Seeing Sickness and a Crisis as an Opportunity

Steinbeis Consultant supports business founder with plans to set up a psychotherapy practice

In 2007, a tumble down the stairs turned Caren Totzauer’s life upside down. The once active mother suddenly found herself in a wheelchair. Still coming to terms with her new situation, she had to remain strong for her children and family. But she is not one to give up. Totzauer found someone who would help her, from the ground up, to cope with her change in circumstances, face the situation and use it, moreover, as an opportunity. To subsequently pass on this support and give courage to others, the superwoman decided to open her own alternative practice for psychotherapy. She was supported in this process by Doris Deichselberger, Director of the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Change Management and Business Coaching.

Totzauer had already worked as a helper with incontinence problems and convalescence but she had noticed that she was only investing a fraction of her time in actually providing her clients with advice. The more pressing issue was the psychological situation. It was clear that she wanted to expand her know-how in this area so she began training as a psychological counselor and qualified as a hypnotherapist. In parallel to this she underwent training to become an alternative practitioner of psychotherapy.

Armed with her new know-how, the next goal was obvious: She wanted to set up her own alternative practice as a psychotherapist. The overall direction was clear from the outset. Her work would revolve around coming to terms with accidents, sickness, and personal crises, not just for those directly affected but also for their friends and families. Due to her own experience, she could work with clients as a partner of equals; she knew how different situations feel; she knew how to find one’s bearings and how to cope. The fact that Totzauer was not going to let things get her down, is something she proved with admiration. By chance, she took up the sport of wheelchair curling. Just a year later, her ambition resulted in a bronze medal for Germany at the World Championships.

Despite all her specialist knowledge, there was one area she did need help with: customer acquisition. After some research, she discovered the Steinbeis EXI Startup Bonus, which entitled her to a free pre-startup consultation session. Thanks to the support of Doris Deichselberger, director of the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Change Management und Business Coaching, Totzauer received professional advice that helped her to define the scope of her services more accurately by focusing on sickness, crisis, and grief management. As she was assured by Deichselberger, “If you’re convinced of your idea yourself, you’ll convince others too!” In keeping with this, Totzauer decided to set up her own practice.

But knowing this is not enough by itself, especially if you want to be seen as an expert by your customers. Totzauer quickly realized that in modern times of social media, tools like flyers and business cards may still be used, but at the beginning the priority is to set up a professional website and have a good presence in the social media. Press coverage also plays an important role in making a name for yourself.

The ideas she was given by Deichselberger are already bearing fruit. Totzauer gives talks at hospitals and other institutions, and her experience and opinions are highly valued when it comes to sickness and crisis management. This has resulted in further speeches and partnerships, and in one hospital she already has a regular slot for sickness management counseling. In her practice, Totzauer uses psychotherapy and hypnosis. Since many of her clients have restricted mobility due to their medical condition, they cannot leave the home or are still in hospital, so she also makes house calls. She has also now started counseling and coaching clients online, by phone, email, or Skype.

Doris Deichselberger helped Caren Totzauer plan her long-term goals and was able to encourage her to think bigger and broader. In the meantime, Totzauer’s goal is to offer counseling and therapy at more hospitals and give talks on sickness and crisis management at large conventions. The constructive advice she received and the many helpful tips have already enabled her to achieve her personal goal: Totzauer now shares her experiences with others affected by such circumstances, providing them with important help.


Doris Deichselberger
Steinbeis Consulting Center Change Management und Business Coaching (Stuttgart)

Caren Totzauer
Alternative practitioner for psychotherapy/hypnotherapy (Sulz a. N.)