How to Deal with Failure in Private Practice

motivation Oct 10, 2017



Last night I was chatting with one of my students via Facebook Messenger about a side hustle she's been trying to get off the ground.

Turns out, after all the market research she's been doing, her original business idea might not work out. She shared that she was feeling defeated, overwhelmed, and like a total failure.

The dreaded F-word.

I know there are times in your private practice when you feel like a failure too...

like that time you went outside of your comfort zone to schedule a networking meeting with another therapist, and you were so nervous that you ended up being awkward and weird.

...or how about the time you committed the cardinal sin of private practice by double-booking two clients, and then you had to run around like a fucking squirrel to figure something out without both clients knowing (and they both still found out anyway)?

...then there was that time when you threw money at some trendy marketing venture only to have it bring in 0 referrals and you were left with your tail between your legs (and an empty wallet), yet again feeling like a complete failure. 

There are two mistakes I continue to see people make when it comes to failure, and I want to share both of them with you today.

#1 Mistake: They connect it to their own value as a person.

This is by far the most common response to failure, and it's usually accompanied by an onslaught of cognitive distortions that you CBT people know like the back of your hand.

Luckily, the only people who read my blog are other therapists, so I don't have to waste time educating you on what cognitive distortions are. But I'll at least throw a few of them here in case you're a little rusty:

1. Black or white/polarized thinking
I failed at this one thing; therefore, I fail at everything.

2. Overgeneralization
Based on this one event where I failed, I will continue to fail at everything I try moving forward. 

3. Catastrophizing
If I fail at this one thing, it will cause my practice to fail and then I'll have to go back to my soul-sucking agency job or worse - start over in a completely different field.

4. Emotional Reasoning
feel like a complete failure right now, so that means I AM a failure. 

 Oo oo, how about this for all of you driven Type-A's out there:

Since I don't have an exact, step-by-step blueprint of how to get from where I am today to where I want to be in [1 year, 3, years, 5 years], that must mean I'm currently failing. 

Basically, we combine failure with our own feelings of value and self worth and throw them all together in a blender. The we turn that shit on the highest setting until it's just an unrecognizable brown paste. 


#2 Mistake: They glorify failure.

There's this new movement I started seeing a few years ago where people began talking about failure like this beautiful thing we should all celebrate.

I can't tell you how many Huffington Post articles I've read where bloggers are like, "Here's my personal experience with failure and how it changed my life and helped me become the best version of myself," blah blah blah.

Oh fuck off.

People love learning about how other people have failed because it makes them feel like they're not alone.

The problem with celebrating failure is that it still connects failure to emotion. If you glorify failure as this awesome thing that happened, then you're missing the whole point of what failure is meant to do.

So how are you supposed to deal with failure? I'm so glad you asked.

Failure is just information.
A data point, if you will.

That's it.

Failure isn't a reflection of your inherent value as a person or an entrepreneur. Failing at something doesn't make YOU a failure. 

Failure also isn't this wonderful thing that we should promote as if it's a rite of passage. 

Failure is just information. 

What if you were able to ingrain that thought into your mind - that any failure (or future failure) has absolutely nothing to do with your feels, and that it's only a data point in your entrepreneurial graph:

Whether it was a botched networking meeting, a flaw in your scheduling system, or a marketing strategy that gave you a 0% return, failure means that something you tried didn't work. 

We don't need to throw it a fucking parade either, because failure also means that you need to make a change. It could be as simple as giving yourself a pep talk and jumping back into the networking arena. It also could be as big as re-evaluating your long-term goals and vision for your business.


If you want to look at a great example of failure as information, look no further than the invention of the polio vaccine.

Here's the Cliffs Notes Version: 
From 1935-1952, all these researchers tested polio vaccines on tens of thousands of people - including children - and a bunch of them died (HUGE FAIL).

Using the information from all the failed attempts, some dude named Jonas Salk finally developed a polio vaccine that worked.
The number of Polio cases in the US has since dropped 99%, so basically, there's no more Polio (HUGE SUCCESS).

All of those failed attempts provided researchers with information about what didn't work. And yes, a LOT of people died during those trials, so let's not celebrate the failures.

But then a successful vaccine was invented, and now most Millenials don't even know what Polio is because they've literally never met someone who has it. #Win

So next time you either experience failure or become paralyzed by the fear of failure, remember that it's just information. Successful people fail a lot, not because they glorify it, but because they just keep trying different shit until something works. Then they just do more of that on repeat and, voila!

All entrepreneurs experience failure of some kind, so if you're in private practice, you're not immune. So take that next step - the imperfect action - and get started on something you've been putting off. If it fails miserably, take a mental note of what happened and then try something else.

Comment below and tell me about a failure you've experienced in your private practice. How did you deal with it? 

Don't forget to share this article with any therapist you know who could use a little motivation today!


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