% for psychologists, where I can only do partial in other states. So, it all depends on the state. Certain states are really flexible, like Arizona, and Oregon, and Virginia are fairly flexible. Other ones are really stringent like New York. New York, you have to have approval by the New York board in each of the four mental health licenses. And it costs hundreds of dollars to do continuing education in New York. So, again, that all depends just where you are. [WHITNEY]:
I bet you’ve spent so much time just figuring all that out. [DAVID]:
A lot. The guide that we have that, again, it’s free to download – we have almost every license, so the four major mental health licenses, in almost every state. There are a few gaps of just where it’s been harder to find information, like I think Louisiana, Vermont, where we’re still filling out the form. But getting that put together took me well over 100 hours of just going through and, like what’s the CE approval process? What are particular hours that you need? Because a lot of states require you have to do ethics, but it’s how many hours in ethics, or suicide prevention, or multicultural issues. So, all those are the dynamics of doing CE events. I could talk forever about that and I love doing them, but it’s definitely a learning curve to get into it. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, well, that’s so nice that you put all that information together; it’s gonna make people’s lives a lot easier. And I do hear a lot of therapists are very interested in the idea of offering continuing education when they do their trainings for other counselors. So, I’m really glad you’ve got that on your website there. [DAVID]:
And in that, we have a full course that we do, and I’ve actually just finished at the time of this recording, we just finished a co-launch with Bill O’Hanlon for that, and it’s called Profitable Mental Health Starter Kit. It’s a beginning to end, soup to nuts guide on how to create your own continuing education events. Just did a bunch of updates for it on how to do events online. Because for years, I just did them in person and began starting to do them online. And at the time we’re recording, you know, most of the country’s in pretty heavy lockdown quarantine conditions because of COVID-19. And so, I’ve had several people reach out to me and be like, I’d really like to figure out how to do this online. And I do CE events online and there’s… certain states have restrictions on it. Like, in Georgia and Tennessee, there’s a limit of how many of your hours you can get online, but those are becoming less and less, and a lot of states like North Carolina and Virginia don’t put any limit on how much of your continuing education you do online. As a lot of us are looking for extra income sources, as we’re not as mobile and medium to large crowds aren’t as easy, it’s a great option, a business venture to look at. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. So, I’m curious, David, do you have any of your continuing education that you do that has any kind of faith-based component in what you’re doing? [DAVID]:
Not in the PsychMaven bit, and that is… It’s funny, my practice has a very overt faith-based perspective and there are different things that influence that, of why I do one or the other. Some of it is who I’m trying to connect with. To do faith-based trainings you shrink your market in other professionals, which isn’t a bad thing. As one of my friends likes to say, the riches are in niches, and finding your niche whether it’s a therapist or it’s a teacher can be really beneficial. So, no, is the short answer. It does influence quite a bit that I do; I have an ethics continuing education I have online, and the topic is on client autonomy. And one of the things that I’m very interested is how our perspectives influence the therapy process, that basically what therapy is, is a consensual form of emotional manipulation. People come in and they’re asking you to help manipulate their behaviors or their feelings. We take that word manipulation to be always bad, but it’s just descriptive what we do. And, you know, what I’m amazed is how unaware that so many counselors are about their biases regarding faith. And typically, people who are coming from a more secular perspective, that if you ask them, they would say, oh, they’re very open to different perspectives. But if you look at how they exercise their influence and their power dynamics in session, it’s a very shutting down process for people to talk about faith. And so one of the reasons I like to talk about this in a non-overtly faith based setting is I want to invite those conversations in ways that if this was specifically Christian counseling continuing education, I don’t think I would have that audience that I think we need to hear that as much. So, that’s some of my perspective there. [WHITNEY]:
I appreciate you bringing up that point cos I’m in total agreeance in that concept of, yeah, the counselor’s an authority in the room. I feel like maybe that was a Richmont thing, that we really learned that in the ethical training there, that you’ve really got to consider how you’re allowing your faith to influence your work with clients and it’s not about your faith; it’s about them and their faith. [DAVID]:
Well, it’s a lot about safety. You know, one of the things that I tell my staff and my students, anyone who has had a class with me, you know, this is a maxim I have that I hammer constantly. When people come in for counseling, they’re asking two questions – only two questions. The two questions are: are you safe, and can you help me? And those questions get masked in a lot of stuff. When I started my career as a therapist, I was in my mid 20s and looked younger. I was a couples counselor and was not married; there was a lot of questioning of my capacity and my skill and my credibility early on. And the questions I would get is, well, are you married? Or do you have kids? Or how old are you? How long have you been doing this? All these sorts of questions. And what that question is really about is those other two questions; people are trying to determine, are you a safe person to me? And can you help me? Part of how I, in my practice, I talk about, you know, how I want us to be in our community and talking about being a faith safe practice, is we have a good majority of our clientele who wouldn’t describe themselves as Christian, and we’re quite comfortable with that. But, you know, I want us to have a flag out there because, for a lot of Christians, and this is talked about in one of my favorite books by Dr. Benjamin Caldwell, which is called Saving Psychotherapy. And talking about that therapists, in general, are really poor about putting appropriate flags out there so the public in general knows what sort of person they are. And oftentimes when I have a client that’s saying, I’m wanting a Christian specific counselor, the underlying question is, I want somebody who’s going to be safe. And then I can talk about faith because it’s an important part of my life and who isn’t going to be dismissive or demeaning, whether that’s overtly or covertly in the process. And there are lots of my clients that, you know, I come from a perspective of faith, and they may come from a perspective of faith too, but what that means to them may be vastly different for what it means to me. But my overall goals, I just want to be a safe person for them. And as I can communicate that, that’s something that’s a huge priority to me in my practice, for myself and the therapists that work for me. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, so if people are wanting to hear more about the continued education or they’re interested in it, how do they find out more about that or…? [DAVID]:
We have tons of free stuff. I’m in a lead magnet mode in quarantine. So, just redid our website, it’s psychmaven.org. If you go to psychmaven.com, you can reach that as well – it redirects. Right now some free stuff we have, we have some tip sheets and guides on how to do continuing education events, practice building, we have a new one on, which has been a big conversation I’ve been having with people about side gigs for therapists, that people are very interested in other forms of income. We have some free continuing education. We have an ethics webinar, a one-hour free ethics webinar on business, ethical practice in business for therapists – that’s available right now. And so all that is on our front page of psychmaven.org. And we’ve got more trainings coming out, we have some new teachers that are putting together some material for us. But particularly, you know, as anyone who’s interested in learning about how to do their own events and trainings, whether it’s online or in person, you know, that’s where I have so much passion. Because as a business it’s been so rewarding for me.
There’s something I wanted to… it’s funny, Whitney, I was listening to you yesterday as I was having my breakfast, on the Practice of the Practice that you’ve taken over currently. Was it last week that y’all did the takeover?[WHITNEY]:
Oh, yes, the Practice of the Practice Podcast Takeover. Uh huh. [DAVID]:
And talking about pandemic stuff. And so there was something you said that I thought was just great, and just the idea of the opportunity in this right now, that what we’re experiencing right now is a good deal of hardship for so many of us as professionals, definitely for so many of our clients. There is a lot of fear and a lot of financial pressure, but how there’s also opportunity in that. The way I’ve been talking about it with my staff – we’ve been doing virtual staff meetings once a week – is that this time period we’re in is a wave. And there’s some people that are that are going to be underneath the wave, and it’s going to really be hard, it’s going to be really hurtful, and they’re going to need support. But for some people, if you pivot in the right way you can get on top of the wave, and it can take you places that still water wouldn’t necessarily take you. And as a Christian, I very much believe in that; this is very difficult. And one of the most difficult things is it’s, at the time of recording, this is the middle of Holy Week. And, you know, I won’t be able to go to church for Easter, and that’s hard. But I do believe that there’s opportunity for us to be, you know, light and salt, and the things in the middle of this crisis that, when everything’s prosperous and easy, we don’t have the same opportunity to do. [WHITNEY]:
Yes, I actually saw a meme about, this is like the closest that believers might ever be to what an original Easter was like. That, like, Christians were hiding and there was no Easter morning service. It was a very scary time, which is how we feel now with so many unknowns, right? It is an interesting time for sure. And I love that analogy you just used about the wave. I was like, cringing over here, like, oh, I said something? What did I say? [DAVID]:
You were just talking about it’s a dynamic in that like, that it’s an opportunity that… y’all were talking about the SWOT, which I hadn’t heard before and I really liked. Which was, gosh, now I have to remember it. It is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. [WHITNEY]:
Yes, you got it right. [DAVID]:
Okay. I was not prepared to be able to do that. So, I’m glad I remembered it. [WHITNEY]:
Good job. Yeah. And so, with PsychMaven, you have other people that teach the continuing education, or do you and your wife do it all? [DAVID]:
My wife doesn’t have any current courses up. Her current project right now – I’ll give a plug – is called Grace Over Chocolate. It’s graceoverchocolate.com where she has a blog about ethical sourcing in chocolate because there’s a lot of issues of slavery, and unfair practices in the production of chocolate. She’s a huge chocolate enthusiast, so she puts a lot of information out for people to be able to find out how they can find high quality and ethically sourced chocolate products. So that has been her, outside of our counseling practice, her consuming thing right now. And so, she has not done any online courses yet, but I think I’ll get her to do some in the future. I don’t know if any of the other teachers have courses up yet. We’ve got about three or four people who are working on courses, who are just colleagues and friends of mine. And right now, most of the stuff that we have up, most of the stuff is business related. We have some free courses up on practice building, and for new therapists I have one on… it’s called Seven things I wish I knew as a new therapist, which, one of the things I wish I knew was, I wish I would have started a continuing education business earlier. In retrospect, I would have started it as a brand-new graduate. In my mind, I thought like, I need to wait till I’m licensed, till I have a certain amount of experience and, you know, expertise is helpful, but it’s not everything. If you have enthusiasm, I’m a big enthusiast about enthusiasm. You don’t have to know everything about something to be helpful to somebody else. And whether that’s as a counselor or as a teacher; if you have passion and enthusiasm, and you’re willing to focus in and do work, you have something to offer. And so, if I was a brand-new graduate again, I would start a continuing education thing right away. So, we have a lot of that, we have stuff on practice building, we have a few CE stuff up right now. But we’ll definitely have some more coming up soon. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, you’re so right. This is like a great time to be getting on your website and looking at continuing education, I mean, people who just need to get their hours in general. But if they are interested in starting this business, they can learn a lot from you and your website. And so, if somebody wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to do that? [DAVID]:
The contact form on our website. My main email is [email protected] I’m fairly responsive. I love chatting about this sort of stuff. And so, if you just want to reach out to me and say like, I’m not willing to do a course yet, but will you talk with me? Depending on what my schedule looks like, I may be okay to talk. I’m working from home office right now and I keep a fairly light caseload because I’ve several people I supervise, and I manage a practice, and I do this. And so, depending on when you’re listening to this, we’re in the first week of April in 2020; if you’re listening to this a few years later, I may not be quite as available, but in this moment… but that’s the best way to get touch. Our counseling group is havencounselingcenter.com. We’re in Knoxville. But the continuing education stuff is psychmaven.org. [WHITNEY]:
That’s great. Well, David, I asked every guest here on the show, what do you believe every Christian counselor needs to know? [DAVID]:
Well, there are two things. The first we talked about in the pre interview – the first thing is you need to know Jesus. That’s probably the most important thing as a Christian counselor, but after that, I think I would say that, whether you were trained in an overtly Christian program or came out of a secular program, I think we can feel very apologetic… being made to feel kind of apologetic of our perspective, and this feeling that if you’re going to be clinical, you can’t be spiritual. And it’s one of the things I appreciate so much about Richmont is that I feel that early in my career, I got some really strong underpinnings on how to be very clinically sound but also how to have a way to contextualize and see my faith in the work that I do. And, you know, we have positive things to offer people, we have things that are beneficial and good, and whether your clients identify as Christian or not, for us not to be meek in the sense of that. I love the quote by Saint Francis of Assisi, which is ‘preach the gospel always using words if you must’. And, you know, in the work that we do, no matter where it is, no matter where the setting, we’re always called to preach the gospel. I don’t do a lot of proselytizing. Definitely it’s not part of my work as a therapist, but I want to show people what it is to care for them; I want to love because I’ve been loved. And I want to be able to show that whether they understand that’s coming from my place of faith or not. I want to be able to show that to people, and I want anyone who’s a person of faith who does counseling to feel really empowered and encouraged to be that person. [WHITNEY]:
Thank you, David. It’s been my honor to interview you. I love like, it’s bringing back good memories of graduate school but also just relating to someone on that spiritual level, and that you’re doing this awesome work for therapists. So, I’m excited to be able to release this to everyone and we appreciate you being on the show today. [DAVID]:
Thank you so much, Whitney. It’s been a great time. [WHITNEY]:
Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also, there you can learn more about me, options for working together such as individual and group consulting, or just shoot me an e-mail [email protected] We’d love to hear from you.
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