Business and Self-deception

Private Practice Success Newsletter

by Lynn Grodzki, LCSW, MCC / Sept 2015

In a small business, it’s not just the way you talk to others that grows your practice; it’s also the way you talk to yourself. Negative, self-deceptive internal dialogue can derail a business owner. Instead, learn how to tap into a better and truer voice, that of your inner entrepreneur.

How Self-deception Works

It’s Monday morning and you have a list of business tasks to do this week, apart from seeing scheduled clients. Your list reads: Make an overdue marketing call, rewrite your website homepage, complete all client notes, do the monthly billing, clean off the office desk.

You have set aside time in your calendar for each task and feel assured that you can accomplish all the items on the list.

You start with the marketing phone call. You have a colleague that you respect, someone you have made several referrals to over the past year and although you are friendly, you have yet to have a referral from her. You decide to be more direct after saying hello, to tell her that you have some openings in one of your groups and ask for a referral. This feels like a bit of a risk since you tend to be unassuming, even a people pleaser, but you want to practice being more direct about your business needs.

As you get ready to dial her phone number, you pause. A series of thoughts go through your mind. “It’s not fair that I have to make this call. I help her, why doesn’t she automatically just help me back? Why do I have to work so hard for referrals anyway, its easier for everyone else but me. Forget it. If she wants to refer a client to me, she knows where to find me.” You decide not to make the call, feeling upset but justified.

Unknowingly, you have just become the victim of your own self-deceptive thinking.

Self-deception Defined

Self-deception is a process of thinking based on misleading ourselves and rationalizing our resulting behavior.

We convince ourselves that what we think about a situation or even ourselves is true, despite evidence or information to the contrary. We justify our mistaken beliefs because it keeps us feeling momentarily safe and self-righteous. With self-deceptive thinking we can explain why we don’t make an important call–to avoid possible rejection– even though this course of non-action means that our business misses a potential opportunity to grow.

Self-deceptive thinking interferes with a critical element in being a successful business owner: having an entrepreneurial mindset. An entrepreneurial mindset means you have an equal measure of both optimism and pragmatism. When you tap into your “inner entrepreneur” you can hold a vision of what’s possible while, at the same time, assess reality.

An entrepreneurial mindset gives you the fuel for taking action: you stay hopeful and focused on your goals. When self-deceptive thinking creeps in, filtered with negativity and bias, it has the power to stop you in your tracks.

I see three patterns of self-deception that commonly occur in those who own and operate a private practice. Here is an explanation of each destructive pattern and tips to correct it immediately, so that you can follow through with all your Monday morning action lists.

The Fallacies

Those who studied the work of Aaron Beck and David Burns, known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, are aware of the long list of cognitive distortions– thinking patterns that inhibit desired behavior. (See a list of common cognitive distortions here in a short article by John Grohol http://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions)

A small group of these distortions are called “the fallacies.” Three of these fallacies contain highly self-deceptive patterns of thinking that I see especially problematic for those in business:
1. The Fallacy of Control – when your practice doesn’t develop the way you think it should, you feel like this is your fate (you have no control) or that you alone are to blame (you control everything)
2. The Fallacy of Fairness – you feel resentful based on the lack of fairness inherent in business—bad things happening to good therapists doesn’t seem right
3. The Fallacy of Heaven’s Reward – you have trouble reconciling the large professional sacrifice you have made and the subsequent little lack of compensation you receive

Do any of these sound familiar? If so, welcome to the world of business and self-deception. Read on to better understand how each of these 3 fallacies works and my tips to overcome and correct each one today.

The Fallacy of Control

We yearn for control of our lives and our practices.

When we see little result from our best efforts at marketing, writing, networking or other business actions, we can start to feel like we are up against something bigger and more difficult than mere business realities. We can feel cursed by fate, or at odds with the energetic forces of a larger universe.

Therapists and other helping professionals I coach may tell me that a workshop didn’t fill with clients, or a Psychology Today directory listing got no response, or a meeting with a colleague yielded no referrals. As we talk, I often hear self-deceptive thinking about control. Some insist that the fault is an outside force, like fate. Others take full blame themselves, as though it is a reflection of their inadequacy.

The answer is more often a mixture of factors. Our best efforts are always affected by many factors outside of our control, such as timing or a crowded marketplace and by factors within our control, such as having the right business strategy or a willingness to follow through with the sheer amount of personal effort and expense that most business strategies require to succeed.

Take marketing, for example. I often remind therapists that all of their marketing effort is really marketing research. No one knows for sure what any given marketing effort is going to produce. Given a lack of control over the outcome, the most you can do when marketing is test out the marketplace with an idea and then try to assess the results as feedback.

Then you have to decide to repeat, tweak the idea, or try something else, and of course, retest.

The bottom line is that we have limited control in business, as in life. Some find it is easier to deal with the lack of control by self-deceptive rationalization that a business task is “not meant to be” or “not meant for me.” Others collapse in blame and feelings of failure. Neither is good for the health and welfare of your private practice.

Tip: When faced with issues of control, tap into your inner entrepreneur for better self-talk, such as: “I won’t let myself feel victimized by fear and become inactive. I detach from immediate results and choose to continually take action that furthers the direction of my vision and goals.”

The Fallacy of Fairness

Therapists and other helping professionals often feel that the success of their private practice should follow their own definition of fairness. But if fairness means justice or worthy or even rightness to you, then you will find that business results are rarely based on what is fair. For example, the rate of all new business failure in the US remains at 50% and this is not necessarily about who is more deserving or who tries harder. As with the above fallacy of control, there are many other causes at play.

The fallacy of fairness can occur in many ways. A counselor in a busy metropolitan area says, “If I do good work with clients, the work should speak for itself. It’s not fair that a caseload is based on an advertising or Google adwords budget rather than the skill and effectiveness of the clinician.”

A life coach says, “I have been in practice twice as long as my colleague, yet she got asked to present at a conference that I was dying to speak at and it’s not fair.”

Harold Kushner’s book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, challenged the idea of fairness, trying to reconcile the concepts of divinity with randomness. Business success unfortunately carries the same degree of circumstance. Two therapists in the same city having the same training, specialty and even the same work ethic, can have quite varied degrees of practice success. Business results are not always fair.

Tip: Rather than emphasize fairness, you do better to focus on a clear list of business goals. If we were working together, I would ask questions like these to help shift the internal, self-deceptive conversation:
• What do you specifically want and need?
• What is your plan to achieve those goals this month?
• What additional resources do you need?
• How much time and effort can you devote to each goal?
• Who can help support you as you move forward?

The Fallacy of Heaven’s Reward

The helping professions require sacrifice, in terms of extending caring beyond session time and a host of uncompensated efforts. For example, we think about our clients outside of client sessions, we continually train to improve our skills at our own expense; we read and study throughout our professional lives. Many of us work hard for relatively low income and bemoan the lack of recognition that our profession merits.

Some rationalize this by believing that their commitment, sacrifice and self-denial will be rewarded over time. If the reward does not occur in the way it was expected, they feel betrayed. This is the deception of the Heaven’s Reward Fallacy.

This fallacy is a particularly tricky form of self-deception because it addresses an often unspoken, but expected and inherent trust about the act of helping others. It feels important that helping and giving should result in getting back.

Therapists tell me, “With the intrusion of insurance-based regulations and increasingly difficult caseloads, I give so much and at times, get back so little.” Many are left shaking their heads and wondering if their career was worth it.

I see this fallacy play out in private practice in ways both large and small: the therapist who slides her fee for a client in need then feels angry when that same client tells her about the wonderful vacation he just booked to France; the consultant who agrees to work Saturdays outside her regular work week to accommodate a client and then feels taken advantage of when the client suddenly quits for another consultant who charges less.

If you regularly violate your own policies or practice boundaries for clients, or agree to unacceptable working conditions based on some future expectation of appreciation, you are vulnerable to this fallacy.

Tip: Stay focused on the present. Respect your policies and practice boundaries. Take time for self-care and address any secondary trauma. Find ways to reward yourself for your work, using intrinsic rewards.

Intrinsic rewards are those within your control, based on the here and now. Boost your feelings of satisfaction, joy, and pride based on your work. Keep a list of your “business wins” each week and celebrate your achievements with others you trust. After a major effort, plan something big, to celebrate yourself. Don’t wait for others or even society to see your efforts. You know what you have accomplished, make it count within yourself.

 

Preparing for Your Future

by Lynn Grodzki, Private Practice Success Newsletter, May 2015

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In March 2015, I presented at the prestigious Psychotherapy Networker Symposium as part of a panel titled “The Future of Private Practice.” LISTEN TO FREE AUDIO

Each of the 4 experts gave a Ted-style talk: a 20-minute focused snapshot of their take on the most critical economic and social forces shaping today’s practices.

When I wasn’t on stage, I listened and took careful notes to pass along to you. Here is what I heard, in the order of the speakers on the panel (my talk was second and I have added the link to audio there as promised):

1. “Therapy on the Run”by Ofer Zur

Ofer Zur, whom many readers may know from his workshops and writings (http://www.zurinstitute.com) offered a checklist of 68 business “key ingredients” — in rapid pace during the 20 minutes he had to speak! Her is making his checklist available to my readers, see it HERE.

He started by asking if people felt like business owners or just clinicians; then he asked the audience to identify their areas of expertise. He differentiated between passion—where your heart is—versus your areas of expertise, because these are not always the same.

His checklist included the need for budgeting money, tracking data, getting office help, maintaining secure records, and risk avoidance in terms of ethical violations.

The last topic is one near and dear to Ofer, who works as a forensic psychologist concerning ethics. To avoid risk, he recommends that you have forms (ones that you create for this purpose) covering any unusual practices (willingness to see family members of an individual client, ability to confer with outside therapists on a case, etc.) and get them signed, to eliminate any misunderstandings between you and your primary clients. Explain how you work, set your boundaries and policies, and then back it all up with written forms.

He said that one of the top risk management issues that land therapists in court are those that push a therapist outside of the scope of work –writing custody letters to support one parent over another tops the list. “Don’t write any letters or documents putting you in a role outside of the normal scope of your work.”

Ofer strongly advises therapists go back to basics and balance online marketing with tried and true community outreach. Early in his career, he built a full practice quickly after giving a series of public talks on an issue that was affecting families and children in his locale—domestic violence. His first talk was on “Fighting and Loving.” Even though his talk was somewhat controversial because he addressed the role of the woman in domestic violence, this immediately helped establish him as an expert in the community, led to other talks, and eventually filled his practice.

2. “Navigating the New Psychotherapy Marketplace” by Lynn Grodzki

For my 20-minute talk, I first gave an overview of the change in the therapy market and some promising news: The numbers of people needing therapy is growing, due to Obamacare, a growing acceptance of therapy, and mental health parity.

A big, new, expanding market is opening up right now for helping professionals. But most of these new clients are finding their therapist from the Internet and as such, present some new challenges for their providers.

I talked about both the opportunities and challenges this market presents, and for the bulk of my talk I focused on the 3 top skills you need to reach and retain these new clients and make your work relevant.

The skills I outlined are:
• Negotiation
• Persuasion
• Anticipation

I showed how these are both business and clinical skills –and gave case examples to explain and highlight the application of each skill. You can hear it all, I have posted my 20-minute talk right here: LISTEN TO FREE AUDIO

3. “Creating a Brand for Your Practice” by Joe Bavonese

Joe Bavonese (www.uncommonpractices.com) is a specialist in Internet marketing and also consults on group practices. In this talk, which he immediately said would be less about branding and more about business essentials, he traced his own route in private practice from uncertainty to prosperity.

Joe became a model of a therapist who embraces a business mindset and skillset, using organizational systems to streamline his group practice. He spent considerable time and money learning how to market online effectively. Along the way, he also learned how to manage others and be a boss.

He was willing to try anything that might work and see opportunities and abundance. Joe admitted that not everything he has tried succeeds, but it is his willingness to respond to change.

One application was his ability to learn about Internet marketing. He studied business, and was willing to capitalize his business in a way that many therapists will not (many believe that a private practice should be run on a shoestring.) He spoke about the “lifetime value of a referral” how much the average client brings to a practice and what would you be willing to pay for this. He developed systems for every aspect of his practice.

Joe emphasized that Internet marketing is about getting found. Most searches are now happening by cell phones and to help your website get found, it must be mobile friendly. Google will now penalize your ranking if it is not.

How to be mobile friendly: Go to this Google link:
https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/
and put in your website domain to analyze if your website is mobile friendly. If it is not, don’t despair. It might be an easy fix, just installing a “plug-in” or at most, you may need to get some help from a web designer to shift the template to make it work with a phone format.

4. “Learning the Language of Integrative Health” by Rubin Naiman

Rubin’s message about the future was clear: Therapists need to stay part of medical care, now more than ever since so many illnesses have a psychological component.

We have to develop a shared language of health and wellness to be able to talk with and educate physicians. Rubin should know, he is a member of an Arizona Center for Integrated Medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil.

Rubin makes a distinction between illness and disease. Disease is a measure, illness is the experience. Therapists speak to the personal, subjective experience of feeling sick. Psychotherapy brings to healthcare the concept that patients “can be sick in a healthy way.”

He encourages a dialogue between therapists and physicians about body and mind experience. Most psychotherapy is symptom expressive, where medicine is symptom suppressive.

Therapists need to learn the language of medicine, attend grand rounds at the hospital, read medical literature, and call clients “patients”. We need to help doctors understand our needed role in health and wellness.

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Hope this is helpful, to hear more from the Networker Symposium, go to the recordings at their website:

http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/symposium/2015/workshops/#loaded