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Restore Family Counselling

Restoring business success                                     

Val Barker achieved a long-held dream to run her own private counselling practice with help from the Small Business Mentoring Service.

Bendigo-based Restore Family Counselling aims to enable people to live and work together in positive ways despite experiencing difficulties or trauma.

Val provides therapeutic counselling to children, young people, adults, couples and families around mental health issues, with a focus on trauma. Techniques used depend on a client’s age and issues.

An experienced Anglican Minister and social worker, Val began working towards starting her business in 2013.

When her husband died after a short illness in 2014, she decided to develop a private counselling practice while working part time as a welfare worker in two primary schools.

“Having my own private counselling practice that focused on children and families has been a dream … for the last 18 years,” Val says. “Children, young people and families are a passion of mine.”

Restore Family Counselling 

Valerie was well qualified and skilled at dealing with those who had experienced trauma. She is accredited in Cognitive Processing Therapy with the Australian Association of Social Workers and Medicare.

But balancing two jobs and her own personal grief was challenging. Val did not have a business background, so found it difficult asking people for payment.

“I told myself that I needed to find someone who could help me understand how to run a business,” she says. “I was good at my work but as a business owner I was not good.”

Val had found SBMS on Facebook and joined its mailing list. The day she questioned her business skills, an email alert arrived for a Women in Business workshop series that included mentoring.

“That was the start of it,” she says. “I’ve never looked back”.

Val was matched with mentor Janet Cropley, who is based in Maldon. Janet has a strong general management background in a range of private and public organisations.

Since 1994 Janet has run a training and consultancy practice, working with small businesses, not-for-profit organisations and educational institutions to seek business improvement through understanding.

SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business.  It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.                    

Val had six sessions with Janet over 15 months and mentoring is continuing. Among other things, Janet helped with:

  • developing business goals
  • marketing
  • transitioning to full-time practice
  • case load management techniques
  • creating a realistic budget and sticking to it
  • charging appropriately to sustain the business
  • working on the business and not just in it.

While seeing Janet, Val clarified her goals, computerised her administrative tasks and developed a strategy to turn her business into a full-time operation.

She also learned to prioritise, say no when required, charge appropriately for her services - although this is still a challenge - and reward herself without feeling guilty.

Val’s confidence in herself and her ability grew to the point where she leased a building with another practitioner and purchased furniture and equipment.

Restore Family Counselling


The rooms have plenty of parking and are close to town, a train station and bus stops. A room is set aside for children and young people who need therapeutic sensory work.

“My stress has reduced,” Val says. “However I am still working to get an even balance of my life/work.”

Since seeing Janet, Val’s client base has increased ten-fold and revenue is up by 400 per cent.

“I went from working two days a week to five and my five are totally booked out a month ahead,” she says.

Val is extremely grateful she found SBMS. “I’ve recommended them to several friends and acquaintances,” she says.

“Janet was an amazing mentor for me – still is. Mentoring challenged me to understand how much I was worth when it came to my work/money.

“I was not confident in business practices and felt totally on my own until Janet came and provided me with understanding and insight. I have not looked back.”

Janet is proud of what Val has achieved given the incredible stress she faced. She says Val listened to her advice, improved her life balance and her understanding of what is needed to succeed.

“It was a big learning curve,” Janet says. “She’s taken everything on board. She’s been stunning.”

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