Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Los Angeles Chapter — CAMFT
The Journey Through Chaos to New Hope
When I first started my private practice, life was very different. Computers were few and far between, insurance payments were great, and most physicians had their own thriving practices—so having an independent practice was the favored path for most therapists. At that time interning was, and as it is today, really hard, but the prospect of bringing all this hard work to a conclusion which ended in a successful private practice encouraged all of us to struggle through the 3000 hours to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I was fortunate enough to find a fantastic internship in West Los Angeles where they helped me learn and create a successful and full practice before I was even licensed.
Boy, those were the days.
It is really fun, yet wistful, to reminisce with other therapists about that time. Then, if we were bright, knowledgeable and had found our niche, our specialty, and a few good referral sources, we were all pretty busy. But life never stays the same and neither does sustaining a private practice. I’ve found that once we get too comfortable with something, that very comfort can be a signal that there are new paths to explore, new challenges to face, and new lessons to learn about ourselves, our gifts and abilities as well as how we can express and share them with the world. When we don’t notice that signal, sometimes we get some help with a nudge in that direction. That’s true in private practice, too.
Once, one of my fellow students in a spirituality class expressed that kind of help very well during a role play as a practitioner counseling a troubled client when she said, “God kicked you in the ass and you fell forward.” The class roared with laughter as the minister/teacher tried to show some decorum but ended up laughing with us, too, behind the hand he held over his mouth. I have never forgotten that description of change. It was very simple yet quite a profound explanation of how the Universe steps in when it is time to step out of our comfort zone and grow into the next, higher level of growth and self-expression.
I’ve been kicked like that and have fallen forward several times when the Universe decided it was time for me to grow and expand in one or more areas in my life. This article is about how I fell forward in my private practice—my journey of self-exploration that gave me the courage to step out into the world and share my many years of experience as a therapist.
So much changed for therapists in private practice around 2013.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, most insurance companies changed the amounts of their reimbursements to psychotherapists and medical doctors. Client deductibles doubled and tripled while payment to providers was cut in half and often by as much as three quarters of the amount previously paid. By that time, although I had stopped taking insurance for new clients, I had many long-time clients who could no longer afford to come to therapy with the amount their insurance was paying or reimbursing.
Also during this time, coaching became the new “thing,” so many of my referrals dried up as potential clients surfed the internet for information regarding diagnoses and read blogs promising fast relief for emotional healing, guidance in finding a new career, and even love coaches teaching clients how to find love and marriage. With all this happening in the world, private practice referrals changed and my practice wasn’t full so I needed to do something to fix that.
How were potential clients going to find me? What services had I always offered and continued to offer clients? How would people in pain and confusion find me if I didn’t have a website or a blog? What is a blog? What is my niche or specialty? How do I make a podcast? I needed a website. I was told I had to network. How do I network?
Over the years I had been encouraged by clients, colleagues and friends to write about the work I do. Who me? I wasn’t a writer. I am a therapist and that is all I want to do. So I didn’t write.
Well, remember “God kicked . . . ?” I guess the Universe knew it was time for me to grow, so I made a decision. If I wanted to continue to do what I love, if I wanted to reach potential clients and share my gifts, I had to help them find me—and you know, it has really been a wonderful and fun experience doing that.
I was fortunate to find a most brilliant and loving mentor/therapist who has guided me on my inner journey of exploration. I was really ready to look at my unspoken fears and insecurities regarding actually sitting down at my computer, staring at a blank sheet of paper and figuring out what to write.
I have been a successful therapist for over 30 years, so why not tell people who I am, what I do, how I am able to help them heal their childhood trauma? How about writing an article explaining the 10 reasons why I believe therapy is so unique and healing an experience? With encouragement, I first wrote articles about what I believe are the 8 steps one needs to know in order to create loving and committed relationships.
As I allowed my inner voice to be expressed with the written word, I realized how potent a force writing can be. I have always been a voracious reader and always wished that I had the talent to write . . . well, I do. Readers could access my thoughts and expertise on my website, on the blogs I put on LinkedIn and on various therapy newsletters. People in pain and confusion could read my articles, check out my website and determine whether I was the therapist they needed.
I widened my world in other ways. I attended many seminars where I met fellow therapists as well as those in related fields who wanted to expand their networks and expertise. I went to luncheons and seminars featuring guest speakers who were experts in their particular therapeutic specialty. Hearing these speakers gave me the opportunity to learn new models for therapy and new skills. which I could integrate into my own therapeutic models.
I met and connected with so many clinicians as well as professionals in related fields, like Mishele who helps clients who are hoarders simplify their spaces. We are great referral sources for one another as I can work on the causes for the hoarding and she can teach them practical ways to start living in an orderly environment. I really have fun connecting with others as I am truly a “people person.” I am so looking forward to the day when we can return to in person lunches, seminars and lectures.
Leila Aboohamad, LMFT, is a psychotherapist practicing in Brentwood, West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. She works with clients in person and through tele-therapy. She specializes in helping individuals and couples heal the trauma from their Family of Origin so that they may create successful, committed and loving relationships. Leila also works with gifted, talented and creative adults, helping them to identify and share their special gifts, talents and passions with the world. Website: www.leilalmft.com.
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