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Therapist turned Entrepreneur: Maelisa Hall, Founder of QA Prep

Private Practice Toolbox interview Maelisa HallA few months ago, the first post in our news series “Therapist Turned Entrepreneur” was published. Today, we continue this series with Dr. Maelisa Hall, a mental health professional who saw a need in the field for better strategies for clinical documentation. She created QA Prep to help train counselors to take better notes and make record-keeping more efficient and organized. Here is Maelisa’s story:

What is your background? How did you get started in the mental health professional field?

I’m a clinical psychologist, and I have a variety of experiences in the mental health profession. When I originally started, I was very interested in systems of change- family systems theory, organizational psychology, and consulting. I found early on that I enjoy looking at the bigger picture, breaking down problems, and identifying solutions. I’ve used these skills in my work on a crisis response team, learning disability testing, vocational counseling, individual therapy, and more recently, in the realm of quality improvement and training.

Tell us about your business QA Prep and how you came to develop it.
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I was working as a Quality Improvement (QI) Training Specialist at an agency and kept hearing the same thing from all the therapists I trained. They were so thankful that the agency provided a two day training on documentation because they felt grad school did not prepare them for this part of clinical work. I then started noticing therapists in private practice asking the same kinds of questions, except they didn’t have a QI person to call up and ask for help. Instead, they were searching on Facebook groups and listservs and would often get conflicting information. I thought it would be beneficial to provide the same level of support for therapists in private practice that therapists in agencies receive, so I started QA Prep. That quickly morphed into an online business model where I offer online trainings (both free and paid) so therapists have access to the material 24/7.
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Why do you think it is that so many therapists find documentation so difficult or tedious?
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I think a big reason is that documentation is rarely talked about. We learn very little about it in graduate school and if we do, it’s often considered an afterthought. So it becomes this ambiguous, tedious thing that seems unrelated to our clinical work. And thefact that documentation is often unclear or not well understood by clinicians can create a snowball effect: therapists may “wing it” based on their limited experience in supervision, they feel embarrassed and think they are likely writing notes the wrong way, so they don’t share this and may avoid work. All of a sudden, a month can go by, and they may be 100 notes behind! They feel even more embarrassed and worry what other therapists would think if they owned up to this. Then documentation becomes daunting and scary. The cycle can continue and cause major problems (By the way, this is a really common scenario, so if it’s happening to you, speak up and get support!).
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Explain why having a solid understanding and policy of clinical documentation is so critical from a practice building standpoint.
The above scenario is a great example. When documentation is a big chore, it tends to pile up and then can take away from other tasks you could be doing related to your business. If you set aside an administrative day, but then 5-6 hours is spent writing notes, there won’t be much energy left for things like networking, phone calls, and social media.
Also, setting up your policies to be thorough from the beginning will save a lot of headache and help you to answer questions from potential clients more easily. For example, if you have a clear policy on reduced fees, you feel confident during initial consultations with potential clients and can present a clear message on your website.
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Here at Private Practice Toolbox, we encourage counselors to create income for themselves in ways other than simply seeing clients. Tell us static1.squarespaceabout your experience as an entrepreneur.
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I love being an entrepreneur because I have so many ideas running through my head all the time. This can also be a bit of a curse, but my limited amount of time (I still have a full-time job) helps me to prioritize and stick with one task or program.
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To help keep me focused, I use an old-fashioned day planner and plan about a year ahead. I list out when I’ll offer different programs, when I’ll work on creating something new, who I’d like to reach out to for networking, and also write out topics for weekly blog posts. I read emails from my followers and pay attention to questions therapists ask in forums and groups, so I’m able to sift through all my ideas and see what will be most relevant for people at the time. Sometimes that means adjusting a bit. And sometimes I get inspired and create something totally new out of nowhere. I love to create and having a business where I am free to create as many trainings as I want is wonderful!
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Your blog is impressive and has a lot of valuable information about clinical documentation. Explain how blogging/social media is important to your training and consulting business.
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Blogging and social media is a great way for me to interact with other therapists, build connections, and let people get a glimpse of what it’s like to work with me. In my blog posts, I can share tips and break things down so people can actually use those tips to make documentation easier without even paying me for anything. They’re able to see how the strategies I provide actually work in real life.
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Plenty of people just need those free, quick tips, and I’m really happy to help them. I love it when someone sends me an email saying he/she got caught up on all notes, crafted his/her own personalized notes template, or created a treatment plan, all from my free crash course. And those people then share my website and information with other counselors because it helped them, and so on. So it’s good for them and for me!
Since most of these counselors have never met me in person and wouldn’t think to share my resources with their colleagues, I rely on my social media and blog posts to introduce myself and to get the word out about my services.
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What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with QA Prep? And what are some of the most rewarding moments and successes you’ve experienced with it?
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One of my biggest challenges was figuring out what to offer. I knew what type of service I wanted to provide, but had no idea how to package it together. I invested in coaching, and that helped me to formulate a plan and give me direction on where to focus and when. My business is still a work in progress; it’s just over a year old. I continue to craft new trainings and tweak the specifics based on the responses I receive.
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By far, the most rewarding moments have been when I hear success stories! I love hearing how people have changed their outlook and simplified their documentation, and I love to seMaelisa again!e people sharing my blog posts. It’s really satisfying to know that the work I’m doing is truly impacting people’s lives.
 
Dr. Maelisa Hall specializes in teaching therapists how to connect with their paperwork so it’s more simple and more meaningful. The result? Rock solid documentation every therapist can be proud of! Check out her free online Private Practice Paperwork Crash Course, and get tips on improving your documentation today.
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Therapist turned Entrepreneur: Maelisa Hall, Founder of QA Prep

Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW

Licensed therapist turned business consultant Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW has over 20 years in the mental health field & 12 years in private practice as owner of WasatchFamilyTherapy.com. Hanks consults with therapists all over the world to build a fulfilling and profitable therapy business and attract cash-pay clients through technology and social media. Follow Julie on Twitter & Facebook.

 


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APA Reference
Hanks, D. (2015). Therapist turned Entrepreneur: Maelisa Hall, Founder of QA Prep. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2018, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/private-practice/2015/09/therapist-turned-entrepreneur-maelisa-hall-founder-of-qa-prep/

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Sep 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Sep 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.