The Stress of Private Practice Success



E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2014

Be careful what you wish for: As you become more successful your stress load typically increases – not decreases. You may have longed for the day you’d have a thriving private practice and make lots of money. But, you’re probably not reading this from the beach while enjoying the ocean breezes. You’re more likely hunkered down in your office, seeing that last patient and finishing up those evaluation reports that have to go out tomorrow. It’s best to prepare for this reality before your practice soars, but it’s never too late — so boost your resilience now!

  • Accept that You’re a “Celebrity” Now

Sure, you’ve been well-known in the community for years, but now you’re a “celebrity.” That makes a difference. When you become a well-known practitioner or otherwise attain a high level of success, people really sit up and take notice. Now you’re the “Go To” person – the person to know – one whose insight and opinion matters on all kinds of topics both in, as well as outside, of your area of specialization. You have to be “on your game” all the time and need to keep up with all the important issues in mental health, as well as of the day. The public will ask you to participate in many events and to speak here and there. Patients will, too – creating all kinds of boundary dilemmas and potential dual relationships for you. Get used to it and manage all conflicts ethically. Keep abreast of standards of practice, seek peer consultation, and get legal counsel whenever you’re not sure about how to respond to these requests. All this takes more time and mental and physical energy than before, but is simply part of the “success regimen,” so get used to it.

  • Expect Your Workload to Increase

Rather than your workload lessening, expect it to increase! Everyone is contacting you about something and for something, so the number of calls you need to return – emails and texts to answer – and online postings you need to make – will increase exponentially. Forget anonymity and the relative seclusion that practitioners are accustomed to working in. Your public wants to connect with you and it’s an expected part of your “brand.” Most days it will seem as if there isn’t enough time in the day – and probably there isn’t’ – so just resign yourself to the fact that this is the way it’s going to be. It’s usually impossible truly to get “caught up,” so handle the critical items and get to the rest as best you can. Though you will feel the pressure of our 24/7 response climate, establish priorities. Every item doesn’t require your immediate action. And some of lesser significance can be major distractions and time drains, so let them go until the important tasks are completed and you have that kind of time to devote to them. Patient management and practice activities that help you stay in business will always top your list.

  • Forget About “Work-Life Balance”

Given your new reality, don’t look for work-life balance – It’s not gonna happen! You’re going to be working more than you’re doing anything else. That’s the way it is. Now, you may resent this and it’s typical for folks to object — especially when you’re a practice owner and have the ability to set your own hours and caseload. But just because you have the ability to do this doesn’t mean you’ll get much opportunity to do it. As you become more sought-after, you’ll be handling a flood of referrals – whether you see everyone personally or expand to take on staff or associates. The increased business will require increased management and supervision too, so you won’t be locking up early to head for the golf course unless you’re deliberately limiting your practice hours and income. By all means take rest breaks and get out of the office to clear your head. And enjoy time off to unplug and rejuvenate when your schedule permits. But come to grips with the fact that the needs of your practice will prevail most of the time, and that your “workday” now includes nights and weekends in one form or another whether you like it or not. Expect to be “on stage” more than “off,” and use vacation time to escape to anonymity. Those times will be few, so use them to enjoy self-care and fun times with others so you can get back “on stage” with renewed spirit and stick-to-itiveness.

Success is wonderful and you deserve to enjoy it. But prepare for increased stress so you can deal with it effectively. There may be some who are chillin’ and coastin’ as their business grows, but don’t expect to be one of them. Prepare for the fact that more demands will be placed on you, and be ready to deal with the new stress that comes with being a success in private practice!

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About the Author:

Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,

The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at or call 954.797.9766.

E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317

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