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Thriving & Surviving in the Age of Managed Care

As a seasoned private practitioner, my disillusionment with the insurance cartel occurred years ago.

managed careDisclosure of confidential information was incessantly required by health insurance carriers in order to process claims.

Submitting mental health invoices for reimbursement carried a certain amount of risk to confidentiality, privacy or to future capacity to obtain health or life insurance or even a job.

Additionally, I was aware of the fact that I was receiving insurance reimbursement rates 60% lower than the standard customary fee for psychotherapy in NYC. As a result, I was burning out working excessive hours to meet overhead expenses and wasting precious time battling it out with corrupt insurance companies who all too frequently deliberately delayed the processing of claims.

When two major insurance companies merged, the fallout became unbearable. The already substandard fee was reduced by 20% and I was struggling to clarify what my client’s new benefits were in the sea of misinformation that lay before me. So I pulled out of all the panels.

Subsequently I went into a panic over my decision. The attrition was overwhelming. I didn’t know if I would be able to attract enough referrals as an out of network provider to sustain my practice. Yet, at the same time, I also felt an urgency to give expression to who I was as a clinician with strong creative and spiritual leanings.

Catapulting into Action

These parts of me felt diluted and made obsolete under the scrutiny of managed care. So, I catapulted myself into action and redid my web site, set up a credit card option for clients, developed two six-week workshops and began writing and submitting articles to web publications.

I also completed a play that has been presented to girls in foster care, as well as girls in a long-term in- patient drug rehab facility.

Writing became a vehicle that helped me effectively define who I am and what I have to offer as a clinician.

The writing of articles, workshops and a play has contributed to my establishing and sustaining my practice as an out of network provider. I discovered that article writing is one of the most cost-effective ways to get free traffic back to your website, acquire back links to your website so as to enhance search engine optimization and to position yourself an as expert within your chosen niche.

It is also a powerful means of solidifying your unique professional identity. While search engine optimization is a critical aspect of generating exposure, the primary intention when writing articles should always be providing quality content that speaks to your reader and reflects a meaningful message you feel compelled to convey as the writer.

Emerson wrote:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Taking the risk of pulling out of the insurance panels compelled me to ask myself if I was really being true to myself. When I began my efforts to define and establish my professional voice through writing both creatively and clinically, I felt simultaneously liberated and challenged.

Was who I presented myself to be professionally an accurate reflection of who I really am? If I was going to promote my practice and myself through writing, than I needed to become very clear about how I wanted to represent myself.

If I wanted to have a steady stream of referrals I needed to be willing to stand out by communicating very clearly about those specific areas as a therapist in which I have a genuine sense of competency and interest.

I discovered that writing articles about topics that reflected my areas of specialization meant being more visible about who I am as a clinician with a vested interest in therapeutic theater, treating addictive disorders and drawing on diverse spiritual proclivities as an interfaith minister.

Defining My Niche

Defining my niche through writing was first and foremost, helping me to solidify my professional identity in a very real and tangible way. It was encouraging me to be true to myself, both professionally and personally, by positioning myself as a specialist or expert with specific issues and populations that are ideally suited for what I have to offer.

 

While defining yourself on a personal level is extremely relevant, defining your services and target populations are an important step in effective marketing.

Effective marketing involves communicating very specifically about who you are and what you do. If you go to Dictionary.com, you will find that the definition of a niche market is defined as: a demand for a very specialized product or commodity or a specialized and profitable part of a commercial market; a narrowly targeted market.

Based on this definition, to say you are a therapist or a healer, or a clinician, is way too generic. You need to define and narrow it down to whom you want to communicate.  By zeroing in on a specific niche and targeting in on what specific services you can provide for that specific population, you will develop an advantage as a specialist in your field.

Once you have clearly defined your areas of specialization, and who your target populations are, you can begin tailoring articles that communicate your expertise and speak to your audience.

It is important to note that content style for the web differs from print. When writing for the web make sure your headline includes keywords that describe the content of your article.

This approach is important for search engine optimization. You want to condense your knowledge into an article that specifically addresses the immediate needs of the reader, but you also want to lead the reader by including personal perspectives and your orientation.

While the reader is searching for nuggets of information, they may also be seeking a unique sense of expertise and guidance. You want your article to encourage the reader to scan your author’s bio in the resource box located below each article. The resource box is where you can hyperlink to your web site and offer succinct concise information about what you do and who you are.

Your articles will link back to your professional web site through the resource box, so it’s important to clearly define yourself in five to six sentences, so that the reader scanning your article is encouraged to click on the link to your website.

In these economic times, generating diverse revenue streams has become a necessary reality for many private practitioners. I’ve discovered that making the effort to write articles for online publications offers you the chance to have niche related articles published and shared with a worldwide audience.

Practical Solutions

Developing workshops, educational seminars, teaching and authoring are also practical solutions. Depending on your professional skills and preferences, these options can be invaluable adjuncts to sustaining a viable private practice.

Diversifying also affords the potential for growth and empowerment. As for me, writing has become an integral aspect of my work as a clinician and as a playwright of therapeutic theater. It’s become an invaluable means by which I can effectively communicate about my work as a clinician in private practice, as well as expressing my perceptions of psychotherapy as a contemporary spiritual path and a creative process, which assists with accessing the resources within all of us that inspire wholeness.

In Carl Jung’s autobiography, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” I came across this passage. Jung wrote:

“All my writings may be considered tasks imposed from within; their source was a fateful compulsion. What I wrote were things that assailed me from within myself. I permitted the spirit that moved me to speak out. I have never counted upon any strong response, any powerful resonance, to my writings. They represent a compensation for our times, and I have been impelled to say what no one wants to hear. For that reason, and especially at the beginning, I often felt utterly forlorn. I knew that what I said would be unwelcome, for it is difficult for people of our times to accept the counterweight to the conscious world. Today I can say that it is truly astonishing that I have had as much success as has been accorded me. ”

What Jung’s words inspire in me, and hopefully in you as well, is that whatever you write, risk communicating from the source within yourself that expresses the truth of who you are, and irrespective of key words, niche marketing, hyperlinks and search engine optimization, those you are meant to reach will most certainly find you.

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Thriving & Surviving in the Age of Managed Care

Rev Sheri Heller, LCSW

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, is a seasoned NYC psychotherapist with 25+ years experience in the addiction and mental health fields. Sheri is also an interfaith minister and playwright, and the founder of The Sistah Tribe - Phoenix Project, a therapeutic theater event for at-risk women and girls in the public sector of NYC. For more information, visit www.sheritherapist.com

 

APA Reference
Heller, R. (2016). Thriving & Surviving in the Age of Managed Care. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 15, 2019, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/thriving-surviving-in-the-age-of-managed-care/

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 19 Mar 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Mar 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.