The Art and Business of Clinical Practice: A conversation with Stephanie Davis, MEd, RCC, ACC

by Aug 27, 20230 comments

I sat down, (well zoomed), with Stephanie Davis at the end of August. Having a PhD in leadership studies, I am always interested in how people lead, whether that be in a larger clinical setting, a teaching practice, or in the ways they run and show up in their clinical practice. Knowing Stephanie from the BBP community, and as the co-owner and director of a large teaching clinic, I was curious to hear what she had to say about this next evolution of her work, as a counsellor’s coach, and now offering two groups for therapists: Private Practice 101 and The Art and Business of Therapy, both starting this September. Here’s what I found out: (Stephanie’s words are italicized)

Tell me about the why behind you creating the workshops – what was the need you were seeing?

Let’s be honest, private practice is an idealized and popular path for those of us with training in counselling psychology and yet, none of the counsellor training programs offer any courses to support the visioning, launching or running of a private practice. 

I have been in private practice as a solo practitioner, an independent contractor and now I am a group practice owner and have been extremely privileged to have found great mentorship and coaching that has helped (and continues to) support my development as a business owner and entrepreneur, but it was on me to find that support….or to even know what I was looking for.

I think that is where these workshops and the coaching work I do now, fits. As a counsellor’s coach, I see my role as helping to fill that gap for counsellors wanting to pursue the path of private practice – whether it be solo, as an associate or as a group practice owner. As a counsellor myself, I understand that the clinical and business components of private practice are not two separate hats we wear but rather, these two pieces create a tapestry that reflects who we are as counsellors, business owners and leaders within our communities. Together, these two pieces showcase our values and enable us to be authentic and congruent in both our clinical work and as the architects of a framework that sustains a growing and thriving business.

In our clinical training and ongoing supervision, there is much emphasis put on understanding ourselves, noticing the way we are showing up and how it supports or hinders the client, but that I see a lack of exploration when we are navigating the complexities of where the clinical meets the business. For example, the most common struggle that we see with our interns early in their training is knowing how to talk to clients about rebooking. Oftentimes clinicians feel worried about how it will be perceived by the client if they suggest rebooking: What if they didn’t like me? What if they don’t find what we talked about today helpful? What if I didn’t do enough? Alternately, others avoid conversations about rebooking because they feel it is important to honour the client’s autonomy, and trust they will reach out again when they are ready. Our individual motivations need to be explored.

I don’t suggest to know what is the best way for therapists to rebook with clients, but what I do know about these two paths is that they are more about the therapist than the client, and that often the therapist is unaware of the underlying source of this anxiety, or that there is any anxiety at all. If this kind of discomfort occurred in the middle of trauma processing, therapists would more easily assume themselves to be engaged in some sort of enactment or transference dynamic with their clients, and would seek supervision to support this personal exploration, and yet when it comes to things like rebooking, cancellations, asking for payment, etc. my experience is that therapists don’t think about undertaking a similar process in the pursuit of congruence and authenticity….and good client care….

So…these workshops are about filling the gaps in supporting therapists to develop the leadership skills required to walk alongside their clients both clinically and while creating and maintaining a business framework that is value aligned and congruent. There will also be lots of tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way.

Yes, I think there’s an unspoken discourse that being a therapist and running a business are somehow at odds…and I always think about sustainability because so many therapists ride the edges of burnout in their career. I get curious, what’s specifically unique about your approach?

I think what makes me unique is that as a counsellor and coach, I recognize the interconnectedness of the business and the clinical. Whenever I have sought out coaching to support my business development, the most challenging parts have been when (what I am sure is) sound business advice rubs up against some of the ethical or clinical complexities that come alongside doing clinical work and running a business. And the coach just didn’t get it. As a clinical supervisor and business coach, I honour and hold the clinical work with all the importance it deserves and that informs much of how I understand the business framework to be built. 

Additionally, I think it helps that I don’t ascribe to a belief that there is a ‘right way’ to be a therapist in business, rather I aim to create a space for therapists to reflect with what it means to be valued, aligned and congruent, and then support them in evolving their business and clinical practice to be in alignment.

It sounds like you have a specific call that informs your coaching work.

I think at the core of what makes a good private practice clinician is leadership and there is a significant gap not only in training, but even in the role of therapist being seen that way in our larger society. We walk alongside some of the most vulnerable people in their time of need, and there is a responsibility in that to be able to maintain steadiness, authenticity and congruence (I know, I’m preaching to the choir…) alongside clear communication, integrity, and the like, regardless of whether we are in the middle of a piece of clinical work, hustling for clients or having conversations around payment, cancellations or rebooking with our clients.

To bring leadership into therapy is at the essence of what we do as clinicians, to create the space and place for people to grow and thrive. This is the quintessential quality of leadership. We seem to have no qualms about investing in clinical training, but neglect training and support in the business of therapy. The business of one’s private practice is so interwoven into the clinical, that having training in how to navigate that piece, within a larger conceptual framework that is both value aligned and oriented to a process of change, is integral.

Okay, now I want to know about these workshops! – tell me about them.

Both workshops I am offering this fall are running 2 hours bi-weekly for 6 weeks.

Private Practice 101 asks: ‘what does it mean to be a therapist in business?’ In answering that question for ourselves, the emphasis will be on exploring the values of the therapist as they pertain to their clinical work and the ways in which those help to inform the foundation of their business development. We will address many of the common challenges and struggles facing new private practitioners, and explore the patterns that may be creating obstacles to overcoming those challenges. We will explore the concept of leadership and how it lives in the counselling space as we work with our clients clinically, while maintaining a sound framework to make our practice viable, successful and sustainable. We will also build community, hold each other accountable and celebrate wins together. There will also be lots of logistical tips and tricks that have been shared with me, and that I value immensely, and that I am paying forward.

The Art and Business of Private Practice asks: ‘what comes next for me?’ for those in solo practice or those working as associates in a group practice. This question is meant to broadly address both the little changes that we can implement to help us move forward in an area we’ve been stuck or to address the larger questions that are standing in the way of us growing our practices. In answering that question, we will be auditing the values that live at the foundation of our individual practices. We will be reflecting on strengths – what has worked or is working well – and explore where folks are finding themselves stuck. We will explore how our own patterns – often invisible to us – can be limiting us and leaving us unclear about how we want to grow as therapists in business. As in Private Practice 101, we will explore the concept of leadership and how it lives in the counselling space as we work with our clients clinically, while maintaining a sound framework to make our practice viable and successful. We will also build community, hold each other accountable and celebrate wins together. There will also be lots of logistical tips and tricks that have been shared with me and that I value immensely that I will be paying forward.

Your workshops sound great. How do folks know if they need them?

My invitation is to ask yourself what values lie at the heart of why you work in private practice (since it isn’t the only way to engage with this kind of work) and how are you working in alignment with those values when it comes to making decisions that pertain to your business and livelihood, and not only your client’s clinical care?

I also think this is for folks who are struggling with having challenging conversations with clients around booking, cancellations, payment, fee structure, or even laying out a clear treatment plan. This workshop is an invitation to explore what patterns are contributing to these obstacles. Lastly, if you love the idea of private practice, are feeling confident in your clinical training, but are feeling really lost in how to set yourself up to run a business that can be authentic and congruent, these would be great workshops for you.

One last thing, tell me five things people will get from the workshops?

  • Greater insight into their values as a business owner/therapist and how they are working in alignment with those or not and what challenges need to be overcome in order to feel more congruent
  • Greater understanding of how leadership skills and the embodiment of leadership within private practice can increase confidence and create greater congruence between the business and the clinical
  • A greater sense of confidence in having challenging conversations with clients around the administrative or business pieces required to run a sustaining practice
  • A community of support alongside other private practitioners navigating similar challenges and with similar questions
  • Lots of tips and tricks from my years of experience in solo practice, as an associate and now as a group practice owner.

Wow, it sounds like you are opening the space for therapists to unravel their shame (or the collective shame) around creating and running a successful and sustainable clinical practice. Thanks Stephanie, I look forward to catching up and hearing how the workshops go.

If you are interested, book a discovery call with Stephanie, or learn more at