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Thriving Over Surviving: Growing a Practice without Burn Out

Curt and Katie interview Megan Gunnell, LMSW, coach, and Founder and Director of Thriving Well Institute. We explore: What changes are therapists facing as they grow their practice in the telehealth age? How do therapists scale their businesses and what should they be aware of? Can a therapist and their practice thrive, or does something have to give? All of this and more in the episode.

Transcript

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Interview with Megan Gunnell, LMSW and Founder & Director of Thriving Well Institute

Megan Gunnell LMSW, is Founder and Director of Thriving Well Institute which aids therapist in building the private practices of their dreams. Megan offers a series of courses and individual coaching to aid therapists in expanding their private practices through building group therapy programs, building online courses, creating in person retreats, and even how to build a group practice. Megan teaches therapists how to build not only their practices but themselves up. Megan has been a practicing clinician for over 20 years working as an individual therapist in addition to her coaching and advisory work. Megan started her work as a music therapist, a passion which she still carries to this day.

In this podcast episode we talk about how therapists can build their practices without burning out.

With the increase in telehealth therapy options, therapists are confronted with a unique problem. How does a therapist build their practice with so many therapeutic options out there, while simultaneously avoiding burn out? Curt and Katie connect with Megan Gunnell to discuss how therapists can make sure they, and their practices, thrive.

“So there are some benefits now, because therapists don’t have to just compete with, you know, their audience in a small zip code, they can really expand…”
– Megan Gunnell

How can therapists’ network as telehealth therapists?

  • Your potential client base has now become the whole state.
  • Focus on designing your online real estate and increase your SEO.
  • Joining local Facebook groups of therapists can help expand your referral base.
  • Speak to specific client issues on your website that you specialize in.
  • Avoid template and more generalized language in websites and marketing material.
  • Make your website unique but clear in what you work with.

What is scaling and how does it avoid burn out?

  • For many therapists, caseloads have increased dramatically over the past couple years
  • Scaling is more about pivoting than it is creating passive income.
  • Looking to expand your practice into a group practice can help alleviate referral loads.
  • Some therapists can avoid burn out by diversifying their workload and reintegrating natural talents such as creativity.
  • Getting into community, especially with other therapists, is a great way to avoid burn out.
  • There is still a need for single-focus private practices.

What can therapists do to scale their businesses?

  • Be in tune with out motivated you are to scale your business; ask how committed am I?
  • Consistency is key.
  • Have a willingness to make mistakes and take risks.
  • Don’t be afraid of failing; use moments of failure to motivate you.
  • Be open to learning new things like tech, marketing, or automation.
  • Be realistic of your capacity to take on learning sometimes complicated or frustrating systems that might help your business.
  • Don’t be afraid of showing who you are as a person as you build out your practice.
  • It can be scary to expand your practice, and many therapists want assurance, but there is no one way to expand – it’s individual to your unique practice.
  • It can take support to expand your practice; reach out to your community for help.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a single focus, one dimensional private practice where you’re just doing one on one client work, there’s nothing wrong with that, I want to normalize that, and you can make a great living, you know, and not burnout. But for me, I wanted a different rhythm of my weeks.” – Megan Gunnell

Our Generous Sponsor for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide:

Dr. Tequilla Hill

The practice of psychotherapy is unique, creative, and multifaceted. However, combining a more demanding schedule and handling our own pandemic-related stresses can give rise to experiencing compassion fatigue and the dreaded burnout. Unfortunately, many therapists struggle silently with prioritizing their own wellness across their professional journey.

If you are tired of going in and out of the burnout cycle and you desire to optimize your wellness, Dr. Tequilla Hill, a mindful entrepreneur, yoga, and somatic meditation teacher, has curated a Wellness Guide to support providers that are struggling to manage your own self care. Subscribe to Dr. Hill’s Stay Well While You Work! Therapist Wellness Guide and you can find many of the inspiring offerings from Dr. Hill’s 17 years as a practice leader, supervisor, mentor, human systems consultant, and wellness enthusiast.

Support The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide on Patreon!

If you love our content and would like to bring the conversations deeper, please support us on our Patreon. For as little as $2 per month we’re able to bring you more content, exclusive offerings, and more opportunities to engage in our growing modern therapist community. These contributions help us to expand our offerings for continuing education events and a whole lot more. If you don’t think you can make a monthly contribution no worries we also have a buy me a coffee profile for one time donations support us at whatever level you can today it really helps us out. You can find us at patreon.com/mtsgpodcast or buymeacoffee.com/moderntherapist.

Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Stay Well While You Work! Therapist Wellness Guide

Thriving Well Institute Website

Thriving Well Summit May 2022

Megan’s Courses on building groups, practices, and retreats

Megan’s Private Practice

Thrive Advantage Group

Thriving Well Institute Facebook Group

Thriving Therapists Instagram

Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Why You Shouldn’t Just Do it All Yourself

Creating Opportunities

How to Navigate Through Your Growing Pains as a Therapist

Making Daily Business Decisions

Clinical Versus Business Decisions

Bad Business Practices

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome to Leave Your Agency Job

What to Know When Providing Therapy to Elite Athletes

Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at: http://www.curtwidhalm.com

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at: http://www.katievernoy.com

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:

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Podcast Homepage

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Consultation services with Curt Widhalm or Katie Vernoy:

The Fifty-Minute Hour

Connect with the Modern Therapist Community:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann https://www.facebook.com/McCannDW/

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano http://www.crystalmangano.com/

Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

Curt Widhalm 0:00
This episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide is brought to you by Dr. Tequilla Hill.

Katie Vernoy 0:05
The practice of psychotherapy is unique, creative and multifaceted. However, combining a more demanding schedule and handling our own pandemic related stresses can give rise to experiencing compassion, fatigue, and the dreaded burnout. Unfortunately, many therapists struggle silently with prioritizing their own wellness across their professional journey.

Curt Widhalm 0:25
Dr. Tequilla Hill a mindful entrepreneur, yoga, and somatic meditation teacher has curated How to Stay Well While you Work! Therapist Wellness Guide to support providers that are struggling to manage your own self care. Stay tuned at the end of the episode to learn more.

Katie Vernoy 0:41
Hey everyone, before we get started with the episode Curt and I wanted to make sure you were aware that we have opportunities for you to support us for as little as $2 a month.

Curt Widhalm 0:50
Whether you want to make that monthly contribution at patreon.com/mtsgpodcast or a one time donation over at buymeacoffee.com/moderntherapist. Every donation helps us out and continues to help us bring great content to you. Listen at the end of the episode for more information.

Announcer 1:12
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide where therapists live, breathe and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy.

Curt Widhalm 1:28
Welcome back modern therapists. This is the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast for therapists about things that we do, the ways that we look at our businesses, and all sorts of other things. Today we are joined by Megan Gunnell, Founder and Director of the Thriving Well Institute, thriving, or thriving wellness?

Megan Gunnell 1:49
Thriving Well Institute

Curt Widhalm 1:51
Thriving Well Institute, we have coaches and people talking about scaling your business up and all that kind of stuff today. And we’ve asked Megan to be a little bit more raw with kind of some of these answers to have a little bit maybe different conversation here today. But thank you for joining us.

Megan Gunnell 2:10
Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.

Katie Vernoy 2:13
We are so excited to have you. You are definitely a friend of the show. And so excited to be here with you and have this conversation. The first question that we ask everyone is, who are you? And what are you putting out into the world?

Megan Gunnell 2:28
That’s a really great way to phrase that as an introductory question, I guess I would identify first as a psychotherapist, I’ve been a therapist for over 20 years. And then within the last few years, I pivoted into coaching, and now I’m helping a lot of therapists learn how to build practices and scale their business. And along the way in the mix, I also have done a lot of international retreats and developed some courses and do a lot of coaching. So kind of a little bit of a mix of everything.

Curt Widhalm 2:59
And I will be speaking at one of your retreats coming up in May of 2022, the Thrive Summits.

Megan Gunnell 3:06
Yes.

Curt Widhalm 3:06
In St. George Utah, which will include links for where you can get those tickets and come and hang out with us for a few days. I’m looking forward to that.

Megan Gunnell 3:16
It’s gonna be great. I can’t wait to hear what you have to share with our audience.

Curt Widhalm 3:19
I’m super excited to figure out what I want to share too. Steering this towards our audience here. We’ve had coaches on before. We’ve talked about scaling and stuff before. We’re promising that this is a different conversation. So, what are some new challenges that therapists are facing these days, as far as getting their practices built? There’s been a little thing called the pandemic that people have been dealing with. What are some things that people are facing now that even a few years ago, the story has changed as far as you’re seeing it?

Megan Gunnell 3:56
The pandemic certainly has provided us with a bit of a blessing and a curse as therapists. So we have all been inundated with a giant, you know, influx of referrals, and so that’s been, you know, a little burdensome. I think personally speaking, it’s been a little bit hard. That’s why actually at the beginning of COVID, I decided after a long time coming to build a group practice. I didn’t really know what I was doing with regards to that. But I knew I had to do it because my waitlist was getting out of control. But the good news is therapists can now serve their clients in a telehealth capacity, which makes it easier than ever to build a new practice. So you don’t have to go through all of the hoop jumping of trying to find the perfect brick and mortar space and you know, figuring out everything that goes along with setting up shop, but I think that as far as what’s happened now with regards to COVID and the pandemic, therapists are kind of feeling a little bit of both, a little bit of a burden, trying to you know, reach all the clients in need and serve them in a way that doesn’t lead them to burnout, you know themselves. And also, the ease of telehealth has been kind of a blessing, I would say for a lot of us after we kind of got used to the initial change of that, for me, that was hard to do at first.

Katie Vernoy 5:14
I think it’s interesting, because with the pandemic, I think there’s been a lot more folks that feel like they can start a solo practice where they can get rolling, but a lot of the guidance around how to build a practice or you know, or how to scale as a practice, like, a lot of it’s based on a brick and mortar office. How have business coaches made that transition? Because I know for myself, I’ve had a lot of different types of conversations. But you know, how you network when your audience is your whole state, you know, or how do you, you know, do some of these things when you don’t have in person meetings, maybe this is off base, a different conversation, but it seems very challenging to try to transition all of those kind of old wisdoms into a completely virtual environment.

Megan Gunnell 6:03
Well, that’s a great point. And we’ve had to get really savvy about how we reach people in need, which really turns back to how are you designing your online real estate? So a lot of coaches, including myself, will take a first look at how are people finding you? And when they find you? What are they seeing? You know, are you using the power of SEO, are you speaking to your ideal client in a way that really does reach your entire state. So there are some benefits now, because therapists don’t have to just compete with, you know, their audience in a small zip code, they can really expand and some are expanding across state lines. I don’t know a lot about that I have not served clients out of state. But it has been interesting to see how therapists are now broadening their reach by really serving clients nationwide. And there’s, of course, a lot of things we can do in the online space. So with regards to statewide Facebook groups, there’s a there’s, for example, a Michigan mental health professionals group, it’s been interesting to see kind of the activity in there since COVID started because it used to be very specific to certain cities. And now it’s it’s really statewide news and information about who you’re serving and what your expertise is, which has been great. Because if there’s, you know, maybe there’s an expert who could serve a client that I have a referral need for, and they might be five hours away. And that used to be impossible. And now it’s not.

Curt Widhalm 7:29
We had a personal friend reach out for a family member with a very specific mental health issue. And it was something where, surprisingly, in my local network of people that I didn’t have somebody who’s like, that’s my go to for this particular issue. And I spent a lot of time going through people’s websites, through social media, trying to find even just a couple of people. What I’ve noticed is that a lot of the trend has been to have kind of this very therapist friendly language on websites, that’s just, you know, my ideal client is such and such, and my, you know, practice caters to all of these wonderful, you know, airy fairy sort of enlightenment sort of things, when really what this particular client was looking for is like, Hey, I want somebody that works with this diagnosis, and has some experience with this, and isn’t going to be spending all the time talking about whatever the social justice news d’jour is. And I think that this is something where as a field, we tend to copy each other a lot. And we tend to find some of this, I’m gonna put my own flavor on this template sort of thing. In the work that you do with with coaching clients, are you really helping some of your therapist is as they’re making some of this stuff really be able to speak to particular client issues and that way?

Megan Gunnell 8:57
Absolutely. And I agree with you, because I am not a fan of the copy and paste method. I see that a lot from other spaces and people who do support therapists in different ways. And I’m just not a fan of that. Because I think that in order for a therapist, for example, that I’m working with individually, to really be able to, you know, execute kind of that marketing piece successfully, we have to get crystal clear on what their expertise is and what they want to do, and not gloss over it and not make it sound really coachy or really Instagrammy or, you know, like what you’re saying kind of too polished or really soft. I try to drill down pretty deep when I’m working one on one with someone to really try to understand what exactly is your area of expertise, what exactly is, you know, your training and what are we trying to say in terms of reaching your ideal clients? So it has to be, I think, very individualized, it has to be a very unique, one on one process. And I think you can tell when you look at companies that, for example, do website building for therapist, some of them are very copy, paste. And after a while that starts to get blurry. And I like clear, I just work in a different way when it comes to that with therapists.

Katie Vernoy 10:18
There’s a lot of conversation, especially now because we can do therapy all the way across the state. Oftentimes across state lines, if you start getting licensed in other places, we can start to fill up practices pretty easily. And and I think you were talking earlier about like, trying to figure out how to do this without avoiding burnout.

Megan Gunnell 10:38
Mm hmm.

Katie Vernoy 10:39
To avoid burnout. I can speak. And so I think it’s something where one of the mechanisms that people talk about is scaling. And so, you know, increasing income without doing it yourself or whatever, or adding additional income streams. And so to me, it feels like we’re moving from a space of, oh, my gosh, how do I do my practice? How do I stand out in this big field to, okay, I’m overwhelmed, too many clients. And I feel like I’m grinding. And so to me, it feels like there’s a lot of us that get to this place of scaling, or whether it’s building additional income streams that we that feels like the mechanism. What do you think about that trend? I mean, I know that’s kind of what you do. And that’s what you’ve done for yourself. But what do you think about that trend, because it feels like that there’s almost something not sustainable about just a single, I’m a therapist, I have a therapy practice, period.

Megan Gunnell 11:33
I think that over the last couple years, especially with the pandemic, our case loads have changed. So for many of us, we had, you know, case loads we could manage in terms of number and in terms of severity of cases, in terms of the intensity of the clients we were working with and their cases and what they needed. And then the pandemic hit. And if you’re like me, it went from like a manageable load and a manageable level of intensity with client work to what felt like everyone was in trauma and crisis and major grief and loss, major anxiety, you know, major life transitions, like, it just went from zero to 1000. And at the same time, we were handling COVID ourselves as therapist. So I think this idea of scaling has become more pronounced in the last couple years, because of COVID. So when you think of scaling, and it’s not for me, it’s not passive income entirely. It’s about pivoting. So I knew that when I hit that wall of I’m doing 35 clients a week for 10 years, and there was a reason why I was doing that I was the only provider for my household of four, my husband was running a business that was not lucrative. And we were we agreed to do that for a while. And when we got to the end of that, or I got to the end of that I felt really burned out, really on the edge, I would say I was not thriving, I would come home and just feel like I couldn’t talk to my family, I felt very negatively impacted by the intensity of the load. And I missed all the other things that I love doing. So I miss the creative side of, you know, creating community and creating groups and creating retreats and creating different kinds of offers. So I needed that, I needed that more than ever. And then COVID hit. And I thought how am I going to do this because I’m at capacity?

Katie Vernoy 13:30
Yeah, yeah.

Megan Gunnell 13:31
So I built the group because I thought if I can build a group, I can kind of expand my offerings, serve more clients in need without taking all the new referrals myself and start to slowly scale back my one on one schedule. So I have more freedom to do some of these other things that really interests me.

Katie Vernoy 13:49
I think that’s really strong because I there’s this element of, it’s not like, hey, I’m not making enough money, let’s do a side hustle. It’s, I need the diversity of types of work. And I think that’s very true for me as well. When I went out on my own. I had been doing a lot of other things. And for me, solely doing a therapy practice wasn’t sufficient to kind of keep me engaged. I don’t know that boredom is necessarily a good way to describe it. But there’s that kind of burnout of just not being able to fire on everything, you know, like doing all the things and all the different types of things.

Curt Widhalm 14:22
Almost like a creative itch.

Katie Vernoy 14:24
Yes, exactly.

Megan Gunnell 14:26
That’s it. Yeah. And I felt that too. And I mean, I was a music therapist before I was a psychotherapist. So I had years and years of doing really creative work. You know, I did a lot of music work. I did, you know, drum circles and mandalas and mask making and art making and guided imagery and meditation and we worked with, you know, all different kinds of integrative practitioners. So, my job as a music therapist, while it wasn’t really is as deep as my work as a psychotherapist, it was there was a lot of variety there. And so I kind of missed that and I think honestly, especially doing exclusive telehealth, it can be also kind of lonely as a therapist to do this one on one work, right? Client after client after client and then you’re done. And there’s no like watercooler chit chat anymore when you’re in an office where there’s a few people or, you know, even just seeing people coming and going, even if you have your own solo brick and mortar, but it’s, it’s just I needed more, I quickly realized as the Thriving Therapist Community really started actually in December 2019. And it grew from zero to 13,000 members in two years. And that told me something about what people really wanted. And I think what they wanted was a community of therapists who really understood them. And they wanted a place to be inspired to learn how to thrive again, that could be personally, that could be professionally, you know, that might be about building a practice for the first time and pivoting out of an agency or hospital job. And that might have been learning how to scale, how to build a group therapy group, or how to build an online course or how to build a retreat. There were lots of things I was hearing from this community that made me also excited about teaching and training other therapists on how to do this, too. So that’s been really a great way to diversify my everyday work life too.

Curt Widhalm 16:15
I’m really glad to hear you framing it this way. Because when we were sending questions over to Megan, before the show of here’s some things that we might want to talk about, I was in a snarky mood, admittedly, at the time, just and maybe was looking at some of these questions around, like, how do I get multiple streams of income from maybe a little bit more pessimistic place of is our fields really that bad, where people are immediately looking at like, I have to supplement my income with something else, but you’ve got this really nice way of looking at it, and maybe helping people to encourage like, I’m feeling unfulfilled in this particular area, I need this variety to be able to round out how I can show up in my business and not just have to, like stop working and go do a hobby for free on the side, that is really supportive here. So I don’t know if there’s still a question on this of like, what’s wrong with our field where we can only just do like therapy as as our income here, but for hearing you talk, it seems like some of our listeners who have reached out to us in the past as far as like, what if I don’t want to scale up or do all of these things, there’s still this really wonderful permission for them to be able to do what you’re doing, rock on, if that’s what’s working for you go with it.

Megan Gunnell 17:35
Right. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think that’s the bottom line. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a single focus, one dimensional private practice where you’re just doing one on one client work, there’s nothing wrong with that, I want to normalize that, and you can make a great living, you know, and not burnout. But for me, I wanted a different rhythm of my weeks. And so I will, I’ll paint the picture. I mean, honestly, for the 10 years that my husband and I were getting on this business idea for him. And I was the primary earner, I was doing seven clients a day, five days a week back to back with no lunch, and I would like eat a cheese stick and like some nuts, like, you know, really fast between sessions, I was whipping through notes. I was like, it was like a revolving door. It was just, I mean, every single slot was filled every single day, Monday through Friday, you know, I mean, I would pound it out. And it was just like non-stop, I remember just running to like, refresh my tea, run to the bathroom, like do a very fast note, you know, chew a piece of gum, you know, turn around and open the door and go again. And it was really hard to do that. I’ll paint a different picture of what my life looks like now that I’ve learned how to scale. Yesterday, I saw two individual clients, I did two coaching calls. And I spent two and a half hours in a pottery studio with my husband throwing clay on a wheel, so and then we came home and made a great dinner. And we talked to our daughter, watched a show and it was like a relaxing, engaging, beautiful, and it was a day and it was more lucrative for me than anything I’ve ever done previously, because I’ve learned how to create other streams of income. So I have some that are passive and some that require active engagement. But I really love the flow. I mean, my husband’s home today and he said after your podcast interview, we could go for a walk. We could run downtown Detroit for a minute, I have to get my glasses repaired and you know, we could grab a coffee. And that was never possible before. So I mean, I would bang out these seven in a row sessions Monday through Friday, year after year and come home and just feel like don’t talk to me. I mean, I remember feeling so edgy with my family that I didn’t like who I was becoming. So I feel like a lot of therapists don’t want to talk about that. They don’t want to admit that that might be happening. I knew I was hitting burnout. 35 a week is ridiculous and let alone doing it for one year, but I kept it up almost a decade. And it was insane. I just I’m grateful for the opportunity to, you know, move into economy of scale. And so if I can serve 100 people in an online course, that I worked to make once and I make it, you know, I put a lot of investment into it, but I, you know, can get that as passive income, then that affords me an opportunity to have a different kind of lifestyle. And that’s, for me, very satisfying.

Curt Widhalm 20:31
You talk about your transition from doing that direct client work to what it takes to have this because we all know on this podcast that it’s not just like, hey, here’s a new avenue of my business, it actually takes some work. And it takes some mistakes, too.

Katie Vernoy 20:50
A lot of work, let’s just, it takes a lot of work.

Curt Widhalm 20:54
It’s not a side hustle, it’s an additional hustle.

Megan Gunnell 20:57
Mm hmm. It is. Well, for me, it was easy, because I live on Facebook. And so for me to build a Facebook group, and start that community where I started really engaging, and really listening to my audience to find out exactly what their problems and struggles were, and what their wins and victories were and where they needed support or help. I was spending every minute that I had, you know, on Facebook, between sessions after sessions in the evening, early in the morning, trying to understand and learn about this community. And as I did that, I started to think about what I was hearing. And then I built an offer based on what I was hearing from my audience. So when I do coaching for people, and I talk about how to build passive income, or additional streams of income, I always start with this message, you have to listen to the audience in front of you. And prior to having the Thriving Therapist Community where I was serving all these therapists, I was listening to my audience of clients. And so that’s where the first retreats were born. That’s where my first group therapy groups were born. And they came from hearing over and over, the same kind of echoed cry from my clients that which was what I wouldn’t do for a weekend away. Like I’m a stressed out busy working mom, and I’m overwhelmed and what I wouldn’t give, you know, to, like, have a have a weekend for me where all my meals were taken care of. I mean, they wrote the retreats for me. You know, they’re like, if I could get a massage, if I could do yoga, I could have, you know, great food and just go away for the weekend and come back feeling refreshed. I was like, you got it.

Katie Vernoy 22:38
There you go.

Megan Gunnell 22:39
You know. So that’s part of that is you hear that? You know, in your audience.

Katie Vernoy 22:44
Yeah, I think that’s interesting. Because when you talk about being on Facebook all the time, I was going like, wow, that sounds awful to me. So I was like, well, that’s not for me. So that’s good to know. But I think you, you did talk about there’s a lot of different ways to listen to your audience. There’s so many therapists that I’m sure you talk to, that Curt and I talk to you, that have all of these things, whether it’s a course that can augment the work they’re doing with their therapy clients, if it’s retreats, any of these things like they have a clear need. And yet they still don’t feel like they can do it. And so that that’s the part where, first off, we’re saying, Oh, hey, you can do it and still keep your therapy practice. You don’t have to stop being a therapist. Maybe just put balance back here so you can still serve some clients and have more of a balanced lifestyle. You can also add this extra element of yourself of creativity and diversity of work schedule, and all of those things. And people are terrified. What are what do you think that’s about?

Megan Gunnell 23:44
I think that it’s about not having the confidence, the know how, the accountability or the roadmap and I think a lot of therapists really want a guarantee, you know, if they’re going to put a lot of time and energy into doing something like this. They’re really hoping that it’s going to pay off. And I was too when I, believe me, when I put down a $17,000 deposit for the first Costa Rica retreat I ever hosted. I looked at my colleague and I was like this is either going to be wildly successful, or the most expensive vacation we’ve ever taken.

Curt Widhalm 24:22
Oh, yeah.

Megan Gunnell 24:22
You know, it’s a little scary to do that.

Katie Vernoy 24:25
Yeah, super scary. Super, super scary.

Megan Gunnell 24:28
That’s part of it. And I think, honestly, part of it is just time. I think a lot of people are waiting for the right time to do this and sort of like waiting for the right time for anything right? There’s never really a right time to have a baby or right time to go back to grad school or right time to buy a house or whatever. You’re just doing these things and kind of folding it into your busy you know, crazy busy life. A lot of therapists feel overwhelmed at the idea of scaling and they don’t have a clear roadmap. And so without that or without accountability, it becomes very difficult, I think to move these thoughts into action, you know, so a lot of times people will be thinking about doing some of these things for a really long time. But I love to move them from thinking to doing and that that takes a little bit of support.

Katie Vernoy 25:14
Yeah, exactly.

Curt Widhalm 25:16
Hearing all of the successes that many people in our space occupied and a lot of the steps that we’ve done to get to where we are with our various projects, podcast courses, conferences, summits, this kind of stuff, we’re very easy to share all of the successes that we’ve had, what are some things that you struggled with or had some mistakes along the way that even with a good roadmap just didn’t work out? And how did you handle those?

Megan Gunnell 25:44
I’ll tell you about one that really stands out. And this was very early on, as I was, I was a brand new therapist, and I wanted to build a music meditation evening at and use our group space at the group practice office that I was, you know, working at, and my dad had said to me, Hey, you know, after you run that thing, why don’t we go out for dinner that night? And I was like, sounds great. You know, I said, Why don’t you just come you know, so I invited my dad to come, I brought my harp, I play the harp, and I was like, really kind of missing the music part of my life. And I knew that I used to provide music meditations all the time for patients in pain, and, you know, labor and delivery and hospice. And I brought the harp to the bedside, and I kind of like was just missing a little bit of that wonderful music offering. And so I was thinking, this will be cool, I’ll make a flyer, this is like back in, like 2005, or something. Like, I’ll make a flyer, and I’m going to hang it up. And I’m going to tell a few clients, and I’m going to have this, and I’m going to host this thing. I ended up setting it all up, I put chairs in a circle. And I was like, super excited about it. And I thought maybe they would just arrive, like I would just have this roomful of people, and they would just be there ready to pay me for this thing. They were just like, attended, there was no registration. There was no like, you know, pay ahead, I had no idea what was gonna happen. And so dad, in a room full of like 30 chairs, and me and my harp, and I just kept looking at him. And he’s like, I think people might still be coming. He’s like, it’s kind of maybe it’s parking. He was like, so nice. And nobody came, and so it was just this really emotionally wounding thing for me. But what I learned from that is, you have to put things in front of people in a way that makes sense, you know, and you have to put it in front of them without stress points for registration, you have to have them pay ahead. And you have to know what you’re doing. Like, there were just so many lessons that I learned from that. And I’m glad I did it and fell on my face with it. Because I mean, and that’s, that’s a small example. But it always kind of just reminds me to stay humble. Because like, I think when we’re trying to start some of these things, it’s just, it’s scary and overwhelming. And we’re like, Will anybody want it? Will anybody show up? You know?

Katie Vernoy 28:01
Well, that leads me to a question. Because I know I’ve had my own failures, and I won’t share them right now. Or they were putting you on the hot seat, not me. I think it’s something where that experience might be someone sign. I’m not cut out for this.

Megan Gunnell 28:14
Right.

Katie Vernoy 28:15
And so how does someone know if they are the type of person that can add something on the side? Or they can scale? Because I think the common thing that’s said is like, well, all you got to do is scale. And it’s like no, not everyone can actually do this, not everyone is set aside, can really do this side hustle or whatever, like it’s just not really possible for everyone. Initial failure, I put that in air quotes, clearly was not indicative of your success. And so how does someone know if it’s right for them?

Megan Gunnell 28:48
This is a great question. There’s a few factors that make it right for someone to be able to scale. First of all, I think they should be in tune with how motivated they are. So I like to say like, are you really motivated to do this? Or are you just thinking about it, and then it goes away? Is it kind of like a fire burning in your gut where you just wake up every day thinking about doing something like that, because if it is, then continue to move forward. The other thing I would say is people need to have a willingness, they need to be willing to make mistakes, they have to be willing to learn new things like tech stuff, or marketing stuff, or automation, or funnels or different kinds of systems and payment integrations that sometimes drive you crazy. They have to also have a willingness to stay consistent. And that was part of what drove me to refine my offer and put it out there again, and fill the room the second time I tried it and so that’s I think I also have a little bit of like, competitive spirit inside of me. So maybe that’s another factor that helps us like, Oh, that one flopped. Well, the next one is going to be like standing room only. You know, I just kind of had this like quest to do it, you know?

Katie Vernoy 29:58
Yeah.

Megan Gunnell 29:58
But I think you have to also ask yourself Are you willing to take a risk? Because some of these things involve emotional and financial and mental kind of risks that we take of like, can we really put ourselves out there? And do we really feel like we have something that is worthy of sharing that’s beyond that one on one model of care. And if you’re creative, and you’re innovative, and you’re motivated, and you’re organized, and you have willingness, then I think you’ve got everything you need to make it happen.

Curt Widhalm 30:31
That part that you’re talking about, that really stands out to me, and just kind of reflecting back on some of the projects and stuff that we’ve done is, it’s kind of easy to say, Yes, I am ready to commit to these things, I can maybe financially afford it, maybe not. But it’s also having kind of the plan from the beginning to deal with the stress that comes in a new way of being able to, it’s easy a year from someplace to be like, Alright, I’m going to chunk down this deposit. And then it’s all of the days in between where it’s not just kind of that one day where you’re turning to your partner. But it’s also you know, Katie, and I had tons of meetings leading up to Therapy Reimagined.

Katie Vernoy 31:10
So many meetings.

Curt Widhalm 31:11
Where it’s just like, I’m really glad I have a partner on this. That’s understanding what I’m going through. But it’s also having a plan for that psychological, emotional self care aspect of it as it pertains to this kind of growth.

Megan Gunnell 31:25
Absolutely. And it can be a real roller coaster. Every time I was doing I was I used to do open and close cart for my online course until I like emotionally couldn’t handle it anymore. And now it’s just open. So if somebody wants to buy the, you know how to build a course, or how to build a practice course, they can just go in and buy it. But I used to have these launches. And I hated the feeling of that. Because it was so much build up so much build up, and it was so exciting. And you would throw it out there and like all these people register. And then the second day, you kind of plummet, you know, on day three is even worse, because you’re like, does anybody know the cart is still open, you know, and then you’re coming up to the close. And then tons of people register again. And so you’re on a high and like, you just have this horrible, like, high and low. And that wasn’t, that doesn’t feel good to me, it didn’t feel very grounded, or like it just it wasn’t right for me. So I changed the model of delivery. And that’s the beauty of owning your own business and making up these things is right, having the creative power to kind of do something different and pivot if it doesn’t work for you. So I’ve enjoyed not doing launches, because it is, your right, that emotional and soul care that we have to do as therapists who want to scale and do something bigger and have a bigger impact. There’s all that excitement that goes into this. But I mean, to be totally honest, on the other side of it, sometimes it’s there’s a lot of self doubt. And it can be really scary. And you know, there’s times when you’re awake at night thinking does anybody want to do this? Was this a really stupid idea, or, you know, that still happens to me too. But again, going back to the recipe of the character traits that I think make it successful for therapists, part of it is that willingness, and part of it is just staying consistent. Because if we can stay consistent to what we’re, you know, showing up for and we get it in front of the right people. And we really have listened carefully to what people are asking for and then build something that works. We’re either learning about it, or we’re executing something successful. And both of those are wins in my mind.

Katie Vernoy 33:33
Oh, that’s great. We could talk to you forever. We are short on time and you have so much going on. So if you wouldn’t mind sharing where can people find you and all the stuff that you’re doing?

Megan Gunnell 33:44
You can become a member of the Thriving Therapist Facebook community, and you can find me at thrivingwellinstitute.com. We do have the Thrive Summit coming up in May, so I can’t wait to meet you in person Curt it’s gonna be great. And that’s a wonderful opportunity to get part retreat part inspirational learning summit, and it’s gonna be just a fabulous four day experience out in the red rocks of Utah, so I can’t wait to learn and be inspired and get a maybe a mud wrap or something while I’mout there too.

Curt Widhalm 33:45
One of the things that I love about the summit is A that I’m speaking there but the, B that you very intentionally put like there’s no learning going on at this time. This is the there are built in times to the schedule of like, go swim, go exercise, go biking. Go don’t Yeah. And I really like that balance. You know, we did not do that with the Therapy Reimagined conferences and you know, there’s always that that director’s choice of like, are we trying to fill it all with education or and I really appreciate that you’re creating that balance for your attendees there.

Megan Gunnell 34:59
I’m excited about that. And I did that with a lot of intentionality because I knew that I could hear from the audience that was in front of me that people were really burned out. And people were really desperate for a break and they want it to feel restored. It isn’t like your typical type of conference where you’re going back to back into session after session and you leave and you’re a little overstimulated or wiped out by the end. I wanted people to leave feeling rested and refreshed and able to implement what they did learn in a very select few presentations. I didn’t want it to be like, you know, 50 different presentations in four days. I wanted it to be like nine, you know, so they can leave and really, really execute something successful.

Curt Widhalm 35:41
Awesome. We will include links to all of Megan’s stuff in our show notes. You can find those over at MTSGpodcast.com. And follow us on our social media. Join our Facebook group if you’re not yet a member of the Modern Therapist group. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy and Megan Gunnell.

Megan Gunnell 36:00
Thank you so much.

Katie Vernoy 36:01
Thanks again to our sponsor, Dr. Tequilla Hill

Curt Widhalm 36:05
Therapists, if you are tired of going in and out of the burnout cycle and you desire to optimize your wellness, Dr. Tequilla Hill has created and curated a wellness guide specifically with deep compassion for the dynamic personhood of the psychotherapist. Subscribe to Dr. Hills offerings at bitly/staywellguide, that’s bit.ly/staywellguide and you can find many of the inspiring offerings from Dr. Hills 17 years as a practice leader, supervisor, mentor, human systems consultant and wellness enthusiast.

Katie Vernoy 36:42
Once again subscribe to Dr. Tequilla Hills How to Stay Well While you Work Therapist Wellness Guide at Bit.ly/staywellguide.

Curt Widhalm 36:52
Hey everyone, Curt and Katie here. If you love our content and would like to bring the conversations deeper, please support us on our Patreon. For as little as $2 per month we’re able to bring you more content, exclusive offerings and more opportunities to engage in our growing modern therapist community. These contributions help us to expand our offerings for continuing education events and a whole lot more.

Katie Vernoy 37:15
If you don’t think you can make a monthly contribution no worries we also have a buy me a coffee profile for one time donations support us at whatever level you can today it really helps us out. You can find us at patreon.com/mtsgpodcast or buymeacoffee.com/moderntherapist. Thanks everyone.

Megan Gunnell 37:37
Thank you for listening to The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. Learn more about who we are and what we do at mtsgpodcast.com. You can also join us on Facebook and Twitter. And please don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any of our episodes.

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