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Progression Counseling / Alist Nation

Elizabeth Cush owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, MD

Tell us a little about yourself and your childhood.

My name is Elizabeth Cush and I’m a licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, MD. I’m also the creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast.

I’m one of four siblings and grew up in Philadelphia, PA in an upper middleclass family. One of my earliest memories is my experience of being sexually abused at a very young age. It went unaddressed until much later in therapy. I understand now that there was very little information about the impact of child abuse, and there weren’t very many resources for families. I share this because although I wish the abuse didn’t happen, it’s shaped who I am today, someone who wants to empower women to love and be at peace with themselves.

My parents divorced when I was 14 and my life changed pretty significantly. Money was a struggle, lifestyle changes had to be made and my parents didn’t communicate much. Throughout my life I struggled with anxiety, although I didn’t know that’s what it was. With therapy, I’ve learned how to better manage my anxiety and have found meditation and mindfulness to be amazing tools that really help me feel grounded and alive. Currently, I live with my husband in Annapolis, MD and our rescued dachshund Elvis. I have three grown children who we’re very close to.

When did you decide you wanted to start your own company?

I’m a late bloomer and didn’t get my master’s in counseling until I was 53. I knew when I began my journey back to school to be a therapist that I wanted to be in private practice. From the start, I wanted to be my own boss so that I could manage which clients I saw when I saw them.

Was there a specific moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do?

After having children, I knew I wanted to be a therapist but financially I wasn’t able to go back to school for some time. After each child was born, I struggled with postpartum depression and as I mentioned above, I have experienced anxiety most of my life. Those experiences inspired me to design my business so that I could help women feel more empowered and allow them to live their lives with more intention and purpose.

After you made the decisions, what steps did you take?

As I got closer to being fully licensed as a mental health counselor, I worked closely with my supervisor and mentor. They guided me through the steps I needed to take to register my business, find office space and begin to market myself. I talked with other local psychotherapists who had established private practices to get their insight. I also joined a business mentoring group for therapists to help me better understand the business side of running a mental health therapy practice and I got involved in Facebook groups for therapists entering private practice for support and advice. I found space to rent by the hour as I began to build my client base so that I wasn’t paying for an expensive lease right away.

How did you fund this project?

I worked at a local hospital as a crisis counselor for domestic violence and sexual assault victims while I was in school and was able to save some money to start my business.

I started small and leased space from others while I grew my business. I also worked hard to understand how to use SEO to build an online presence. As my client base grew, I was able to lease my own space.

What were the hardest hurdles?

When creating and building my business, my hardest hurdle was marketing myself (and it probably still is). I’m and introvert and a highly sensitive person so putting myself in front of others was very hard for me. Early on I would go to local doctor’s offices and bring lunch or cookies and talk about how I could help their patients who struggled with anxiety. It was grueling for me and I quickly learned how to promote myself online!

What advise do you wish someone would have given you?

It took me about two years to build a sustainable business and I wish I’d been told to be more patient. I wish someone had said when I was worried that consistency and doing good work with clients would get me where I wanted to be.

Did you have a mentor?

I consider Laura Reagan, LCSW-C — a friend, colleague and fellow therapist — as a mentor. She’s been there, answering questions, providing consultation and being supportive since I opened my doors.

At any point did you want to give up?

No. I love what I do and it gives me great satisfaction.

How long did it take to become profitable?

It took me three years to become profitable.

What was the best thing you did to grow your business?

The best thing I did to grow my business was to study and learn how Search Engine Optimization works to help people find your website.

The second best thing I did was to start a podcast. It’s allowed me to reach people all over the globe. I’ve had amazing conversations with other healers, women who’ve healed, and mindfulness experts about their journey.

Do you feel it was more difficult because you are a women?

In many ways I think being a woman has helped me. My niche is helping women with anxiety feel more empowered and present in their lives. I want women to know that healing is possible and because I’ve experienced healing and growth, I can say with authenticity and genuineness that I get how hard it can be.

Do you think social media is important?

Yes! Although there are downsides to being on social media I find it’s one of the best ways to promote my business. Facebook and Instagram have been a great way to reach new clients and market my business and podcast.

Was there any life lessons you learned along the way?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I can’t control everything. Clients come and go for many reasons, my business ebbs and flows because that’s life. I try to approach the business from an abundance mindset and stay positive. I’ve also learned that being in therapy is good for me too. It helps me feel in touch with myself and helped me to grow into the therapist I am today.

What is the happiest memory from this journey?

The best times in this business journey are when a client tells me that they feel truly seen, that they feel safe to share their most vulnerable moments, and that they feel that working with me has helped them to grow in way they never thought possible.

Please tell us if COVID-19 has affected your business and if so do you have a plan in place to try and get it back on track.

Yes, Covid-19 has affected my business. I was already doing some online therapy with a few clients, but the pandemic forced me to bring my whole practice online. I am grateful that I had the infrastructure in place so the transition wasn’t to difficult. My client load has decreased a small amount but it suits me at this time. I plan to build some alternative income streams going forward and I’m currently working on a coaching program to help women find their voices within themselves and in relationships.

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