Elephants in the Therapeutic Community

Sometimes, for the private practitioner, it can feel like there are more local therapists than clients.


38830The therapeutic community is trying hard to ignore two elephants sitting in its midst.  Their presence is discomforting.  In more considered moments we know they are there, but, broadly speaking, many of us hope they will go away.

The first elephant can best be described as ‘the glut’.  It used to be claimed that there were more therapists in the UK than members of the armed forces.  Whether it was ever true historically, it is almost certainly true now.  But sometimes, for the private practitioner, it can feel like there are more local therapists than clients.

The rise in the acceptability of going to see a therapist, the increased access to higher education, and the unprotected nature of our professional labels, have all resulted in more people than ever undergoing training to be counsellors.  However, because, at the same time, the number of paid counselling jobs has decreased, more people than ever are attempting to earn a living from private practice.

As a profession we may succeed in training people to be good therapists, but we have seriously failed in training therapists to run successful therapeutic businesses.  Most therapists are left to fend for themselves to find answers to the most basic business questions.  There is now a need, perhaps more so than ever, to help therapists start up a business, develop it, and stand out from the crowd.  James Rye’s book was written to help meet that need.

The second elephant is the growth of technology and its routine usage.  When the motorcar or the telephone first appeared on the scene there were bound to be some therapists who argued that clients should not use them to travel to or contact the therapist.  Such objections would now seem silly.

Before the author left a career in education to start his private practice, he had, for a number of years, been using technology to securely store personal information, and to routinely interact with colleagues and students from around the country and the world using the phone, email, and video calls.  He is well aware that the use of technology presents problems that need to be addressed and that such communication is different from face-to-face conversation, but at the time it felt that the therapeutic community was largely burying its head in the sand with regards to technology and missing out on potential advantages.  Things have changed in the last 20 years, but progress is slow.

Successful businesses are those which offer a product that people want at a price they can afford in a way that is easily accessible to them.  We live in a society where communication by text, email, phone, and video-call is becoming the norm, and where people are expecting to be able to “shop online”.  Of course therapy is not the same as buying groceries, and of course there are issues to resolve, but we need to accept that we can offer clients different experiences of therapy using different communication modalities, and we need to be flexible enough to meet reasonable requests to engage with them in their medium of choice.

This book considers traditional business issues, but is different in that it looks at ways in which the therapist in the twenty-first century might use technology.  For example, it considers topics such as using technology to increase access to clients from outside the therapist’s locality (both in the UK and abroad), to advertise, and to safely and securely store notes.  It also informs the reader of various apps, services, and software to help with issues such as getting a website, staying safe in the home or office, managing phone calls, and using outcome measures.

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