10 Steps to Writing Letters That Get Results When Therapists Get Cheated


I talk to therapists every week who 10 Steps to Writing Letters of Complaintare stunned that business owners in our own and allied professions, can and will pass out shoddy advice and poor or deceptive services simply to make a dollar at a therapist’s expense.

I see it happen in Facebook chats and LinkedIn groups every single day.

It’s easy to slip from being business owner to victimized consumer.

The minute we step outside of our own areas of expertise, we – like the general public – become vulnerable to those who lack imagination and integrity.

If you’ve hired a CPA to do your taxes only to learn that he didn’t quite get around to completing your return by the deadline this year . . . or you’re working with a web developer who promised to get you on the first page of a Google search but you can’t find your business on the first 10 pages of a Google search . . . or you’re Virtual Assistant has assured you that she will meet your deadline before your next webinar but doesn’t follow through . . . or your billing specialist has repeatedly failed to send out invoices . . . you need to know the 10 steps to take when writing a letter of complaint to another professional to get the results that you want.

I first learned these from Ellen Phillips after reading her book Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed!  How to Write Letters of Complaint that Get Results.

I’ve used them several times and have always gotten the results I wanted.

Here they are for you:

Step 1 – Take a breath and calm down.  

Don’t vent on social media.

Don’t run off at the mouth to friends and neighbors.

And, don’t put anything in writing while your blood is still boiling.

Step 2 – Gather your thoughts and get organized.

For that matter, organize your receipts, your documentation, and get the facts straight in your own mind.

Step 3 – Do your research to find out who is ultimately in charge.

There is absolutely no reason to continue dealing with the powerless underling that has led you to this point.

It’s much more efficient and much more impactful to go directly to the one with the power to make this situation right.

Step 4 – Remain professional and unemotional.

Don’t curse or threaten or use colorful adjectives.

Just the facts will serve you best here.

Step 5 – Be concise but not-so-subtle.

It’s important to start that letter off in an attention-getting way.

Don’t be shy about how you are affected by the situation that has arisen.

But, don’t be excessively wordy in describing the situation that occurred and the current problem.

(And, don’t forget to include the steps you have taken so far to rectify the situation.)

Step 6 – Note the likelihood of this situation costing you business.

It’s true when you think about your family and friends and loyal clients and referral sources, too, reacting to this situation.

Step 7 – Ask exactly for what you want to rectify this situation.

Don’t be shy.

Don’t whine and hint at what you would like.

Instead, remind this individual that you entered into this business arrangement with integrity and enthusiasm as a loyal customer and would now like “a full reimbursement” and “public apology” or whatever else it might be that  would, in your opinion, make this right.

Step 8 – Don’t forget to include a deadline for your request.

State something like “I expect to hear from you within the next seven days” or whatever you believe to be reasonable.

Step 9 – Copy others who might be interested in or able to influence this situation.

When professional and trade organizations, regulatory agencies ( including local, state, and federal agencies), and media outlets are copied, the resolution is often quick.

And, if you find yourself in need of an extra “nudge ” due to inaction, Step 10 is then to go back to each of those individuals that you have copied and send them a personal letter in a similar format.

I hope if you have found yourself needing to stand up to other business owners to get what you have paid for, you’ll drop in here to share how you addressed it, how that worked for you, and what suggestions you might have for other therapists, too.


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Your Biggest Enemy In Building A Private Practice


I Felt Like a Fraud

When I first started into private practice, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

Oh, clinically I was OK.Image of Your Biggest Mistake in

I had already spent 10 years by then working in both community mental health and in the for-profit world, too.

But, what I hadn’t done was build a counseling practice from scratch . . . until I finally did.

In the beginning, when I was hungry and desperate, I did a lot of things wrong.

My office was in a shi shi part of the Dallas-Fort Worth area that was clearly above my socio-economic level.

I wasn’t going in debt for my office because I was subleasing from a very kind and generous therapist, Myrna, who was interested in mentoring me.

But, that’s the only way I would have been able to office there.

That in itself was a problem because from the very first day, I felt like an imposter.

I Had a Great Mentor

Myrna was great at imparting her business-savvy wisdom to me.

We had weekly office meetings where we discussed our marketing plans.

Since I didn’t know what I was doing, she often took me along with her on her marketing visits to local physicians.

She really did hustle and modeled for me the kinds of activities that she knew would work to bring clients in to the practice.

But, It Wasn’t Enough

Unfortunately, what worked for her didn’t necessarily work for me.

I copied her marketing practices to a T – cold calling, warm calling, and following up on hot leads, attending the local business women’s networking, etc.

Everything Myrna did, I copied.

And, the things that worked like a charm for her left me feeling even more clueless . . . and frustrated, unwanted as a professional and really, really hungry!

During that period, I also copied just about anyone else’s marketing that I could find, too.

I marketed to the schools (even though I had no interest or real desire to work with teens); I just wanted appointments on the schedule and warm bodies in the chairs!

And, I offered groups and workshops and classes and said I worked with grief and people pleasers and divorce and trauma and betrayal and spiritual abuse and emotional incest and depression and anxiety and whatever else I thought might walk right through the door.

I Missed My Mentor’s Most Important Lesson

It took me a couple of years to figure out that what worked for Myrna was because it was Myrna.  

Myrna Loy Ashby, LPC was definitely not the status quo!

Yes, she was incredibly skilled and warmly compassionate.

Her clients loved her.

But, when it came to building a practice and keeping it successfully growing, being a better therapist than her colleagues was definitely not enough.

Myrna was more.

She was also willing to be real and to risk being different.

Status Quo as Enemy #1

If you are struggling to build your private practice and haven’t figured it out yet, status quo is your biggest enemy.

It’s the generalist in private practice whose ideal client is “everyone.”

Her online directory listings sound like everyone else’s listings.

Her office looks like every other therapist’s office.

She offers the same types of services that all her colleagues offer up and down the street.

It’s the therapist who treats the same old issues that every other therapist in town is offering to treat at the same old price.

And, by the way, it’s going to take the same amount of time to accomplish those same old goals using those same old strategies and the same old tools that every one of your colleagues is offering.

Name the Difference

Are you bored yet?

I am.

What we know about therapists who are growing strong practices is that those therapists do things different from the way their colleagues do.

And, don’t get confused . . . .

Better is not different.

If you’re wanting to stand out from colleagues and, in the process, develop a credible reputation for having a wildly successful practice full of loyal and motivated clients, then you have to set yourself apart.

One way to do that is by talking about the amazing results clients have stemming from the work they do with  you!

I’m not talking about speaking in generalities.

I’m not talking about making stuff up.

I’m talking about sharing with the world the specific consequences that come from following your guidance and showing how working with you is different.

Know What the Stakes Are and Name Them

And, just as you are talking about the benefits of working with you, to stand out you also need to be talking about what potential clients have to lose by not working with you.

What is likely to happen if they don’t make any changes with you?

What did happen when individuals you know failed to engage in therapy with you?

Those stories, too, need to be told so that potential clients and potential referral sources understand that the stakes are high and the consequences can be severe — assuming, of course, that you believe this to be the case.

And, if it’s not the case then why should anyone come work with you anyway, right?

Tout the Benefits

Don’t forget to include the surprises that come from working with you, either.

That’s definitely bucking the status quo!

You know what I mean . . . .

You were working with that young woman to help her deal with a sexual assault.

She followed your unconventional guidance and read that off-topic book that you recommended.

Three weeks later, not only was she feeling better but she was also able to gain some clarity about her life’s purpose and direction as she headed off to school!

That wasn’t on your radar!

And, it definitely wasn’t on your treatment plan!  

That was one of the unexpected perks that came from that young woman working with you!

Learn from My Mistakes

These are just 3 types of stories that every psychotherapist in private practice needs to get comfortable telling to grow his / her business – what makes you different, what the consequences of not working with you are, and what the unexpected perks are from working with you.  

If your clinical practice is prospering because you are not the status quo, I hope you will drop in to share what makes you different so that others here can learn from you.  

If you know another psychotherapist whose business if flourishing right now, please send a note to that therapist along with a link to this blog post so that s/he too can join in this discussion about how to be successful by being different.

Finally, if you are tired of struggling with any of this or all of this . . .

  • figuring out who your ideal client is,
  • how to find and craft the stories to set you and your practice apart,
  • how to create an effective marketing plan that doesn’t just mirror everyone else’s,
  • how to show up authentically to get seen and heard, . . .

and, most important of all, how to float up and identify those different and unexpected perks that come from working with you that, in turn, make you remarkable and memorable for changing the lives of clients who choose to work with you . . . I can help you.

Here are kind words about working with me.  Just consider the possibility of getting unstuck, getting clearer about what you have to offer, and what that can mean for your business.


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Talking About Rescue Fantasies, Favorite Books, And Starting Your Private Practice Like a Pro


Rescue Fantasies, Favorite Books, & Private Practice

I’m so tickled to have been interviewed today by one of my favorite bloggers, Dorlee Michaeli, MBA, LMSW, CFSW. She has just posted the interview Establish Your Private Practice Like a Pro on her blog Social Work Career.

In this interview I talk about:

  • my own care-taking and rescue fantasies,
  • my short list of books for new clinicians to support them in their clinical work,
  • how I divide up my own workload in my private practice between counseling / clinical supervision and coaching / consulting,
  • questions you’re likely to be asked when interviewing to join a group practice,
  • books that have helped me grow my business brain,
  • and more!

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to drop in to check it out. Let us know what you think!

While you’re at it, make sure you take the time to check out the massive amount of resources she continues to curate for us all!

Remember it’s rude to just drop in and lurk so please take a moment to introduce yourself to Dorlee and her peeps on her blog and join the conversations!  

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