I find myself this week thinking everyone in the entire world needs more of what Jacqueline Baulch has to offer – help with anxiety, relationships, stress, trauma, depression, grief, loss and coping with life changes. In a world gilded with the double edge promise of opportunity and guarantee of uncertainty, many of us need help navigating the constantly changing world order, from the inside.
I first met psychologist Jacqueline Baulch as an attendee of one of our #ContentKin workshops. She was a psychologist, working part time in a practice, and teaching part time. Two years on she made the leap and now she has two practices of her own, employing six people.
Ironically, she claims that one of the most confronting aspects of starting her own practice wasn’t opening the doors, but launching her own website – putting herself out there authentically online. That felt risky – even to a psychologist! But within seven months, she had a surplus of clients.
The last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster in so many ways – both on the world stage and the front line personally at home. I’m in disbelief and shock about #Brexit and Orlando. I continue to be outraged about violence towards women. I’m heartbroken by a friend’s four year old niece being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour, and am still grieving the loss of my own dad earlier this year. And throw in a full moon, a winter solstice, PMT, a head cold and the start of school holidays and you’ve got a bit of hot mess!
Being human means traversing both joy and pain, and I’m an avid believer that sometimes you need help from fellow humans like Jacqueline and her crew, to keep putting one foot in front of another. I’ve seen psychologists infrequently, on and off throughout my adult life whenever I’ve felt a bit wobbly, and it’s always helped me find my feet. ‘Doing the work’ is a life long job.
Your mental health is THE most precious resource you have. Every feeling you have is legitimate. What you think matters. If you’re feeling wobbly too, I’d love to squeeze your hand, look you in the eye, hand you a tissue and let you know that you don’t have to get through it alone.
Jacqueline’s Inner City Melbourne Psychology website has a wonderful Resources page which is full of free mindfulness and relaxation exercises to help you manage stress and improve your sense of wellbeing. Check it out here beautiful kin to get your fix.
What did you want to be when you grew up and why?
I would prattle on as a little girl about being a florist, a lawyer or an actress. An assortment of professions really! I’m still captivated by the beauty of flowers and plants (something I have inherited from my late father), thrive on a robust debate and enjoy the limelight when I very occasionally belt out a tune in front of close friends or family.
It wasn’t until later in my teens that I began pondering a career as a psychologist. I was seeing a warm and nurturing psychologist at the time and felt inspired by the prospect of potentially helping other people in the same way.
What did/do you study?
I started an undergraduate Arts degree at Melbourne Uni, but felt dwarfed by the size of those lecture theatres. Maybe my feeling of overwhelm was because I’m a fairly small statured person or perhaps because I was freshly arrived from a sleepy little country town called Port Fairy. Who knows? Whatever the case I ended up transferring to RMIT where I completed a Bachelor of Social Science. Before beginning my Honours in Psychology I worked as a waitress for six months to fund a nine-month adventure through Eastern Europe and South America. In 2012 I finished my Doctor of Clinical Psychology and moved to Canada to do a Post Doctorate Fellowship in Clinical Psychology.
When I finished all of my formal studies I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I think my parents might have too! As naff as it sounds, I still love learning, so I do regular workshops and intensive training to enhance my skills as a therapist. Psychology is one of those fields where you never really reach an end point in your learning. I guess this is mainly because a significant part of the learning is about yourself and the people around you. So the lessons are infinite!
What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?
Of all the leaps I’ve taken the one that stands out in my mind is my move from Port Fairy to Melbourne, to go to university. I lived on residence at St Hilda’s College at Melbourne Uni. I have such vivid memories of the day my mum drove me up to Melbourne to settle me in. I felt intensely ambivalent about her leaving me in the city, all alone. When she left I closed the door to my room and cried uncontrollably (you know that loud, snorty, sobbing type of crying?) for an hour, maybe more. I remember genuinely thinking that maybe I couldn’t do this, maybe I couldn’t be without her. Somehow I gathered myself and went ‘back out there’ and I know it sounds cliché, but the rest is history. I realised I could make it on my own and have lots of fun doing it! I also met some of my dearest friends during this period of my life.
From a career perspective, and perhaps most relevant to this blog, my scariest leap has been starting my own private practice as a psychologist.
What were you doing before you made your leap?
At the time of opening my own private practice I was lecturing in a Masters of Counselling program and working in someone else’s private practice in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. For the first three months I was teaching simultaneously and then I decided to take the plunge and focus solely on building my business. This is when my leap started to feel ‘real’.
Seven months into working on my own I found myself with surplus client referrals, so I made the decision to look for a contractor to work within my business. It’s been almost a year since my first psychologist came onboard. I now have a team of 11 amazing (I use that word too much, but they really are) psychologists, and two admin wonders. I was very lucky to find Julia, our admin assistant and receptionist. I really don’t know where I’d be without Julia some days. Honestly, I feel so grateful to have found such a brilliant team of people. They are a big part of why I love what I do.
Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?
My dad, because my grief around losing him was one of the key reasons I ended up becoming so well acquainted with psychology (first as a client). Also because my dad had a way of making me feel like what I had to say mattered and was worth really listening to, a knowledge that has deeply influenced my self-identity and worth.
My mother, for teaching me about resilience, determination and plain old hard work.
My beloved friend Danielle, who I did my doctorate with. I’ve learned so much about myself through our connection. Danielle has taught me that it’s okay to depend on others and to trust them. Our favourite past time is shooting the breeze about the ups and downs of life – ‘wine and whine’!
Randy, a mentor who I worked for in private practice in Canada. Randy took a chance on me when I first graduated by allowing me to work within his psychology clinic. His practice was a warm, inviting and collegial space and I remember saying to him that one day I wanted to try to create something just like it. Randy, in his forthright manner said to me something to the effect of ‘why wait?’. His ongoing encouragement of me during my time in Canada was pivotal in me building my confidence as a psychologist, but also as a potential business owner.
What did you have in place before you made the leap?
Perhaps naively (and stupidly?) I didn’t have a whole lot in place before I took my leap. I can’t decide whether that makes me impulsive or decisive! Having said that, I did keep working in my lecturing role part-time until I felt a bit more certain that my leap might pan out.
What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?
It was more of a ‘maybe I can do this’ moment than an ‘I can’t do this’ moment. I don’t mean I knew for sure that I could do it and pull it off. Just that I could do it. I could try.
How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?
I can be a worrier before I make a decision. Sometimes even a dead set ruminator. But usually not after. Once the decision has been made, I tend to put my head down and just keep going. I almost feel like I’m wearing blinkers sometimes. Like I’m deliberately choosing not to focus on the risk that comes with what I’m doing, because if I do, I might become so terrified I’ll end up paralysed. Basically I’m describing what Sigmund Freud referred to as denial, a primitive defensive mechanism (that’s right, another neurotic psychologist!).
This approach has worked well with my leap to create my own business, but for other parts of my life this way of coping has brought about some pretty painful moments. Sometimes I wish I’d been able to be more honest with myself about decisions or situations that didn’t feel right for me. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t told myself I was fine when somewhere underneath I knew I wasn’t. But, had I given too much time to the fears that came up when I started my business, I doubt I would have had the courage to keep going. So, in short, a certain level of denial when faced with fear helped me to feel safe enough to keep pushing on.
How did you fund your leap?
Initially I funded my business through savings (which were meant to go into superannuation). Being a psychologist though, I’m fortunate to be able to start earning money with little more than a room, a couple of chairs and a tissue box.
However, my website was one expense that I went all out with before I’d even had time to hang my shingle. I felt quite anxious as I was setting it up; like I was taking a true risk. I remember though, I had my first of a few good gut feelings following its launch. I’m driven a lot by my gut. I think sometimes we (or maybe I should speak for myself, I) tend to overvalue what the mind has to say about stuff. I believe our gut and our body are intuitive, and often know things before our mind has even had time to register what’s happening.
What other leaps have you made in the past?
When I was 15 years old I went on exchange to Holland for six months. This was a giant leap for me, and a little too soon. I remember convincing all the adults around me that I was ready to go. There was a lengthy process to be accepted to ensure you were mature enough and I think I came across as a lot older than I actually was. I somehow knew all the right things to say, but really I was just a little girl. I hadn’t even gone through puberty!
There were some incredible experiences that came out of my exchange, so I don’t want to sound like an ungrateful brat. I learned to speak Dutch, did my studies in Dutch and met some wonderful friends. Mostly though I remember pining for home – my mum, my family, my best friend, the gossip of Year 9. But I was ‘tough’ and held on. For a long time I felt proud of this – of staying, even when I was so unhappy. I have a different perspective on what ‘tough’ is now though. Walking away, saying you can’t cope or saying you want to give up can be tough too, if that’s what you need to do.
What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?
I’ve had many personal leaps that haven’t worked out. A few stand out as being particularly painful. These experiences have made me who I am though, and I like who I am.
What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?
Boredom, losing my passion, burning out, people thinking I seem younger than I am, being told off, hurting people’s feelings… I might just leave it at that!
How I deal with all of these fears is a bit of a long story. In a nutshell though, it’s a work in progress and something that I kind of grapple with to some degree every day. Fears seem to be an unavoidable part of living and leaping.
How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?
1 being sad, 10 being rad.
About an 8. I think I’ll feel more rad about my business when I figure out how to take care of myself better during the busy times.
What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?
When I jump out of bed each morning I genuinely feeling pumped to go to work! I feel incredibly grateful for this.
What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?
The financial side of leaping has been pretty icky at times. Typically I’m not an avoidant person, but when it came to my business finances I literally had my head in the sand up until pre-Christmas 2015. I obviously had a general sense of how things were going, but I didn’t have my books done properly until this time.
Although I wouldn’t recommend this as a strategy, I do wonder if keeping myself in the dark had its benefits. I don’t know if I would have outsourced as much as I did, or if I would have paid for consultations with various experts (SEO, social media etc.) to really give my business that extra edge. Or perhaps I would have made the same decisions, but with more anxiety looming overhead. I’ll never know I guess.
What might be your next leap?
I opened up a second clinic in Melbourne’s CBD on April 11th. It’s very early days, so in many ways I’m leaping as we speak.
What are your favourite words to live by?
I know it’s been said before, but I frequently like to remind myself that ‘done is better than perfect’. I’m a reformed (maybe reforming is more accurate!) perfectionist and I’m never going back!
Who do you admire who also made the leap?
My little brother, Ricky, is mid-leap at the moment. He’s a chef and he’s opening up a café in our hometown, Port Fairy, called Bank St & Co. Ricky is a switched on, determined person who has a strong work ethic (something we learned from both our parents). I’m so pleased for him that he finally gets to work his arse off for himself, rather than someone else.
A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?
When you love what you do it feels harder to set boundaries and stick to them. I’ve always been pretty disciplined about not doing work on weekends, but more recently as my business has grown I’ve been stretching myself further and further. I had a bit of an ah-ha moment a few weeks ago when I realised that by doing this I’m potentially jeopardising how content and passionate I feel doing what I do. I’ve since been working on pulling back a bit and to be honest, it’s hard. I still haven’t quite figured out what I want my new boundaries to look like.
Right now I’m:
Hearing: Jenn Grant’s Compostela.
Eating: Eggs, I’m always eating them.
Drinking: Equal parts coconut water and soda water (love the bubbles!).
Reading: Intimacy and Connection by Stephanie Dowrick.
Loving: Falling in love with my beautiful partner, Timmy.
There’s something very life affirming about knowing that even the most insightful of us about human behaviour, still have to manage their human-ness! (My hero Dr Brené Brown talks very openly about seeing her own therapist, and all the personal development coaches I know, also have their own coaches). It just shows that if we choose, we can stay open, hopeful and thriving amidst chaos.
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