Episode 29: Poverty and Trauma Disrupter [Featuring Ajita Robinson]
In this very powerful episode of the All Things Private Practice Podcast, I talk with Dr. Ajita Robinson. Ajita is a speaker, author, coach, consultant, therapist, and expert extraordinaire.
We discuss trauma and poverty breaking by healing yourself, then putting in the work, and Ajita shares her own journey through poverty, racism, and struggle to become a 7-figure (8-figure this year) business owner.
We talk about:
- Breaking the poverty and trauma cycle to be able to create a legacy for her family and future generations
- Healing the communities we serve, after healing ourselves
- Genius marketing and networking strategies to land contracts and speaking engagements, and leverage your expertise
More about Ajita:
Dr. Ajita Robinson is known as The Experts’ Therapist. She is a Grief & Trauma therapist, Bestselling Author, International Speaker, and Income Strategist. She has been seen in places such as Good Morning Washington, Headspace, Wall Street Journal, HuffPost, Washington Post, Business Insider, CNBC, Bustle, and Therapy for Black Girls. After serving as a grief and trauma expert for over a decade, Dr. Ajita Robinson began to leverage her years of clinical experience and her previous career as a corporate consultant to launch a mental health practice and scale it to 7-figures. She is a first-generation trauma and poverty disruptor who helps mental health entrepreneurs create living legacies and financial freedom while helping communities heal.
Ajita's Website: ajitarobinson.com
A Thanks to Our Sponsor!
I would also like to thank Embark EMR for sponsoring this episode.
Embark EMR is a superb software solution for solo practitioners, as well as group practices. Embark was designed by therapists to be simple and intuitive without all the extra stuff that you don't need so you don't feel like you're being nickel and dimed. Embark enables scheduling with automatic appointment reminders, a note organization system with multiple pre-built templates, and an automated invoice and superbill generation to make it easier on your clients.
There's even a patient portal where your clients can access notes, documents, and generate their own invoices and superbills. Embark EMR is setting a new precedent in EMR functionality and affordability. Embark’s simple one-tier system is $20 a month per therapist, and there are never any extra fees. Try Embark EMR today with a free trial at embarkemr.com.
You can also use code ATPP at checkout for 20% off an entire year of Embark.
PATRICK CASALE: This episode of the All Things Private Practice Podcast is brought to you by Embark EMR. Embark is a superb software solution for the solo practitioner as well as group practices. Embark was designed by therapists to be simple and intuitive without all the extra stuff that you don't need, so you don't feel like you're being nickeled and dimed.
Embark enables scheduling with automatic appointment reminders, a note organization system with multiple pre-built templates, and an automatic invoice and Superbill generation to make it easier on your clients. There's even a patient portal where your clients can access notes, documents and generate their own invoices and Super-bills.
Embark EMR is setting a new precedent in EMR functionality and affordability. Embark's simple one-tier system is $20 a month per therapist and are never any extra fees. Try Embark EMR today with a free trial at embarkemr.com. You can also use code ATPP for 20% off an entire year of Embark.
This is Patrick Casale and you are listening to another episode of the All Things Private Practice Podcast. I am joined today by colleague and friend, Dr. Ajita Robinson. She is an author, grief expert, multi-business owner, motivational and leadership speaker, and just really a fantastic force in the therapy and business world, and really happy to have her on today. We're going to talk a little bit about the therapist's mass exodus right now over the No Surprises Act, insurance, contracts, and really talk about how our skills are applicable to different business models and so many different ways to create streams of revenue, so you don't have to feel that burnt out. So, Ajita, thank you so much for making the time and being on here. I know how busy you are.
AJITA ROBINSON: Thank you so, so much for having me. I'm very excited to have this conversation and to be a part of, hey, I've been listening to a few episodes, so thank you for inviting me to be on.
PATRICK CASALE: I appreciate that. So, you know, before we started recording we were talking a little bit about what you're seeing in the therapist world right now in terms of, kind of, this exodus from being a therapist to possibly moving into coaching, or just trying to find other things to do. Tell me a little bit about, like, what you're seeing, and we can talk about everything that we were just talking about, in terms of, how we can still stay in the profession, and maybe we don't react so much in the moment if we learn how to systemize and really safeguard ourselves too.
AJITA ROBINSON: I think feeling a lot of kind of pressure or feeling a lot of regulation perhaps of our industry in ways that may or may not actually apply to what we do on a day-to-day basis, right? And so, I think there's been a lot of kind of disenfranchisement among therapists really feeling like the powers that whomever that might be at the time, kind of exerting some controls and regulations on our industries and in our industry, and it feels like it becomes apparent that they don't actually understand what we do, and that perhaps our voice, our input, and our lived experience wasn't actually taken into consideration.
Maybe some of these regulations apply to hospital settings or facilities, but they really don't. They're trickling down the way that, I think, really disrupts the way that we work with our clients, the way that we serve, especially, in the private practice community. And so, I think they're that aligned or parallels, this kind of phenomenon around why many of us left agency work or other settings was because we felt like there were rules and regulations that were getting in the way of us just doing the work that we signed up to do. And so, I think we're feeling that.
And I think it's also important to acknowledge that all of these things are happening in the midst of a mental health crisis. Yes, we're navigating COVID, and all of what that means, and all of the changes that, that has brought about, but we have been in a mental health shortage for a really long time, which has created an additional compounded crisis because of the state of our world, right? Without any additional support or alleviation of what we do on a day-to-day basis, and so, I think all of those things combined.
And then the added layer is that we are kind of like bystanders in this process. We are literally being impacted as well, right? We are affected by all of the change, both as therapists, but also as individual people and humans who are navigating healthcare systems, who are also patients and clients, and who are also folks who struggle with mental health challenges, right? We're not exempt from any of those things.
And so, I think it's creating a place of not only burnout, disenfranchisement, and really, I think, a space of angst for so many of us. And so this pivot to coaching or figuring out how do we utilize our skill sets and our knowledge in a different way? I think we're seeing that, we're seeing the pain point of that, right?
Because I don't think enough of us understand where we can go and use our skill sets or how we can leverage them outside of direct practice in a way that's not fear-based, in a way that's not reactionary, in a way that actually honors what it is that we desire to do, as opposed to feeling pushed out of the way that we serve. And so, I think that's a lot of what I'm hearing and seeing, even among my own consulting clients.
PATRICK CASALE: That's so well-articulated. And I know you're referencing the GFE and the No Surprise Act too, which created a shit show in the therapist world of people panicking, and, "What am I going to do?" And, "I'm not going to comply with this, I already have an informed Consent/Disclosure Statement." And now, two weeks later, I'm not really hearing anything about the GFE. It's like, we kind of get so wrapped up in this new thing that we have to incorporate because we don't know enough about it, and then, that can be the last straw for a lot of people who are just like, "Screw this, I'm not doing this anymore. I'm not going to be a therapist. I need to find alternative ways to make money."
And I see that too, the increased burnout with the pandemic, and just working from home, and really feeling like we're struggling simultaneously with our clients and having all these vicarious trauma as well as our own. Are you seeing a lot of grief coming up with therapists who are saying, "I want to leave this profession." And potentially, even shamefulness that comes up around the feelings of abandonment?
AJITA ROBINSON: Yeah, I think that grief, for sure, feeling like the work that we do is constantly changing in a way that we don't have any control over, right? And so, I think that is creating a loss of stability and a loss of safety, even, which we know is at the core of trauma, right? And so, for many folks, it's very triggering because it brings them back to being indifferent workplace settings that were very toxic, and very demeaning, and devaluing in many ways, and to have little to no control over whether or not you have to really change the way that you engage with clients, right?
I hear a lot of, you know, especially with this kind of, the GFE, and the No Surprise Act, clinicians thinking about how does it change the way that we bring clients in, you know, for therapy? How does it change what we can do and what we ought to do when a client is in crisis, right? Because it feels like it creates an additional roadblock to just giving them the support that they need, which is part of the reason we left spaces that did that because it felt like it dishonored the way that we intervene, the way that we perceive ourselves. Our position in that therapeutic alliance gets disrupted by administrative state.
And I think that's very triggering for so many people. The response, what options we may feel like we have might include removing ourselves from the system that's being over-regulated, right? And for many clients, that means that we won't be able to accept their insurance, which we know creates widening the issue of access to mental health care, especially, if you belong to or work with marginalized populations already, you know, that making that transition can increase that gap, right, in access. And so, I think, that brings a lot of guilt and a lot of shame.
We haven't even talked about the money piece, right? And how making money and generating wealth is so triggering, and feels so out of reach, or even misaligned with one's identity as a therapist in this field, and how that gets, I think, internalized, and maybe unmetabolized in some ways, right? And I think all of those things kind of sit in a pot together that creates a very uncomfortable environment for so many of us, right?
And so, I think those are the conversations that I'm hearing a lot, is folks trying to figure out how do I move away from what feels very restrictive, and what feels like, kind of, a lot of oversight without a context for that oversight, right? And still serve those who otherwise wouldn't actually have access.
I think that is the rub that many of us are experiencing. And I don't know that that's going away anytime soon. I think it certainly requires innovation, creativity, and certainly community collaboration. The more that we can talk to each other about how we're making these things work, I think the better we will be able to leverage our collective knowledge around how we can make these things work.
PATRICK CASALE: You just named so many important things that are happening in the therapist community right now, and a lot of them feel really polarizing. The feelings of, I want to leave the insurance panels, I don't want to be restricted in what I can do and can't do, but at the same time, I'm struggling with the money piece because my values say, I want to help everyone that walks in the door. And I think even that leads to burnout, sometimes, when we try to give too much of ourselves away. And then we're thinking like, "How come I can't pay my bills because I'm trying to be as accessible as I can, because of the major disparities in care, and lack of access to mental health care."
So, it makes so much sense that we're feeling so conflicted and so torn, and I see a lot of the therapist community up in arms about therapists leaving for coaching as if like they are almost the black sheep of the community, and they want to charge more money, they don't want to work with clients in a specific way. But I think we've got to get creative in how we work right now because, at the end of the day, I think that is going to continue to lead to burnout and lack of mental health care because we don't have enough providers who are able to do the job.
AJITA ROBINSON: You know, I definitely agree with that. I think the other issue, as you were talking, that shows up in that space around therapists moving towards kind of coaching are just other ways of serving, right, is the issue of licensure portability, right? So, if you're looking for a therapist that specializes in a certain area, and then one that accepts insurance, right? Oftentimes, when someone's looking for a grief therapist, you know, that accepts insurance, they land on my practice or another practice, and you know most of the coalition's either work for me or they work for, you know, the licensure.
And so it gets really hard to bind folks that fit that particular criteria that are licensed in that area because it may be a client that is in Virginia, while we can only see clients in DC and Maryland, right? Based on our licensure, and so, that further compounds that issue, which is I think another thing that makes consulting, and coaching, and the support groups, right, that aren't bound by licensure or geography more appealing to clinicians because it gives us more room to serve.
And I think, again, those things will continue. I have seen more clinicians, and I think it's important for clinicians to think about other settings and other ways in which they can serve, right? And so, that doesn't require you to accept insurance, although, you will know that I'm a pro-insurance practice.
But including things like securing contracts with the state and federal government, right? We have contracts with local pharmaceutical company that functions like a private EAP, where we've negotiated the terms of that agreement, right? We have private contracts with local school districts that keep us out of, you know, the insurance loop per se because the school district pays us directly. And so, we have corporate contracts, right? Where we come in, and we provide some consulting to their C-suite executives, you know, we provide some support services on a crisis management perspective, and grief response services to some LEOs, law enforcement officers, sorry.
And again, all of those things are without us having to navigate insurance for those types of contracts, but it also provides some stability and continuity of income because they're not fee for service, right? And so I think, again, some innovative approaches to the work that we're able to do. I've always said, when clinicians ask me, "Well, Ajita, what are some ways that I can diversify my income."
Assuming that you work with people, wherever there are people your services are needed, right? So, wherever organization has people, your services are needed. And I say that because some of my consulting clients work primarily with animals, or they work with animal-based losses, right? And so, finding the organization that's already serving, or that is housing, or imploring the people that you work with, those are all avenues or places where your services are needed because these types of, you know, communication and relationship in conflicts, or what have you, they show up in those spaces as well. They just show up slightly differently. But it's the transferable nature of our skills that lends us to be able to, you know, work with organizations.
Like, a fellow colleague just signed on as a senior benefits analyst for Twitter. These opportunities are continuing to happen. Google has it, you know, Microsoft has it, right? And it may be going to individuals who aren't clinicians because we don't go after those types of opportunities, maybe because we don't know they exist, or that we're qualified for them, right? And so, I think those are things that we have to consider as we navigate this new landscape.
PATRICK CASALE: You just blew my mind with all of that because I think that is so spot-on, and some of that I haven't even thought about, in terms of my own group practice, of going after some of those contracts or even partnering with people in the community because that is what can keep us in the therapeutic world and realm, is being able to reduce the stress and burden of sometimes filing insurance claims that get denied, dealing with co-pays and deductibles that people can't meet or pay for potentially having lower reimbursement rates from certain insurance companies. And the portability issue is a major issue too. I was just thinking about that as you were talking.
I mean, we have a lot of things that we really need to shore up in our culture as therapists, and I think we aren't unified enough across the board to sometimes have that advocacy. The fact that you're just talking about transferable skills, I want to just talk a little bit more about that because I don't think enough therapists and mental health practitioners recognize how transferable everything they do on a day-to-day basis is because we're so honed in on like, we've learned to be therapists, we've learned to help, this is who I am, this is how I identify, and it's really hard to almost see anything else in terms of how else can my skills be transferable to other areas so that I can still support myself financially?
AJITA ROBINSON: Yeah, so one thing that I like to always say is, to use the thing that you know, right? So, every therapist I know buys books that we may or may not read, but we buy them, right?
PATRICK CASALE: I've got like 40 of them on my dresser right now.
AJITA ROBINSON: Listen, they're there and think about that, right? That's a consumer behavior that we are participating in, although, like we have some skills that say like, "Ajita, why are you buying another book when you have 12 that you haven't read?" Well, because my friend shared this book, and I didn't want to forget, and I didn't want to miss out, so I bought it.
Well, the self-help book industry itself is a multi-billion dollar industry, often made or, you know, is generated by individuals who don't have the knowledge and experience that we have. And that is absolutely no shade on the folks who are out there and who are serving in this space that may or may not be clinicians because I don't think that we have the lock on healing, right?
But we do have knowledge and skills that we could utilize that may be accessible to someone who is able to afford a $20 book that may not be able to afford a $150 co-pay or session, right? And there are someone, I'm thinking about a friend of mine who recently lost her husband. And as a grief therapist, I've reached out, and I've been, you know, supportive and checking in, and she said something to me that says, "And eventually, I will need you to help me recommend… will recommend a grief therapist, but I'm not ready yet."
And I know that is a natural part of the journey for many people, that in the immediate aftermath of a loss they may not be ready to meet with a therapist, but I know that she's reading and consuming information on whether or not what she's experiencing is normal, right? If this sadness, if crying every day is normal? They're looking for a source of information that gives them information about their experience, things that we do every single day we just don't package, right? We don't put in a book, or a journal, an eCourse, or some sort.
But I know, especially, being a black woman who's a first-gen poverty disrupter and trauma disrupter that there're so many people who look like me who are never coming to therapy, but they'll buy my book, right? So, buy my book, and they'll read, and they'll take it to their church members. They're not coming to therapy, and so there's so many people who we can never serve, there're aren't enough of us. Literally, there aren't enough of us, right?
We can serve in that gap all day long if we put ourselves and our knowledge out there in a way that's accessible to people who don't have our degrees and our experience, but they need access to valid information because there's so much information out there that's wrong, that's harmful, right? That's loud, that keeps going viral, that gets shared because we aren't putting our voices intentionally in the space of [INAUDIBLE 00:17:33].
And so that's my call to action. That's always my plea. Anytime I have an opportunity to talk to therapists is, this isn't even about you. This is about us doing the thing we signed up to do. You absolutely can and should monetize it, but it is still about serving and about getting the help to people when they need it until they can get the additional support that they may need.
And I think if we reframe that, then it gives us some room to now have to address our money narrative issues, right? We were ready to serve, but we still haven't worked out, you know, the wealth-building piece because that may feel incongruent, but we know that there's more that we could be doing and there is, right? And so, I think that piece is important.
I was reading in Forbes the other day that the eCommerce, so online businesses, in general, is said to generate $3 trillion, just in 2022, right? Just in 2022. And so for anyone thinking like, "Oh, my goodness, the course space is oversaturated." There's room, there's room, right? That's projected to be $3 trillion in revenue. That means whether you launch your course, or your online product, your coaching program, or not, that industry is said to break record numbers, right? With or without you.
I want my portion and I know that when I show up, and I deliver, I'm solving a problem, I'm addressing a pain point, I'm helping someone access healing and insight, I'm helping someone disrupt generational patterns and trauma, and I get to live and build a living legacy for my family because those aren't in conflict with one another.
And so I think those are important parts of conversations that we have to be willing to kind of have because who benefits from us highly skilled, highly chartered, highly educated individuals thinking that we have to choose between welfare or financial stability, whatever that means and serving. Who benefits from that? Not us, right? Not our clients either. They don't benefit when we're not whole, and healthy, and well because it changes the way that we can show up, it changes what we have to offer, right? Those are the things that I think about.
PATRICK CASALE: I just love how passionate you just became, like, watching your face, it just like lit up and I feel like I'm watching like this amazing speaker over Zoom right now and I'm really feeling really lucky to have you on here. You just made so many amazing points to not only combat that narrative that we live in a lot of the time which is a scarcity mindset, and we struggle, like you said, with congruency there, but also, the recognition that you can serve so many people in such a way that feels affordable for them because, you're right, so many people are not going to come to therapy, not even because they can't afford it, just because maybe they don't value it, or culturally, it just doesn't feel safe or it doesn't feel protective. But they can read that $20 book, they can purchase it, and have it in their hands, even if it's an electronic version, immediately. And they could be supported, they could be getting the resources that they need, they could be hearing that their story is not unique that they are in a group where they have a lot of experiences where people are struggling, and I think that's so powerful.
I love the poverty and the poverty disruption that you just used, that name, or that term because I've heard you speak in Hawaii, and it was so powerful. I remember like Facebook messaging my wife and being like, "This is fucking amazing and I hope you are able to like check out some of her stuff." Can you talk a little bit about that poverty disruption and the money piece too that comes with a lot of guilt and shame in this therapist community?
AJITA ROBINSON: Absolutely, so I identify as a poverty and a trauma disruptor. That's my personal story, but I also recognize that that reflects also the clients that I work with. And so, most of my clients are first-generation college graduates, they're first generation doctors, all of them are black women doctors, right? I'm the first and the only in any cherished by family to hold a doctorate. I also am the first in my family to generate wealth.
I talk a lot about how I learned very early on, and by watching my grandfather, who was an amazing provider, and my grandmother, who was a homemaker, pay bills and keep things consistent. We never went without the basics, but we didn't have what was needed to move a generation forward.
So, when my grandfather died the house was secure, but there was nothing left. Now, in order to keep my grandmother in her house, there was a gap that I stepped in and chose to fill, right? But that isn't generational wealth that we're creating, right? We are learning to survive and I chose to disrupt that for my kids, to leave them something other than debt, to actually leave them an inheritance, to leave them real estate, right? Which isn't something that was happening in my family, and so disrupting that piece.
The other pieces that I talk a lot about when I speak is my ACEs score wasn't 8 out of 10 before I was nine, and so ACE has been Adverse Childhood Experiences. And so, we know that if you experienced childhood trauma you're more likely to experience it in adulthood, and that was true for me being a survivor of domestic violence, among other things well across the lifespan.
It's a really disrupting fact so that my children did not inherit some of the generational patterns of coping that were a result of trauma. In many communities and marginalized communities, some of those coping mechanisms, they backward were created because of slavery, and because of the segregation, and other things, right? And so, they serve the purpose and the time period in which they were created, but they weren't ones that could move forward in my line.
And so, that disruption of learning to re-parent it myself, so that I didn't parent based on my trauma was a conscious unlearning process that was a lot of work, right? That I didn't actually have the language for. It was in community and in therapy that I learned that some of these pieces that I learned that the way that I was parented, there was a conscious reason that I wasn't moving them forward and it wasn't about avoidance, right?
And I think that piece is also true when it comes to money. Again, as someone who was taught to just work really hard, I had to work really hard, right? So that I could be perceived as equal, that's number one, and then, to just work really hard and keep pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.
Well, that doesn't actually generate wealth, right? And, you know, disrupting poverty and being impoverished is not about a lack of work or a lack of discipline, it's often a lack of access, whether it be to resource, or knowledge, or networks because we know a lot of what happens or what doesn't happen can come down to who you know or who you don't know, right? Or, I lost a lot of money in business because of the things that I didn't know, right? Whether that be how to build an SEO-optimized website, or how to diversify my income, or how to network for government, or state contracts, or how to leverage certifications, whatever it may be, there was a gap between what I knew and what I needed to know and there was a cost associated with that.
And so I think when it comes to our money narrative, I know that I had to work a lot on what my money narrative was, and how that showed up in how I spent money, but also how I didn't spend money. What I learned was I was a hoarder because I knew what it was like to go without, that I would hoard money and wouldn't spend it on things that had solid returns on investment because I didn't know whether or not I wouldn't need it for something else in the future, a crisis that hadn't even happened, right? So, I was over saving, my threshold, or my comfort level with what amount of money needs to be in the bank is much higher than what my husband needs, right? And I think that's related to my experience of not having, right? And, being risk-averse in many ways.
What it resulted in was me growing my practice slower. When I wasn't able to address the money narratives that was limiting, right? In many ways, which meant I was answering my phones way longer than I should have because I had convinced myself that if I answered it, it was free, it's not. I'm the most expensive receptionist I've ever had, okay? Because my earning potential at that time was $200 an hour. My business couldn't afford for me to remain as the receptionist, right? And, it's a very important position. It wasn't where I was needed, right? But that's where my money narrative was showing up in my business.
And then when I needed to replace myself, again, I was like, "But I'm trained as a supervisor." But I actually needed to do things that, you know, would grow the business, such as learn to secure contracts, and learn to leverage certifications, and learn to create licensing programs, things that in the immediate short term wasn't bringing in money, but if I actually did that thing well, it would.
And when I stepped out of the way, thinking that if I do it myself it's free, negative and limiting money mindset to this investment, spending this money is an investment in the business that will pay off, it allowed me to scale my practice to seven figures the first time, and prayerfully, we will hit eight this year.
But it wasn't possible if I wasn't willing to invest in infrastructure, invest in myself, invest in time off, right? Invest in help, right? And when I say help, I don't mean hiring the people that I like because I can trust them, but they weren't qualified to do the job. And I think a lot of times this is what we do.
And, again, I'm being very transparent, I did it, I hired my mom. I was like, "Who's not going to steal for me?" Have faith, "Who's not going to steal from me." But who also didn't have the skill set for that position I hired her for. And so [CROSSTALK 00:27:00] me on the front end of it because every time a situation was encountered, I had to teach her how to do that thing because I didn't hire based on skillset, I hired based on my security and my fear of being taken advantage of, right?
And so, I think these are the types of limiting beliefs that don't feel like they're related to money, but that impact our money generation, more often than not, and in our practice building, but in our identity as therapists in general. And for me, that was trauma work all day long. That was all trauma, right? I was like, listen, I had been poor, that is not what Jesus wanted for me, something has to shift.
But, it started with me. It started with me being able to recognize that I was acting out the gap between having more month than money in undergrad, right? Or having to file bankruptcy at my team through no fault of my own, but you pay a lot when you're poor. You pay a lot when you have bad credit, right? And you learn to survive, which aren't the same skills you need when you actually have money when you actually have more resources. Those same decision-making or coping skills are maladaptive in a different setting, in a different context. And I needed support. An amazing trauma therapist helped me make that kind of transition, that shift.
And so, I think that's true for some of us, right? And it may not be our personal story that creates that money kind of gap or that money narrative. For some of us, we experience it when we're indoctrinated in to this field, right? And so, I always ask this question anytime I talk to therapists, raise your hand, how many of you have ever heard, you don't enter this field to make money? And it gets repeated across disciplines, right? Whether you're an MFT, or an LPC, or a social worker, or psychologist, we've all heard it. And we internalize it through our career, becomes a badge that we layers that I signed up to serve, but they're not in conflict, right? And so those are the things that I disrupt, right? When I sit with therapists when I speak in spaces like this because I feel like we have to be willing to understand that we actually have to be whole. We have a responsibility to our clients to ourselves, to create stability and to create wealth, so that we are not pouring from a place of scarcity, that we actually get to pour from a place of our overflow. And then we will always have enough to give and to serve, but that we get to the hole too, right? I think that is so important.
PATRICK CASALE: Wow, absolutely. I can't agree with you more. And I appreciate you sharing a little bit of your own story. And you're right, it's so interwoven, like this trauma, and poverty, and what I've experienced, right? And it all comes to the surface if we haven't done our own work, and just the two things that stick out are like my bank account's there, it has money, but I can't access it to spend money to grow the business, to have a return on investment because I need the security, right? Like you said. And then hiring people who you know are going be trustworthy, but you're spending more time training them, then you can't focus your energy and resource elsewhere to continue to grow.
And I hear that all the time, too. I joke about it in my coaching courses, and when I'm speaking about, like, you didn't get into this field to make money, and it's always like a joke, right? And it's like you wear it like a badge of honor that you said, almost like teachers where it's like, "We didn't get into this for the money, we got into this to be of service, we got into this to give back."
And although that might be true, right? Like, as helpers, we definitely have that desire to be helpful, and supportive, and be present for people, but I think they can exist simultaneously, the ability to make money, the ability to help, and support, and be of service. It doesn't have to be mutually exclusive, one or the other. And I think that that shift needs to really be something that we change in the culture of our profession because it's across the board. It's not just one profession, it's not one licensure type, it's not one therapist, I would say it's 99.9% of the helpers out there that believe that this is the way that they need to operate. And if they don't, they're being greedy, or they're feeding into capitalism, and like that goes against their values. And I'm all for working within your value system, but I also believe that they can both exist together, and it doesn't have to be one or the other.
AJITA ROBINSON: I totally agree with that, right? I think that that's so important, you know? My practice is situated in one of the most affluent counties in the country. And we still accept insurance because we also know that we're on within walking distance of like four middle schools and elementary schools, right? I'm between three metro stations within walking distance of Walter Reed, our nation's military hospital. I'm aware of who we serve, and who has access to us, from approximately perspective.
We're located where we are because kids from southeast DC that are in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in our country [INAUDIBLE 00:31:50] down in a metro and come right over to our office, and still not feel out of place, because that's the thing I actually signed up for, right? And so being located where we are means that we have a mix of clients who can afford to pay our full fee, and then we have the ability to serve clients on a pro bono basis.
Good news is that my clinicians aren't impacted because they're paid regardless, because that's the way that the business was structured so that we could live out our lived values, we can honor our values in a way that was practical, that was manageable, that was feasible, and still pay them well, right?
I think that when we are intentional about putting those things into practice we find ways to make those things happen when we take the limits off of what we think is possible, right?
And I remember my advisor in my doctoral program telling me that, "You know, most practices aren't successful for the first three years." And I said, "Listen, I don't actually don't have three years for my practice to be successful, it either has to be successful, or it has to be successful." Those actually were the only conditions, right?
And within seven months, I scaled to a group practice. We've always been debt-free, we've always been profitable. And for me, that's not a brag, that's proof, right? Because the only other option I had was for the practice to be successful because again, I didn't have room for anything else. There was too much riding on me. I didn't have, you know, home to go back to. It just had to work.
And so I looked at all of the possible scenarios of where it wouldn't work, or couldn't work, and then made sure that I anticipated those, right? You know, built a healthy savings, did tons of marketing in relationship building. It really just stayed in my zone of genius because I knew that if I did the thing that I was called to do, I'm a guy-girl, okay? And so, I'm also [INAUDIBLE 00:33:37] the business background. So, there's work that I had to do, and stay in my zone of genius. And I didn't have to do all of the things, I just needed to do the thing that I do well, consistently, and to make sure that the folks who were the best recipients of me showing up in my zone of genius knew that I was there, knew that I was available to serve.
And so I did tons of marketing, and community engagement, and things of that nature, until my brand name is well known in the community that if you are struggling with this, or want an EMDR therapist, or trauma, and that we are who they think of, but that took work, and intentionality and me putting myself out there and being the new kid on the block, right? And being the one that didn't look like the others. That was okay too because the folks who were going to be referral sources for me were going to be referral sources, right? And the others, I just couldn't worry about. And so, I think that us being able to claim our zone of genius and known that we are serving a population that needs us.
Outside of the fear, I think sometimes we feel like we're offering people something that they don't need, right? And I like to say, if you're talking to someone who doesn't need what you'd have to offer or what you authentically are providing, then you're likely talking to the wrong person. Not that no one needs it, just make sure you're in front of the right people, right? Because sometimes you're talking to the wrong people about the right thing, and we want to be talking to the right people about the right thing.
And for me, that's a little bit of market analysis, knowing your audience, right, and protecting that. I think sometimes we give up when we get a no, and again, are we talking to the right people about the right thing. And if we're not keep going and give it what it needs to survive, whether that is your new coaching program, or your new group, or your book, or whatever it is, give it legs, right? That means invest in it, market it, make sure that people know about it.
I can't tell you how many times I've seen things that my colleagues are offering and it's already over, and I'm like, "Wait, I didn't even know that it was happening." Right?
And I think that piece is important is to give people the opportunity to opt in or to say no, but I think sometimes we tell ourselves no before anyone else can tell us, "No, I don't want that." Right? And that is the fear, I think of rejection, of failing, or you know, or feeling salesy, or whatever it might be that doesn't actually belong to us. And I bet that when we really look at it, some of that other stuff that's popping up that keeps us playing small in spaces that actually need us to stand very firmly in our zone of genius, and serve, right, authentically and loud, so the folks who need us can see us, right, that we're recognizable, right? That's why I continue to show up and I don't worry about the naysayers, yeah.
PATRICK CASALE: Damn, for anyone listening to this, I hope you feel inspired right now because this is powerful stuff and Ajita's right. Like, you're going to put yourself out there and sometimes it's going to be a no, it's going to be rejection, but that doesn't mean you need to stop. It just means that you need to continue to revamp how you put yourself out there, be visible, get in front of the right people, like Ajita is saying, and really start to understand that you can show up in spaces, bring revenue, but you're also helping simultaneously, so that you're helping yourself so that you can be the best version of yourself for the people you serve, and the people you support.
And there's so many ways to do this that don't look like giving away 60-minute chunks of your time in an office setting. There's so many ways to expand and create growth, and time in your schedule, to give back, to do pro bono work, to donate to charities or causes. But you can't do that if you're limiting yourself, and what you have to offer, and how you go about moving through your business. I always preach that if you're in a business you have to treat it like a business. And we can't just get into it and assume it's going to run itself. You have to invest in marketing and visibility.
We know how to make connections as mental health therapists and clinicians. We struggle with the networking and marketing piece because we feel like it's too salesy. Just bring it back to basics, you know how to build and foster relationships within the community. And that's all it has to be.
Ajita, I just want to thank you so much for coming on here, and just lending so much wisdom, and support, and encouragement. It's really powerful.
I'm looking at the book that you wrote on your wall in your virtual office right now. I mean, I'm thinking about all of your speaking engagements, the way you show up in the insurance world of mastering it, group practice ownership, coaching, consulting, feels like the sky is the limit. And please just tell the audience where they can find more of you and how they can get in touch with your services or follow any of the stuff that you've got created and out in the world.
AJITA ROBINSON: Absolutely. Thank you again for having me. So, I'm at ajitarobinson.com. My name is unique enough that I can't hide. So it's also my social media handle, and on pretty much every platform is Dr. Ajita Robinson or Dr. Ajita. So, feel free to reach out. I almost always have freebies or goodies linked in my bio over on Instagram, so that's a great place to follow me.
I also post Freebie Fridays every Friday. I also share and feature other therapists, and colleagues, and things that they're doing. So, please connect. I love to meet new people and to learn about what you're doing. Yeah, that's where I hang out every day but Sunday, that is my [INAUDIBLE 00:38:52] day off.
PATRICK CASALE: I don't want you to be humble, I want you to share your book too, the book that's hanging on your wall. I imagine you're very proud of it, so I want you to just promote that too if you want to.
AJITA ROBINSON: Absolutely. Thank you so much. So, my book is called The Gift Of Grief: A Practical Guide On Navigating Grief And Loss, and that was my way of helping those who are navigating grief, right, regardless of the type of loss, so physical, symbolic, you can get it on Amazon, you also can grab it at ajitarobinson.com, especially, if you want it signed, you have to get it from my website, so my team can take care of that.
And so, I wrote that grieving my grandfather, so it's in dedication to him, and my oldest brother. And so, again, that was another way that I could serve when I couldn't do direct practice and it has continued to serve.
And it's officially been received by folks in every single continent. And so, that for me is a living legacy. And so I also have to thank my partnership with Headspace for taking that same international and so it's a testament of what you can do, and the people that you can reach, and that you can serve literally all over the world. And so, thank you get for reminding me to mention that.
PATRICK CASALE: I'm kind of in awe when you just said what you just said about every single continent is incredible, so you're saying Antarctica too has received your book?
AJITA ROBINSON: Yes.
PATRICK CASALE: Wow.
AJITA ROBINSON: Yeah, I literally just had to. I think I've laid on my living room floor for a minute when I received that notice. Yes, it's a little mind-blowing, so of course, I tried to do a little bit of self-sabotage, and go hide, and it didn't happen.
PATRICK CASALE: I like that humility there too. Pick up a copy of The Gift of Grief if you're listening, you know, and also, I hope that you can receive the message that you can do more, you deserve to do more, you have the space, you have the talent, you have the ability. It's just about thinking differently, and really trying to understand that there are so many resources out there to support you with your journey, whether it be coaching and mentorship, courses, webinars, free resources, they're out there. You just have to put yourself out there too.
And I hope that this was helpful. Continue to download, like, subscribe to the All Things Private Practice Podcast on every major platform. New episodes every Monday, and we will see you next week.
FREE PRIVATE PRACTICE GUIDE
Join the weekly newsletter for private practice tips, podcast updates, special offers, & your free private practice startup guide!
We will not spam you or share your information. You can unsubscribe at any time.