Acksanna Witherspoon is a licensed Winnipeg therapist. Working with both couples and individuals, Acksanna is on a mission to normalize therapy and show how the benefits of it can have a positive impact on mental health.
She’ll be speaking about her passion and her entrepreneurial journey at our next Boss Babe Pyjama Party on November 23, but we wanted to ask her a few questions beforehand to get to know the woman behind the Instagram handle, @spoonforthought.
I have been in private practice for just under a year now, however I have been a therapist for three.
I have always been so interested in understanding how our minds work – what moulds us into our own unique selves, as well as how we function in relationships. Additionally, I have often noticed that far before my education I was “that person” who people came to, particularly about uncomfortable things. It sort of became my thing and is now what I most enjoy – talking about uncomfortable, difficult things in confidence with people who need a listening, professional ear.
Well first it was a ton of school (haha). I completed my BA double majoring in Psychology and Conflict Resolution Studies and then moved to the US to complete my MA in Marriage and Family Therapy. I then had to complete practicums and internships to collect my hours to become licensed. It was a very long process that I had to stay committed to, but absolutely worth it. I have also done quite a bit of volunteer work, both locally in the inner city and overseas (I have lived in Uganda, Switzerland and Thailand doing volunteer work). In regard to any type of resources for my own business, I have paid for zero marketing – it has all been Instagram, Psychology Today (a nationwide therapist website) and referrals. I have been incredibly lucky that my business has grown just through these channels.
There have been many. To name a few, starting out in therapy was very difficult for me. My first “job” as a therapist was as a State Intern living in Orlando, FL. I took the only placement that was willing to hire a Canadian that had a high burnout rate (it was working with criminals and court ordered therapy). It was in that time I almost reached burnout myself, doing therapy in unsafe environments and working with extreme mentally ill patients with minimal experience in my education. On top of that I was a broke student trying to get by living in the US completing my school. Looking back I see how much it prepared me for working in private practice now, hustling in running my own business, and staying focused on short and long term goals.
When I opened by business here in Winnipeg I had a newborn child and going through very difficult personal issues that knocked me off my feet. I was functioning in a state where I was trying my best to be a mother, keep my business afloat, and focus my energy on growing my business as best I could. Looking back I don’t know how I did it under such immense personal stress at that time, but I remember manifesting since being pregnant that I would run my own practice, regardless of how crazy it may have sounded. It is my greatest accomplishment that in less than one year of business I grew my practice to be fully booked with a waitlist and have opened up nearly 100 clients in Winnipeg in 10 months of business, in which majority of those clients had never seen a therapist before. That is a lot of people who made the decision to see a therapist, and chose me to be that person in their life. What a privilege!
Focus on the small successes: you will work jobs you don’t like, you won’t make the income you dreamed of making, it won’t be as glamorous as you see others portraying it to be.
Find balance: don’t spend all your time in growing a business. You will lose yourself. Focus on creating balance with learning, managing your business, caring for yourself, and making healthy changes as you adjust and transition into a very different season of life.
Not many people will understand you: I noticed that taking the leap of be self-employed, responsible for my business and a paycheque is a big change from working a 9-5 job. People won’t understand why, or support how your life/schedule will change in doing so. Find people in your life who cheer you on, even when you can’t yourself.
Are you launching or working on anything new this year that you can tell us about?
Yes! I just started at a new clinic called Fortify Wellness in the St. Boniface area and will be working more days of the week now, and in 2020 will be transitioning all my clients to Fortify. I am very excited about that. I am also releasing a Christmas gift with my intern, Kendall Yusai, which will be released in December of 2019! So excited! Additionally I will be furthering my education by getting certified in 2020 in more specialities in therapy to better serve my clients and my practice.
Find a way to stand out! There are hundreds of therapists in Winnipeg, thousands of therapists on social media. What makes you different from the rest? What is your specialty that people could rely on you for? I am a big believer in knowledge. Research, educate, grow, and learn to be the best therapist you can be. Now that I am no longer in school that doesn’t mean I stop learning and reading.
To hear more from Acksanna Witherspoon, join us at our next Winnipeg Boss Babe Pyjama Party on Saturday November 26.