My latest interview series talks to people who have opened and successfully built a group therapy practice. I had the pleasure of speaking to Amy Fortney Parks, Ph.D, LPC, who has a group practice based in Alexandria, Virginia.
Jennifer: Taking the jump to opening a group practice can be scary for some people. Were you nervous when you took the leap to opening a group practice? What helped you to push yourself to start it?
Amy: I had been in private practice part-time, then full-time for about six years before it began to dawn on me that I might want to either work a bit less, or do something other than see private clients all week.
I was offered an opportunity to teach at the university level, and to provide clinical supervision to therapists in a large hospital system. And I couldn’t do either of these things if I needed to also see 20-30 individual clients a week. So I brought on my first IC. The referrals kept coming, and we kept growing! I now have 6 ICs, 4 that provide therapy and two that provide psychoeducational testing.
Jennifer: Looking back, what would you have done differently when you opened your group practice (if anything at all)?
Amy: If I could go back and do something differently, I would have given more thought early on to the kind of group “culture” I wanted to create. Although I have been very fortunate to have a team that works together beautifully, there are lots of places where that could have gone wonky.
I now have an IC manual with office procedures, and a “backroom” website with all of the pertinent paperwork, referrals, and other miscellaneous resources for the staff to access. This took time and effort to create, but has really been helpful for my ICs and also helps to ensure that things are streamlined and organized.
Jennifer: What specifically do you provide to your independent contractors (i.e. office space)?
Amy: Our practice provides office space (with an on-site gym), a stocked kitchen (for staff and clients), a dedicated intake coordinator (Director of First Impressions), and peer supervision. I have also built a bonus structure focused around specific marketing and practice activities that keep things running smoothly.
Jennifer: What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of managing independent contractors?
Amy: The most rewarding aspect is to be able to use my years of experience for the art of team building. I love having peers to case consult with, versus being alone in private practice. I also love the marketing and business aspects of running a group, and I am pretty good at those things.
The challenges come from managing various personalities, styles and schedules, while also trying to provide the highest level of client care and attention.
Jennifer: If you could give someone starting out advice when it comes to hiring other therapists (either ICs or employees), what would you tell them?
Amy: Decide if you want to have ICs or employees and go ALL IN. That is the #1 biggest first decision to make!
Amy’s group practice in Alexandria, Virginia, can be found at www.thewisefamily.com. They specialize in helping wiggly kids, stressed out teens, and the families that love them.