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Q&A Series: Help! I'm worried about feeling alone in private practice.

One of the biggest concerns that psychiatrists bring up when they talk about starting their dream practice is that they are worried they will feel isolated practicing on their own. This is a valid concern - but it is a myth!

Let me ask you this. How isolated do you currently feel in your current psychiatry position, on a scale of 1 to 10? Many doctors report feeling lonely in their work environments - they no longer have the time to meet for lunch or go for a walk with a colleague. Especially in outpatient clinics, everyone's doors are closed and people are just too busy to discuss cases or ask clinical questions.

When you have your own practice, you will have greater ability to create communities for two reasons. You will have more time and you are less siloed by one healthcare system. I didn't know a single mental health clinician I could refer patients to outside of the system I worked in previously. Once you are free from the constraints of the siloed health care system, you get the opportunity to meet other healing professionals, such as yoga teachers, health coaches, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, and dietitians.

If you live in a big city, community-building opportunities might occur in person. Living in rural area makes in-person meetups not possible; however, video options are a great alternative.

As for psychiatry colleagues, you can build your own community if you don't have one already. You can have psychiatry/physician communities on different scales too, using different platforms. For example, you might have a group text with your residency class where you can ask questions. You can also have individual psychiatry friends/colleagues who you can reach out to for impromptu questions. It's nice to have mentors who are well-seasoned as well as those at your experience level.

But what can be really helpful is to have a psychiatry or other healing professional community that meets regularly. Some ideas of what this can look like (and you can use any, some, or all of these options):

  • Monthly zoom meetings with current residents and graduates of your residency program. I attend as often as I am able with a group from my residency specific for women.

  • Join and pay for a recurring group course or mentoring circle around a specific clinical interest you have. There are groups for perinatal psychiatry, psychedelic therapy integration, integrative psychiatry, and more.

  • Start a case consultation group. This can be with even just one colleague. Find a time and day of the week that work for all of you and commit to meeting on zoom at that time. When you have your own practice, you can block off that time in your schedule without issues.

Community is essential for our wellbeing not only in medicine but also in life. Our jobs as psychiatrists can be challenging in many ways and it can feel so much more fulfilling if we have friends and colleagues we can meet and be authentic with. While it may seem counterintuitive, having your own practice can expand your community and lessen the amount of professional isolation you may be currently feeling.

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