We recently connected with Dr. Dionne Bates and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. Dionne, thanks for joining us today. We’d love to hear about how you went about setting up your own practice and if you have any advice for professionals who might be considering starting their own?
By the time I reached my third year of doctoral school, I knew that I wanted to pursue private practice. I had trained and started working as a psychometrist in a private practice, a job that I had eight years. I loved the flexibility of the hours. I loved how my boss had the option of choosing what cases he wanted to take on, and I loved the variety and diversity of the clientele. What I observed was that. in private practice I would have free reign to make my own decisions about how I wanted to operate. That was the beautiful thing and the thing that attracted me to private practice. On the other hand, I observed that the down side to private practice was that I would have free reign to make my own decisions about how I wanted to operate. Sometimes things are trial and error and if they don’t turn out the way that they need to, I’m still responsible for those decisions.
The first time (yes, the first time) I tried private practice, I was right out of doctoral school. It was really challenging, in part because I had not fully developed my confidence as an independent practicing clinician. When you’re in school, you have a LOT of supervised practice. So, when you’re not sure about something you have site supervisors and university program training directors at your disposal at all times. Once you graduate, you still have access to assistance, but a part of the transition is learning to see yourself as a professional rather than a student – and as a professional, it took some time to develop that level of confidence in myself and my skill set. So, in 2008 I set out to develop my confidence as an independent practitioner by starting a private practice. Unfortunately, however, the economy decided to crash and so did my practice AND my confidence as an independent practitioner. I took a job at a university counseling center and vowed that I would never do private practice again.
Though I enjoyed working with college students, by my third year at the counseling center, I started having the private practice itch. Some of my mentors encouraged me to try again, but I was fearful. Not only did I lose my practice before it really got established well, but I also watched a lot of clinicians and physicians lose their businesses as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. I was traumatized watching their trauma. But a clinician in the community (shout out to Dr. Ellen Emerson) offered me a space in her office and my boss, at the time, worked out a way for me to decrease my hours while keeping my health benefits (shout out to Dr. Jodi Caldwell) and in 2014, Self-SOULstice, LLC was started. It took a little time to get placed on insurance panels and Employee Assistance Program panels, but afterwards I started seeing clients a couple days a week. I may have had only one client on one day and one client on another day. Initially, things were slow, but had my full-time job to fall back on, so I didn’t mind slow. Eventually, I made the decision to open a second location, here in Atlanta (Marietta). When I started seeing this location taking off a little quicker, and after NUMEROUS conversations with friends and colleagues in the area, I decided to close the first location and practice solely from the Marietta location.
I don’t know that I could have done anything differently in 2008. As a person who makes their own business decisions, sometimes you have to recognize that there are some things are out of your control. So, you have to know what is in your control and what isn’t and, be comfortable with that. Knowing what I know now, I would encourage anyone considering private practice to take their time. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to grow your business quickly, especially if your livelihood depends solely on that business. But, building a business is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. My masters and doctoral programs taught me well how to be a clinician, but they didn’t teach me how to be a business owner. So, it has been important for me to have mentors who have had successful businesses (private practice or otherwise) who are willing to provide me with their wisdom and guidance. Though I have been an independent practitioner several years, I still rely on colleagues and mentors for support. In that way, private practice is less isolating.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers?
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor with a master degree in Counseling Psychology and doctorate in Clinical Psychology. The name of my practice is Self-SOULstice, LLC and I provide individual counseling and consultation. Though I work with clients who present with issues related to depression, anxiety, adjustment and transition, grief, mood disturbances, etc., I primarily work with individuals to learn to affirm themselves and others, identify and acknowledge their emotions, and understand how their emotional responses show up in their interactions and decision-making. The “Emotional Lifeline and Mapping Journal” was born out of my work with clients and the body of work that I am currently most proud of. This journal provides users daily self care, along with mindfulness, clarity, insight, and management of their emotions.
Do you think you’d choose a different profession or specialty if you were starting now?
Absolutely not! I love what I do and I love the vehicle that I get to do it in. Remember (for those who read my story previously), I was suppose to go to law school and two weeks before I was to leave for school, I decided that I didn’t want to go. I stayed in Atlanta to try to find myself and in the process, my profession and career found me. Sometimes it’s like that. You don’t necessarily find your passion or your niche. Sometimes your passion and your niche finds you. I’m thankful that I was open and receptive to being found.
Any advice for growing your clientele? What’s been most effective for you?
You know, when I first started out, I thought that the best way, and the fastest way, to get clients was to become a provider on various insurance panels. As a panel provider, referrals come through the insurance company. I can imagine that this is true for some practices. What I’ve learned is that what might be an effective strategy for one practice may not be optimally effective for mine. For me, word of mouth has really been the most effective strategy for the growth of Self-SOULstice, LLC. Whether through individual clients or organizations that I provide consultation, I have been fortunate to have people see the value in my work enough to tell other people. Now, that doesn’t mean that I am for everybody. I am a firm believer that no one person can be all things to all people. But, I am thankful when someone calls and says, “Such-and-such referred me to you.” It tells me that my work and my presence in the community is making an impact on someone and for that, I am appreciative.
- Website: www.drdbates.com
- Facebook: facebook.com/SelfSOULstice
- Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/drdbates
- Twitter: @SelfSOULstice
Headshot (in lavender suit) – Photographer: Hakim Wilson (Photo Brothers Media) Logo – Graphic Artist: Sandy Cole (Sandy Cole Designs)