Don’t try and do everything yourself. I can’t tell you how many hours, days, and weeks I spent trying to do everything on my own. Creating my own logos, making all my own paperwork/forms, etc. Things got so much easier when I started getting help from others. I joined several social media groups for therapists starting private practices, I hired a designer on Etsy to create a professional looking logo, and I reached out to others in the community who had successful practices and were willing to share tips.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tee Moschberger, MSEd, MS, LPC.
Tee is a psychotherapist who works with children, adolescents, and young adults with chronic medical illness. When her hospital job went virtual, she decided it was time to expand and open a private practice for immunocompromised patients of various disease states so that more can have access to mental health treatment without the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I am the child of a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a food banker. Helping others was engrained in my being from the moment I was born. I watched my mother work tirelessly for her patients, always with a beeper attached to her hip, ready to take emergency phone calls wherever we went. Her dedication to her patients and her thirst for continued education was absolutely what led me to become addicted to the “student life.” If I could be a professional student and just learn more and more, I would do it in an instant. As for my father, he and my stepmother were the founders of a food bank in our community and they quickly rose to being nationally known for their advocacy for feeding the hungry. My brother and I were put to work sorting food, helping volunteers learn the ropes, working fundraising events, and being little helpers wherever we were needed. My father instilled a deep sense of community and the importance of giving back wherever we could. He always told us how blessed we were and why it was important to share our blessings with those who are in need. It is no surprise to me that my career path is a 50/50 split of the lessons from both of my parents. After attending graduate school I spent the next 10+ years working with underserved populations providing mental health care to those most needy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When I was in college, I started out as a meteorology major. I had seen the movie Twister one too many times and felt like I was born to be a tornado chaser. I chose the university I wanted to attend based on their well-known meteorology department, yet quickly learned that I was not cut out for the coursework. Side note — did anyone know how much math meteorologists have to do?! I digress. At that point, I had changed my major a few times but was still feeling a little lost in what my path was meant to be. My older brother was in his final year of college and seemed to know exactly what he wanted to do and followed his path without any speed bumps. At least that’s what it looked like to the little sister who was struggling! I reached out to my brother one day for some advice. Now it’s important to note, his advice was never direct. I had been known to call him a human fortune cookie because he would give me little quotes that I had to decipher the meaning behind. Later that day, he sent me a Mark Twain quote that resonated deeply with me and has remained somewhat of a mantra even now, 15 years later.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain
It felt like the quote gave me permission to fail. To take risks and be okay with things not working out. Turns out, he was right. The regrets I carry in my life are more about missed opportunities rather than things I wish I hadn’t done. As a result of his wisdom, I have taken many leaps in my life, both personally and professionally, that have paid off more than I would have anticipated.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
This might sound silly, but when I started researching how to open a private practice, I found a series of videos by Dr. Marie Fang, a psychologist in San Jose, California. Her YouTube page, Private Practice Skills, is a plethora of videos for people like me, just starting out in the world of private practice, helping them decide all the ‘who, what, when, where, and why’ of starting your own business. Although my only interactions with Dr. Fang have been through the dozens and dozens of videos that I have watched on her YouTube channel, she is by far the one who instilled more drive and confidence in me with this project. Through her content, I felt as though she spoke directly to me about my worth, my impact, and encouraged me every step of the way as I created the business. I spent every free moment pouring over her library of videos as she shared her wisdom — her pitfalls and successes — and made me believe that I could do it too.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
When I was in college someone from the National Suicide Lifeline showed up at one of my classes talking about the work they did and how we could sign up for the 200-hour training course. On a whim, a friend and I decided to sign up together and after we completed the course, I continued to volunteer with the Lifeline for the next few years until we graduated from college. This experience was probably the most driving aspect in deciding to become a therapist. Walking someone through a dark moment in their life lit a spark in me. At the same time, I was constantly left with those nagging thoughts of, “what happened after they hung up?” Many nights were spent wishing I could find someone I spoke to and check in on them, but being a completely anonymous hotline, I never had that chance. Those moments were what led me to decide that I wanted to become a therapist so I could help that journey beyond the phone call.
During graduate school, I completed an internship working with children who had behavioral problems severe enough that they were not safe to attend public school. It wasn’t what I had aimed to do, but since I had a minor in Early Childhood Education, my advisor thought it would be a good fit. Well, I guess that stuck because I never stopped working with kids after that. After graduate school I took a position as a therapist working with juvenile males who had committed sexual offenses and were not safe to remain in schools. I took that job with little understanding of what it would entail or the personal impact it would have on me. The job required frequent court room testimony, dealing with probation officers, kids who had ankle monitors, and all of the things you can imagine came with that. I was a young white woman, right out of school, dealing with a population of boys that I had little to nothing in common with. People frequently cringed or made awkward comments when I told them what type of clients I was seeing all day. The world had some very strong opinions about the crimes they had committed, and my job was to put my own feelings aside and to be their listening ear, their support system, and their advocate. It was an incredibly challenging role, but often not for the reasons I thought it would be. I learned more about myself in that role than maybe any other job I’ve ever had.
I eventually took a short break from direct clinical care to shake off the residual feelings that had lingered in my mind. Did I do anything that made a difference? Some days I still question it. Once I felt ready to jump back in the saddle, I took a job working this time with victims of sexual abuse and other traumas. My days were filled yet again with testifying in court hearings, meeting with workers from the foster care system, and playing countless games of Candy Land or with Play-Doh. After years of hearing some of the most horrific stories, I finally got a bit of that spark again when I started working with a client with a chronic medical disease. At that point I had also married a Physician Assistant who had also gotten me interested in learning more about treatment. Combine these things with my love of school and I quickly decided to go back to obtain a second graduate degree that specialized in clinical health psychology. This time, I was able to do an internship in a local children’s hospital working with kids who were navigating cancer treatment, awaiting organ transplants, and sitting through dialysis treatments multiple times per week. I had a supervisor who had an intense passion for her work and further spurred my interest in remaining in the hospital setting. After graduation, I took a job creating a new position as the Mental Health Coordinator of the Cystic Fibrosis Center. Four years later, I have had the opportunity to follow some amazing children through various challenges of having a chronic and life-limiting medical illness, including the psychological impact of incredible advances in gene-modifying remedy, awaiting double lung transplant and end of life planning.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
In the early stages of the quarantine, my position at the hospital went virtual, and for the next several months I met with clients over the phone. I had been researching how other therapists were managing their patients and what the clinical licensing laws were now allowing. The advent of teletherapy for mental health services was starting to boom. I thought it was amazing that people were still able to see their therapists from home without the risk of exposure to COVID-19, but had little hope that it would continue on past the pandemic. That was back when we thought the pandemic would only be a few weeks!
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
I had been keeping an eye on research that was coming out regarding the efficacy of teletherapy vs. in-person sessions, particularly during the COVID-19 quarantine. I had just finished reading numerous reports stating that it was just as effective and even had higher retention rates. The energy amongst therapists in the nation was starting to buzz. TIME magazine posted an article on my birthday in August discussing the massive shift in mental health treatment and its likelihood of sticking around. Maybe it was the excitement about the article, or maybe it was a sugar rush from too much cake, but it was that moment that I decided, now is the time! The most exciting part for me was that I would now be able to therapy to the medically needy population, who I have watched for 5 years struggle with finding and sticking with therapists in their community. Too often, these kids (and adults) struggle to connect with a therapist who doesn’t specialize in chronic illness. I have heard far too often that they sometimes don’t feel understood by their therapists or they feel like they’re teaching the therapist about their illness half of the time. Then if they are hospitalized/sick and miss too many sessions, they are often discharged from treatment. Not to mention, an extensive hospitalization is when they need treatment and support the most. By opening a practice dedicated to these types of clients, I would be able to see them during long treatments where they are otherwise just sitting around (chemotherapy, dialysis, infusions, etc.), killing two birds with one stone. I’d be able to hold sessions with them when they are at home, away at college, in the hospital, etc. I can’t even count how many of my past patients this would have helped.
How are things going with this new initiative?
After deciding to open up my own practice, I spent several months doing the footwork of starting any business. Lots of paperwork, fees, more paperwork, more fees. I learned to create an LLC, design a website and other marketing materials, joined networking groups, and even took online courses about starting a business. I am proud to say that I have officially launched my practice, Mercer Counseling Services, and am eager to see how things grow.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My whole family — my mother, father, stepmother, brother, husband, in-laws, my 2-year-old son, and my dog — they have all played their roles, big or small, in helping me get to this point. They have never doubted my ability to do this, even when I doubted myself. After hearing all of their words of encouragement and millions of “we’re so proud of you” moments on zoom calls from across the country, my biggest boost of confidence came from a moment where I was doubted by someone who I had only recently met. I have spent so many years battling ‘imposter syndrome’ where I questioned my skills and minimized my accomplishments, so it was a surprise to me that when someone made a comment that went along with my negative thinking that my inner voice fought back. Instead of agreeing with what they said about me, I got another spark, and have been gung-ho to prove them wrong ever since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
A few months into prepping things for launch I decided to set up a consultation phone call with a local accountant. Immediately upon starting the call, I could tell this man didn’t think very much of my business and what I was trying to accomplish. He spoke down to me, laughed when I had questions about what he thought was basic tax information, and spent the majority of time telling me that I needed to do a lot more research rather than ask him my questions. Despite this being a scheduled phone call, he put me on hold to take another call, at which point I texted my older brother, almost in tears, for support. My brother is a CEO of a major company and what I would define as a quintessential ‘successful businessman.’ He immediately told me to hang up and not waste my time with someone who didn’t believe in my business. I did not take his advice because as a woman, I am taught by society to be polite, not to argue or be too stern, or I might be seen as a….well, you know. I called my brother after the phone call ended and he reminded me that I was not interviewing for this man, rather he was the one being interviewed. I was going to be the one hiring him for his services, not the other way around. He spoke about his experience in business, working with similar men who spoke down to young female entrepreneurs as though they are superior. He suggested that I find a female accountant who might be more patient and supportive. My response to that was split. He was right that I should not allow someone I was interviewing to speak to me that way and to not be afraid to assert my opinion when things are not going well, but I was frustrated by the idea of having to find a woman to do the job. I am a human being who was looking for another human to take on a task for my business. I should not have to seek out a woman to be heard and respected. In the end, I hired a male accountant who provided everything I needed and was looking for. This was just the first, of what is likely to be many challenges I will have as a female business owner.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t try and do everything yourself. I can’t tell you how many hours, days, and weeks I spent trying to do everything on my own. Creating my own logos, making all my own paperwork/forms, etc. Things got so much easier when I started getting help from others. I joined several social media groups for therapists starting private practices, I hired a designer on Etsy to create a professional looking logo, and I reached out to others in the community who had successful practices and were willing to share tips.
- Hire an accountant. Remember when I said I didn’t like math? You think I would have known that an accountant would be a good idea from the get-go, but it wasn’t until I was neck deep in learning tax laws (or at least attempting to learn) that I finally decided to get professional help.
- Getting your website found on Google is not as easy as just creating and publishing a website. I’m still trying to learn about this one, but I absolutely had no idea what and backlinks were when I started. I guess the internet is a more complicated place than I thought!
- Being a solo-business owner is lonely. I have hopes of growing my practice someday, but for now, it’s just me. There are many benefits to this — no one to argue over how I run things or what kind of coffee to get for the break room (aka my kitchen), but it also has drawbacks. I don’t have anyone to talk to about how things are going, and any wrong decision or misstep is solely my responsibility. There’s no one to help with the workload or to share the burdens with. The successes and/or failures are all a result of the work I have or will do.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to your loved ones about your goals and ideas. For most of the time I was working on creating my business I was too afraid to tell anyone. I thought either they wouldn’t be supportive about opening a business during a global pandemic or they might think what I was creating wasn’t good enough. I was self-conscious about all of the tiny decisions I had made from what I was going to name my business to the colors, logo, and website content I had written. It wasn’t until I had deemed everything “finished” that I shared with others what I had been working on. They were all so incredibly supportive and complimentary about all of the effort I had put into creating the business. I only wish I had been brave enough to share with them earlier.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
The stress of 2020 is not limited to the pandemic/quarantine. We are yet again faced with the reminders of social/racial inequalities and violence in our streets, and as if that weren’t enough, it’s an election year — and a very complicated one at that. The stressors are too much for anyone, even in the best of circumstances. For me, the best ways to manage have been to unplug and do something. I am completely guilty of doom-scrolling through endless articles about why the world is terrible. It is impossible not to be affected by it all. Turning off my phone, shutting the laptop and disconnecting has been the only way to feel a sigh of relief from that weight I carry around. Thankfully, I have an energetic little boy running around the house who demands a lot of attention and never ceases to bring a smile to my face, even in the worst of times. I also feel like just doing something is a great distraction. In the early stages of the pandemic, I started doing jigsaw puzzles because they helped keep my brain occupied from thinking about what was going on in the world. I did about a dozen before I shifted focusing my energy on building my private practice. The effort I have put into this new venture has been magnified by the fact that it was a self-care activity during stressful moments. By actively working toward a goal, I was able to make some meaning out of a difficult time.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Find joy and spread joy. We all deserve to have joy in our lives. Find what brings joy to your life, big or small, despite whatever circumstances you are in. Take that joy and spread it to those around you.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I am a big fan of Taylor Swift for reasons that go far beyond her musical/songwriting talents. I think she is an incredible businesswoman and advocate for women. From her sexual assault case to fighting for her rights to her music, I think she is a great role model for women, teaching them that we do not have to tolerate being treated in a way that we are not okay with.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!