Building Your Ideal Private Practice

Top 10 Best Books for Building Your Practice

10 TOP Best books for Building Your Private PracticeI asked members of my Private Practice Toolbox Facebook Group what books have helped them succeed in Private Practice and added them to the list of my favorites. Some of the following are specific to the mental health profession, while others offer insight that applies to the business world in general, but all of them can teach you valuable tips and strategies to use for your practice. 1) "Building Your Ideal Private Practice" by Lynn Grodzki

This groundbreaking book is first on the list for a reason. Dr. Grodzski leads the way in offering time-tested strategies to grow and improve your therapy practice (read here).

2) "Be a Wealthy Therapist" by Casey Truffo

This one shows you strategies to be a great clinician and earn a robust living. You worked hard to be a therapist, and you should likewise be compensated well (read here).

3) "Book Yourself Solid" by Michael Port

Port lays out in detail how to obtain more and more clients. A great resource for those just starting out (read here).

4) "Million Dollar Private Practice" by David Steele

This book guides you in how to channel your expertise to create additional income streams and reach a bigger audience (read here).

5) "Earning a Living Outside of Managed Care: 50 Ways to Expand Your Practice" by Steve Walfish

Walfish gives you strategies for ditching managed care and instead embracing a fee-for-service model. He also includes examples of counselors who found success by carving out a niche for themselves in different areas of therapy (read here).

6) "Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time" by Keith Ferrazzi

This classic teaches the ins-and-outs of successfully forging networks and relationships in a way that is authentic and can help you reach your career goals (read here).

7) "Launch" by Jeff Walker

An internet millionaire gives you the inside scoop on how to leverage your business online to reach massive success (read here).

8) "Platform: Get Noticed in a Busy World" by Michael Hyatt

You may already have a great service, but Hyatt teaches you how to utilize your platform to get your message out there. As a well-sought after speaker and blogger, he shows you the power of social media to expand your outreach (read here).  

 9) "The Private Practice Field Guide" by Daniel Franz

Written by someone who took the leap from working for a company to starting his own practice, this book addresses the concerns of therapists looking to do the same. Franz gives strategies and tips on such topics as marketing, streamlining business practices, and working with insurance panels (read here).  

10) "The Portable Lawyer for Mental Health Professionals: An A-Z Guide to Protecting Your Clients, Your Practice, and Yourself" by Thomas Hartsell

This book will answer some of the tough legal/ ethical dilemmas we might encounter. The author is an attorney and private practice mediator from Dallas, so he definitely knows his stuff (read here)!

Phew, that's a lot of great reading material!

What other books can you suggest that have helped you?

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From Cosmo to Wall Street: 7 Tips For Giving Great Interviews

Cosmo to WSJ

What do you think of when you think of professional networking? Private practice therapists who I've worked with in business consultations usually consider networking to be meeting with other like-minded professionals for lunch or handing out business cards to physicians offices.

While those are important ways to make connections that build your therapy practice, there are other ways to get the word to thousands and thousands of people in one shot, instead of just a few folks at a time.  Rarely do shrinks think of networking with reporters.

Over the last few years I've focused on responding to reporter queries seeking quotes from experts on a variety of mental or emotional health issues, and family relationship advice. There are a few who now contact me for quotes when they are pitching new articles or stories. I've had a great time corresponding with them by email or talking by phone.

This month I am thrilled to have quotes in:

Cosmopolitan Magazine (June 2012) article "Are we boring"

Wall Street Journal (today May 15, 2012) "For a nation of whiners, therapist try tough love" (with a photo included)

Click here to see quotes in other national publications

Tips for interviewing with reporters and journalists:

1) Seek out opportunities

Keep an eye out for opportunities to interview with local and national reporters. Sign up for services that notify you of reporters looking for interviews, like Reporter Connection, ProfNet Connection, Expert Engine.

2) Respond to requests ASAP

I've come to realize that journalistic deadlines are incredibly tight, and the sooner I respond, the better. I've interviewed one afternoon for an E! Online article and it posted that evening. When I get an email request for an interview I will respond right then on my smart phone with comments off the top of my head. I've been known to pull over on the side of the road while driving carpool to respond to an interview request.

3) Avoid psychobabble

Interviewing with the popular media is different than talking with colleagues. Fellow shrinks can talk in short hand with acronyms like DBT, CBT and EFT; we know what transference and countertransference are, but most people don't know and don't care. Always use layman's terms that can be easily understood even if someone's never taken Psychology 101.

4) Give quotable sound bytes

In the therapy office, we are used to taking our time, starting where the client is, and exploring client's deeper emotions. Media interviews require doing the opposite of what you do in therapy.  In media interviews you have to get right to the point. Most journalists are looking for a few engaging and relevant sentences to support their piece, not a dissertation.

5) Let your passion show

I think part of why I've been successful in getting quoted in national publications is because I show my passion for the work and for the topic of the story or article. Even in email correspondence, don't be afraid to show your personality and be approachable. I also openly share my gratitude for the interview opportunity and how much I enjoy media interviews.

6) Make your contact info easy to find

Make sure that your name and credentials (the way you'd like them to appear if you're quoted), your email address, and your cell phone number are easy to find in any correspondence. Reporters don't have time to hunt you down.

7) Ask them to contact you again

At the end of each interview or correspondence, whether you interview or not, be sure to ask them to keep you in mind as a resource in the future. Ask them to keep your contact information should they need your expertise in the future.

Adventures In Private Practice: Vocational Social Worker Dawn Vincent

Dawn Vincent Specializing in vocational rehabilitation and work/life issues, Australian social worker Dawn Vincent has been  in the mental health field for 25 years. Like many therapists, she considered opening a private practice, but says she lacked the confidence to actually do it. Read how one private practice course helped her muster up the courage to open her private practice in Camberwell, Victoria, Australia where she helps clients work toward mental health and well-being and navigate changes and choices in life and in work.

Why did you decide to open a private practice?

I had thought about it for about 10 years, but lacked the confidence to go ahead.  After spending over 20 years in vocational rehabilitation I decided to take my long service leave and think about my options.  After an overseas trip I came home and enrolled in an Introduction to Private Practice course run by the Australian Association of Social Workers.  At that time there were only a small number of Social Workers in private practice and it was still somewhat controversial here in Australia.

The profession has a very strong welfare orientation where most Social Workers are employed by the Commonwealth or State governments or work in hospitals and community based settings. Having worked for a large government bureaucracy myself, I liked the idea of the independence and autonomy private practice seemed to offer. I had been a bit of a workaholic and I wanted to move to a better work/life balance and be able to work my own hours.  The course helped me to decide that private practice was what I wanted and I committed to this goal.

Clients that therapists find to be the most "difficult" are sometimes the ones who can teach them the most. What have you learned from your toughest clients?

Before private practice I had worked with clients with physical, intellectual and psychological disabilities, helping them to enter or re-enter the workforce after injury or disability.  At times it was very challenging and distressing working with people with acquired brain impairments and severe physical disabilities, particularly the younger ones whose lives were permanently changed.

I found I was drawn to the mental health clients and tended to specialise in this group and continue to do so in my private work. Working with people with disabilities reminds me how lucky I am to be fit and healthy and not take this for granted. It has also taught me about the dignity of risk and courage and resilience in life. Helping people overcome their barriers and live a full and meaningful life is incredibly rewarding. I learn from my clients daily and I am a better person from my interactions with them.

What's your biggest pet peeve about private practice?

The uncertainty of income. There are obviously times of the year when referrals are quiet and I used to worry about when I would get my next referral. Over recent years I have become more relaxed about this and accept it as part of the natural seasonal variations. I do get annoyed when clients cancel at the last minute when I have made a special time to see them outside of my normal schedule, although fortunately this does not happen often.  As a member of both the Australian Association of Social Workers and the Career Development Association of Australia I have double fees and professional development requirements from these bodies which becomes very expensive.

How did you discover or develop your practice "niche"?

As mentioned above, my background is in vocational rehabilitation specializing in working with people with psychological disabilities.  I always enjoyed working with this client group and was fascinated by the workings of the mind.  When I entered private practice I was naturally drawn to working with mental health clients. Originally I had intended to focus on general counselling and psychotherapy, but I found that some of my colleagues were referring clients to me for career counselling.

With my experience in general counselling and vocational counselling it made sense to continue to use my skills in both areas and mix the two streams of work.  I now see approx. 70% of clients for personal counselling and psychotherapy and the other 30%  for career counselling, although sometimes there is an overlap as people may have psychological issues which impact on their career decisions. I find the career work provides some “light relief” from the common presentations of anxiety, depression and relationship problems as it is shorter in nature and less intense.

What resource (book, website, person) helped you the most when setting up your private private?

The Introduction to Private Practice course I did was based on Lynn Grodzki’s workbook Twelve Months to Your Ideal Private Practice. I worked my way through this workbook and reported back to the group each week. I found this helped me to be well prepared for the realities of private practice.

I still frequently refer to Lynn’s books when I need to focus on how to develop my practice further. One of the social workers who ran the course allowed me to rent her room for half a day a week and on the days I went there we would spend some time talking about my practice and she provided ongoing support and advice to me as I waited for my client base to build up. My husband was incredibly supportive and encouraging.

What has surprised you most about being in private practice?

The number of people who have been prepared to help me learn what I need to know about running a business and the amount of resources available to support this.

I belong to several business networks which have been very useful in making contacts with various professionals with expertise in website development, social media, business systems, coaching etc.  It took me a while to find these, but they are out there if you ask and look.

Has your private practice helped you grow professionally? How so?

Every day I am learning new things. The longer I am in private practice, the more I realize there is to learn. Working with people and studying the human condition  is  exciting and stimulating. My skills and knowledge are continually growing as no matter what I may know about any topic or therapeutic approach, there is a constant stream of new knowledge out there.

Being in private practice makes me resource myself. I am responsible for my professional development – no one else, so I seek out opportunities to grow my knowledge and skills so I can continue to provide my clients with the best service I can and deepen my satisfaction at work.

Has it helped you grow personally, too? How so?

Absolutely. My confidence and self belief  have developed as a result of taking a risk and putting myself “out there”.  I could have continued in my former job with a safe, secure income and never grown to be the person I am now.   It is great to have been able to overcome my own fears and insecurities and put in the hard work required to realize my dream.

I have had to learn about marketing, networking, managing a business, budgets, Business Plans, etc.  I am more independent and I have a better understanding of myself, what I need and what I am capable of.   I am happy doing work that I love and which I believe makes a difference in people’s lives.  It is for me the perfect combination.

Being a therapist can be emotionally exhausting. What do you do to care for your own emotional and psychological health?

I am a great believer in self care and I constantly talk to my clients about this so I make an effort to practice what I preach.  Some days it can be emotionally draining working with human pain and giving out to people. I debrief with professional colleagues as needed and I attend monthly private supervision. I try to exercise regularly, get enough sleep and eat healthily.  My husband and I love travel and we visit our daughter in New York annually and have mini breaks in between.   I make sure I catch up with family and friends on a regular basis.  I use mindfulness breathing and meditation to help me relax and I listen to music and go for walks or do some gardening to unwind.

How do you cope with the inevitable stressors involved with being your own boss?

I love being my own boss so I don’t find it too stressful, but I imagine you are referring to having to do everything myself. I have no office assistance so I manage my appointments, type my invoices and reports, do my own marketing, pay the bills etc.  I’m pretty organised and I am a bit of a control freak so it does not bother me to do all this myself. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have someone take on some of the small practical things while I focus on the things only I can do.

What personal strengths have helped you succeed in private practice?

Well, I think I am persistent and resilient and if I make up my mind to do something I don’t give up easily.  I am quite disciplined and conscientious and hardworking. I am happy spending time alone so although I sometimes do miss having a team of people to work with, I operate better when I have time to think, reflect and plan. Private practice requires a lot of this.

I have good people skills and I have no problem forming trusting relationships with my clients. I network well and I seek out other people when I need social contact, but I don’t need a lot of people around me all the time. I am not afraid to ask for help when I need it and I am committed to life long learning.

To learn more about Dawn's practice visit her website

6 Reasons I'm Obsessed With Wordpress

WordPress is a fantastic platform for your private practice website. Originally a blogging platform, it's commonly used for websites because it's user friendly, functional, and easy to customize. I'm completely "in love" with it. For clarification, I'm talking about that is installed on your web hosting system, not - a web-based blogging platform. Since I changed to WordPress about a year ago for my practice website, I've been able to create a more dynamic and interactive website with fresh content, social media interaction, and an integrated a blog.  So here's more about why I love WordPress:

1) You can be the webmaster

Even without knowing HTML, you can be the webmaster of your website with the ability to customize the function and appearance at any time. You can easily add or delete pages, change the color scheme, add blog posts, and customize the features at any time and from anywhere. Once I paid to have the basic WordPress site installed on my web host and had a few custom images made, I took over from there.

2) Free themes

WordPress allows you to "try on" different themes to your site with the click of a button. A "theme" is the skin of your site -- the format, colors, layout, etc. There are many free themes available, in addition to customized themes for a variety of fees. is a great site to explore variety in custom website themes.

3) Plugins and widgets galore

Plugins are tools that extend the functionality of your WordPress site and allow customization to your site. Widgets are WordPress plugins "that add visitor visual and interactivity options and features, such as sidebar widgets for post categories, tag clouds, navigation, search, etc." (

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • YouTube Videos -- feeds YouTube channel to websites
  • Author Bio -- shows customized bio at the bottom of each blog post
  • Amazon Associate -- integrates a bookshelf of our recommended books with a link to buy on
  • Google Analytics -- tracks visitor information.
  • Constant Contact API -- integrates our newsletter sign up on the website.
  • SexyBookmarks (by Shareaholic) -- add social media share links to each blog post.
  • Share and Follow -- adds social media links bar on pages.

4) Easy to navigate

OK, that one's partially true. Though navigating the WordPress dashboard can be a bit overwhelming at first, once you're familiar with it, you can easily navigate it. For example, my and sites are built on WordPress, so when I started writing for PsychCentral (also built on WordPress) it was easy to jump right in.

5) It's cheap!

After paying for domain registration, web hosting service, and basic site installation costs, there are minimal expenses to update and maintain your WordPress website. I will occasionally hire a web designer to consult or add elements that are beyond my abilities, but that is the exception. I used to pay around $60 a month for a website service but I quickly outgrew the options they provided. Even with the start up costs, WordPress has been a cheaper option and much more fun to create a dynamic practice website.

6) Integrated blog

One of the reasons I started looking  for a better website platform was that my current site platform didn't allow for an integrated blog. I had a blog on an external blogging site, but hated sending my visitors away from my private practice website in order to read my blog. Since WordPress is a blogging platform, visitors can stay on our site and read blog posts.

What platform do you use for your practice website?

Are there any other WordPress lovers out there?

Why Therapists Need An Elevator Speech: Crafting Your Basic Message (part 2)

LAX elevator lightingAn elevator speech, or practice message, is the building block of marketing your private therapy practice. Getting comfortable saying what you do and how your work helps your clients is essential to drawing additional clients to your practice. In case you missed it, here's a link to Why Therapists Need an Elevator Speech (part 1). A great resource for developing your basic practice message is Lynn Grodzki's book Building Your Ideal Practice. Ms. Grodzki outlines four styles for crafting your basic practice message. Try these out and see which one flows most naturally.

Style 1 “I specialize in______________;

I really enjoy______________________.”

Style 2 “I support ____________________

in their desire to ______________________

by means of _________________________.”

Style 3 “You know how __________________?

Well I ___________________________.”

Style 4 “If you ______________________________,

I’m the kind of therapist who can help you to  _____________ .

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you've crafted your message, practice saying it out loud to yourself, and to others, until it becomes second nature.  Next time someone asks you what you do for work, you'll comfortably and succinctly be able to talk about your practice in a way that accurately describes who you love to work with and the benefits that clients receive from working with you.

Elevator Speech and Social Media

An elevator speech is particularly important when interacting and networking on social media sites because you have a limited number of characters to use in your descriptions, tweets, status, or posts.

Work on your basic message and get ready for a social media elevator speech challenge later this week!

Creative Commons License photo credit: dj venus