In this episode, Jennifer guides us in overcoming imposter syndrome and navigating the complexities of private practice, promoting diversified offerings beyond one-on-one sessions for a broader impact in the field. Her career in dietetics has undergone a significant transformation from a weight-centric approach to becoming a passionate advocate for anti-diets and holistic well-being. Her journey, shaped by continuous learning and client interactions, highlights the limitations of traditional diets and champions a weight-inclusive perspective. As a committed advocate for eating disorder treatment and recovery, Jennifer emphasizes the interconnected elements of mental health, genetics, environment, and brain function. Transitioning from a clinician to the business world, she stresses the multifaceted nature of recovery, challenging linear progressions, and advocating for a comprehensive treatment team. Jennifer addresses the need for early exposure to business concepts in dietetics education, encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset from the outset of one’s career.
Meet Jennifer McGurk
Jennifer McGurk RDN, CDN, CEDS-S is the founder and CEO of Pursuing Private Practice. She began her career in business as a dietitian in private practice. She grew her private practice into a group practice and eventually expanded into speaking, offering workshops, and supervising other professionals. Pursuing Private Practice started as a passion project teaching other professionals about business but eventually scaled into online courses, a membership program, and a business coaching mastermind. Because of her passion and determination to empower other business owners, Pursuing Private Practice has served hundreds of clients in Business School and in the EXPAND business coaching program. Pursuing Private Practice is a top-rated business podcast. Jennifer’s mission is to encourage others to take up space in business!
Transformative Shifts in Dietetics, from Weight-Centric to Anti-Diet Advocate
Jennifer reflects on the significant shifts in her career as a dietitian, acknowledging a transformative journey that has shaped her professional philosophy. Initially, she was focused on a weight-centric approach, emphasizing weight loss and healthy habits. However, she underwent a profound transformation over time, becoming a staunch advocate for anti-diets, embracing a weight-inclusive perspective in her practice. Jennifer attributes this evolution to continuous learning, supervision, and drawing insights from others in the field. Having worked extensively with clients, including those with eating disorders, she highlights the limitations of traditional diets and champions a weight-inclusive approach, integrating principles like intuitive eating into her practice. Her experience has shown her that these alternative methods can lead to significant positive outcomes for clients. Jennifer emphasizes the normalcy of career pivots and underscores how pursuing private practice has also prompted her to adapt and evolve in response to market demands and her personal passions.
A Passionate Advocate for Holistic Approaches in Private Practice
Jennifer passionately discusses her commitment to the mission of eating disorder treatment and recovery, driven by the desire to help individuals lead their best lives. Despite transitioning from a clinician role to the business world, she acknowledges the multifaceted nature of recovery, challenging the misconception of a linear progression by stressing the importance of navigating the ups and downs of life. Jennifer believes that eating disorders are intricately linked to mental health, genetics, environment, and brain function, noting the disparity in how therapists and dietitians approach brain health. She commends therapists for their unique perspective and suggests that dietitians can learn from this approach. Jennifer emphasizes the complexity of recovery, touching on family dynamics, inner child issues, and the protective role of the eating disorder for the individual. She advocates for a comprehensive treatment team involving physicians, therapists, dietitians, psychiatrists, and various other professionals, recognizing that recovery is not solely about the food consumed but a holistic understanding and addressing of the underlying issues.
Business Integration and Entrepreneurial Mindset in Private Practice
Jennifer highlights the versatility of the dietitian profession, emphasizing the numerous pathways available, such as clinical work, food service, community roles, research, and academia. She acknowledges the popularity of private practice among professionals but underscores the lack of business training in dietetic education. Jennifer expresses the need for an early introduction to the possibilities within private practice and stresses the importance of integrating business concepts into dietetics education. Recognizing the significance of intertwining business and clinical skills, she applauds the impact of a strong client-focused approach in building a reputable practice. Jennifer encourages discussions about business in the dietetics field, aiming to inspire and guide aspiring entrepreneurs, emphasizing that with proper training and support, anyone can successfully venture into private practice. She becomes an advocate for the profession’s evolution by fostering a mindset that embraces entrepreneurship and business acumen from the outset of one’s dietetic journey.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Navigating the Entrepreneurial Landscape in Private Practice
Jennifer addresses the common dilemma faced by dietitians contemplating starting a private practice, a challenge she notes is also prevalent among therapists. Many dietitians find themselves in need of another job but are eager to initiate a side venture. She recognizes the practical constraints, such as having a job with benefits or paid time off, that may prevent an immediate transition into entrepreneurship. Jennifer empathizes with the imposter syndrome that many individuals experience when venturing into the unknown territory of private practice. She acknowledges the apprehensions and uncertainties surrounding selling services and conducting business, particularly in terms of counseling clients in an outpatient setting. To alleviate these concerns, Jennifer advocates for viewing it as a simple conversation, emphasizing the importance of establishing a connection and determining if the client-dietitian match is the right fit. She encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to embrace available resources that can guide them through the initial steps of this transformative journey.
Transitioning from One-on-One to Diverse Practice Offerings
Jennifer provides valuable insights into translating one-on-one services, a common starting point for healthcare professionals, into scalable offerings. She emphasizes the significance of honing skills in working with individual clients, fostering a deep understanding of how to induce process and change within them. From this foundation, dietitians can explore diversifying their offerings, such as selling group sessions, courses, intellectual property, or specialized packages. Jennifer applauds the transformation she has witnessed, where dietitians leverage their one-on-one experience to build scalable models, allowing for a broader impact. While acknowledging that the most prevalent offer in private practice tends to be one-on-one sessions, she encourages practitioners to recognize the pros and cons and expand their services based on client needs. Jennifer notes the importance of tailoring session lengths to the nature of the work, with therapeutic services like eating disorder counseling typically conducted in hour-long sessions, while informational specialties might offer shorter sessions to accommodate more clients throughout the day.
Gordon: [00:00:00] Well, hello, everyone. And welcome again to the podcast. And I'm really happy for you to get to know Jennifer McGurk. Welcome, Jennifer.
Jennifer: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so honored to be here. Yes,
Gordon: and and Jennifer is one of those good people that reached out to me and she's actually a registered dietitian and we were chatting before we started recording just about a lot of the crossover between our professions and just how that.
How we can help each other out more. But Jennifer, as I start with everyone, tell folks a little more about yourself and how you've landed to where you've landed.
Jennifer: Yeah. So thank you so much, Gordon. So yes, I am a registered dietitian. I am also a certified eating disorder specialist through. Um, so that is really my niche and my passion as a dietitian to help people not only seek eating disorder treatment, but to recover.
And that's really important to me. fuels my mission as a dietitian. And it was back in 2011 that I [00:01:00] said, I really want to start a private practice. And at that point I had no mentors, no resources. We had huge books as dietitians on what to do and how to get started. And I did it the long, hard, drawn out way.
I researched for three years. I'm sure some people are nodding their heads. And I finally opened in 2011 and really faced so many hurdles getting started and growing. And it was 2014 where I had my first son that I said, I really want to help other professionals. I want to do some supervision. And supervision, just so you know, Gordon, is not necessarily known in the field of dietetics as it is for therapists.
So I really wanted to work with other professionals. I wanted to teach them how to grow businesses and also help with their eating disorder client cases and decided that I was just going to start before I was ready because I had learned so much opening up a business the first time. And that's how pursuing private practice [00:02:00] was born.
So I started seeing some other dietitians on how to start and grow a business. I grew supervision groups. I really specialized more so in the field of eating disorders and private practice. And pursuing private practice has just evolved. And we're scaling to serve lots of other business owners and healthcare professionals in the The courses and programs that we offer.
So I'm really excited to share my story because you never know what you can do if you just start. And that's really what my mission has been.
Gordon: Yeah. Yeah. That's yeah. And I think that's, that echoes a lot of what people find, especially, I know it resonates for me just kind of, as I like to say, I've, I've learned a lot the hard way.
And I think sometimes you just have to jump in, jump in there and just start doing, and then you learn along the way. Oh yes. I think that's a good, that's a great approach. Yeah. I
Jennifer: have pivoted so much in my career as a dietician. You know, I started off as a very weight centric dietician. [00:03:00] Mm-Hmm. just focusing on weight loss and focusing on like healthy habits.
And now I am a firm anti-D diet, weight inclusive dietician. So my entire practice of how I practice dietetics has changed over many years of learning and supervision and learning from other people. And. really having the experience of working with so many clients and seeing how. And again, I don't know if your listeners are, are eating disorder savvy or not.
I bet a couple of people are, but it really is so interesting how just diets don't necessarily work for a lot of people and a weight inclusive approach and eating disorder treatment and recovery. Intuitive eating are just principles that I. Really embrace. And I've seen so many clients thrive. I have changed the way I practice as a dietitian.
So it's totally normal to pivot and evolve. And again, with pursuing private practice, I have pivoted and evolved so much with our courses and programs, depending on what the market needs and what I'm also passionate [00:04:00] about.
Gordon: Right. Right. Yeah. And I think that's, I think that's true for anybody, regardless of what business or profession you're in, where, where you start, isn't going to be where you end up, or even where you continue to change, change and pivot and do things.
differently as you
Jennifer: learn. Yeah, exactly. Because not only do you change as a professional, but your market changes. The world we live in today is not the same world as it was 10 years ago. And certainly not even three years ago, post COVID and everything, just our environment's different. And I feel like that's especially true for mental health.
Gordon: Yeah, yeah, I think you're right. I think you're right. So, I guess a couple of ways we can go here, but one of the things maybe that might be interested, people would be interested in is what have you learned about eating disorders and what, what helps from a dietician standpoint? Oh
Jennifer: my gosh. Yes. So many things.
So I have to say it's so it's so [00:05:00] interesting. I am so passionate about the mission of eating disorder treatment and recovery. I am so in it for the significance of just helping people live their best life. And at the same time, I know this is something you talk about on your podcast, like there are so many people that are talking about eating disorder recovery, and I would love to talk about business and private practice and those types of things.
So I actually would love to share my thoughts, knowing and just admitting that I am not necessarily the. the expertise in eating disorders anymore because I am actually a retired clinician. I still have obviously my RD and CEDS, but I am very much into the business world. But I think for me, recovery is so multifaceted.
I think that a lot of people think that eating disorder recovery means that You just challenge yourself eating differently. You follow the quote unquote guidelines that you're supposed to, and you [00:06:00] work with one professional and all of a sudden you make linear progress all the time. And I've seen that in my practice too.
It's like people come in and they say like, okay, well, I want to heal from this eating disorder. Let me start working with you and I'm going to see you every single week. And they expect that they get better every single week in a linear way. And eating disorder recovery, in my opinion, is all about going with the ups and the downs and the twists and the turns of life.
Because someone's eating disorder is not connected to just the foods that they are eating or not eating. It's connected to their mental health, it's connected to their genetics, it's connected to their environment, it's connected to their brain. And I feel like a lot of therapists are talking about brain health in a different way that dietitians aren't necessarily talking about.
So I think you all are doing something very right when it comes to this that dietitians would really benefit from. But it also is family. It's inner child stuff. And there's so many different multi layers with an eating disorder. [00:07:00] And I think a lot of professionals don't necessarily understand that the eating disorder is there to protect the client in some way, like they've developed this eating disorder because it's serving them in some aspect.
And we have to get to the root of that. And that's why we need a physician, a therapist, a dietician, a psychiatrist, you know, any parents, school counselors, you know, anyone that's that with a big treatment team, because it has, it has to do with every single one of those areas that I just described. So it's not just the food that we eat.
Like it's about the food and it's not about the food.
Gordon: Right. Right. Yeah. That makes so much sense. And that, I think we're, you know, I think most of us are finding that we need to take a more. Holistic approach with, with what we do. Yeah. One of my friends and colleagues, Chris McDonald. So quick shout out to her.
She has a podcast, the holistic, holistic counseling podcast. And that's one of her mantras too, is just looking at the [00:08:00] whole. Whole thing and looking at the whole system around people and all of that is where really where we can make a big difference rather than focusing in on just one little thing.
Jennifer: Yes, no, and I and I really do feel like therapists are trained much better than dietitians at that because dietitians are trained in the sense of, oh, someone has a problem.
Here's medical nutrition therapy. And here's exactly what we do to change it with food. And we don't necessarily look at everyone else's. Big picture. So I really cannot wait to see. I mean, I'm not necessarily practicing eating disorder, recovering treatment anymore, but I can't wait to see all the people that I have helped just really explode in the field and contribute more ideas and different ways of helping people heal.
Cause that's what I really care about so much. I love the significance of this message.
Gordon: Yeah. So to change, change gears a little bit again, I know your, your passion is really helping [00:09:00] dietitians. Go into private practice and how, how is that maybe a different paradigm than maybe what people tend to think about with dietitians?
Jennifer: yeah. So the, the cool thing is that dietitians can do a lot of different things. So as a trained dietitian, we can go into clinical, we can go into food service, we could go into community. Those are actually the three pillars of our dietetic internship. But there's so many options. There's research, there's academia, there's academia.
There's so many different things that we can do. And private practice is a very popular choice among a lot of people. And we don't get any training in business at school besides maybe one or two courses. There are a couple programs that are doing better with that. So I can't call out. Everybody, but we don't get any training.
We don't necessarily have the skills in entrepreneurship, and we really don't focus on business that [00:10:00] much, although it is a popular choice among students and young professionals that they want to start businesses. So I feel like we can change the trajectory of the dietetics profession. If we just started a little bit earlier and introducing the fact that you can go into private practice, introducing business concepts, really thinking about how business and clinical intertwine.
And I know you've talked about that a lot on your podcast, but the most important thing that you can do in private practice is doing a good job with clients. Like that message will really resonate with so many people and you will grow your practice that way because when you build your reputation, you build your brand and.
We don't get any training about business, so it really is important that we have these conversations and we teach especially the people that are interested that want to start a business that it's possible for them. So I love to be an inspiration for others that you can do it.
Gordon: Yes, yes, we're in [00:11:00] your work with people that are going into private practice in the, the dietician world.
What are some of the big obstacles that you've noticed that they, they have to overcome in, in getting there? Yes.
Jennifer: So I think that this is actually very similar to therapists. So it's always the question of, I need another job and I want to start a private practice on this side. That's very, very, very common for dietitians because they might have a job that has benefits or paid time off and they might not necessarily be able to just quit and start their own thing.
That's very normal. I think a lot of people feel imposter syndrome. Like they just don't know what they're doing, which again is very normal. I feel a lot of people think, oh my gosh, well. I don't know how to counsel clients from an outpatient setting, meaning I'm going to have to sell my services. I'm going to have to like have people come back.
Like how do I actually sell in business? And I teach that it's just a conversation. It's just a very simple [00:12:00] conversation on figuring out if you're the right match for a client in front of you. So I think a lot of people feel overwhelmed and anxious, like don't know how to begin. And again, that's why we have resources to help people take that first
Yeah. What's a, what's a typical client load for a dietitian? I'm, you know, I guess I'm, I'm curious because I think about with, with, with therapists, we mental health therapists, we, we typically think about, you know, a one hour session or a 45 minute session that we do with people. And then we charge a certain amount for that time.
And then, you know, They, um, you know, make another appointment and here we go. And so how is it maybe any different in your world? Yes,
Jennifer: that's a really great question. And that actually that actually helps us translate one on one services into a skill that healthcare professionals have in [00:13:00] building scalable offers.
So I think that one on one what you just described is a perfect start. For us to really work with clients, figure out how to create process and change within our humans that we're working with. And then we can start to really figure out what are other things that we can do, like selling a group or a course or intellectual property or packages of some sort.
Or even if you have a practice already, like maybe even working on an offer for Parents of your practice or something like that. So I've seen dieticians really take this one to one and translate it into a scalable model, which I love, but you're so right. The most popular type of offer in private practice really is a one to one offer, which is fine.
And I think a lot of people go into private practice expecting to do that. And then from there they can see the pros and cons of that because there are pros and cons of that. And then they can expand if they want to. I think [00:14:00] the only difference is that it depends on the actual client. I think the more therapeutic type of work, eating disorders, family counseling, pediatrics, when you're working with like intense clients that might need more from you.
They are usually one hour sessions, but sometimes if you're in more of an information type of specialty, which again, I would kind of argue that there is no information type of specialty because behavior change is very much therapeutic, no matter what specialty you're in. But I feel like a lot of dietitians treat the information specialties as.
A little bit more, or I should say less complex. So sometimes people can offer 15 or 30 minute sessions and they might have more people during the day.
Gordon: Right, right. Well, once you, once you describe, I think is, is one thing that people have heard from me before, and that is moving from the one to one model of providing services to the one to many and [00:15:00] really learning how to.
To leverage your time and your expertise, which is what we provide for people and in a way that is sustainable and also. That can, that can grow because as people find out, particularly if they're in a solo practice, you reach a ceiling as to how many people you can see and how many people you can, and how much income you can create for yourself in a week's time.
And so, yeah.
Jennifer: You can create an amazing job for yourself in your own private practice, but you have essentially created an amazing job. I think when you create a scalable offer, you get a little bit more freedom than sitting, you know, one to one, which again, there's nothing wrong with it, and that's, that's the thing that I hate, I just hate the people that Say you have to do this type of business model.
There are different business models for different personalities, different strengths, different passions, different stages of [00:16:00] life. You are never, ever, ever stuck as a business owner. In fact, I think you have more options as a business owner than you do at a regular job.
Gordon: Right. Right. I totally agree. And I think, and I'm sure it's true for, for in your profession as it is for us, is that the reason that anybody goes into private practice, I think is to give themselves that autonomy and freedom that they don't have in working for someone else necessarily.
Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yes, absolutely. Yeah, well, good. Well, um, Jennifer tell folks more about your podcast and some of the consulting services you have.
Jennifer: Yeah. So if you made it this far, you love podcasts, so I always say, come, come follow mine. It's pursuing private practice, especially for anyone interested in nutrition, dietetics.
We have a lot of crossover too with therapists. So please come listen. It's all about not only the different stages of business, but we [00:17:00] go through different categories of business. So we recently started to do this and it's working out well. I think we will do this for a very long time. We have a theme each month.
So September was Vision, October Offers, November is Finances, December is Marketing, January is Systems, I'm trying to think, and then February is CEO Life, and that's as far as we've planned so far, so we definitely break it up by topics, and I'm really excited to see how people like
Gordon: it. Yeah, that's a brilliant idea.
I, I don't always say I'm such a disorganized person. I don't know if I could ever get it in all that order, but, but that is a great idea. I love that. I love it. Thank you. So, so tell folks how they can find you.
Jennifer: Yes. Pursuingprivatepractice. com is my website. We have tons of resources there. Lots of things that you can download and then over on Instagram pursuing private practice, I would love to connect with you and again, just let me know if you need anything.
I would love to help you out. If you are interested in building private practice.
Gordon: Well, [00:18:00] great, great. And we'll have links in the show notes and show summary for people to get to that easily. So, well, Jennifer, any parting thoughts here as we kind of wrap things up?
Jennifer: Thank you, Gordon. I just appreciate the chance to be on this podcast.
And again, like you said. Connecting the overlap of dietitians and therapists is so important. We can learn so much from one another and I'm just grateful to be here. I can't wait for my audience to listen and start to follow you. So thank you
Gordon: so much. Well, thanks Jennifer. Well, I'm sure we'll have some more conversations here soon.
Gordon: [00:00:00] Well, hello, everyone. And welcome again to the podcast. And I'm really happy for you to get to know Jennifer McGurk. Welcome, Jennifer.
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Meet Gordon Brewer, MEd, LMFT
Gordon is the person behind The Practice of Therapy Podcast & Blog. He is also President and Founder of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC. He is a therapist, consultant, business mentor, trainer, and writer. PLEASE Subscribe to The Practice of Therapy Podcast wherever you listen to it. Follow us on Instagram @practiceoftherapy, and “Like” us on Facebook.