Tips offered to psychologists to cope with trying times

By Ami Albernaz
January 1st, 2010

As clients have cut back on the frequency of sessions, or in some cases, ended them altogether to save money, psychologists, too, have felt the pain of the financial crisis. For those just starting their practices, the downturn may be especially difficult to weather. A few seasoned psychologists around New England offered some tips for making it through these trying times, and even thriving in them. If some of the tips sound familiar, it may be because they’re similar to advice you would likely give your clients

Keep a cool head. “Try to avoid overreacting to negative stories in the media, and try to avoid catastrophic thinking about the economic downturn,” says John Randolph, Ph.D., a psychologist and owner of Randolph Neuropsychology Associates, PLLC, in Lebanon, N.H. Allowing anxiety to escalate can cloud decision-making, he says, and can interfere with developing a clear, concrete game plan based on your own financial situation.

Tap into professional and personal support networks. Some psychologists are choosing not to renew professional memberships because of the expense, says John O’Brien, Ph.D., a psychologist in Portland, Maine and past president of the Maine Psychological Association. That’s not the best strategic move.

“I think at a time like this, people need to be doing more networking, reaching out to more referral sources and marketing their practices,” he says.

Networks are great ways for psychologists in private practice to swap ideas and relieve feelings of isolation, says Elaine Ducharme, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in Glastonbury, Conn. Leaning on a personal support system is also key during hard times, she adds.

“That’s one of the strengths of this profession. There are other clinicians we can talk to who really get what we’re feeling,” she says. “Going out for coffee with a girlfriend is one of the best things you can do. You might solve nothing, but talk about 12 things.”

Devote time to other income sources, if you have them. Psychologists who are lucky enough to be teaching a course or have consulting or coaching work might find themselves shifting some emphasis toward these opportunities. Picking up work related to one’s specialty – perhaps custody evaluation for child and family therapists, for instance – might ease the way through a rough patch, Ducharme says.

Do pro bono work. Giving free talks at schools or libraries or writing an article for free for a newspaper can help psychologists gain exposure and business down the road, Ducharme adds. Ducharme is a regular guest on a radio show, and while she is not compensated for it, “it helps keep my stress level down” and has brought in new clients.

Use the stress management techniques you recommend to your clients. Basic stress management techniques can go a long way in building up strength for rough times. That goes for anyone, regardless of profession. Randolph advises monitoring one’s own reactions to financial stressors. “Some might cope in an active way, researching options for getting out of a bad situation,” he says. “Others might have a more negative coping style, perhaps watching too much TV, overeating or drinking. One should be mindful of strategies used to manage stress.”

Creating a financial plan, reducing expenses, and consulting with a financial advisor might also be called for, Randolph adds. “Creating a plan may lead to initial anxiety, but down the road, it can help reduce stress.”

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