There are two things that I really love about Joseph Sanok, LPC. He is a great storyteller and he doesn’t sugarcoat what he thinks. So when Joe agreed to guest post here and suggested the title 5 Things Most Private Practices Get Wrong, I wasn’t surprised. That’s just how he is – telling his truth in service to therapists and clients alike – helping each of your to move forward in growing your practices.
(If you are interested in writing a guest post, check out the guidelines here.)
A Guest Post by Joseph Sanok, LPC
The Back Story
I was sitting in a bar with my brother and father.
It was after my grandmother’s funeral.
To give you some context, my father is a psychologist and my brother is a business consultant.
I was lamenting about how my practice had really grown.
To most people this would be a very positive thing, however, I had a full time job on top of my part time counseling private practice.
Mental Wellness Counseling (my practice) was meant to be something small on the side that brought in additional revenue.
Feeling proud I said, “So, I think I’m going to have to start a waiting list.”
“A waiting list? That’s a terrible idea,” my younger brother scolded.
“When people call you, they have probably been deciding to call you for weeks.
They’re not going to follow through if they’re on a waiting list. Just raise your prices.”
To this I responded, “I can’t just raise my prices, I’m not just in this for the money, it’s also about quality of life.
I want time not just more money.”
To this he responded, “Would you see someone one for $1,000 per session if they offered it?”
“So it is about the money.”
In that moment, everything changed for me.
What Most of Us Get Wrong
If you’re like me, you went into private practice to “help people.”
We all define that differently, but when it comes down to it, if we wanted to make loads of money we probably would have gone into business, marketing, or computer science.
Yet, we know we’re worth more than we often get paid.
Whether you’re brand new to the private practice world or a seasoned owner, I’m going to cover things that most of us get wrong.
These are things that stand in the way of growing our private practices, our influence, and the ways that we help our clients.
#1 – We Have Terrible Websites
Most private practice owners get websites wrong.
They fall into a few camps:
- I did it myself
- I hired someone, but they were a friend of a friend and I’m not sure how to update it
- I copied a funeral home’s website because it was peaceful
The best way to thrive in private practice is to look different than everyone else.
I notice that many websites use trees, waterfalls, or lakes.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these images, it’s that they do it in a way that looks like a funeral home.
Also, clutter, multiple colors, and an immense amount of content tends to be an angle that counselors take.
Let’s step back and think about why people come to counseling websites: to get counseling.
Anything that makes that difficult, stands in the way of you making money and helping people!
(Tamara actually has a great article about adding videos to your psychotherapy websites, which takes this concept to a whole other level.)
The more clutter, pop-ups, pages, and colors you have, the more overwhelmed a potential client will be.
The best way to combat this is to either hire a good website designer or make one through WordPress. (I’ll talk more about that later).
#2 – We Don’t Value Our Time
Two days ago I was consulting with a private practice owner and they said that they usually do 50-55 minute sessions.
Most insurance will only pay for 45 minute sessions.
We get in the trap of thinking that we have to have longer sessions, stay on the phone for 15-20 minutes giving advice, and having free intakes.
When we are structured with our time, it sends a message to our clients that we are worth something.
I have found that when I am more structured, I have fewer no shows, people show up on time, and they naturally start to wrap up their session on their own.
#3 – We Don’t Streamline
Recently I hired a personal assistant to field phone calls, schedule, and keep up with client relations.
It’s the first person I have hired, other than the 3 counselors I have working for me.
We have an entirely private pay practice, so we have not needed an insurance biller or other support staff.
Yet, there are numerous ways to streamline our time and practice. Here are a few quick ways to streamline your time:
- When scheduling clients, add their email to the session so they get automatic updates to their phone calendar
- Email intake paperwork as a PDF with directions to your office that link to Google Maps and the intake rate so it is all in one place.Ask the client to come with the intake paperwork completed.
- Utilize apps like IFTTT (If this then that). You can create recipes that trigger all sorts of things to make you more efficient.
You can even get a text to bring your umbrella if the weather forecast says it is going to rain.
The possibilities are truly endless! (Tamara has a great article about 10 Apps to increase productivity).
- Hire a business intern.
I recently brought on a social media intern for help with my blog.
She’s $10 / hour and has access to some of the leading business teachers.
#4 – We Don’t Have Mentors
Maybe we had a supervisor when we were first starting out, but as we go along in our careers, we usually get lost in our day-to-day work.
Having someone push you to your next level is so important!
It’s amazing how a consultant or mentor can help you to grow.
With such an inter-connected world, that person no longer has to be local.
Tamara and I both offer services to help private practice owners grow.
I have found that when I have worked with people, that they usually have increased their client load to see a return on the invest of their time within a month or so.
I wish when I was starting out I had been coached by someone else.
Even if it is taking someone out for lunch once a month, the mentoring by a professional that is farther along in the field will help you grow much quicker.
#5 – We Don’t Keep Up with Technology
Who has time for using Pinterest or Snapchat for business?
Often we disregard social media and technology as being just for techies and socialization.
We may have a Facebook page we occasionally post on, but it’s usually an afterthought.
According to Gary Vaynerchuck’s book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, half of all videos on Twitter originated on Vine, 5 videos are shared every 6 seconds on Vine, and it grew 639% with teens in 2013.
Yet, most counselors I talk to have never heard of Vine. Musical artists have been discovered there and ended up on the Today show.
Almost every teen in America knows about it.
Growing in our social media presence and integrating the presence into our websites is essential.
I use WordPress for my website platform because it is so adaptable.
You can change the entire look without losing content.
Also, they have something called “plug-ins” which are essentially apps for your website, so that you can quickly change to integrate the newest technology.
How to Get It Right
Whenever I see lists like this, I think, “When will I find time to implement all of these?”
I’ve started shifting my thinking to, “What can I implement now?”
It might be something as small as going from 50 minute sessions to 45 minutes sessions.
As we improve our websites, value our time, streamline, find mentors, and improve our use of technology we will grow in our income and ability to help our clients and eventually we’ll be able to give our sibling advice on their business.
How will you get these things right? Comment below and Tamara and Joe will select 5 folks to get a free copy of Joe’s E-book Practice of the Practice: A start-up guide to launching a private practice.
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is owner of the Traverse City counseling practice, Mental Wellness Counseling. He also writes about starting a private practice, business, and marketing on his blog, www.PracticeofthePractice.com.