Learning How to Manage Stress with Psychotherapist and Entrepreneur Angela Ficken
Angela Ficken started her career at McLean Hospital, which is one of the top ranking psychiatric hospitals in the country, and affiliated with Harvard University. She was the head social worker in an inpatient unit that focuses on anxiety and depression. During her time at McLean, she trained in exposure therapy, and became certified in CBT and DBT. Shortly thereafter, she worked at Harvard University as a primary therapist for undergraduate and graduate students. During her time there, she taught students CBT and DBT skills to help them manage a range of challenging emotions that young adults face daily.
Along with her work at McLean and Harvard, Angela had a small private practice for years before she decided to move to full time in 2013. From there, she focused her attention on working with young adults and entrepreneurs primarily after noticing that both groups struggled with anxiety disorders and stress-related issues due to life transitions and the uncertainty of what was coming next in their lives. The struggle, as they say is "real".
She spent years fine tuning her practice and building her business into something more than a standard full-time private practice. She began writing for Huffington Post as an expert, which then catapulted her into writing for other major online sources which include Marriage.com where she is a verified expert, YourTango.com, ThriveGlobal.com, and has been quoted on Bustle.com, Popsugar.com, Buzzfeed.com, Nylon magazine, StartupNation.com, Nav.com, Getstigma.com, and Justluxe.com. She has also been a guest on Onward Nation with Stephen Woessner where she talked about OCD and intrusive thoughts, as well as on the radio in Chicago and Reno speaking about stress and anxiety.
Through her writing and hearing from her clients how difficult it was finding an understanding therapist - one who could actually teach coping strategies to manage difficult emotions - she decided to create the Breaking Every Day into Slivers Not Chunks: Practical Skills to Deal With Everyday Stressors course to reach more people other than those she could meet with in her office. The course helps those who have significant stress in their lives and struggle to find ways of coping and managing their emotions.
What inspired you to start your business?
I had always had a small private practice in addition to whatever full-time job I had at the time, whether I was working at McLean Hospital or Harvard University. After years of doing this, I realized I enjoyed the creativity my private practice gave me. I could create my own hours, I was my own boss, and I could really focus on what I was interested in and fine-tuning those skill sets. Taking the plunge into the unknown of full-time private practice was stressful and anxiety-inducing but also exciting. Paving my own path was important to me, and starting my business gave me that.
Where is your business based?
My private practice is based in Boston.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
Starting my full-time private practice was like jumping into a sea of unknowns. I had no idea of all the steps involved in setting up shop. But, I knew some basics, like find an office, build a website, and find a network of peers. I chose to sublet office space both in Boston and Cambridge to see where I would eventually like to have a full-time office.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Believe it or not, it’s been Pinterest. I generate more than 18,000 views every month and have a little over 1400 followers which can ebb and flow. I also think the articles I’ve written for and been featured in on PopSugar.com, Today.com Parenting, HuffingtonPost.com, ThriveGlobal.com, and Marriage.com, along with my blog have helped my business tremendously in terms of raising awareness.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
The first challenge I faced was getting started. Since I had never done this before, and there is no manual for starting your own business, I felt my anxiety hold me back in making decisions. I wanted to wait to figure out the perfect “right” decision rather than just going for something and figuring it out later.
After realizing that strategy was not working for me, I started to catch on that I needed to practice what I preach! So, I decided to create small to-do lists that I would tend to each day. Little steps getting me to the bigger goal. That helped me organize my thoughts and stay on task. I use this strategy all the time now when I am faced with a challenge or deadline.
How do you stay focused?
I find that keeping a schedule and looking at what I need to do each day incredibly helpful. I have certain things on my schedule that are set in stone, like my sessions with clients and my time at the gym. Self-care is important! Other tasks I schedule but can move around if needed.
I also make social time with friends and family and personal downtime a priority. Making time for that during the week also helps with staying focused. Seeing my weekly schedule gives me a visual on what my week is looking like and how I want to manage it.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
I think I’m different than most psychotherapists in my area of expertise and in general. I am trained and certified in three different very effective behavioral therapies which have given me the skill sets to teach others how to manage stress and anxiety. I consider myself a skills queen. I can talk skills for days! I also think I have a great sense of humor (my mother agrees) which is helpful when trying to break through and talk about difficult topics such as anxiety.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
I think creating an entire system that leads people to my website where they can learn more about me and my practice has been helpful. Pinterest, Instagram, and my blog to name a few are all different strategies to show people who I am, my style as a therapist, and the work I do.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Take one step at a time. It’s okay if you have no idea what comes next. I didn’t and I still don’t! I take all the mistakes I’ve made and see them as learning opportunities. Without the flops, I wouldn’t know what I know now. So embrace uncertainty and the mistakes that go along with building a new business. We learn by doing, so go do!
What's your favorite book? Why?
My favorite book at the moment is Difficult Conversations by Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, and Sheila Heen. It discusses different communication styles and how to navigate more effectively through conflict. I recommend it so much, I should buy stock in it.
Who is your business role model? Why?
Alison Ratner-Mayer is a child and adolescent therapist in the Boston area. She and I do very different things and because of that have different businesses. Although we both are clinicians, she has built her business to include two counseling groups and she has a multitude of wonderful clinicians working for her. I admire how creative she is in building her business and her advice and feedback to me have been incredibly helpful in creating and expanding my own brand.
How can our readers connect with you?
I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. My website progresswellness.com also has more information about me and my practice and has a contact form. You can also follow me on Instagram.co/ProgressWellness and Pinterest.com/ProgressWellness.