Maria Connolly, LPC


Continually grow as a person and find your work/life balance

Branding Your Private Practice by Clearly Defining Your Personal and Professional Identity

360 Degrees Branding your private practice‘We act in accordance with our self-image.” ~ Moshe Feldenkrais

As healing professionals, I’m confident that you have a clear self-awareness of who you are as a person and as a practitioner and expert. However, when you start branding your own private practice it gives you a unique opportunity for major growth as you exercise self-awareness of who you want to be in business.

What image will you portray to your clients, colleagues and in your community? What is your mission? Your purpose? How do you feel about money, success, power, leadership? And how will you work through beliefs when they are standing in your way of creating a successful private practice?

It will be most helpful to define these concepts based on YOUR needs and values. This will have the largest, positive impact on your practice. Here are a few areas to give thought to as you begin to define your brand…

Build a Good Support System. As I mentioned in an in an earlier post, when I began, people said some very discouraging things to me. So I recommend you, first of all, gain positive support as you build your practice. Can you turn to your family members for support? Or will you need to join a professional group or find a coach who can provide the encouragement you need as you hold true to what you value as you’re branding your private practice?

Define your Specialty. What clients do you want to work with? What mental health issues will you treat? What services will you provide? What treatments will you offer? What are the professional goals, interests and skills that make you unique? When you narrow down your specialty, you’ll attract the people you want to work with and discourage the ones that you don’t want to work with. Remember, it’s okay to let them go to another healing professional.

Develop a Private Practice Business Plan. How many days and hours do you want to work? How many clients do you need? How much income do you need coming in to pay for all your expenses plus have enough left over to enjoy life? What processes will you use in your practice to schedule clients, collect fees, record transactions, and provide follow up? Will you hire a bookkeeper, office manager, janitorial service and so on? Will you rent or buy office space or work out of your home? So many things must be considered in running a successful practice including keeping track of your finances. And properly branding your private practice means that all of these must be in alignment with your values.

Create an Inviting Office Space and Web Presence. Your professionalism can be greatly enhanced by a well-designed office and website. People will make immediate judgments based on whether they feel comfortable with what they’re seeing, even before they speak with you. Everything that represents you, your business cards, flyers, letters, should look professional and inviting, while displaying your unique style. This will ensure your prospective clients will recognize you and come to trust you as they see your identity revealed in everything you put out there.

Not quite sure how to integrate your personal and professional identity into branding your private practice? Then contact me and we can discuss one-on-one coaching options so you can see all the possibilities that are before you.

Focus on Excellence to Build a Sustainable Private Practice

focus on excellence to build a sustainable private practiceAre you a psychologist, therapist, life coach or other healing professional who is thinking about opening a private practice? Are you wondering what you’re letting yourself in for? Well, let me share with you my story and how personal development, along with a lot of hard work and determination, led me to a thriving private practice. I hope it will help inspire you to see that you can do it too.

Being a psychotherapist and life coach in my own private practice is a way of life that I love. I opened my own practice after becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) over 10 years ago. When I started out, I had dreams and hopes about what I wanted to create. At the time, however, there wasn’t a lot of information to help me know how to open a private practice and make it successful.

In fact, the information I did get wasn’t very helpful at all. When I began to ask around, I got a lot of personal opinions that were very discouraging. Since I had just begun studying NLP, I was aware that people use their map of the world, so I tried to stay clear of downers and began my own journey of discovery.

Instead, I asked myself: What do I want? Why? What will I get by having that? What is my mission?

These are questions that every professional should ask as they begin their own private practice. You’ll find that your personal development will go hand in hand with the development of your practice. It did for me. I had to clear my history, identify and change limiting beliefs, build confidence through specialized trainings and certifications, and finally choose business methods that have a similar philosophy to what I adhered to. Excellence has been my focus, believing that in order to succeed I had to stand out, offering that je ne sais quoi that would make people come back over and over and make them want to refer their friends, too.

As John W. Gardner says, “Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”

If that sounds like a lot of work…it is. But it’s crucial if you want a good foundation for when you build a sustainable private practice.

You’ll find that it’s an ongoing process of taking deliberate and consistent actions. It also involves being able to tolerate failure and use it as feedback for continual improvement. You’ll also find the need to continually adjust as you set long-term and short-term goals. The long-term goals for your practice will need to satisfy your big picture. You won’t ever want to lose sight of that big picture. You’ll also need to keep short-term goals that give you daily tasks to work on as you build your practice. There is a difference between working in your business – helping your clients – and working on your business – doing all the things a private practice requires so that it remains profitable and successful.

For me, my deliberate practice included immersing myself fully in trainings like NLP and Feldenkrais, with long-term commitments to developing inside and out as a person, as a therapist and as a business owner. Sometimes these commitments have been four to five year intensives, but it’s been worth it. In addition to seeing my private clients, I enjoy helping other practitioners who are eager to build their own business, integrating personal excellence, core values and originality. And if you’ve been in practice for a while already, I’m eager to help you bring life and enthusiasm back into your practice. If either of these sounds like something you’re looking for, contact me and we can discuss your one-on-one coaching options.

In my next post, I’ll share with you two main aspects that are essential in developing a successful private practice.

Principals and Benefits of Sponsorship

A powerful approach to healing is that of self-relations.  The primary objective of this new psychotherapy is to focus on the relationship between a person and their own self. In my last post, I shared some of my in-depth study with Stephen Gilligan, Ph.D, who came up with this approach. The idea is that each problem and symptom experienced by an individual presents opportunities for major growth, if self-awareness exists.  Without that awareness, one can become mired in self-destructive patterns.

The foundation of self-relations is the principle of sponsorship.  This is the commitment, or vow, to help a person (including one’s self) to recognize how to use every event and experience in a positive way by connecting the goodness and gifts of self and the world. This acknowledgement gives value to each occurrence, regardless of how injurious it may appear.

Sponsorship skills can be developed, and they are worth the effort to do so.  Young children, don’t have language or other sponsorship skills for their feeling states (like being tired, hungry, or angry) leaving them to “act them out” until a caring adult recognizes their meaning. Hopefully, over time a child learns to recognize and “sponsor” their own feeling states.

Without these sponsorship skills, negative experiences or behaviors are neglected or ignored and become increasingly troublesome.  If the problem or symptom is recognized and sponsored however, the person who has a positive relationship with oneself can validate the experience and build on it.

As a therapist, my job is to not only be there as a sponsor but to help my clients develop their own sponsorship skills.  A balance between the following aspects of sponsorship can transform a negative experience or behavior into one of value:

The receptive aspect of sponsorship encourages openness, a safe place to receive. It enables one to be curious, while intensely listening with kindness and understanding.

The active part of sponsorship includes being attentive, giving guidance while, at the same time, setting boundaries. It challenges self-limitations.

As this relationship between a person and their own self grows, they begin to see all the possibilities that are before them.  Through connectedness, their individual human value takes shape.  This develops self-appreciation and strength, along with the realization of the good gifts of who the person is. At this point, healing occurs naturally.

Self-Relations — A Powerful New Approach to Psychotherapy

Self-relations focuses on the crucial relationship between a person and their own self. This approach to healing is fascinating and I’ve been privileged to study it in-depth with Stephen Gilligan, Ph.D. He came up with this new vision for psychotherapy and shared his finding in his book: The Courage to Love: Principles and Practices of Self-Relations Psychotherapy

Self- relations is so effective, I’ve been utilizing it as a foundation to my therapeutic approach. Self-relations draws upon many distinct forms of therapy and healing. Dr. Gilligan derived much of his inspiration from, Milton H. Erickson, M.D., the father of American clinical hypnosis. However, self-relations primary objective is to awaken soul and love in a person’s experience of themselves and others. I’m able to utilize other techniques, such as hypnosis or NLP, to guide someone’s process of self-awakening.

Traditional therapy often jumps immediately into practicing specific techniques to fix or eradicate symptoms. In contrast, self-relations views symptoms as a sign of something trying to wake up within a person. Gilligan describes symptoms as an awakening of the soul from a person who has in some way been wounded or scarred in the process of living. By acknowledging the purpose of a symptom, such as depression or anxiety, a person is in a much better position to seriously reexamine their life and begin the process of living with renewed purpose.

Self-relations asserts that therapeutic work should always be centered on supporting this awakening process. The therapist’s job is to be there as “sponsor,” to support this awakening by holding a safe space open for a person to enter, explore, and test out their feelings, thoughts, and intentions. I look forward to sharing the principles and benefits of sponsorship in my next blog post.

Resources to Learn More About Mindfulness

In a series of blog posts I’ve been exploring mindfulness. I’ve talked about what it means to be mindful and the benefits especially when it comes to coping with stress. I’ve also shared exercises to help you start practicing it in your daily life. Now I’d like to offer suggestions for further reading for those of you that would like to learn more.


A famous Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron gives insight about true mindfulness:


Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life – Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness – Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD

Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness – Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD

The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness – Mark G. Williams, John D. Teasdale, Zindel V. Segal & Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting – Myla Kabat-Zinn, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Peaceful Mind: Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Psychology to Overcome Depression – John R. McQuaid and Paula E. Carmona

Please contact me to set-up a private session or to join my mindfulness group

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