The Ethical Use Of Essential Oils In Private Practice


You might know our guest blogger today as the founder of the Online Therapy Institute.  Her name is DeeAnna Nagel, LMHC BCC.   However, in recent years, DeeAnna  has expanded her focus to include founding the Online Aromatherapy Institute. She is also Managing Co-editor of TILT Magazine – Therapeutic Innovations in Light of Technology.

My interest in having DeeAnna join us today is related to her work in aromatherapy.  After all, many of us in private practice already choose to use scented candles in our offices but have done very little research to really understand the evidence supporting the use of  essential oils in support of our clinical work.

DeeAnna Nagel joins us today to share her thoughts on how to ethically integrate the use of essential oils into our clinical work.


A Guest Post by DeeAnna Nagel, LMHC, BCC

Mainstreaming Essential Oils

If you are a mental health practitioner or otherwise identify yourself as a coach, helper or healer, you have probably heard Image of The Ethical Use of Essential Oils in Private Practiceof essential oils and/or aromatherapy. It seems essential oils are all the rage and some may be asking if this oils revolution is just a fad. I don’t think so- chances are, the use of essential oils to support health and wellness was a “fad” that is now mainstream and here to stay. But as with many mainstream approaches and ideas, mental health practitioners are often slow to embrace what may be perceived as new, different or alternative.

We are taught not to utilize modalities or approaches that are not backed by research that demonstrates efficacy. So, for the sake of simplicity, I will focus on lavender as the example oil for this blog post. Lavender is known for supporting enhanced mood. Many articles and studies exist as evidenced by Google Scholar search, “lavender essential oil” “mood”.

The Ethical Use of Essential Oils

So if we can establish that lavender is efficacious in enhancing a positive shift in mood does that mean we can or should be peddling lavender to our clients?  Not so fast. In most instances it would be unethical to sell lavender essential oil to your clients. And if the essential oil company is a direct sales network marketing company, setting your client up with a wholesale account places you in a dual relationship with your client. I blogged about this about a year ago at Online Therapy Institute.

But I am a firm believer in utilizing the senses as much as possible in conjunction with traditional talk therapy. For years I practiced online therapy- and I encouraged in-person clients to engage in occasional text-based therapy through email or chat because the cognitive and sensory-motor stimulation of writing, combined with a therapeutic response from the therapist and talk dialogue enhanced the process for clients who were open to the possibilities. With that said, introducing scent into the therapeutic process can be very beneficial.

“But I am not an aromatherapist!”

Get Educated About the Use of Essential Oils

If you haven’t had training about the use of essential oils, I highly recommend prioritizing this as part of your continuing education/professional development arsenal. You don’t have to be an aromatherapist to begin using natural aromas in your work setting. Introducing lavender essential oil by cool-mist diffusing in a waiting room or in the consultation room is a very appropriate way to start. Unplug the fragrance plugins and remove those fragrant candles. Replace them with therapeutic grade essential oils that do not contain any chemicals or other catalyst/carrier ingredients.

There are other experiential ways you can introduce your clients to the use of essential oils that do not include selling a product directly to the client or working outside your scope of practice. I use essential oils daily and the process has been transformative for me. Your own personal use of quality essential oils is a perfect starting point.

Top Ten Ways to Introduce Essential Oils Into Your Practice

  1. Begin Using Essential Oils yourself, in your home and in your life- have your own immersive experience.
  2. Diffuse essential oils in your waiting room
  3. Diffuse essential oils in your consultation room
  4. Choose an oil that is familiar to many such as lavender, peppermint or lemon
  5. Using the three oils mentioned, diffuse them in combination- in a cool mist diffuser using ½ cup of water, use 2 drops each, lavender, peppermint, lemon
  6. Once you familiarize yourself with the basic oils and their therapeutic uses, ask your client if he/she would like to experience an oil by slowly bringing an open bottle of oil up to their nose
  7. Ask your client what the aromatic experience was like and process your client’s experience
  8. Educate your client about that particular essential oil
  9. Explain that essential oils can be used to support and enhance wellness much like other efforts toward wellness such as meditation, visualization, self-help books, and eating healthfully.
  10. Point your client to reliable resources for education and purchase should additional information be requested.

Do you use essential oils in your practice? I would love to hear your experiences!


About the Author:  DeeAnna Nagel, LMHC BCC is a former psychotherapist turned wellness coach. Image of DeeAnna Nagel head shot In addition to client services, she also offers professional development courses and certifications to practitioners including Certified Intuitive Practitioner, Certified Aroma Coach and Reiki Master Teacher.  You can find more about her services  at Online Aromatherapy Institute.


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Everything You Ought To Know About Guest Blogging To Build Your Therapy Practice


Image of Everything You Ought To Know About Guest Blogging To Build Your Therapy PracticeWhen I look for practice-building advice for my own business, I look for a therapist who has rock solid experience building and reinventing her own business and one who has walked her path with joy, grace, transparency and generosity.  No one I know has done that any better than Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW. 

One tool she has leveraged for her business’ growth and every-expanding success has been her use of blogging.  Today, I am honored and excited to share with you this interview with Julie talking about her decisions related to guest blogging and where they have led her.


An Interview with Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW


Tamara:  Please introduce yourself so that my readers who are not familiar with your blogging will understand why I’ve invited you to speak with us specifically about blogging on highly trafficked sites.

Julie:  I’m Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, a private practice consultant, author, media contributor, wife and mother of 4, and owner and executive director of Wasatch Family Therapy in Utah. My private practice, founded in 2002, has grown from a solo practice to a private pay practice that employs 20 providers with 3 locations.

Tamara:  So how how have you used blogging to build your private practice?

Julie:  I tend to be an early technology adopter and had a website in the early 2000’s, before most therapists had websites. About 8 years ago I had a gut feeling that I needed to and wanted to gain media and social media skills and build a trusted online presence. I added a blog to my practice website and started blogging regularly on topics that I hoped would speak to our ideal clients.

After building a decent archive of articles, I started looking for opportunities to blog on larger websites. I read somewhere that back-linking would help your website SEO. Around that time I stumbled across and was drawn to their Ask a Therapist column so I decided to email the CEO to ask if I could join the Ask a Therapist team.

In early 2011 I started blogging for them.  What shocked me is that John, the CEO, offered to pay me! What was even better is that I got to own the content and repost it after 4 weeks on my websites. I had no idea that I could get paid to answer mental health and relationship questions and own the content.

Tamara:  How did you make the transition from guest posting on PsychCentral to having your own column there?

Julie:  After regularly blogging for PsychCentral I pitched my own blog on PsychCentral Pro –  Private Practice Toolbox. The idea was sparked by an increase in therapists contacting me with questions about how I had continued to grow my fee-for-service private practice, during a downturn in the economy, free of managed care or any other contracts.

Also, I had recently been invited to speak a few times to mental health professionals on building an online presence, how to land media interviews, how to use social media, etc. and I found that I loved sharing what I had learned about the power of building an online presence as part of growing your private practice. I’m all about helping people achieve their dreams and if there is anything I can do to facilitate that, I’m all in.

Tamara:  What led you to make the decision to guest post on sites other than your own and how you decided where to do that?

Julie:  I decided to seek opportunities to blog on high-traffic websites to serve my communities, build trust by establishing myself as an expert, to raise visibility of my practice, and to build back links to my websites to increase my readership. I looked for websites that had high traffic, so I could reach more people with my message, had a good reputation, and whose mission was aligned with my purpose and passion.

Because of my extensive content creation and online presence I now get solicitations to write for and/or interview with high-traffic websites. For example, I was invited to be the relationship expert for

Tamara:  Is guest blogging something you would recommend to other therapists and what are the steps to doing that?

Julie:  I definitely recommend blogging to other therapists because it is a great way to serve, build trust, educate, and share your passion. I usually recommend blogging on other sites after they’ve laid some groundwork first. That groundwork is:

1) Launch your own practice website with a blog on the site.
2) Blog regularly on your site on topics that you are passionate about and that are helpful to your ideal client to demonstrate your writing skills.
3) Create accounts on least 2-3 social media platforms and share your blog posts and curate the best of other content relevant to your ideal client.

Tamara:  Can you talk about the benefits of guest posting on other websites?

Julie:  There are so many benefits of blogging on other websites. For your private practice, it makes it easier for potential clients to find you. You’ll be easier to find in Google searches. Your content will be more accessible. Your name will be seen which develops trust and establishes credibility.

An unexpected benefit for me has been that it has opened up additional opportunities for sharing my message on even larger platforms and help more people. This has helped to grow my social media following, further establish me as a trusted expert, increases traffic to my websites, improves SEO.

Tamara:  How did you initially learn about guest posting?

Julie:  A few years ago I had an experience where I really GOT the benefit and the power of regularly creating content on my websites on higher profile sites. A couple of years ago I received the following email:

Hi Julie –

I hope this note finds you well! I wanted to get in touch to let you know that you’ll be included on the “SharecareNow 10 – Depression” list  .This list will be publicly announced next week. This is a list created using several different metrics to ascertain the most influential members of the depression community. If you’d like a more detailed description of how we created the list, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You are not asked to include any payment or any sort of participation in order to be included on the list. Of course, you’re more than welcome to share with your readers. We’d also like to personally invite you to join the Sharecare community as an expert – so you can help to answer questions that relate to depression…”

I soon learned that Sharecare was a health-related social media platform created by Jeff Arnold and Dr. Mehmet Oz, in partnership with Harpo Studios, HSW International, Sony Pictures Television, and Discovery Communications, the company provides a wide array of expert answers, ultimately creating a community where healthcare knowledge is built, shared and put into practice.

Then I learned that I was #1 on the list! I was floored. When I found out how on earth they found me they told me that it was because of the volume of online content that I created relating to depression, the # of social media channels that I produced depression related content (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, several blogs, podcasts), and the high level of engagement with my content by followers (comments, shares, retweets, etc.)

Tamara:  WOW!  That was a fabulous trajectory that, in my mind, was meant to happen!  Thank you for sharing such an inspiring example of what can happen! 

I was floored! How on earth did they find me out of all of the content creators on the Internet? A little clinical social worker in Utah? That seems to me as likely as finding a needle in a haystack! But they found me, in large part because of the content I created on higher trafficked websites (PsychCentral, TheWIN, and others). This honor opened up opportunities to blog for ShareCare, Yahoo!, and DailyStrength.

Tamara:  One of the things I find in our online community here at Private Practice from the Inside Out is that many therapists are hesitant to ask but really want to know about the money that can be made in blogging.   What kind of money can a therapist who is committed to blogging make doing this type of work?

Julie:  Don’t be shy about asking for money but also be prepared to create a lot of free content to establish your credibility.

It is so fascinating how uncomfortable most therapists are talking about money! A former private practice consulting client who had struggled to set money-related boundaries in her practice herself, reframed money as simply an “energy exchange.” I love that idea.

Also, keep in mind that being paid for work doesn’t necessarily involve money. Sometimes the payment is reaching more of your idea clients, or an opportunity for someone else to present you as an expert, or the chance to grow your social media following, or the chance to build new relationships.

Tamara:  Can you provide a dollar range and what might be expected from a therapist in return? Any negotiating tips you can share?

Julie:  In my experience, a general amount paid per blog post can range anywhere from $10-200 for a 400-600 word article. As far as negotiating, always approach it from the perspective of how you can serve their readership. That means you have to do your homework and know who their audience is.

Also, before negotiating, make sure that you have something to offer them, like a large online tribe that you will direct to their website to increase their traffic, or an existing reputation that helps them build their reputation through association with you.

Tamara:  Are there particular challenges / concerns that therapists should be aware of?

Julie:  One challenge that therapists should be aware of is that there are a lot of people willing to create content without financial compensation. Expect to blog for no financial compensation when you first start. Like anything else, you have to prove yourself valuable and capable, and once you do, you become more valuable.

Tamara:  When should therapists start thinking about blogging on highly trafficked blogs?

Julie:  I already addressed this earlier, but to reiterate, therapists should consider blogging after they have been blogging on their own site and have some social media following.

Tamara:  For the therapist that is ready to reach that bigger audience, what should they do?

Julie:  Get inside the head of your ideal client so you can focus your efforts. Ask yourself what websites your ideal clients are most likely to visit, and which websites are already reaching your ideal clients? Those are the sites you want to target!

Once you narrow it down to a few sites, make initial contact with the editor and start building a relationship. Always lead with what you can do for them and their audience – how your unique expertise and perspective will serve their readers in a meaningful way.

Tamara:  Can you offer any tips / tricks / suggestions to stand out from others interested in blogging on the same blog?

Julie:  Do your homework! Study the website and ask yourself, “How am I uniquely qualified to add value to this particular website?” “How can I add something fresh and different? A different subject? A different angle on a topic that is already being covered?”

Tamara:  Do you have any other thoughts / advice that therapists might want to know related to blogging on highly-trafficked sites?

Julie:  1) Effective website – Develop a professional, easy to navigate website, that features your blog on the homepage so when potential editors visit your site they trust you and your expertise. Your website is your online portfolio and it’s your initial “hello”.
2) Pro photo – It’s worth it to invest in a great head shot and use it consistently on your blogging profiles, website, social media thumbnails.
3) Great bio – Have a few snappy, short bios already written, that appeals to your ideal client to use as your author bio at the end of each blog post.
4) Link, link, link – And always include links to your website(s) and social media profiles on everything you create online.

Tamara:  Finally, I know you are transitioning out of your private practice. Are you leaving clinical work altogether? Would you like to share your big news here so that we can continue to follow your work? And, where is it we can continue to find you online?

Over the years I have learned to follow my gut, to trust my intuition, and to go toward things that energize me. After being in clinical social work practice for 20 years, I decided to discontinue my clinical practice last month. I will still continue to own and run my private practice and to train and mentor clinicians at Wasatch Family Therapy and take care of my family.

It was a difficult decision and I shed a lot of tears saying goodbye to my clients, but it is the right decision for me. I feel called to focus my energy differently and in ways that I can make a unique contribution and make a difference for more people.

I am not even sure exactly what that is right now, but my sense is that I will share what I’ve learned with larger groups through speaking, seminars/webinars, media interviews, and writing songs and books. And I will definitely continue to provide private practice consultations.

I am just finishing up my dissertation and will graduate this May with a PhD in marriage and family therapy. I am hopeful that that additional credential will open doors that may not be open to me now. Even if it doesn’t change anything professionally, my PhD studies and the process writing my dissertation has been personally transformative — life changing on so many levels.

My dissertation, titled (Pro)Creating: Transforming Constraints to Creative Productivity in Mothers Through a Partnership Model of Family Organization, and studying the intersection of women, creativity, and family life may open up some new projects.

A journal entry quote from the “prologue” of my dissertation seems a fitting way to end this interview.

This weaving process [of writing a dissertation] has mirrored how I’ve lived my life—the weaving of a complex and rich and overwhelming and growth-filled tapestry that is always in process. I have learned to expand my own view of creativity and to value my care taking and engendering contributions in family life as creative work and creative expression. I have examined my own creative process in weaving together multiple domains of life simultaneously to inform the development of this model. “Inquiry becomes an opportunity for self-contextualizing, self-inquiry, and self-creation…that navigates between the twin requirements of rigor and imagination.”  ~ Alfonso Montuori


Image of Julie Hanks head shotFor updates, interviews, consulting, webinars, new projects visit . You may also join Julie and 3,000+ therapists in Private Practice Toolbox Facebook Group.

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Providing Therapy Is Hard! – Now What You Can Do About It


My apologies, gang – to you and to Amy Flaherty!  It seems we had an email glitch that resulted in her beautiful infographic getting posted without the actual blog post!  Let’s try this again!

On Tuesday, Amy joined us to talk about The One Thing Every Psychotherapist’s Partner Doesn’t Get.  Today, she’s back to tell us how to prevent and how to deal with that weighty fatigue that that comes with our demanding work as psychotherapists.


A Guest Post by Amy Flaherty, LPI-E, RPT


Image of Why Am I So Tired


Wait- don’t just read The One Thing Every Psychotherapist’s Partner Doesn’t GetSave it, print it out and remember it for those days when you are dead tired and people ask, “What’s the matter? You only had 20 hours of billing this week!“ Just a little helpful suggestion.

So now, like the good solution-focused therapist I am, I’m not one to focus only on the negative but instead want to talk about what we can do to improve our plight as therapists.

Of course, this list (and the corresponding infographic) is not exhaustive and honestly, I’ve tried to steer away from therapy buzz words such as “self-care” and “mindfulness.”

As a side note-I’ll admit, there are times when I feel like screaming if one more person asks me what I’m doing for “self-care” when I’m just trying to vent and feel sorry for myself. But that’s another blog post…

6 Ways to Deal with Therapy Being Hard

1.Watch what you watch. I wrote about mirror neurons in the last post. We are constantly bombarded by problems in the sessions and likely have a high level of empathy. Having these well-developed mirror neurons help us to be insightful therapists. But there’s a down side to this as well. We are likely to feel things even more so than others

Here’s one solution: Be aware of what you take in with your environment. Certain television shows and movies I just can’t handle after a long day.

Some days I just need a mindless book reading of the latest teen vampire novel. It’s fine. I don’t get triggered.

What I can’t take is the shows that make my body physically react in a negative way. One of my trigger shows is Hannibal. It may be your favorite show, but be aware of what you are taking in and how it affects your body, because again, your brain is processing all of this information as if it is happening to you.

2.  Have a life. This seems like a no-brainer. Actually, for me, it’s something I have to constantly cultivate. My fallback automatic response is to just sleep and hibernate after seeing clients.

There are days when I do this and it’s helpful but too much leads to only having the work-eat-sleep cycle, which isn’t healthy for anyone.

Don’t feel guilty about having lunch with a friend instead of working every lunch time. What other profession will just work through lunch, not take breaks and not then be surprised when quality decreases? Not many, and not if they are smart about productivity. Which leads me to my next point..

3.  Know thyself. Figure out when you do your best work and work around this. Chances are you know if you are a night-owl or an early-bird. Studies have shown that we do our best work in 90 minute chunks with breaks in between the sections of time.

Figure out when your best time to work is (mine is mid-morning) and do all of your other tasks then, like cleaning, catching up on emailing, or writing blog posts. Again, I realize I’m not saying anything earth-shattering, but the little things like scheduling around yourself does matter.

4.  Work with your favorite clients. This goes back to #3 because you have to know who your favorite clients are before you can attempt to work with just those.

For me, I do some of my best work with those clients who are outside of what society deems “normal.” I love providing these clients with a judgment-free space to help them be the person they were meant to be. However, I hate working with couples. I tried it for a while (working with couples) and found that I was way more exhausted after an hour of couples work than with my ideal client.

I know some of you are exclaiming “What- how can I do that, I have to make a living, are you crazy?” I won’t go into all the benefits of nicheing but you can check out a few with this blog post.

5.  Pay attention to your environment. Going back to the discussion about mirror neurons, we are affected by what is around us. Studies show our environment can greatly affect our emotions. You are going to be much more likely to feel enthused and excited about working with your clients in a space where YOU feel tranquil.

Decide what colors soothe you best and add in those things- as well as fabrics and other items that represent you. My good friend did a great job of this with her new private practice office.

6.  Give back to yourself. One of the best things I do for myself (aside from taking vacations and spending time with my family) is attending really quality, experiential trainings. I know this is one of the reasons I believe so much in sandtray trainings-because I get so much detox myself as well as the benefit of learning cool new techniques in the trainings that I attend.

When you attend experiential, hands-on trainings, you not only get to clear off your own mirror but also get to make connections with other like-minded therapists. I’ve designed my training program, Southern Sandtray Institute to do just that- provide detox and connections. I’ve seen it change people over and over again.

Connecting with others in a quality way increases your ability to handle stress and just helps you not feel so alone on those days when you are like “why did I choose THIS profession?”

Again, this is in no way an exhaustive list, but my core take-home message is this:

Be nice to yourself. You deserve it. You can’t serve from an empty cup.

Does any of this connect with you? What are your favorite ways to revitalize when you are feeling lost and tired? I’m always looking for more “self-care” ideas!


 About the Author:  Amy Flaherty, LPE-I is a Registered Play TherapistImage of Amy E. Flaherty, LPE-I, RPT in Northeast Arkansas. She provides personalized trainings in sandtray therapy for all therapists (not just those who work with kids) through her business – the Southern Sandtray Institute. Here is where you can sign up for her free webinar and learn more about her training that leads to certification as a Registered Integrative Sandtray Therapist (RIST).




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