Therapist Blog Challenge #7: Invite a Guest Blogger

Therapist Blog Challenge #7

Inviting a colleague to write an article for your blog is a great way to post fresh content, share interesting resources, and help both of you build your online presence.

Blog posts on your private practice blog don't have to be written by you. For therapist blog challenge #7 I want you to invite a colleague to contribute a blog article to your blog. The guest blogger doesn't have to be a therapist. It can be any other professional that you respect, that you would like to help promote, or that you would like to be associated with.

The content from your invited guest blogger doesn't have to be written from scratch. They can choose to  repost an article from their blog that is slightly modified for your blog audience. You could even do a blog article swap - I'll post yours if you post mine.

Be sure to include a little blurb about your guest blogger and a link to their website at the beginning or end of the guest post.

Ready, set, blog!

Here are some examples of guest posts on Private Practice Toolbox.

Additional reminders about the 2013 blog challenge

  • Write and post your blog article in the next 2 weeks. If you miss the deadline or you read this article months later, that’s OK too.
  • Post a link for this blog challenge in the comment section of this blog post.
  • Read, comment, and share other therapist’s articles.
  • Tweet your post using hashtag #therapistblog and tag @julie_hanks so I can retweet it.
  • Pin it on the challenge Pinterest Board. I’ve invited everyone who posted a comment on the initial blog challenge post as collaborators so you can pin onto the group board.
  • Spread the word and invite mental health colleagues to join the challenge. Articles can be added anytime throughout the year.
  • Write no more than 600 words, make it easy to read, use a conversational tone, and gear your articles toward your ideal client (not other professionals).
  • The goal of a professional blog is to provide value to your website visitors, help them get to know your professional perspective, increase traffic to your private practice website, and build your practice.


Counselor Self-Care Practices

canstockphotoGuest Post: Hollie L. Hancock, M.S., CMHC

Reflect on how well you take care of your own needs. Help me learn more by filling out a counselor self-care practices questionnaire.

While attending an ethics conference last week, I took the opportunity to solicit participation from my fellow counselors and psychotherapists for my dissertation research.  As I described the study, and as the words “counselor self-care” crossed my lips, a loud and obvious laugh erupted from various corners of the large ballroom where the conference was being held.  From the front of the room I saw people looking at one another, laughing, and rolling their eyes; I even read the lips of one man in the front row as he said to the woman next to him, “Yeah, right!”

Honestly, I was not surprised.  In fact, I almost expected this type of response.  The laughter, snickers, and side-ways comments are exactly the reason I am researching counselor and psychotherapist self-care practices.

As therapists, we use our education, training, and skills to help patients live more rewarding and healthy lifestyles, independently.  Ironically, many therapists seem reluctant to offer themselves the same kind of understanding and care.  Yet, in reality, it is this self-care, both personal and professional, that ultimately is the most important, not just for patients, but also for we as therapists as well.  It is quite possible that mental health professionals are one of the few professions that does not purchase or utilize their own product.

Lack or absence of self-care practices among mental health professionals appears to be almost synonymous with compassion fatigue and burnout.  The literature seemingly suggests that by mentioning self-care – counseling professionals are burned out or experiencing compassion fatigue to some degree.  Do a small research study of your own: Conduct a Google search using the words “counselor self-care”.  You are likely to find half of the top results include the word “burnout”.

Participate in my dissertation research on counselor self-care practices

In an effort to understand the possible phenomenon of the lack of self-care practices among counselors and psychotherapists, I am asking colleagues across the nation and even around the world, to provide responses to a brief questionnaire created for my dissertation research.  Therefore, you are cordially invited to participate in a study that will ask questions about your experiences with self-care practices as a counselor or psychotherapist. This inventory is called The DEFT Questionnaire. “DEFT” represents what counselors and psychotherapists “do” for self-care, how they “experience burnout”, how they “feel” about their self-care practices, and finally what counselors and psychotherapists “think” about self-care. The purpose of this study is to explore whether or not there is a correlation between self-care practices and burnout among counseling professionals.  Completing the questionnaire will take about 15 minutes of your time.

To be better clinicians in our roles as counselors and psychotherapists, we owe it to our patients, and more importantly ourselves, to be aware of our self-care needs, and adjust our behaviors accordingly if necessary to avoid impairment, burnout, compassion fatigue, and even post traumatic stress disorder.

I have provided the link to the questionnaire below.  I respectfully ask that you take 15 minutes of your time to complete the questionnaire.  Then, please share the link with your peers and colleagues.  I thank you in advance for contributing to the body of literature available regarding counselor self-care practices!

Fill out the counselor self-care survey here:

The questionnaire will be available until March 31, 2013

Hollie L. Hancock, M.S., CMHC is in private practice at Iron Mountain Counseling is a Doctoral Candidate in Counseling Psychology, Argosy University, Salt Lake City, UT


Pause Before Posting About Work On Social Media Pages (part 2)

Guest post by Kimberly Sandstrom, MFTI

We all have days where we need to let out a little steam about a difficult day at work. Social media is not the place to do it.

In the first post on this topic, my goal was to bring awareness to our community about the hazards of posting personally about clients. Although our clients may not see our personal posts (see Julie Hanks Digital Dual Relationship Dilemmas), our own personal communities will, and our reputation is built on that community.

While my personal profiles are private, my extended friendship community and family I am connected with on these sites, trust me and my ability to keep things confidential for their referrals What I portray on my personal and professional sites will reflect the reputation I have as a therapist.

Does this mean we cannot post anything at all about the work we do on our personal accounts? Certainly not! My heart is for fostering a safe environment for consumers so they will feel comfortable sharing with us in the intimate space of our offices, and assurance that their stories will be kept contained within the walls of our office. Here are some tips to protecting not only yourself but our therapeutic community at large when posting about your therapeutic work.

Think before you post

Ask yourself these questions: If my client saw this, would they like what I posted about them? Is this fostering a positive message about my therapeutic community? What are my motives for posting this (i.e., vent frustration, draw others to me through humor, etc.)? Am I venting my frustration in a way that protects my client and my reputation? Would it be better if I shared this with another colleague privately?

Keep your posts about work general and positive

After a recent couples intensive weekend, my co-facilitator and I were so blessed to see the positive transformation in the couples that attended our workshop. It inspired us. I posted on my personal Facebook profile, “So blessed to watch couples transform their relationships over this weekend at the couples retreat. I love my job!”  Nothing specific about what conversations took place. If one of the participants to read this, it would most likely reflect their own positive experience of the weekend. Occasionally, I have asked for permission from clients to share their inspiring story or something they have written (poem, inspiring reflection) in a blog or to post on my professional social media sites, and again, I keep the information general and positive. And I make sure it is in a place they can see this posted (even though I do not accept former or current clients on these sites—they are open to the public to view).

Develop safe relationships with like-minded colleagues in your own community

We all have funny and frustrating stories from work—no matter what profession we are in. Developing relationships with other therapists in your community can provide you with a group that follows the same values of confidentiality that you do. You can vent your day to them, share funny stories (without giving identifying information about your clients, of course!), and explore your own triggers and countertransference in confidence, instead of publicly.

Have grace with fellow clinicians who may violate this gray area

If you feel inclined, send them a private message with your concerns about their post. If it is done with a spirit of helpfulness, gentleness, and affirms their good intention, they will most likely be grateful.  If, after reading this, you realize that you may have posted something about a client that qualifies as negative or comical, have mercy on yourself! We are human, fallible and worthy of lots of grace in the uncharted territory of social media etiquette!

Kimberly Sandstrom is a Marriage & Family Therapist Intern and Relationship Educator, Supervised by Kathryn de Bruin, LMFT, working in private practice in San Diego, CA. Married for 24 years, she and her husband are raising three daughters, two of whom are now adults.  She works with couples, and families to create emotionally safe and enduring connections in their most cherished relationships.

social media image (c) CanStockPhoto

Pause Before Posting About Work On Personal Social Media Pages (part 1)


We all need to vent about a hard day at work, but clinicians should think twice before posting on personal social network pages.

Guest post by Kimberly Sandstrom, MFTI

Have you ever have a long day at the office and wanted to vent your frustration to someone? Me too! We are containers of all sorts of confidential information and sometimes our containers get full, or we get triggered by something that happened during the day. It’s hard to hold it all in at times—especially when it touches or triggers some reaction in us. Yet, we are called to an oath of confidentiality, and sensitivity to our client’s information. For most, venting to a trusted colleague or a relaxation activity can be enough. Yet, some therapists use their personal social media accounts to release stress about their clients. Can’t believe clinicians do this? Read on.

As therapists, we reach in, listen, validate our client’s pain and help them make sense of it so that they can reflect, respond, and repair the distance in their relationships. It can be emotionally draining work. And we need ways to work out our stress. But are personal social media accounts the place to do this? Probably not.

Yet, some therapists post things their clients did or said that made them laugh or made them upset.  Yes, you read that right. I’ve seen complaints about cancellations, clients not following treatment plans, and negligent parents. Then there are the posts intended to be funny—pictures of notes clients left for them (yes, I have seen this), pictures of children in the local paper they treat (this too!). Friends comment back “lol” or similar funny retorts, and then everyone gets a good laugh.

My heart drops whenever I read these posts.

What about all the people in their friendship circle who are in therapy or contemplating therapy? Do they wonder if their own therapist is posting something they said? I know I would.

We have such a wonderful opportunity to promote a positive image o

f ourselves and our therapeutic community and to cultivate confidence in the therapy process (see Julie Hanks' article on using social media in practice). We also have an opportunity to foster community with our public who often need courage just to pick up the phone and call us for support. Posting about clients negatively undermines these opportunities!

The good news is that therapists who post in a negative or comical fashion about their clients are definitely in the minority. And, given that I have seen some of these posts myself online from people I know, I take the view that their posts are not meant to be harmful but meant to release steam from a difficult day, or to draw others in as a way to cope with the “compassion fatigue” often experienced in this line of work. While the person posting does not intend harm, ultimately, in a round-about-way, they can elicit harm. How do we address this problem as we experience stress burnout and how do we address this with our therapeutic community?

Next time, I will provide tips on how to create self-awareness of our personal postings about our work, promote a positive image of therapy, and how to approach colleagues who may not be aware of how their posts about clients impact our wonderful therapeutic community.

Kimberly Sandstrom is a Marriage & Family Therapist Intern and Relationship Educator, Supervised by Kathryn de Bruin, LMFT, working in private practice in San Diego, CA. Married for 24 years, she and her husband are raising three daughters, two of whom are now adults.  She works with couples, and families to create emotionally safe and enduring connections in their most cherished relationships.


Pregnancy in Private Practice: 4 Key Questions To Help You Prepare For Maternity Leave

4 key questions to help you prepare personally and professionally for managing maternity leave in private practice.

I'm a mother of four children. My first two children were born during my educational journey and my last two were born while I was in private practice. Being in private practice provides many perks for balancing work and family life. The flexibility of being my own boss has been wonderful. However, taking time off for extended periods of time, like maternity leave, can prove to be tricky.  Unlike working for an agency, in private  you don't get paid leave in private practice,  you still have expenses to pay even when you're not seeing clients, and you have unpredictable income as you "wind down" to take time off and then build your client load back up after taking family leave.  Becoming pregnant while in private practice and planning for the new addition in your family requires some extra planning, coordinating, and saving.

How Much Time Will You Take Off?

These little babies can be a BIG adjustment. It's important to really think about taking enough time for you to adapt to being a parent to this new, little person. Dr. Jennifer Fee, psychologist from California found that one of the most helpful things was taking sufficient time off after giving birth. She suggests coming back gradually and not carrying a full load for awhile.

"Rushing back [to work] while you're adjusting to and bonding with a new baby is not good for you, your baby, or your clients. The great thing about private practice is that it's not an 'all or nothing' business. You can start practicing with a few clients rather than jumping back into a full load," says Dr. Fee.

Determining the length of your maternity or paternity leave can be extremely important in keeping your practice thriving. If you are a sole practitioner, taking a three month leave could potentially leave you with very few clients upon your return. You must decide not only how long is financially feasible but also how long works for your family and your clients.

Who will provide services to your clients in your absence?

It's important to consider who will provide clinical services to your clients while you are on maternity leave. If you are in solo practice, consider reaching out to another trusted private practice colleague who has openings to provide services to your clients while you are on leave. Make sure that your clients have the contact information of the therapist who'll be covering for you. I suggest that clients in crisis have appointments set up with this therapist before you take time off.

I recently talked with a private practice colleague who is pregnant with her third child. I suggested that she consider hiring another therapist to cover her clinical cases and also to generate income for her practice while she is on maternity leave.

When will you stop taking new clients?

You'll also want to think about when you will stop taking new clients. If you plan on taking new clients up until your leave I suggest that in your first conversation you inform them that you will be taking time off so they can have the option of seeing someone who can provide uninterrupted services.

Jennifer Venable-Humphrey, LCSW of Social Work Solutions stopped accepting new clients one month before her due date. When put on bed rest with her third child, Jennifer used Skype or phone sessions to check in with current clients that she had to stop seeing earlier than planned.

How will you cover your fixed expenses and lack of income?

Taking time off in private practice is tricky because you have to plan not only for lost income but for paying the fixed expenses of maintaining a practice while you are on leave. Expenses like rent, phone, internet, or perhaps the cost of support staff may need to be paid whether you are practicing or not.

Joseph Sanok, LLP, LPC of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI suggests considering the cost of being away from your family once you have returned to your clients. Sanok decided to increase his fee when his wife became pregnant. "For me, I knew that working in my practice was going to be difficult when I had the draw of a wonderful new addition. By raising my rates, it made it easier to give up the time."

I'm curious to learn more about the changes you made or creative ways that you found for your transition to parenthood in your private practice. Share those here!