• Therapist and coach Hazel Stewart-Hyslop shares her tips for therapists starting out in private practice, as well as those looking to change things up

  • The coronavirus lockdown has forced many to adapt to new ways of working – is this a good time to reset and re-imagine how your practice might be in the future?

Do not try to save

the whole world

or do anything grandiose.

Instead, create

a clearing

in the dense forest

of your life

and wait there


until the song

that is your life

falls into your own cupped hands

and you recognise and greet it.

Only then will you know

- How to give yourself by Martha Postlewaite


Many of us in the caring profession have become martyrs to our jobs. The impact has led to burnout and stress along the way. We seem to have lost our way, our calling, and have settled for just survival.

Ever since I began my private practice four-years-ago I have been struck by the level of creativity that is needed to survive and thrive while running a successful business. Setting up a private practice takes great risk and courage. The truth is that there are no guarantees. I used to not like the phrase, 'think outside the box', but now I find that I am using this phrase more. I now like to think of this phrase in the context of therapy and coaching as ‘therapy/coaching outside the building.’ Meaning that the old system of waiting for clients to come to us in our cushy rooms might not be enough. 

In fact, what this pandemic has shown is that is that there is a need for us to think and act differently. This has been evident with the panic that arose for many therapists as they began working online. For some therapists and coaches working online is not a new practice. One of the reasons that I love the coaching model is that it trains you to work with clients from day one via the telephone and online alongside a face-to-face model. For me personally I had already been working via telephone and online for three years before the UK locked down. However the bulk of my therapy and coaching work has always been face-to-face.

We have now been nudged into a different space that is forcing us to do the following:

  • Question our philosophy on life, our value system
  • Dream again
  • To wonder, to be curious

We've become so accustomed to routine and structure and risk management that we seem to have lost our way. We have lost that childlike wonder, that spark to create and to grow. We have been so busy achieving and exceeding and looking for the next thing, that we forget to celebrate what we already have and to show gratitude. We have forgotten that, it's our creativity and our curiosity that drives us to learn and to grow. From a place of growth, we are then able to share, to give back.

The creative path

The creative path is the path that forces you to follow your curiosity down the rabbit hole and use your creativity (problems solving skill, brainstorming, dreaming, visualisation) to create value for others and sell it to the right clients.

  • Identify where you are right now. What zone are you in? Fear, learning, growth, curiosity, gratitude?
  • Develop a business mindset. You are not just serving, but you are also creating value to other people's lives. Your service is your business.
  • What kind of boss are you? Treat yourself and your business like you would treat an employee
  • Diversify: bringing your whole self into it. Can you offer more than therapy? Can you teach, supervise? What skills are you holding back? Chances are there are clients out there that need those skills. For example, when I started advertising my interest in art and spirituality, clients contacted me because they wanted to bring similar aspects of themselves in their therapy
  • Niche: what is your passion? Can you set up a practice with this in mind. For example do you want to work with only clients with anxiety. Do you want to work with organisations, insurance providers, private clients
  • Network: not just with people in your profession but in business context, other professionals etc. Natwest for example does a number of free events for small business
  • Sell yourself in your profile: don’t expect the client to read your mind
  • Invest in yourself: free or paid courses, coaching, supervision, website
  • Write down your goals and visions. Goals that you move towards rather than away from. 
  • Consider whether your current personal and professional values are in alignment

Hazel Stewart-Hyslop is a verified welldoing.org therapist and coach in East London and online

Further reading

Tips for therapists working online during Covid-19

Information for therapists during coronavirus

My online therapist checklist