Wilfred Krenn is a Licensed Professional Counsellor who works with gifted children at his newly-opened private practice in the St. Louis region. Besides psychotherapy, Wilfred has recently found another passion: graphic design. He combines these two fields effectively on his website, Psychology of Design. Some of our Rebels met Wilfred at Weapons of Mass Creation in 2015 and we recently connected with him to take part in our Rebel Stories series.
What’s the story behind your business?
I’m a psychotherapist and I’d been working in the non-profit field for a long time – for about 10 years in total. It got to the point where the things that I wanted to do and the ways that I wanted to express my work just weren’t fitting into that structure. It was a bit limiting, so it was time to go out on my own. For a lot of that time, I’d been working with some pretty severe cases – kids who have experienced abuse and neglect. While that’s still a big part of what I do, being in private practice gives me the opportunity to really expand the type of work that I do; I get to work in the areas that I’m really excited about.
You have your website psychologyofdesign.co leading directly to giftedcounselingstlouis.com. Do you have any plans for that domain?
One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about working independently is that people in the therapy field don’t typically have a lot of knowledge and skills in working with online media. That’s really where I’ve been able to make my place. What I really like about Rebel is that it gives me the freedom to build what I want. I’ve always been an artistic person. Having more time and more space to be creative really opened up the possibilities to explore other things I enjoy, like graphic design.
I actually found out about Rebel and met some folks from there at the Weapons of Mass Creation festival in Cleveland in 2015. I was there speaking about creativity and mental health and really loved getting to meet a whole lot of people and interact with people that I don’t typically get to. The idea for Psychology of Design was, “How can I do the thing that I really enjoy doing and bring that into the therapy and psychology world?”
Did you create your website on your own?
I did it all on my own. I started with Canva, which is an intro to the design element, and then moved on to Adobe Creative Cloud. Over the past year, I’ve been learning all the Photoshop and Illustrator basics and have been able to put all those things together. I’ve been really pleased with how the website turned out; I get a lot of compliments on it.
Why do you think having an online presence is so important for building a brand?
When I’m looking for something or looking for a service, online is the first place I go because I’m the type of person that will do the research and get a sense of the person I’m going to be connecting with before I make the jump on something. That’s what I really wanted to do with my website and the promotional and design elements that I put out, so that people can get a sense of me and start to build that relationship before we even meet in person. I want people to be confident that I’m the person that can really be helpful for them.
Do you have a source of inspiration for your design or your work?
I work mainly with kids. I think that the creativity that is needed and that comes from working with kids… you have to be open for anything. Kids have a lot less of an ability to just talk about the struggles they’re having or the anxiety or depression they have. It comes out in all of these other ways, whether it’s through play or through art. One of the things that I really love about doing this work is having the ability to be open, to be curious, and to be creative. I try to bring those artistic elements that I’m really inspired by, like painting, photography, and graphic design work, into what I put out there.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned from being a psychotherapist?
The number one thing is the value and importance of relationships. If there’s anything that therapy does, it builds a relationship between two people. That’s where the healing really happens. Psychotherapy also requires the ability to sit with those feelings and with that ambiguity. I’m not this shaman that knows all the answers, but I am someone who can sit with you through the difficult times in your life and work with you to get through that.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever had to do?
Creating the business was the bravest thing that I’ve ever done! I’ve always been an independent person, but having the structure of an organization or having a mission that you’re working towards with other people feels really comfortable and secure. Now I’m stepping out on my own and saying, “It’s just me!”. People are going to decide how successful I am on whether or not they make a connection with me in particular. There’s nothing behind me. I’ve been accepting the things that I’m not so good at and really embracing the things that I am good at and wrestling with those things. It’s been a huge learning experience.
Did you receive any advice before or during your journey?
I don’t know if there was one person who gave me this advice or if it’s something that you just hear. But as much as you’re into what you’re doing, especially if you’re working in a field like psychotherapy, any kind of health profession, or any kind of artistic profession, where so much of you is in your work and you’re giving that to other people, it’s so important that you take care of yourself because the tools that you are using are inside of you. If you are stressed out, that’s going to have a huge impact on your ability to do your work. Things that maybe seen as frivolous or non-essential can sometimes be really important. Taking an hour out of your day to go walk around the art museum or having a yearly membership with a yoga studio will build up your own internal resources so that you can be there for other people.
Do you have anything in particular that you’re most proud of?
Probably that I have made it through my first year. It’s not really something that you think about, but it’s such a milestone because the number of new businesses or self-employed people that have to fold within that first year is a pretty big percentage. Being able to run the business and being able to do it on my own terms, I’ve been able to use this time to try out a lot of different things, whether it’s doing graphic design as a side business or trying to figure out who I’m really excited about working with. I’m also proud of being able to go speak at Weapons of Mass Creation and meet new and different people.
Do you think you’ll go to more events in the near future?
This summer, I’m going to Canada and speaking at a child trauma conference with a group that I’ve been a part of. I also find that if you have a unique perspective and you reach out to people and say, “Hey, this is what I’m doing and I’m really interested in what you’re doing too, is there any way that we could connect or work together?” people are very responsive to that.
What are your plans for the future?
One of the big things for this next year is focusing on growing. I’ve connected with some other therapists who are just starting out and they’re going to be coming to work with me. For people who are coming out and are not quite ready to make that big jump yet, I can be that launching pad for them and provide the space and do the billing and all of the administrative stuff. The other thing is just building presence within our city and anywhere else that is interested. Working with gifted children has been really great because there’s not many people who are doing that; it’s really a unique thing. Also, in that space, there’s very few voices that are speaking to that community, so I think that there’s a lot of potential to do that.
I noticed that you own a .co website! Why did you choose to buy a new top level domain?
Well the .com was taken, but I also like those alternative domains because they are unique and they can speak to something that’s new and interesting. You can build and connect it to what you’re doing. For a design-based website or idea, it really speaks to that community. With all of the people doing tech start-ups and entrepreneurships, there’s so much growth in domains that there are very few .coms out there. Having an alternative domain has almost become part of that identity. It gives you a bit of street cred. There’s no doubt that new domains are going to grow and grow because people in our generation are looking to be independent and do their own thing. This gives people the ability to do that. Anybody can just start up and do something with very little investment or outside structure. If I want to start a business, I can get a domain for a few dollars and even build the website on my own. As long as you’re willing to put in the time and the creativity, you can pretty much do anything.
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