progress wellness

Q&A with Entrepreneur and Therapist Angela Ficken

Angela Ficken

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I was born and raised in Boston. I’ve never left although I tried after undergraduate just to get an idea of what it was like to live away from familiar. But I realized that everything works out for the best and really love that I did stay in Boston.

After undergrad, I got my first job at McLean hospital working as a counselor at the OCD Institute. It was there that I really learned about anxiety disorders, and received training in Exposure therapy, and learned about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I was trained by the worlds best in the field which was an amazing experience.

After Grad school, I returned to McLean Hospital but this time was a social worker on an inpatient locked unit. I, again, had another wonderful opportunity learning from the best doctors and social workers. It was during this time that I became trained in DBT and CBT, both therapies I use today in my practice with clients, focusing on teaching effective coping strategies for anxiety disorders.

After McLean, I worked at Harvard University as a primary therapist to undergrad and graduate students. I really enjoyed working with the young adult population, everyone coming into their own, finding their way, and being apart of that journey with them was very rewarding.

Now that I am in full-time private practice, I remain committed to teaching skills and strategies to people who are looking to manage their stress, anxiety, and other challenging emotions more effectively.

I also wanted to be able to reach more people than those I am only able to see in my office which prompted me to write an online course on stress management, so others around the country can have access to the skills I teach in sessions. Additionally, I created the Progress Wellness App which provides coping skills for any challenging emotion one might be in, at any given moment.

I love the work I do and being in full-time private practice allows me to focus on thinking outside the standard psychotherapy box and finding new ways to reach those who are interested in managing their difficult emotions more effectively. I have a great gig! 

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, right in the Back Bay. I’m lucky that my office has a great view of the public garden which is the oldest park in America and overlooks some of the best parts of the city.

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 finding 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.

Did I want the city or did I want the other side of the river? Subletting allowed me to figure out what I preferred and where I felt most at home. Back Bay won! After I had my website up and running, I definitely felt more official and soon began connecting with other clinicians in the community for support.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Believe it or not, it’s been Pinterest. I have a little over 1050 followers on Pinterest which can ebb and flow, but I receive on average 500k views to my website each month. I also think the articles I’ve written for 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?

My biggest challenges all revolve around anxiety, which is funny because I am an expert in the field! And, I think when starting your own business there is a level of stress and anxiety that is inevitable.

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.

Things like making calls, getting billing done, and writing assignments if I am not hitting up against a deadline. 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.

I also have other interests outside of the office which include writing and finding creative ways to reach and help as many people as I can who struggle with anxiety. I recently finished writing and audio recording my first online course on stress management and created an App - the Progress Wellness App that gives on the spot coping skills based on whatever challenging emotion you are experiencing at that moment.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

You mean besides Kristin Marquet? :) Just Kidding! 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 OK 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 app, blog, and book? Why?

Ok, I’m not going to lie - my favorite App is Candy Crush. I know. I’ve been playing it for years and find it can be a helpful skill for me when I need a 5-10 minute brain break from whatever it is I’m doing. My favorite blog right now is Lucie’s list. Her blog is about pregnancy and each week you get an article from her on what’s happening to your body that week and what to think about (creating a registry to breastfeeding tips).

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.

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

OK, so I am going to say my online calendar is one of my favorite tools. It collects and tracks all payments I receive, it organizes my life and is easy to use, which I like as I am one of the more technologically challenged people I know. I used to have a paper datebook and really fought leaving the old school method. So glad I gave in!

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.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Well, I have a new baby so that will be a major piece on my plate over the next several months. On the business front, I am interested in doing more online courses for anxiety and continuing to think about ways in which I can build my business outside of my private practice office. I see a lot of brainstorming in my future.

How can our readers connect with you?

I can be reached via email at angela@progresswellness.com. My website progresswellness.com also has more information about me and my practice and has a contact form you can fill out that gets sent directly to my email.