Once upon a time in a far away land... Ah not at all! This is the story of Aurore Jurga who opened her psychology practice in 2019. Shall we meet her?
In a nutshell…
For you, being an entrepreneur means above all… Freedom and passion
The main advantage of being an entrepreneur? Autonomy
The main disadvantage of being an entrepreneur? Risk
Aurore, what do you do for a living?
I help people to take care of their mental health, with gentleness and professionalism. As a psychologist, I have specialised in cognitive-behavioural therapy, psycho-education, meditative approaches and immersive virtual reality. This last technique is still new in Luxembourg. Virtual reality has remarkable effects, notably in treating phobogenic disorders, reducing anxiety, stress and pain, and in overcoming states of exhaustion, such as burnout, for example. In concrete terms, it plunges you into a 360-degree filmed universe that deceives your brain. Imagine for example a trip in a hot air balloon, it is like a mindfulness getaway... Ideal to put some distance, take a step back and refocus on what seems essential to us...
My passion for landscape photography and travelling is probably a factor. I need to be inspired by the contact with other people, new places, new cultures, as well as to walk, to breathe... It's a therapeutic balance!
Why did you choose the field of psychology?
When I was 15, I already dreamed of opening my own practice one day! I never saw myself doing anything else. Even back then, I would listen to my friends a lot, I was their confidante... This was confirmed by my university courses. It is a passion that allows me to put my qualities and values at the service of others: benevolence, human warmth and respect. Freeing people to express themselves and supporting them in their difficulties are my driving forces!
Today, I accompany adults, elderly people, people with disabilities, and also caregivers and health professionals. My patients are always teaching me something new.
How can people find you?
I receive my patients in my practice in Belair. I chose this place because it is easy to get to and because I felt comfortable there right away. This is important for the people who come to see me. I share it with two other psychologists, one specialising in short-term, psycho-educational and art-mediated therapies for children, adolescents and their families, and the other in victimology, family mediation and systemic therapy for adolescents and adults. Our approaches are complementary. The activity is growing progressively and in a stable way, we continue to expand our accompaniment possibilities.
After graduating in psychology in Belgium in 2015, I first worked in hospitals as well as in residential and care settings. When I arrived in Luxembourg in 2017, I applied to the Ministry of Education and Research to get recognition as a psychologist in Luxembourg. It took two years for the idea to mature and for me to start implementing it. I started practising in the north of the country, and then I gradually moved closer to the centre.
What legal status did you choose? And why?
I decided to become self-employed. I had no choice: at this time, the profession of psychologist in Luxembourg is considered a commercial activity, even though it clearly is a paramedical activity. In my opinion, there is a real lack of recognition of the role of the psychologist and his/her therapeutic function in mental health. Mentalities must change. As the WHO (World Health Organisation) says, health is not just physical or the absence of disease, it is also psychological and social... It covers all aspects of the human condition. And we are seeing this more and more. The crisis has been a catalyst. It is up to us to raise awareness of the role of the psychologist and of mental health in general!
In Luxembourg, as a self-employed worker, I am supposed to talk about "clients", the term "patient" being reserved for medical professionals... However, when I do my work and get involved in my mission, I consider my "clients" as my "patients".
Did you get support in launching your business?
Yes, first by the Fit4 Entrepreneurship programme of the ADEM (editor's note: now replaced by the StartYourBusiness programme) and then by nyuko. Starting up alone is much more difficult. You don't know all the ins and outs... What are the stages of the entrepreneurial journey? How do you build up your entrepreneurial character? How do you overcome your financial fears? How to obtain a business permit? What are the criteria for choosing a good location? And so on. These questions are answered a lot more quickly when you have the support of professionals in the sector...
How did this help the project evolve?
It allowed me to acquire practical skills necessary for the success of my entrepreneurial project that were not part of my university education, such as marketing or accounting, for example.
Also, there were many different projects in the course... The trainers were very attentive, they always adapted their programmes to our respective professions. It was very instructive! And it allowed synergies and mutual support to emerge. Everyone was really helpful.
What regulations do you have to respect in your field of work?
Above all, the code of ethics specific to the function of psychologist and psychotherapist: what are my duties in order to carry out my activity in a proper and ethical way as a psychologist? For example, if we notice that a person is a danger to himself or herself or to others, we have the obligation to lift professional secrecy and to inform the competent authorities... In all other cases, we adhere to a strict confidentiality policy.
This responsibility is well defined and assumes a high level of ethics. The Luxembourg Society of Psychology (SLP) keeps us informed of developments and rules to be aware of. For me, this translates into being able to question myself in regard to a given problem and to continuously educate myself. At the moment, I am learning about positive treatment in the workplace. It's also important to exchange views and discuss my practice with supervisors and colleagues.
Do you have any concrete advice to share with other entrepreneurs?
In terms of organisation, I have three golden rules:
- First, it is my patient who decides when and how often he or she wants to meet. I adapt to the person and to his/her rhythm.
- Then I always allow myself 30 minutes between each consultation to follow up on administrative matters and prepare for the next consultation. I've learned that I can't be efficient for 8 hours non-stop because my work requires sustained attention. It is exciting but also psychologically tiring.
- Finally, no unnecessary rigidity! I manage my workload as I feel fit. There is no routine in my work: I have long days from 9am to 8.30pm but there are days when I start consultations at 10 or 11am... So, to respect my own limits and to be able to give my best, Thursday afternoon is my little day off and I reserve my weekends. At the beginning, I accepted consultations on weekend mornings, but not anymore...
What about positioning and communication?
The location of the practice affects your fees but also your visibility. It is well worth doing a market study and asking questions of your peers before making a choice.
At the beginning, I spent 3 hours a week on my communication. It was vital to get myself known. I worked hard on my SEO. Today, I would say that once a month is enough... I am appearing more and more on the first page of search results on Google. As soon as you have built up good visibility and customer satisfaction, it works, people come to you.
What good business practices have you been able to test and confirm?
I send a letter by post with my business card to doctors, paramedical professionals (kinesiologists, speech therapists, etc.) and to centres focused on well-being. This method was inspired by Fit4 Entrepreneurship.
I build relationships based on trust, with patience and kindness. With my patients, but also with my colleagues, people from the medical and paramedical world, and people I meet in the entrepreneurial world... I always keep in touch. I don't hesitate to ask for news. We meet and exchange. A real network is built over time and this positive attitude naturally contributes to word of mouth.
“I know what I’m worth, and people give me that feedback! It feels good.”
How did you define your hourly rate?
This was a central question at the start: what should the price of a session be? I started by asking the SLP about the existing price range in Luxembourg: at that time, it varied between 70 and 140 euros per hour. The pricing evolves with time. At present, the CNS has fixed a uniform price of 175 euros for one hour of consultation for psychotherapists, and the average rate for psychologists is around 100 euros per hour. In order to decide where to position myself within this range, I did my market research with established psychologists. I learned that prices vary according to three criteria: the psychologist's training, the location of the practice and the socio-demographic aspects of the patients.
When you are an entrepreneur, the financial risk is high. When I started, it was a fear. Today, this is less the case because I want to and have the means to feel in charge.
Communicating your rates
I communicate my rates when I am asked, by phone and by e-mail. Sometimes you are not taken seriously if you are not expensive enough. And on the other hand, other people are surprised and think it’s expensive. The important thing is to know your limits, set them and respect them. In any case, I inform my patients of this. There is no set number of sessions. It varies according to how the person evolves and their needs.
How do you manage the balance between your professional and personal life?
I identify my "stressors" as we call them in psychology, i.e. the risk factors - which could drag me down - in the different spheres of my life: professional, personal, linked to my body, my background, etc. And at the same time, I identify all the resources at my disposal: skills, qualities, environment, moments to myself, support from family and friends, etc.
I don't bring my patients' difficulties home with me. I simply relax... and so, my guiding principle is to listen to my body. Sometimes you have to take time to rest and distance yourself to be the best version of yourself. It's really important to know yourself and then learn to put your strengths forward. This is especially true when you are an entrepreneur.
If you had only one piece of advice to give to future entrepreneurs, it would be…
Listen to yourself, believe in yourself and never stop educating yourself in the field you love most of all!
Interview conducted by Delphine Anzevui
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