Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kim Lycan, Owner of Lycan Counseling, PLLC, located in Richland, WA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Lycan Counseling is an independent mental health counseling practice whose goal is to provide services and support to youth and young adults in Washington State. Our focus is on creating safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQIA2S+ and neurodiverse folks. Our mission of building hope and empowering clients to create change is accomplished through a diverse team of providers offering a wide range of therapy techniques and lived experience. We believe that success in therapy comes largely from finding a great fit and that to do that requires our clients to develop trust in us. Trust requires our clients to know something about us and where we have been. We are unique in that we share not only our professional experience but also our lived experiences that guide the way we view mental health and healthcare.
A diverse team means a diverse clientele. We have the ability to serve folks with a wide range of mental health concerns. Some highlights include trauma, disordered eating, depression, suicidality, parenting, couples/families, bullying, executive functioning, chronic illness/pain, OCD, anxiety, and more. While we believe that each client is unique and deserves individualized care, one thing that is always present is the impact of the systems we live in. Family, culture, capitalism, and even the healthcare system all impact each one of us in some way and can/do impact our mental health and wellness. We believe in approaches that acknowledge these impacts and work to empower clients to live within their values and authentic truths as best as they can.
The final aspect of Lycan Counseling is our provider services. As a supervisor, I believe that capitalism and its ideas about success show up in healthcare education, opportunities for independence in the field, and access to resources and support for healthcare providers across disciplines. One way I work on challenging these norms is by using the Lycan group to create a path toward independent business ownership for students and mid-level practitioners in my field. We work off a model that is sustainable and ethical and incorporates worker co-op values and structure while meeting the requirements the industry and state set forth. We streamline the process from student to licensed provider in independent private practice by creating a safe space for learning, growth, and skill development in therapy techniques and in business practices. My hope is to continue to work with these providers in a truly cooperative way long-term, benefiting the collective as we continue to challenge norms that define success through competition in business.
Tell us about yourself
On the surface, my journey to becoming a mental health professional was like many others. I had played around with various ideas of what I wanted to do with myself "when I grew up" and had the usual challenges. The question of what someone wants to do for work is something I now know is more than just the skills we have, what we are willing to do long-term in exchange for pay, and how much we can afford in education. While those things certainly play a bigger factor early on for folks and certainly led me to a field where I was largely expecting to use listening and empathy on a daily basis, they don't really help one determine what will help define one of the most important factors throughout life: identity.
In addition to being a therapist, I am a daughter, a partner, a caregiver for disabled family members, a sister, and auntie, a queer person, an ADHDer, a teacher, a collaborator, a support person, a supervisor, a business owner, a person with privilege in many ways and who has experienced oppression in others, an activist, a community organizer, a child-free person, a person with debilitating chronic pain and chronic illness, and more. Each of these things shapes how I show up day-to-day in all aspects of my life. Each is important to me, and it took time to develop, explore, and present authentically.
Nobody talks about the fact that your career choice has such an impact on who you are, who you are perceived as, who you will be forced to become, how you show up in all the ways, and how all those things will impact your health and wellness. My skills, schooling, and willingness to work for a fee play such a minuscule part in my identity overall. Only as a therapist working with people throughout transitions and changes in their school and early work life did I come to realize the impact of this choice. I also became aware of the impact of the norms and structures we all work under. Only since finding ways, through the support of family and friends, to break out into the world of business ownership and "being my own boss" did I find the time and energy to really explore my own identity and get thoughtful about who I was, who I wanted to be, and what I needed to do to bridge that gap.
I began my business out of the desire to escape unethical standards, ridiculous hours and expectations, and the slog of always working and never seeing the end result for myself and my clients. I continue out of the joy I have found in breaking free and taking back the ability to discover myself and choose to live within my values as my authentic self. I hope that supporting others in the same will free them from having to continuously fight to get by one day at a time. Systems are largely well-engrained and difficult to challenge and push aside. Sometimes impossible for an individual to do so alone. I remember hearing somewhere that "one raindrop raises the sea, so think of what two raindrops could do." We need each other to show up for the collective. When we choose to do that in authentic ways, the joy and the benefits are bountiful. Living that truth and that value motivates me to get up, take that next step, jump that hurdle, and move forward.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Self-discovery. I could go on and on about the challenges and hurdles small business owners face, especially in healthcare, all the successes in building my group from the ground up, going from net negative in my first-year solo to 6 figures in 4 years through the pandemic. I can talk about my dedication to providing affordable and accessible services or even talk about the accomplishments I have had in giving back to my queer community. The fact remains that the sum total of all of those things still does not surpass the accomplishment of being able to say that I wake up each day knowing who I am today, who I want to be tomorrow, and having developed a safe and secure space to continue to grow and develop in all the ways necessary to get there.
Without that, I would not have the business I have today, and I would not be able to help others achieve their own discovery. I would not likely have the drive or willingness to accept less at times to benefit a group more. Understanding myself helped me to develop such an important list of qualities that determine what my business has become. Things like self-compassion, anger at oppressive systems, understanding of my own privilege as a white, cisgender business owner, motivation to work toward equity for those who do not hold these privileges, and an understanding of the ways I have been and continue to be impacted by as well as a participant in all of these systems. Self-discovery had to come first and could not be on my radar when I was struggling in previous jobs to stay afloat and conform to what I was told I needed to be to continue forward. Moving into my own business allowed me the freedom to become more authentically me and develop an understanding of who that was and what that looked like. It is my most valuable accomplishment and the one I would give up all "tangible" measures of success to be able to keep.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Capitalism? I say that with a question mark because I tossed out several other words before arriving there, but I feel that most of the other things are difficult because of capitalism. Things like self-doubt, anxiety about supporting myself and my family, ideas about "success," and if I have achieved some measure of it that others would hold in esteem. Or even success rates of clients and measuring the value of what we put forth. Perhaps I would say insurance billing and the nightmare of decisions around what to take and what to drop. How to fix billing issues and get paid or ensure those working under me get what they are owed by insurance. There is a huge discussion in the field around the difficulty of balancing the ethics of clients needing to use insurance and our need to support ourselves or wanting to support the most vulnerable in the community while being undervalued by the healthcare system and having companies actively work to deny payment at every turn. We could also go into the requirement that we live and diagnose and treat within a medical model of mental health when most of the struggles we support folks around are actually very normalized responses to living within oppressive systems designed to promote individual wealth at the expense of individual well-being. I could go on and on, and honestly, I don't know which of these things is most challenging. They are all discouraging, challenging, and unfair things that create various levels of the challenge at different points in time. What I do know is that I could make a very strong argument that they all fall, in some way, under the big umbrella of capitalism.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- You cannot, should not, and most likely don't have to do it alone, so don't try. That only sets you up for unrealistic expectations of yourself and inevitable disappointments down the road.
- As a business owner, you will have power and likely, at some point, will have power over others. Those others are struggling within the same systems you were in before you could do the thing on your own. They cannot do it alone and cannot do it without you. You are responsible for their well-being while they work with and/or under you. Care for them like family and friends, and they will care for you. The ROI on that is worth more than you can imagine.
- Discover yourself. As I said before, this is a most valuable asset in moving forward with a focused vision and mission. Who are you today? Who do you want to be tomorrow? How do you want to show up for others through your work? And what do you need to bridge those gaps? Then...go for it with everything you are. There is nothing more worth your time, money, and energy. Your business will take care of itself along that path and will become perhaps not what you expected but what you need.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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