Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health & wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Megan Murray, Founder of Wholehearted Therapy, located in Palatine, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am a licensed clinical social worker, and I own a solo private practice called Wholehearted Therapy. I provide online psychotherapy for teens and adults, including individual, group, and family sessions. Many of my clients are high school and college students, athletes, young professionals, teachers, coaches, and parents who are overwhelmed and struggling to find peace of mind and confidence amidst the constant pressures and distractions of today’s world. They’re dealing with various mental health challenges, such as anxiety, ADHD, stress/burnout, depression, relationship struggles, school or sports-related issues, life transitions, and grief.
Tell us about yourself
The aspiration to start my own business started when I was working as a high school social worker and basketball coach for a public charter school on the Near West Side of Chicago. Over these six years, I witnessed the daily struggles and amazing resilience of a community dealing with poverty, homelessness, community violence and crime, and very limited resources and opportunities. Within this school of ~1,200 students and only two full-time social workers, the referrals were pouring in and the needs were insurmountable. I counseled students, teachers, and parents through various mental health problems, relationship issues, disabilities, trauma, and crises. I taught wellness classes, ran support groups, operated the Students in Temporary Living Situations program, led professional development for teachers and social workers, and coached varsity and AAU girls’ basketball.
Like many social workers, I became extremely burnt out. I was experiencing high amounts of stress and compassion fatigue. I found myself becoming increasingly overwhelmed and frustrated with the constraints of the school system and the lack of attention and support placed on the overall well-being of not only students, but teachers, social workers, and other school personnel as well. A lot of my time was spent putting out "fires.” Often, the max amount of time I could spend with a student was 15 minutes. It had to be brief, solutions-focused therapy largely centered on helping students function better in class. When students were in need of longer-term therapeutic intervention (which was often), I referred them to a therapist outside of school. Over time, I realized more and more that I wanted to be that therapist. I desired the ability to get to the root of the mental health issues I was seeing and to help people function better in life, not just in school.
I knew that starting my own practice would be a lot of work, but I also knew it would enable me to provide more holistic care for those in need. It would allow me the autonomy to set my own hours, to determine the size of my caseload, and to create the work-life balance necessary for my own health and, in turn, my ability to effectively support others. At first, I started working for a private group practice, where I gained experience providing therapy in a clinical setting for a wide array of clients. When the pandemic hit, we transitioned to online therapy, which made therapy more convenient and accessible for people with busy lifestyles and/or inadequate mental health resources within their communities. This motivated me more than ever to start an online practice. Additionally, I saw my older brother’s success as an entrepreneur, which served as a strong inspiration and model to me.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Having the courage to start it! There are a lot of risks involved in starting a business. It was a scary endeavor, and it still is at times. I put a great deal of time, thought, and definitely some overanalyzing into making this decision. Inevitably, my fears, doubts, and insecurities showed up: “What if I fail?” “I don’t have an education in business.” “What if I can’t find enough clients or make enough money?” The list goes on. To face these fears, I utilized a technique that I teach many of my clients. I compared these “survival mode” thoughts to what my personal history and experiences have demonstrated to me: that I am smart, capable of learning, and able to persevere through obstacles when I put my mind to it. I’m proud of myself for not letting fear hold me back, for creating the life I want, and for offering a service that empowers individuals to implement lasting, positive change in their lives.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
As a sole proprietor, I am just that: solo. This can be tough because I wear multiple hats on a regular basis. I am not just a therapist and an owner. I’m also the head of financials, operations, marketing, information, technology, etc. Unfortunately, in social work school they do not teach you about business. I’ve had to learn a ton on my own, and I’m still learning more every day. It has been a fully immersive training on how to run a business. I’m getting an education in finance, accounting, taxes, marketing, website design, cyber security, legal matters, and more. It hasn't been easy, but I’m so grateful for the knowledge I’ve gained and for everyone who has supported me on this journey.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Surround yourself with a strong support system. If you’re like me, you may not have a formal education in business. Seek out counsel from people who do. Being a business owner or a sole proprietor can feel lonely, but it doesn’t have to be! I’m lucky enough to have financial and business-savvy family members who’ve provided me with very helpful advice. If you don’t have that, you can find support from others in your line of work. For example, I regularly network and post questions on message boards with fellow therapists and business owners, where I’ve received a lot of valuable feedback and connected with a peer consultation group. I’ve also been able to find free tutorials, books, webinar trainings, and more. The resources are out there; you just need to look.
- Be your authentic self. True confidence comes from being your authentic self and following your own personal values. Know who you are and the strengths you have to offer. This is how you’ll attract your ideal clientele/customers. Be aware of your weaknesses as well and work to improve upon them. Keep in mind that mistakes and failures are inevitable. Anyone starting a business needs to accept this because your failures will provide you with invaluable lessons that will enable you to grow in ways you never imagined.
- Practice self-care. Self-care is preached about a lot these days, but it’s not always fully bought into or understood. It’s not selfish and it’s not just about pampering yourself on occasion or indulging in instant gratifications. Self-care is about regularly nurturing your mind, body, and soul. It takes effort and discipline, and it’s completely worth it. Eating healthy, exercising, getting adequate sleep and rest, spending time with loved ones and in nature, being creative, engaging in reflection/prayer/gratitude, and taking necessary breaks from screens and work are some of the keys. When these things are practiced consistently, you will feel and function at your best, you will be better for the people around you, and you will certainly be better at running your business.
Where can people find you and your business?
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