Private Practice
with Julie Hanks, MSW, LCSW, BCD

Adventures In Private Practice

Adventures In Private Practice: Vocational Social Worker Dawn Vincent

Specializing in vocational rehabilitation and work/life issues, Australian social worker Dawn Vincent has been  in the mental health field for 25 years. Like many therapists, she considered opening a private practice, but says she lacked the confidence to actually do it.

Read how one private practice course helped her muster up the courage to open her private practice in Camberwell, Victoria, Australia where she helps clients work toward mental health and well-being and navigate changes and choices in life and in work.

Why did you decide to open a private practice?

I had thought about it for about 10 years, but lacked the confidence to go ahead.  After spending over 20 years in vocational rehabilitation I decided to take my long service leave and think about my options.  After an overseas trip I came home and enrolled in an Introduction to Private Practice course run by the Australian Association of Social Workers.  At that time there were only a small number of Social Workers in private practice and it was still somewhat controversial here in Australia.

The profession has a very strong welfare orientation where most Social Workers are employed by the Commonwealth or State governments or work in hospitals and community based settings. Having worked for a large government bureaucracy myself, I liked the idea of the independence and autonomy private practice seemed to offer. I had been a bit of a workaholic and I wanted to move to a better work/life balance and be able to work my own hours.  The course helped me to decide that private practice was what I wanted and I committed to this goal.


The Shrink’s Guide To Self-Publishing (part 1)

I'm thrilled to introduce to you Stephanie Adams, LPC - my very first guest blogger on Private Practice Toolbox. Stephanie's passion for counseling and develop multiple streams of income, like offering online counseling and webinars, and self-publishing her first book are impressive. For all of you shrinks who've been thinking about writing a book, I hope Stephanie's guest posts will encourage you to take action!

photo credit: Mark J P
Among therapists, "multiple streams of income" is a phrase with buzz. For good reason: though we all love our one-on-one work with clients, it gets nerve-wracking to rely solely on "dollars for hours" income. Those times when a client gets sick - or we do - can mean a major hit to our paycheck.
That's why more and more, smart therapists are looking to diversify their methods of earning income. Self-publishing a book for your main client group is one excellent means of doing just that.


Therapist Roll Call: Can We Peek Inside Your Office, Please?

The physical "space" you work  in says a lot about you. Does your office space appeal to your ideal client? Does it speak about your tastes and preferences? Would you be willing to give other shrinks a tour of your office? Why or why not?

Every time a new client comes into my office they comment on my denim couch. It feels cozy and casual, which is how I want my clients to feel when they're in my office. The color scheme of the office decor coincides with our logo and website colors...and that's no accident.

I thought it would be fun to peek into the offices of private practitioners to share ideas and get inspiration. So, if you're willing to let the world (or the readers of this blog) see YOUR office space follow these simple step.


5 Twitter Tricks To Promote Your Practice Online

Do you have a Twitter account for your practice but you're not sure how to get more followers? Do you feel like your tweeting into thin air and no one is "listening"?

Here are a few tricks I've learned that have help me grow my Twitter following and promote your private mental health practice online and build your professional identity.

1) Search and follow

Use the search box at the right top of your Twitter homepage to search your specialty areas and interests. Follow people who are tweeting helpful and relevant info relating to your practice areas and let them know that you like what they're sharing online.

Adventures In Private Practice

Adventures In Private Practice: Pastoral Counselor Rev. Christopher L. Smith, LMHC

The Reverend Christopher L. Smith combines his spiritual insight as an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church with impressive mental health and marriage and family therapy training in his New York City private practice Seeking Shalom.

Christopher offers a variety of mental health, EAP, and consultation services with the overarching theme of helping clients and professionals seek peace in their life. See how Christopher balances his ministry and private practice.

Why did you decide to open a private practice?
As someone who has been gifted in different ways and who enjoys the peace that comes from balancing different interests, I was interested in working on a part-time basis and to preserve some degree of flexibility.  The easiest way to do this while being able to maintain control over the way I would practice in helping others was to formalize my own practice.

Formalizing a practice in the same building that I also serve as a pastor both added a degree of efficiency in my work as well as adding to the quality care in a community (Harlem and Washington Heights) that was lacking in some of the services that I offer.


5 Common Myths About Private Practice

1) If you build it they will come

One of the most difficult challenges of private practice is finding consistent referral sources. Come up with a marketing plan and secure a few referral sources before you hang up your "shingle." (Read Private Practice Marketing Made Easy)

2) My only overhead expense will be leasing office space

Not so. Plan on buying software for billing and record keeping, malpractice insurance, business license, incorporation fees, professional consultation, website costs, paper goods, furnishings, marketing materials...


Private Practice Marketing Made Easy

Last week I spoke to group of local therapists on "Marketing Your Private Practice" and a record number of people attended the presentation. Why? Because therapists in private practice feel ill-equipped and uncomfortable with the business aspects of private practice.

It's rare that a marketing course is included in a mental health graduate school curriculum, and few internships and practicums offer marketing mentorship. In my graduate program in social work, just the words "private practice" were treated as "bad words," as if making money while helping people was somehow morally wrong.

For some therapists  the word marketing brings up feelings of anxiety, even dread. "I am not comfortable with self-promoting," I've heard many therapists say.  "I'm not in this for the money so I hate to think that I have to market my services."

Over nearly 10 years in private practice I've learned that marketing isn't as difficult or scary as it sounds. Most therapists already have the relationship skills that make marketing effective. You're already good at building relationships and communicating. You just need to apply your skills differently.


What They Don’t Teach You In Grad School

If you're a graduate student in the mental health field planning on going into private practice, here are a few things that you won't learn during your program. Most of what I learned about psychotherapy and private practice came after I graduated.

After 17 years of practice, here are a few things I wish I'd known earlier:

1) Clients don't care about your degree

I'm rarely asked what degree I hold or what school I attended. I've found that very few clients know the difference between an MSW, MFT, PhD, MFCC, PsyD or any other degree. What clients really want to know is that you're qualified to do therapy, and if you can help them.

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life: Meet Body-Centered Therapist Ashley Eder, LPC

Meet Ashley Eder, LPC and her therapy dog "Angel." While I know therapists who've brought their dog into the therapy office occasionally (it wasn't necessarily "therapeutic" for colleagues or clients), Ashley is the first therapist I've met who uses a therapy dog as a purposeful tool in clinical practice.

It makes sense that certain clients would feel at ease and find contact with a dog to be calming during therapy sessions. In her Boulder, CO private practice, Ashley specializes in body-centered psychotherapy and mindfulness interventions to treat somatic complaints, such as body image, self-harm, chronic pain, abuse recovery, and eating disorders in young adults in their teens and twenties.

In addition to her clinical practice Ashley provides counselor education, training, community building and supervises other counselors toward licensure. See how Ashley spends her day balancing family (she's a mom of one) and her clinical practice.
A Day In The Life
January 23, 2012


Wake up to the sound of my 15 month old son chattering to himself in his bedroom. He is currently my alarm clock, and this is an excellent arrangement when he sleeps past 6AM. I listen to him babble and do a quick first check of email to see if there is anything I need to know heading into my day.


Naming Your Practice Is Like Naming A Child

I have four children. Luckily, I still like the names my husband and I gave them. Their names fit them. Their names aren't too common or too weird. Like naming a child, choosing a practice name that fits can be a difficult process that brings up anxiety for therapists. You want your practice name to be an accurate reflection of you, as a therapist, and also appeal to your ideal clients.  You don't want to regret your decision down the road, right?

Ten years ago I wrestled with the question of what to name my practice. Funny enough, it was just one month after my 3rd child was born and we  didn't name him for a couple of days because my husband and I couldn't agree on his name. The name he'd picked for our son, Joshua, was a fine name but it just wasn't him. He was Owen, not Joshua. I don't regret taking a couple of days and "going to bat" for the name that fit my son.

I don't regret the name I picked for my private practice either. I wrestled with a few different practice options and settled on Wasatch Family Therapy. Here are some common questions about naming your practice and some insight into how I made my decision.