3 Things Potential Clients Really Want to Know
We've spent thousands and thousands of dollars on graduate education, continuing education, advanced clinical trainings and years in practicum and under supervision. We have invested a lot in our credentials, and all of the impressive acronyms behind our names. PhD, LCSW, LMFT, RPT, CSAC, LPC -- and the list goes on.
In my twenty plus years of practice, I have realized that what we value as clinicians is not necessarily the same thing as what those who are considering our services value. In fact, there are some principle criteria that we as clinicians need to meet in order for an individual to choose us as his/her therapist. Of course, there are exceptions. There are clients who are savvy to the ins and outs of mental health credentials, trainings, and certifications and are seeking help from someone in a specific discipline or with specific training. However, as a general rule, potential clients want to answer "yes" to these 3 questions before they select you as their clinician.
Extra! Extra! Using a Newsletter to Build Your Private Practice
If there is anything you've taken from reading posts on Private Practice Toolbox, it likely has to do with the importance of having a strong online presence to educate and serve your community. There's a lot to consider: social media, blogging, podcasting, SEO, etc. But there's another aspect of building your practice that we haven't quite covered yet: newsletters.
Newsletters are a tool you may consider implementing for your practice. A newsletter is a letter you send out to your clients and readers updating them on what's happening with your practice (it's a good idea to send them out monthly; you don't want to overwhelm your audience with too much from you, but you also don't want them to forget about you). They can be an effective way to connect with your readers and offer some insight on topics related to your specialty, inform them of any upcoming events or seminars, and just overall keep in touch.
Therapist Turned Entrepreneur: Howard Spector, Founder and CEO of SimplePractice
I'm excited to introduce you to the kick off of a new series: Therapist Turned Entrepreneur and introduce to you a mental health professional who transformed his training into creating mental health related businesses. Howard Spector is a therapist turned entrepreneur and is the creator of TrackYourHours.com and more recently, SimplePractice management system. Here is his story:
Tell us about your background (college experience and degree, career beginnings, etc.).
Wow, big question. I’ve had a number of careers as I tried to find the one that really fit. I attended USC for undergrad, and then after some years working in the entertainment industry found myself in Palo Alto while my wife was doing her medical residency at Stanford. I was always a bit of a technology geek and really connected with what was happening in Silicon Valley. We eventually ended up back in Los Angeles where I had some success with a number of technology companies. Then one day, I realized how disconnected I felt from the work I was doing and decided that I needed to reconnect with what was important to me, and also that a major career change was part of that. There was a particular school, Pacifica Graduate Institute, that I had always wanted to attend. Pacifica has a unique program where you basically live there for 3 days a month and are immersed in this wonderfully rich world of depth psychology. When I began school there, it felt like coming home. It was one of the most important experiences in my life, and I am very grateful for it.
6 Things I Learned from ‘Breaking Up’ With Managed Care It was a scary step to resign from all insurance panels! I wasn't aware of any therapists who had built a fee-for-service practice in my area. The things I learned in the process of were better than I had expected.
When my practice Wasatch Family Therapy transitioned from managed care panels to a private pay model over a decade ago, I anticipated a few things would happen; I knew that this business decision would help allow me more control over the type and length of therapy, that I would have less paperwork, and I would get paid at the time of service. However, there were some unexpected lessons I learned as well. Here are 6 things I learned from breaking up with managed care:
the value of my perceived value.
When potential clients learned that I employed a private pay model, they seemed to perceive me as a more competent provider. "You must be really good if you don't have to be on insurance panels." My clinical skills hadn't changed, but my perceived value went up because of how I presented my services. It's surprising how much the way we clinicians value and present ourselves affect how others see us.
Top 10 Websites for Building Your Private Practice
Like any worthwhile endeavor, building a successful private practice takes a lot of work, time, and know-how. So why not consult the experts? Here's a list of 10 of the best websites (listed in no particular order) to help you do just that:
The Power of Online Presence: Blogger Dawn Friedman uses her Advanced SEO Skills to Rank High in Google
Discover how some very successful mental health professionals use blogging, social media, and other technologies as powerful tools for their therapy practices.
Dawn Friedman, MSEd LPC, is a clinical counselor specializing in issues surrounding family building, including infertility, adoption, pregnancy, and parenting. An early adopter of technology, Dawn started a blog that became the basis of her strong online presence and has helped her grow a thriving practice. Read about her story here:
4 Ways a Private Pay Practice Model Benefits Clients The value of using a private pay model (instead of a managed care system) for your therapy practice is clear: less stress about additional paperwork requirements, greater autonomy to provide the services you deem are in the client's best interest, and immediate payment of your full fee are some of the main advantages. But some therapists are understandably hesitant about how to make the switch because of the potential impact this choice it might have on their clients.
Some common fears are “Clients might stop getting the therapy they need because they can’t afford me” or “charging a higher fee is selfish and means I care more about money than helping people.” When I was considering making the switch, I too had thoughts like these cross my mind. But I discovered that the opposite was true; breaking up with managed care and embracing the new way of structuring my practice actually benefited clients who received services. Here are 4 ways that a private pay model benefits clients:
Top 10 Best Books for Building Your Practice I asked members of my Private Practice Toolbox Facebook Group what books have helped them succeed in Private Practice and added them to the list of my favorites. Some of the following are specific to the mental health profession, while others offer insight that applies to the business world in general, but all of them can teach you valuable tips and strategies to use for your practice.
1) "Building Your Ideal Private Practice" by Lynn Grodzki
This groundbreaking book is first on the list for a reason. Dr. Grodzski leads the way in offering time-tested strategies to grow and improve your therapy practice (read here).
4 Common Business Blunders of Newbie Private Practitioners "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself."
When starting out in private practice, there's a lot to know. A lot. The learning curve can be painfully steep, particularly in ways for which we received no official training (finances, hiring practices, etc.). And no matter how knowledgeable or skilled a clinician is, he/she will inevitably take a few wrong steps. And that's okay!
We recently opened up a discussion on our Facebook page to get feedback about common business mistakes that therapists made when they were getting started in private practice. The responses were overwhelming; it seems many of you were eager to reflect on and share lessons that you learned the hard way! Though there were many answers given, a select few kept coming up that are worth addressing. Here are 4 common business mistakes to avoid when starting private practice:
Tough Love: How to Be Firm About Finances
When you decided to go into the field of professional psychotherapy, it's likely that your reasons had little to do with money. Even as you first started, you probably didn't have dollars on the brain all the time (payments, insurance, fees, collections, etc.). Billing specialists deal with that stuff, not us, right? But those of us in private practice quickly discover how important it is to acknowledge and successfully navigate the financial aspect of our businesses. And resigning from managed care panels and switching to a fee-for-service model means that the responsibility to collect fees relies on the individual therapy practice; now, it's our job.
I certainly understand that it can be awkward. People get weird about money. I used to be uncomfortable asking clients for payment after they'd born their souls to me. But thankfully, there's a way to conquer money anxiety, serve your clients, and still meet the needs of your practice and of yourself. Here are some strategies I've discovered about how to be firm about finances and present your stated fees to clients with confidence: