The following is a case study of Dr. Tanya Defferary, a counselling psychologist from Port Elizabeth
It’s really nice to have you on board just to talk about private practice and being a counseling psychologist in private practice
When did you know you wanted to be a psychologist?
I remember I was about 17 and my mom is doing a nutritional therapy course. And a friend of hers offered for her to do a six-month training course in shiatsu, which is like a finger acupressure massage. And my mom wasn’t really keen on doing that. So she said, Tanya, look, go, you go. So I did this training and I absolutely loved learning about people and the body and how the body works, and all that kind of stuff. But I realized that I wasn’t that keen on necessarily working on bodies.
And that’s when I started realizing I enjoy people. I love working with people, and how could I bring that into a profession? Then sort of started looking at the field of psychology and kind of going okay, well, I’ve always been interested in why people do the things they do. And then sort of went into that.
In South Africa you need a Masters degree to practice psychology, but you have a PHD.
I was busy lecturing at that point and I’ve always sort of thought about doing this Ph.D. And the University sort of encouraged it you know. I was sort of running the department and while I was working full time I then started my Ph.D. I always recommend for people maybe trying if you can split the things apart rather than do it part-time. It took me five years to complete my Ph.D. because I was doing it part-time. And yeah I think I ended up studying for 11 years in total.
Doing your Ph.D. is quite a process in the sense, in the beginning, you’ve got to do a proposal, and then you’ve got to get that proposal approved. That takes a year to year and a half, even longer sometimes. I don’t know if it was me, or my supervisor, I’m not sure who I have to blame for this part. We decided to do mixed methods research. So I did both qualitative and quantitative research. And then you have to triangulate it. So that means you do questionnaires, and there are hundreds of questionnaires. And then from those people, you need to interview people, and then you’ve got to do that whole process. So took a while.
Did you have a mentor or role model that helped you along the way.
I’ve definitely had a lot of mentors along the way I’ve been really blessed, really lucky to have some really great people. So in my master’s, even in undergrad, my supervisor was amazing. What she told me was the transactional analysis as a therapy. So she taught me that, and I think in that approach, even in supervision, it was really real it wasn’t just me necessarily discussing clients, it was working on me too.
I think that was really great because you can’t separate the therapist from therapy, sometimes. And you’ve got to understand yourself as a person if you’re going to be doing this.
And I think what was really great after coming out of masters process where sometimes you’re feeling a little bit like, okay, who am I? I remember coming back to the University here in Port Elizabeth. My doctoral supervisor, Professor Greg Hopcroft, asked me a question. He asked my opinion, he was like, “What would you do about this”. It was a shocking experience. But validation at the same time, because they wanted to know my opinion.
And then even through into the contextual therapy, that I do now, with Dr. Nevin Broken. He’s really inspired me to just take that leap. And to really become the therapist that I am today, not trying to be someone else, or model someone else. He’s really taught me to be my brand of therapy, and just take everything that I’ve learned and I think that’s been amazing.
To actually be given opportunities to go to Holland, and to sit in his practice. I’ve observed therapy sessions he’s been doing therapy for years. To be able to sit there quietly in the corner and just watch someone like that do therapy and have his clients give me that permission to sit there. But yeah, I think I’ve been lucky to have these people in my life that have just not only taught me the ropes not only taught me the techniques but taught me how to be genuine and authentic, and real in the process.
When did you go into private practice.
So private practice sort of started when I left the lecturing side of things and moved into doing the training around the country. I slowly started building up a private practice along the way. And then sort of then it was quite seamless in moving across into private practice.
I was really lucky, knowing a lot of the practitioners around town. Because they sort of started knowing what I was doing. And then the referrals started coming through because I think that’s, the really hard part. If people don’t know you, I think that’s the thing in my profession where people do need to trust you. And it’s how does a person trust you if they don’t know you. So often it is through word of mouth, or maybe some would have come to one of my workshops or talks or something like that. Then kind of gone of wait I like what you’re saying, you seem like a person I might be able to speak to. So yeah, it was quite seamless for me.
Did you have any challenges with the business side of setting up a private practice.
Definitely, I mean, I remember in our training, we did this brief business management course at some point, but it never seemed relevant at the time. And then you know, you’re told a bit about oh you need a practice number or you need this, and then suddenly, you’re thrown in there. We’re in a business, but it’s a very different type of business. Because we’re in a business that isn’t really allowed to market ourselves. And then all of a sudden, you’ve got to understand accounting, and you’ve got to be able to draw up spreadsheets and do all this admin stuff.
And it’s like, I didn’t go into admin, because I know that’s not one of my strong suits. When I talk to the computer, it doesn’t answer me.
So I think those were definitely things where it was just like, Okay, how do I draw up an invoice? You know, so I email it to the person, what happens is that our pay, how do I follow up on that? It’s fine when you’ve got a small client base, at the beginning, where you’re maybe seeing eight or 10 people a week. But then suddenly, you get really busy and you keep track of everything. Then it’s also dealing with medical aids, and learning all the different medical aids because they all work differently. You have to have certain codes and things and just even to get the time to sometimes phone and medical aid, which can take up to an hour. Suddenly there were all these things, where I was, like, clueless, like, how do you apply for certain things? And yeah, no, that was really overwhelming.
Is there any advise you would give to someone who is thinking of going into private practice.
I think one of the main things is don’t be afraid to ask. So firstly, find someone who’s been in the profession, if you can. I think one of the things about my profession is that in private practice often you’re quite alone. So I think that can be really nice if there are some established practices around that you can join.
But I know what really helped me was back when I started getting busy in private practice, was smeMetrics. And getting a company like Kitrin to just support me. Because I think that it just took such a burden off knowing that I had Shaz. If I was panicking about something, I could pop over WhatsApp or email or something and just go help. And just to know that that sort of thing was, up and running. So it’s not that you can’t do this by yourself. But knowing that there are companies and stuff out there that can offer you this.
I know it’s really hard, though, because there’s also that push and pull when you’re starting out. Because you’re just starting up so you don’t have clients, you don’t have a salary. And so that can be hard.
I think find a supervisor, find a mentor, I still go for supervision. And I think you have to, it’s just part of the process, to have someone who you can ask how do I do that? Whether it be about specifically about therapy or just be about even stuff like the new POPI act? Sometimes you get stuck, we don’t know. And suddenly you’ve got to implement these things. So it’s asking your teacher and reaching out, don’t try and do it on your own. You don’t have to.
How did you build up your referal network.
I think from my side was really just building up relationships. I think that is what’s really important in the healthcare profession. As I said, it’s the same if I’m going to refer to someone else, I need to have an understanding of what they do and how they do it. I think therapy is such a specific relationship it’s different to seeing a GP or something like that. You have to actually want to work with or get on with the person in a way. If the things I’m saying to the person don’t gel with them they’re not going to come back. So it’s forming those relationships.
What was really important from my side was doing workshops, doing talks, and getting yourself out there people get to see you. Because if you’re sitting in your little practice and nobody knows who you are they’re not going to refer to you. Like we said we can’t do billboards you can’t really market ourselves. Things have changed nowadays with luckily as being allowed to have websites and stuff like that. Because otherwise how do people find you.
But when, when they are various expo’s, and they’re looking for a psychologist, and you’re starting out. Go do that offer to do a talk. Sometimes, in the beginning, you’re going to be doing things where you’re not going to be making money out of it, but that’s okay. It’s part of the process to share your knowledge with people. And then once you start sharing yourself with them, then they go, Okay, cool I like what you do.
Is there any advise you would give somone thinking of becoming a psychologist.
I suppose it’s just sometimes learning to trust yourself and to trust the process. And it is a process I remember when I started out, someone said, it does take up to 10 years to get fully established, sometimes. It’s like, you mentioned ticking boxes a little bit earlier. And I get that as a person who likes ticking boxes. If I’ve made the list, I want to take the list off now, why do I have to wait for 10 years. So I think it’s to, know, to not get frustrated with yourself if you put all this stuff together, and it’s not happening immediately that it will take time.
It’s just to really put yourself out there and to try new things. And like you said, if it doesn’t work. Try something else, you know what I mean? You’ve got to find what is needed, to find a niche for yourself.
Contact Details for Dr. Tanya Defferary
Tanya also did an interview with the Moulding Health Team about Contextual Therapy you can listen to that episode here