Importance of Building Community

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Importance of building community

When I first started my private practice and hung up my shingle (ahem, published my website), I thought I was ready. I’d recently moved across the country and thought it would be the *perfect* time to start my practice. And it was for many reasons. But it wasn’t for one big reason: I didn’t have a community.

I thought it was no big deal. I would say hi to other therapists at CE workshops or whatever. What I didn’t realize was:

  1. How lonely private practice can be
  2. Having a strong network actually helps me provide better service to my clients

The Loneliness

If you are considering starting a private practice, surely you have heard the downside of loneliness and isolation. Perhaps, like me, you’ve thought, “it can’t be THAT lonely. I’ll still see clients and have to talk to referral sources.” And, that is true. There are other human beings that you will talk with.

But I think there is something important we get from collaborating with each other.  An understanding of the depth of what we carry in this work. A new perspective on a challenging client. Tips on good lunch spots. You have to build your team and keep yourself motivated through the slow times. Talk to people who are at different stages of practice building.

Service To Clients

I find that I am much more able to provide excellent service from the initial contact now that I know more about who else is out there. Sometimes I hear from potential clients who are not a good fit for me. And now I know exactly who to refer them to. I want every interaction with me to be positive, professional and responsive to the potential client’s specific needs. This helps build my reputation as a competent professional, but, more importantly, it serves the client.

Building A Community

I encourage you to reach out to other therapists in your area as much as possible. It may feel like “networking” at first, which is not slimy! Join the local therapist Facebook group or list serve. Have coffee with them. And not just once. Follow-up and build the relationship. If you see an interesting article in your therapist friend’s niche, send it along. If you have a potential client that’s not a good fit for you, refer them to your therapist friend. In time, they will do the same for you.

Tara Pandarinath, LCSW is the founder of the Decatur Counseling Center, which is a small community outside of the City of Atlanta in Georgia. She serves adolescent and adult clients struggling with depression and anxiety.