Last night I had a strange dream. I was leaving something that looked like a shopping centre but couldn’t find my car. I kept walking through car parks, through the shops, up and down escalators – all of which were teeming with people. I somehow ended up in dark alleyways and streets, then back to where I was, then back again to dead ends but still couldn’t find my car. All this time, I also didn’t have my phone and couldn’t contact the person I’d come with. And then, suddenly, my phone reappeared in my pocket while I was at a dead-end, around the same time the person tapped me on my shoulder and ‘found’ me to help me back to my car. Then my alarm went off.

I’m not a believer in interpreting dreams. But this was a great metaphor for where my mind is currently trying to make some work decisions. You may have heard me briefly talk about wanting to set up my own private practice where I provide not just therapy but also supervise other psychologists. I started the process of thinking about this and getting a work phone number and business cards when I was on leave back in May. The business name was not new; it’s something I’ve wanted for a while and I had the domain name, the social media all down a few years ago. The purpose for getting into private practice for me is three-fold:

  • Autonomy: I am tired of dealing with organisational issues and just want to see clients I want to see and do what I want to do
  • Flexibility: I won’t have to work a regular 9 to 5; I can choose afternoon shifts and focus on my writing in the mornings on a couple of days
  • Making a difference: I’ve missed client work because my current role has more supervision (which I enjoy) and clinical oversight and changes (which is not sparking as much joy anymore)

But then, lockdown hit. And while I tried to market myself by sending letters to GPs, I haven’t heard anything back. You see, if I was still on the Central Coast, it would have been fine. I have great networks there having worked in the health system and knowing a lot of the psychiatrists and doctors. But here, especially in the area I want to set up in, I actually don’t know a referral source. So I wondered if I should subcontract – which means either being part of another practice or a medical centre where they get a percentage of the fee. The problem with another private practice is you are representing their business. I’ve done that before – on the coast and in the last year, here with a friend (who unfortunately has his practice in a very different area of Sydney which will be too far for me to travel to).

I spoke recently about this with my psychologist and then my supervisor. They are both solo practitioners. My psychologist thinks I can do it on my own and it will take a little time but it is doable. She doesn’t think I should subcontract because it will be against my value of autonomy and I will not be happy. My supervisor thinks it might be good to start with a practice or a medical centre to build networks in the area. My manager was supportive and has said I can cut down to four days a week if I wanted to do more private work.

So I applied to a couple of practices and one medical centre. I backed out of one which was close to home after a chat with the principal psychologist because they have a clause about not setting up within 5 km and she also wanted someone willing to commit long-term. As I was mulling between the other two, my friend who I subcontract to, had a chat with me. His practice is a business; he now has about five other psychologists working for him and loves the business side of things as well as the psychology side of things. He told me to think about the business side – that it could get in the way of my writing. And to be honest, writing excites me more than setting up a business. I don’t have big dreams of wanting a huge business.

For me, private practice is about working for myself and helping people while sustaining my writing. Being on my own, I don’t have another income to fall back on and in order to pay the bills, I need to work. But he still reckons the business stuff will take up time and headspace. And I don’t think I like that.

When I went to bed the other night, I was still mulling over all this. Mulling over whether I wanted to do my own, whether I wanted to subcontract, whether all of this would get in the way of writing. I don’t want a 9 to 5 because I have learnt I am more creative in the mornings. I can see clients in the afternoons and evenings and be present in face-to-face interactions. But I would like to be in my head, with my characters, when I start my day. And it would be nice to have the option to stay with them for longer than an hour every morning. I also know once ‘life’ goes back, I will have my fill of book clubs and catch-ups and proper training towards a powerlifting competition in addition to work and writing. And I need all these to fill my cup.

The question is: what do I want to give up?

I don’t have answers yet. I have however contacted a psychologist who provides mentoring for those wishing to start a private practice. Maybe she can help me navigate this conundrum and explain all the logistics involved.

In the meantime, I have to remind myself to breathe and to wait.

Featured Image by Alex Green from Pexels

Until next time,

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  • Barbara Lofgren
    22 September 2021 at 8:29 am

    Hard decisions to make, but you seem to have a clear goal of what would be ideal for you. All the best with what happens next!
    Barbara Lofgren recently posted…This week’s small pleasures #251My Profile

  • Denyse
    22 September 2021 at 12:40 pm

    Yes to seeing how things unfold in their own time… we are affected by Covid lockdown thinking (& can distort stuff as I know too!) so I see it all sounding much more doable than your overwhelm title indicates. I see planning already, ruling out stuff & more. Now to more in the moment stuff while the world in NSW slowly shifts back to…. More contact with others etc. D

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  • Deborah Cook
    27 September 2021 at 1:32 pm

    Oh yes I can so relate to the whole ‘need to make big life decisions’ thing. In some ways it seems like a little thing: will I pursue this or that? But it really sets the tone for everything else you do.

    For me – going back into the ‘normal’ workforce at a decent level and feeling fulfilled (though probably stressed and resentful) re my work feels like it lets me off the hook from having to pursue the writing stuff which obviously I’m just struggling to do. I say it’s what I want to do, but I’m just not doing it.

    If I was more committed to it I’d suggest I secure some work (any work) and STOP LOOKING AT JOB ADS and decide ‘this is my life’ now. That I’m no longer biding time or waiting.

    It sounds as if your gut instinct is telling you to take some pressure off yourself, work for someone else (but with flexibility of being a subcontractor or similar) and focus on the other stuff you enjoy – exercise and writing. I can understand the difficulty of the business stuff. Years and years ago – after I first moved – I contacted heaps of local businesses about doing social media and website content stuff but – in 2013-14 – Instagram, FB etc weren’t really as avidly used as they are today. No one got back to me. A lot of the bigger pubs and businesses didn’t even have websites at the time.

    They do now of course and a plethora of social media experts are in action locally now.
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