Practicing Outside The Box: Growing Tomatoes In Psychotherapy

tomato in square

Stuck in a therapeutic rut? Find inspiration from other therapist's creative strategies and get outside the box!

As therapists, especially those of us who have been practicing for a few years, it's easy to get into a rut and become less creative than we were as eager, bright-eyed interns. Feeling the need to be more creative in the therapy hour inspired me to reach out to other therapists for ideas and inspiration and start this series about practicing outside of the box.

Because I managed to kill every plant I have ever owned (I have a "black thumb") and because I have always fantasized about living in New York City, I was intrigued by psychotherapist Janet Zinn, LCSW's use of "outside the box" strategies to help her clients. Janet found that incorporating nature in the form of a garden in the middle of a New York City practice was a welcome and healing environment for her clients.

Here is what Janet said about her work with a female client:

I had a client who was diagnosed with a serious borderline personality disease. She had been hospitalized on a number of occasions.  She loved gardening, and we planted a tomato plant that she watered, cut back and cultivated twice a week. When the tomatoes grew in she had a sense of accomplishment. As someone who was always told that she was bad, here was something she could feel good about.

We used the tomato plant as a metaphor for her own process in life.  How could she treat herself in a kind and cultivating way? What would nourish her soul?  The tomato plant calmed her.  She felt less reactive when working with the tomato plant.  In the winter, we would use the tomato plant as a  metaphor of patience and the seasons became a lesson on the process of growth and change.

Have you found a creative niche, a unique office space, use non-traditional interventions, or have something that sets you apart from other private practice clinicians? I want to hear about it! Email me with "outside the box" in the subject line.

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Practicing Outside The Box: Psychotherapy On The Client's Couch

Michigan therapist finds niche providing in-home psychotherapy services

Would you travel to a client's home to provide therapy? After witnessing the high no-show rates while working at community mental health centers Michigan, therapist Tomanika Witherspoon, LMSW, CEO of Growing Counseling Services, decided to do just that.

She created an "outside of the box" specialty practice by focusing on providing in-home therapy.

In Witherspoon's experience, individuals who discontinued traditional therapy cited transportation, time and family responsibilities as the biggest barriers for receiving treatment. By providing in-home therapy, Witherspoon saves her clients travel time, travel expenses and time spent in an office waiting room.

What about her own travel time and expenses? Witherspon said that she does not bill for her travel time. However, to minimize the unpaid travel time and expenses, she only sees clients within a 20-mile radius of her location.

What about safety issues? "I typically do a phone-screening to gather the client's demographic information, insurance info, and the assurance that we will have somewhere to meet privately," Witherspoon says. "Safety is generally not a concern, but if it ever becomes one, I would meet in a colleague's office."

Providing in-home therapy services is not for everyone, but Ms. Witherspoon makes it work for her and her clients.

Visit to find out more about Tomanika Witherspoon, LMSW's "outside the box" practice.

Have you found a creative niche, a unique office space, use non-traditional interventions, or have something that sets you apart from other private practice clinicians?  I want to hear about it! Email me with "outside the box" in the subject line.

(c) Can Stock Photo

5 Tips From My Trip To Guest Post Heaven

How my guest blog post landed a feature spot on Yahoo! front page and 5 things that you can learn from my experience.

Last week I received an email from Anne Krueger, the Editorial Director at Sharecare, letting me know that my Sharecare guest post Empathy: The Secret Sauce To A Happy Marriage was being featured on Yahoo front page in the #1 slot!

By the end of last week my article was featured again on Yahoo! front page as "Popular This Week." As of today, the article has had 6.8K Facebook shares and 468 retweets on Twitter. Yes, I am basking in the glow of guest post heaven.

So, how did this happen? Last Dec. Sharecare (an interactive social media health Q & A platform founded by Dr. Oz, WebMD's founder Jeff Arnold, and Discovery Communications) named me the #1 online influencer making a difference for depression online. They determine the online influencers by calculating influence "including disease-area relevance and online syndication, presence and reach" throughout the past year and "across multiple online channels, including Twitter, blogs, forums, mainstream news and video." (Sharecare)

At the time I was blogging regularly on,,, also contributing to local NBC affiliate, regularly going news interviews, and actively sharing content on several social media platforms.

After being named the top depression influencer I got acquainted with some of the folks at Sharecare, including their always delightful and witty Sharecare editorial director Anne Kreuger. I asked Anne if I could start submitting guest blog posts on mental health and relationship topics that might helpful to their readers. Anne has generously published several of my articles on Sharecare's main blog, one of which ended up on Yahoo last week.

What can you learn from my accidental trip to guest blog heaven? Here are 5 things I did right that landed me on Yahoo! front page last week -- my guest blog heaven.

Tip #1 Publish killer content on your own website

Create great content on your own website to prove to "big shots" that you can deliver a good guest post for their readers. Post new content at least once a week on your own blog about your specialty areas and topics of interest to your ideal clients.

Tips #2 Tweet, post, like, & share every day

Share your blog content and other relevant articles on multiple social media channels to build your social media following and reputation as an expert. I share my articles, Q&A's, and website links daily on Twitter, Facebook profile, Facebook pages, Youtube, iTunes podcast, Pinterest, Google+, StumbleUpon, Ning, and LinkedIn.

I've learned that social media sharing is more than just broadcasting information into cyberspace. It's about having meaningful conversations online. I ask questions, respond, and genuinely care about making a difference for good in their lives of anyone who follows me online. Follower engagement (comments, shares, retweets) was a big factor in getting recognized by Sharecare. It still blows my mind.

Tip #3 Create win-win relationships

Consider how you can provide value to the site that you're pitching to, not just how they can provide exposure for you and your practice. Do your research on the website's readership before you pitch a guest post so you can provide something worthwhile to their readers. Nurture those relationships as you would other important professional relationships through an occasional email, tweet or phone call.

Tip #4 Pitch BIG

When you pitch a guest blog post to another site make sure they are A LOT bigger than your own website. Target high traffic sites and appeal to your ideal clients, particularly in your geographic area. You can find out how the site ranks by searching Remember, that on Alexa a lower score mean a higher traffic and the more desirable it will be to guest post there. You provide excellent content for them and they provide you with additional visibility and visits to your practice website.

Tip #5 Promote the heck out of your guest post

When you land a guest blog on a big website share it everywhere -- social media, newsletters, websites, email, and press releases. By directing more traffic to the site that publishes your guest post you demonstrate your value and your influence. This increases the likelihood that you will able to continue to guest posting for them, which helps drive traffic to your website.

Tip #5 Think long term growth

Did being featured on Yahoo front page directly impact my practice last week? No. We haven't had thousands of phone call for new clients this week at Wasatch Family Therapy. Though this blog post had thousands, maybe millions of hits, it hasn't, and won't translate immediately into growth of my practice. What it does do is add credibility to me as an expert, add more value to my article, and demonstrate that my guest blogs appeals to a wide audience. All of those things are valuable exposure that will help open up additional opportunities over time.

Now, here's what I did wrong. There's NO LINK to my website on the Yahoo article. When this article posted on Sharecare it was accompanied by my author bio which linked to my websites. So, from now on I'm going to request a link at the end of each guest blog article in the text area, and not in a separate author bio. I guess something had to bring me back to earth.

(c) Can Stock Photo

Why I Happily Woke Up At 3am Last Sunday...National Interview


I love sleep. I need sleep. Very few things can get me to happily wake up at 3:00am, especially on a Sunday morning. The only one I can think of right now is going to the hospital to have a baby. But last week, I added another reason I'd sacrifice my precious sleep---the invitation to interview live on the national Fox News Channel.

Last Wednesday I received an email from Fox and Friends Weekend inviting me to interview live on Sunday morning at 7:20am to give tips on how to stop whining. They'd seen my interview in The Wall Street Journal a week ago in the article "A Nation of Whining: Therapists Try Tough Love." I called the show booker to discuss the interview details and confirm my availability.

I quickly realized that the 7:20am interview was Eastern Time, and would be 5:20am Mountain Time, and that I would need to arrive at 4:50am. That meant I'd need to leave my home at 4:15. So, I set my clock for 3:00am to give me plenty of time to get ready. Unfortunately, I didn't get to fly to New York City for the interview, but I they did send a car to transport me to and from my house to a local studio in Salt Lake City.

After working out the logistics, I talked with the show producer about the content. I offered a few talking points and followed up with an email listing four practical tips to help viewers stop whining.

While I've done many news interviews locally, they've all been done sitting next to the interviewer. This was the first remote interview I've done. Basically, it's like a conference call while looking into a camera and responding...on live national television. It was odd to not be able to see the faces and body language of the anchors who are interviewing me. While it was out of my comfort zone, it was definitely an opportunity I didn't want to pass up!

I watched the segment when I got home on the DVR and I didn't totally cringe. It went pretty well...and I napped all afternoon.