Private Practice Success Newsletter

by Lynn Grodzki, Oct 2014.


Last month, I attended a remarkable event: I went to the memorial service for my former psychotherapist and mentor, Marilyn Ellis, that was attended by many of her clients from her long career.

I know that speaking publicly about one’s therapist is rare; most of us who have been in therapy tend to keep the experience private. But I wish that people would talk more openly about their experience with therapy, sharing the good that therapists do.

I want to pay tribute to Marilyn. Tribute, an old Latin word which is defined as an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration, feels like an appropriate expression to someone who had a huge impact on my life and work.

Marilyn was not a therapist superstar. She never wrote a book, went on a speaking tour, recorded an audio or gave a Ted talk. She didn’t even have a website. But at this memorial service, her legacy was clear. Over and over, attendees celebrated the good fortune of having Marilyn for a therapist.

Some spoke about her unique style–a dizzying combination of fearless toughness and deep compassion. Some told funny stories about their time with her. People were laughing and crying and nodding their heads to say, that happened to me with Marilyn, too.

I saw a number of people I know, her clients who are themselves therapists, coaches and healers. Marilyn loved her work and made service to others look like a good profession to pursue; like a heroic salmon swimming upstream, she left dozens of next generation therapists spawned in her wake.

Carrying the Message

Having Marilyn as my therapist changed the course of my life. During the many years we worked together she helped me to first identify and resolve my personal issues and then supported my progress as I remarried, changed careers, became a therapist and later, became a coach and author. She was passionate about the importance of personal growth. She pushed me to be true to my purpose and be my best self. I try to carry these same values to those I work with every day.

So many people at the service spoke about her combination of compassion and directness that they try to embody in their own work and lives. After the memorial, I thought about her lasting impact. Marilyn’s legacy was in the people she helped, and, in turn, in the people they help. It goes well beyond what even she might have understood.

The Person versus The Process

Marilyn was known for being eclectic, combining multiple techniques as a therapist. She was a lifelong student, learning new methods and then integrating them into her work, evolving over time.

But regardless of what method she was using, it was her presence that was the resounding element of her work. At times, many of us who are also engaged in learning new methods forget that the process we use is only a small part of our impact. Who we are, not just what we do, makes the difference.

Marilyn clearly made a difference to her clients, far beyond her skills and methods. I am grateful she was my therapist.

Articulating Your Essence

I talk about this last distinction, the person versus the process, with therapists I coach. We all need to find ways to articulate who we are, not just what we do. Both are essential to the results we deliver.

If you want to enhance your ability to communicate your essence, here is a quick list of seven questions on the website for you to think through.

To Describe Your Essence, Answer These Questions:

  1. What are the benefits of working with you versus another therapist, coach, healer or helping professional?
  2. What do you offer that is unique and different?
  3. How does your personality and non-professional experience add to your professional presence?
  4. What do clients value about you as a person and you as a professional?
  5. What do clients value about your practice, office, and services?
  6. What successes have you had and why?
  7. What can clients anticipate or expect from their work with you? (Hint: Think about outcome, process, and accessibility.)


copyright by Lynn Grodzki, 2014, all rights reserved. Reprint by permission only.

Handling Uncertainty

by Lynn Grodzki,LCSW, MCC 
Private Practice Success Newsletter  10/01/13
This week the US government shut down for the first time in 17 years, causing political instability that is added to an already uncertain economy. How do these uncertain times affect your private practice?

This morning the news is full of the government shut down. Events like these that play out on a national level affect all of us. We are overwhelmed with difficult news every week, from the macro, global issues affecting our planet to those more personal issues affecting the quality of our daily lives. It is no surprise that researchers report that general uncertainty is on the rise.

According to an article from the International Monetary Fund, general uncertainty, or feelings of instability and insecurity about the future are being felt around the country, especially when it comes to economics. The IMF explains that the old patterns of financial ups and downs, like recession and recovery, are no longer following the usual script. We find ourselves in uncharted waters — hence a lot of us are worried. And in a circular way, the more we individually worry, the article explains, the more economic uncertainty persists.

How does uncertainty affect you in your private practice? What can you do to feel more stable and confident as a small business owner? Let’s look at some micro-solutions that fall within your control.

In my last book that was written to address the recession, Crisis-Proof Your Practice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Uncertain Economy, I recommended a comprehensive 4-step plan to help those in private practice feel calm during times of crisis. I showed readers how to think strategically, set goals and take advantage of the options inherent within an economic slowdown.

Here is a brief look at my 4-step plan with a few ideas from my book to improve your practice stability and your personal confidence:

1. Review: To feel in control, it helps to know the very ground upon which you (and your practice) stand.

Conduct an honest inventory of your practice, as it is today. How do you judge the health of your practice? What markers do you use? It helps to have a way to summarize your current practice including your specific strengths, challenges, assets and liabilities. What are your short term goals? Want to get them on paper? See this link to my Strong Start Survey, ten questions to answer to assess your practice and its needs.

2. Recommit: When you are the boss, you need to take responsibility to insure the protection and well-being of your practice. Can you commit to your practice’s future as though it were a beloved child that you were guiding and caring for over time?

Here are a few ideas for maintaining and protecting your practice:
•    Have sufficient insurance coverage
•    Break away from unhealthy dependencies that obstruct profitability
•    Retool or upgrade your systems and operations so that your practice management is streamlined
•    Decide to operate a more efficient business — one that reflects the best of who you are today

3. Rebrand: Can potential clients find you easily? Can you highlight your value in a simple sentence? This is the time to assess and shape your reputation, to define how you are recognized in your professional community and the community at large.

Clarify and then articulate your brand — the essence of the best of yourself and your services. Be consistent so that all your marketing materials (brochures, website, advertising, internet listings, online visibility, etc.) support and align with your brand.

4. Reinvest: You (the owner) are the most valuable asset of your private practice. Your well-being, including your entrepreneurial mindset, can be the difference between going the distance or giving up. For the success of your practice, don’t skimp on your self-care.

Consider how you can be healthier and stronger. Below, see a Checklist I prepared of steps that greatly improve self care. Use your checklist to determine your next actions to invest in yourself.Check those items that are true for you.

Extreme Self-Care Checklist

A majority of these items checked indicates that you have ample care of self; checking less than half means that you may need to improve your self-care to have the energy with which to stabilize yourself and your business.

•  I get a good night’s sleep each evening.
•  I eat foods that promote my physical well-being.
•  I exercise several times each week to stay flexible and resilient.
•  I have quiet time each week for myself, doing things I love, so that I feel refreshed.
•  I have friends and family that I can talk to whenever I need a sense of connection.
•  I make time each week to engage in activities that give me pleasure.
•  I live in a home that feels nurturing, safe, and pleasing.
•  I get all my personal needs met outside of my practice.
•  I am on a strong financial track.
•  I get clinical supervision, peer support and business consulting/coaching as needed.
•  I actively seek solutions for the complaints I have regarding my life and my work.
•  I maintain a high level of personal and professional integrity.
•  I know how to forgive and/or feel compassion for myself and others who have hurt me in the past.
•  I let go of my guilt over my past mistakes.
•  I keep clear, consistent boundaries regarding my personal and professional life.
•  I rarely rush; I go through my day being on time.
•  I carry the insurance and protection systems I need to feel and stay safe and protected.
•  I take action based on feelings of love instead of feelings of fear.
•  I am part of a community that gives me a sense of purpose.
•  I live a life based on choice and meaning.

(Checklist is from Crisis-Proof Your Practice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Uncertain Economy by Lynn Grodzki, WW Norton, 2009)


Copyright 2013 by Lynn Grodzki, all rights reserved. Reprint with permission of author.

Keep Writing

By Lynn Grodzki, LCSW, MCC

Private Practice Success Newsletter, Dec 2012


Start Writing

As someone who spends a fair amount of her professional time writing (5 books published in 10 years, dozens of articles written for a variety of professional magazines or journals, and a monthly newsletter for 10 years, written for my email readers) — I know firsthand that writing is hard work.

Did you have a writing project for 2012 that you did not achieve? So many things can sabotage writing: time demands, life demands, or anything else that derails us and makes us believe that whatever we want to express is not worth the time, effort, or exposure.

I have been thinking about my process of writing after completing a long article that was just published in the Psychotherapy Networker Magazine (Read it here) I think this article is some of my best writing, but it was far from easy for me; in fact, it was a slog. It took me a full year to complete and required three completely different drafts, all of which I loved but were rejected (or “corrected” — choose your verb) by a rigorous and thoughtful editor.

The Struggle

Part of the slog of writing this article was that I was on my learning curve, writing in a style that was new to me. The editor kept asking me to slow down and unpack my thinking process, to reveal more about who I am and what I think – to be less of an expert and more of a peer to the reader. His notes for each draft asked me to go deeper and explain further. He wanted a lot of narrative and personal anecdotes.

Even when I thought I had done just what we agreed, he challenged me to start from a new place and use a different slant. After each draft, I felt increasingly uncertain and it slowed my progress. The article went through starts and stops. Months passed. My previous writing experience did not help; I felt like a beginning writer.

Why bother? Was it worth my time and energy? I wasn’t getting paid. Why not stick with what I know? These thoughts were ever present, threatening to derail the process completely. But I found ways to stay on track, helped by relying on a few writing “mantras” — phrases that I have developed over time to hold me to the task. I wanted to share these writing mantras with you, in case they might help you in a similar way.

Lynn’s Writing Mantras

1. It’s my job.

Writing seems like fun only to those who write for fun. For those who write seriously – as a regular part of their work – it soon loses mystery or glamour. When writing becomes tiresome, I remember it’s a job; it’s part of my professional work. I shift from acting like writing is a pastime and raise it to the level of a professional task. As a pastime, I would try to fit in writing time around other more important commitments. But if it’s a professional task, I block out time on my calendar and let nothing else interfere. As a pastime, I can multi-task while I write; but if it’s a professional task, I turn off the phone and email and devote my full attention. As a pastime, I wait to be inspired, to be in the mood. But if it is my professional task, I do it regardless of my disposition.

2. It’s supposed to be difficult.

I hear from those I coach that when writing gets hard, they think they are doing something wrong. But that’s a faulty equation. I frame my process of writing as similar to my practice of exercise.  When I go to the gym, if I am doing it right, it’s hard and I moan and groan and sweat. With exercise, hard work is usually considered a sign of effectiveness. So, although it is great when writing comes easily, I don’t need to be worried by the level of effort it usually requires.

Things I find hard about non-fiction writing include: having to sit for hours at a time, when my job already requires a lot of sitting; looking at a blank page; feeling blocked; numerous edits and rewrites; having nothing to say; having too much to say; clarifying my jumbled thoughts; trying to be original. Especially hard is how much time writing takes and how slowly it proceeds. Hard work doesn’t mean I don’t write it well, or that the end product won’t be valuable. It just means that it takes a lot of time and effort. I need to accept how writing is for me, get over my complaints and get on with it.

3. Keep Writing

Several years ago I attended a Mystics game, the women’s basketball team (WNBA) in Washington, DC. They were losing badly, mostly due to the problems their star shooter, Alana Beard, was facing that night. She missed shot after shot. After each miss, the fans in the stadium groaned, except for a small cadre of women seated near me who yelled out: “Alana, keep shooting!” She missed, they immediately encouraged her to try again. Their encouragement actually seemed to help. Alana looked up at them a few times and nodded. She kept asking for the ball and shooting. By the second half, she was making shots that scored. She didn’t give up based on her earlier failure.

I remember that Mystics game and Alana’s willingness to keep trying when I feel like my writing isn’t successful. As Woody Allen said, 90% of success is showing up. It reminds me to keep writing.

4. Let the environment help.

One of my mentors, coach Thomas Leonard, said that not all behavior change has to occur inside of a person. Sometimes, you’re better off trying to use the environment. Can’t write routinely or get distracted and lose your motivation? Set up your writing space with care and creativity, so it helps you write. Once I read an essay by author Joan Didion about her practice. She wrote every day for many hours. She said that sometimes she dreaded having to “go into that room” to get to work. I thought: She has a room just for writing? No wonder she is so prolific. I don’t have an entire room, but I do have a corner of my office that is set up for writing. It is clean, organized, quiet and welcoming. I have a good chair, good lighting. It’s conducive to the task at hand. When I sit down in my writing chair, even when I think I have nothing to say, the contained setting helps to hold me in and get started.

5. Embrace editing.

I am a big fan of editing, and by that I mean letting other people see my writing, while it is in process. Few of us can be objective with what we write. I ask friends, colleagues, other writers, and family to be early readers, and I have regularly hired professional copy editors as needed to help me polish finished chapters and articles. (Tip: your readers should be people who want the best for you, who are clearly on your side, and are able to articulate their thoughts about your work in ways that are helpful.)

The best advice I got about editing came from my colleague, author Nancy Napier, who had published two books when I was still writing my first. I had not yet gone through an editing process with the publisher and she urged me to embrace the editing process. Nancy advised me to let go of ego, stay non-defensive, and understand that editing is a collaboration to produce the best product. This is now the way I receive feedback, from readers and editors: with appreciation, even if I ultimately decide to go a different way.

6. Any day I get to write is a good day.

I am fortunate that I am able to write and that I like to write. For me, writing is a chance to be with myself and reach out to others. It’s a chance to create and think. Even though it is often hard work and requires definite time, space and energy, I remind myself that any day I get to write — whether it is important writing or a short blog entry — is a good day. Wishing you lots of good writing time!

Shifting Your Resistance

by Lynn Grodzki, LCSW, MCC

Published in the Private Practice Success Newsletter, May 2011 Edition


* * What you resist, persists.* *  (Carl Jung)


Mea Culpa. This email newsletter is late. It was supposed to be done 2 weeks ago and it was supposed to explore a completely different topic. Except that newsletter, the one I thought I was supposed to write, just wouldn’t get itself written.

I tried to write it. I made an outline, and then left it under a pile of papers. I sat down to the computer numerous times, but ended up on the web, downloading music and answering email. I put it as a to-do list on my calendar for a week, but went outside to take a walk at that time.

Finally, yesterday, I accepted the truth. That newsletter was not going to get written right now.

Instead, I needed to write about what is true for me today. And that truth involves how to deal with Resistance — mine and yours.

The Things We Resist

Each week, I talk by phone and in person to lots of small business owners (therapists, coaches, consultants and other professionals) who struggle mightily with their own to-do list.

I hear about administrative tasks that don’t get finished, bills that aren’t paid, marketing calls deferred, financial data not recorded, client notes unwritten, clutter not cleaned.

We avoid doing many things that we know are good for us – eating well, exercising, meditation – and many things that would be very good for our business: setting boundaries, collecting unpaid receipts, marketing, organizing, or planning.

We know what we need to do. We have good intentions. What’s stopping us? We don’t know how to shift our resistance.

The Struggle Inside

Resistance means a struggle is ongoing. You might find the struggle inside yourself, as I have described, or sense resistance externally, say in the marketplace, when your good idea goes nowhere because people don’t want your services.

Resistance, at its core, is a hindrance to the flow of electricity, ideas, change, or progress.

Internal resistance is the number one struggle of the business owners I coach. It stops progress and puts us into a state of permanent limbo.

As a business coach, I help clients understand and shift their resistance to take action that would be good for them and good for their business.

What To Do

1) Get Aligned

The first step to end a war is that all sides must stop fighting.

Now I don’t mean you get to sit on the couch doing nothing. What I mean is you have to reconcile the parts of you in opposition and get them aligned. Your job is not to get agreement from all these various inner voices. You just have to get them moving in the same direction.

In my case, I had one part of me that knew what I should be writing. Another part of me wanted to do anything else. I know that I usually love to write, so I decided to align all parts of myself around the simple act of writing.

I re-ordered my priorities and decided the topic, which was a good one and had been my priority, was now secondary to the act of writing.

I gave myself permission to find a different topic, one that felt more interesting. I asked myself: What would I be eager to write about? The answer came immediately, and this newsletter has, as they say, almost written itself.

What can you align with to get your task completed? It might be a higher goal, a mission, a sense of what is needed right now, etc.

Find your true North and see if that helps to move you forward.

2) Use the Environment

When I am stuck and can’t find internal resources to hold me in a task until it is complete, I look at my immediate external environment. My external environment needs to support me in my work. That environment might include people I can reach out to (I called my coach friend, Chrissy, and got a few minutes of her wisdom about my stuckness – very helpful.)

Or it can be the physical environment (I put flowers on my desk so I could smell spring and enjoy my writing without squirming in my seat.) I put on music to calm me, and gave myself a block of time to write. Instead of feeling a lack of energy, I couldn’t wait to get started.

What is the physical environment that can help you get going? What support can you take from your relationships?

3) Find the Love

In my workshops, I always ask participants to shift from a fear-based practice to a love-based one.

If you feel flooded by fear or anxiety, you will find it hard to take an action for the improvement of your practice. For example, you may need to make several marketing “cold” calls to potential referral sources. You do it, unhappily, with a sense of dread. thinking: “If I don’t make this call, my practice won’t survive. And it’s not just making the call, I have to get results, and soon. If this doesn’t go well, I will be out of work for good.” Imagine the pressure that kind of thinking places on you as you try to develop professional relationships.

If you take action from a basis of love, you make the exact same call, but do it from a different perspective.

You think, “Yes, the situation is dire, but in this moment I will call this person to let him know how much I love the work I am doing. I will see if there is something I can offer, to not just get but also give. I will suggest a win/win suggestion of how we can support each other since times are hard all over. Even if no results come from this call, I can feel good about making this call. Then I will call the next person and the next.” Same action, different basis, different experience of marketing, different feeling about the actions needed to keep a business operating.

According to author Neal Donald Walsch, “Fear is the energy which contracts, closes down, draws in, runs, hides hoards, harms. Love is the energy which expands, opens up, sends out, stays, reveals, shares, heals.”

Feeling resistance based on fear or anxiety? See if you can do it from a basis of love—love of self, love of others, love for your business, or love of the profession. This feeling of love makes you feel expansive and open-hearted, a good way to get  moving in business.