We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda Robinson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amanda, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
When I was newly licensed as a counselor, fresh out of graduate school, I got a job at an agency that serviced victims of violence. I truly loved my work there. I learned a ton and developed a true passion for trauma work and advocacy. However, after a couple of years in a position where the hours were long, the client cases were always incredibly intense, and the pay was low, I found myself burned out. I stressed about my cases all the time and felt like no matter what I did, no matter how hard I worked, I wasn’t doing enough. I felt undervalued, too. It’s not a healthy mindset to go through life with, and I was strongly questioning whether I could continue on like that – not just in that specific job, but in the mental health field in general.
On the other hand, I had spent three years in graduate school and two years in internship learning all this knowledge and honing all these skills. I wasn’t ready to throw all of that away. I decided I would try changing jobs first, but I knew I needed to be mindful about what that new position would entail, or else I’d just have the same problems but in a different building!
I sat down with a piece of paper and pen and wrote down all the factors that would be important to me in a new counseling job. Factors that would enable me to have a better work-life balance: a greater variety of cases, the ability to decide when my caseload was full, and more control over my schedule. (I’m not a morning person, and the idea of not having my first client of the day until 10 am was highly appealing!) And yes, I wanted to be more fairly reimbursed for my level of education and skill.
When I sat back and looked at my rather long list, it dawned on me that I wasn’t describing a real job. In other words, no mental health agency or hospital would be able to accommodate everything I’d written down. I knew deep down that if I genuinely wanted those factors to come true for me, if I was serious about advocating for my own mental well-being, my only option was to start my own practice. At the time, I was terrified by the thought – but it’s been one of the best life decisions I’ve ever made.
What should our readers know about your business?
What I’m most proud of is that I didn’t let fear stop me from starting a business! It’s a scary process, especially at first. You risk your money, your reputation, and the general sense of comfort and familiarity that comes with employment. I consider myself a pretty cautious person, and there were many moments of – “Wait, am I SURE about this??” – as I was getting started. But then the anxiety would die down, and allow me to feel hopeful and excited about my new venture. It was a roller coaster of emotions, to say the least.
Owning a business wasn’t easy at the start, and I’d still say it’s not easy, but there is a certain confidence you build with experience. Business, particular mental health practices, have an ebb and flow to things – sometimes you have prospective clients ringing your phone off the hook, and other times, it’s crickets. When it’s slow, that can feel a bit scary. A tiny thought forms at the back of your mind and tells you that perhaps you’re no good, or that your business is doomed. When the pandemic started, that thought grew to be much larger! But the way I overcome the challenge is to breathe and remind myself of all the other times when things worked out okay.
Needless to say, despite being someone who typically wants to plan for every possible issue, I’ve had to learn to go with the flow.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The next day, we’d grab breakfast at Sweet Paris Creperie at the Domain. This one’s special to me because my husband and I ate there the morning after our wedding! My friend and I could spend the day at the Domain walking around and shopping for clothes, home goods, and other fun items. I’d make sure we stop by one of the Austin-themed stores for a souvenir, too. Dinner would take place at North Italia (my favorite!) and if we still have room after devouring delicious pasta, I would take my friend to The Yard Milkshake Bar.
No trip to Austin is complete without visiting the Capitol. But first, we’d fuel up with brunch at Oakmont Food Company! After, it’s a short drive to downtown, where I would show off our beloved pink granite capitol building. (It’s actually somewhat taller than the national capitol in DC – leave it to Texas to get competitive with our buildings.) Next, we’d take a scenic walk around Town Lake. Dinner might be at Gloria’s, or perhaps the Texas Chili Parlor. The latter is a great hole-in-the-wall offering delicious food – and was featured in the Quentin Tarrantino film “Death Proof.”
After a few days of running around, I’d make the last day of the trip a little slower-paced. We’d start the day with a visit to Crown Donuts – their donuts are wonderful, but the kolaches are a must, especially if I’m with a friend who’s new to Austin. Afterward, we’d take a drive on Hwy 71 toward Marble Falls. The road curves up and around rolling green hills, offering lovely views. (It’s even better in springtime, when the bluebonnets and wildflowers are in bloom!). Along the way, we’d have to stop at one of the wineries in the area – okay, maybe more than one.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m grateful for this question because I have so many people to thank. While I was in graduate school, my mom Lee Ann took on a second job to pay for my rent so I could focus on paying tuition and finishing school. I couldn’t have done any of this without her financial (and emotional!) support. My dad, Ted, owns his own business as well and has been an understanding mentor for me as I’ve run mine – including listening to many a vent session about business taxes. I’m also thankful for my former supervisor, Karen Burke, who genuinely never missed an opportunity to tell me that I was doing a good job – chicken soup for a baby therapist’s soul.
Kimberly Witte / The Witte Idea