Grad School

Top 10 Toolbox Posts Of 2012

As 2012 draws to a close I thought it would be fun to look back and to see which posts had the most impact and generated the most interest based on unique pageviews. Included in this top 10 list are posts that published during 2012. If you're new to Private Practice Toolbox this will give you a good overview of the ground we've covered this year.

10) 10 Things I Accidentally Did Right In Building My Private Practice

9) The Hazards of Being A Therapist

8) 9 Ways To Get Doctor Referrals

7) 5 Common Myths About Private Practice

6) The 3-Letter Word That Gets More Clients

5) Social Media Marketing Checklist: 10 Steps To Building A Stronger Online Presence

4) How To Get Paid For No Shows

3) What They Don't Teach You In Grad School

2) 20 Ways Shrinks Stay Sane

1) Join the Private Practice Toolbox Facebook Group

Honorable Mentions

Most Twitter Retweets (287 retweets)

Social Media Marketing Checklist: 10 Steps To Building A Stronger Online Presence

Most Facebook "Likes" (128 likes)

20 Ways Shrinks Stay Sane

Was there a particular post that you found helpful in building your practice? Feel free to share the link in the comments below.

Stay tuned for a fun 2013 Therapist Blog Challenge starting next week. I'm going to help you find your blogging voice, get beyond your fears, improve your SEO, and help you become a valuable content creator in 2013!

(c) Can Stock Photo

Private Practice Marketing Made Easy

2009-fa-ruimte3_MG_7035 as Smart Object-1.jpgLast week I spoke to group of local therapists on "Marketing Your Private Practice" and a record number of people attended the presentation. Why? Because therapists in private practice feel ill-equipped and uncomfortable with the business aspects of private practice. It's rare that a marketing course is included in a mental health graduate school curriculum, and few internships and practicums offer marketing mentorship. In my graduate program in social work, just the words "private practice" were treated as "bad words," as if making money while helping people was somehow morally wrong.

For some therapists  the word marketing brings up feelings of anxiety, even dread. "I am not comfortable with self-promoting," I've heard many therapists say.  "I'm not in this for the money so I hate to think that I have to market my services."

Over nearly 10 years in private practice I've learned that marketing isn't as difficult or scary as it sounds. Most therapists already have the relationship skills that make marketing effective. You're already good at building relationships and communicating. You just need to apply your skills differently.

 Build relationships of trust

You already know how to market, because marketing is simply building relationships of trust in a different way. Marketing requires reaching outside of your therapy office, and often beyond your comfort zone. Whatever strategy you use: talking to strangers, talking to friends and colleagues, meeting with physicians or schools, or finally getting a website, it's all about building relationships of trust.

Let 2 simple questions guide all of your marketing

  • Who is your ideal client? Identifying your ideal client is  not just getting clear on the demographic and diagnoses that you like to work with, but also the characteristics, values, and traits that you look for in a client.
  • What is your basic practice message? This is a simple message that focuses on one aspect of your work and emphasizes the benefits of your services in layman's terms.

Talk to everyone and anyone about what you do

In graduate school you learned how to communicate, build rapport, and put people at ease. Building relationships of trust isn't just limited to talking with your clients. Effective marketing is simply applying all of the skills you know to a broader group of people. Talk about who you want to work with what you do with strangers in the grocery store, neighbors, extended family members, or online communities, media contacts, or other professionals.

Remember you're promoting your passions, not yourself

Effective marketing isn't about pushing yourself on others, but about letting the things that you're passionate about shine through in every conversation, every blog post, every interview, an every page of your website.

It only takes three

According to private practice guru Lynn Grodski, it only takes a few "practice angels" to have a full practice-three people who will consistently refer your ideal clients to you. You probably already have three referral sources ready to refer to you. All you need to do is warm the connections you already have.

How do you feel about marketing your practice? What works and what doesn't? Share your comments below

Creative Commons License photo credit: Hen3k Hen3k

What They Don't Teach You In Grad School

img7207If you're a graduate student in the mental health field planning on going into private practice, here are a few things that you won't learn during your program. Most of what I learned about psychotherapy and private practice came after I graduated. After 17 years of practice, here are a few things I wish I'd known earlier:

1) Clients don't care about your degree

I'm rarely asked what degree I hold or what school I attended. I've found that very few clients know the difference between an MSW, MFT, PhD, MFCC, PsyD or any other degree. What clients really want to know is that you're qualified to do therapy, and if you can help them.

2) You'll learn more from supervisors than coursework

Getting my MSW was a license to actually do what I wanted, but the most valuable learning came from my post-graduate school clinical supervisor. It's important to seek out an amazing supervisor and mentor to train you in how to actually do therapy and how to run a practice. Seek out a  private practice internship setting that closely resembles what you envision yourself doing in the future.

3) Keep all of your research papers and course syllabi

Even though you may want to purge yourself from anything related to graduate school, you may want to hang on to those papers. I just used a research paper from my MSW program as my writing sample for my PhD program. You can also re-purpose papers for future blog posts and articles to publish.

If you ever decide to go apply for a doctoral degree or an advanced training certificate down the road that requires transcript evaluation, you may be required to submit your course syllabi to provide details of the course content. Also, keep a copy of the official course description in the school catalog for the years you attended. When I applied for doctoral programs, some programs had difficulty determining what my classes were and required official course catalog descriptions.

4) Stay in touch with your supervisors and colleagues

I can't tell you how many times I've asked my former supervisor for letters of recommendation for various certifications and applications through the years. Keep connected with a select your professional relationships. They're not only good referral sources but to provide job references and professional recommendations.

5) Take business courses

A common sentiment among mental health private practitioners is "I wish I knew more about business." It is rare that mental health graduate programs offer business courses, so students interested in going into private practice need to seek out workshops and courses.

What did you learn after grad school? Do you have any advice for graduate students? Post your comment below.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Proctor Archives


Adventures In Private Practice: Parenting Expert Dr. John Duffy

When it comes to parenting and family relationships, particularly during the tween and teen years, Clinical Psychologist Dr. John Duffy has become the go-to expert. Not only does he have a thriving private practice in the Chicago area, he also published a book last year called The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens (2011), and blogs regularly for The Huffington Post on relationship topics.

Learn more about how Dr. Duffy parenting niche found him, how he manages the stress of being "the boss" and how he's built a thriving private practice.

Why did you decide to open a private practice?

From the day I began grad school, I knew I wanted a private practice. To be honest, it started much earlier as I idealized characters played by Bob Newhart and Judd Nelson. Later, I realized it was the model I could thrive in. I had spent many years in a VERY corporate environment working for other people, and I knew I wanted to work for myself.

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?

I’ve learned patience, empathy, and compassion form my toughest clients. I’ve also learned that, once you familiarize yourself with another person’s back-story, it becomes very difficult to demonize them, and much easier to relate to them. I frequently tap this skill in my private life as well.

What's your biggest pet peeve about private practice?

I miss the camaraderie and dynamics of a group. I have a number of friends in group practice, and I find the idea of a staff meeting to hold some appeal on occasion.

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

My niche actually discovered me. As I began my practice, I became friendly with a number of social workers at area high schools. Teens, tweens and parents became my demographic, and I’m so grateful to discover that I have a great deal of passion for working with families. I’ve been lucky enough to have a waiting list for the past several years.

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

I learned most from colleagues already in practice, willing to share their stories and struggles. I’m very lucky to have had their help early on.

What has surprised you most about being in private practice?

I’m most surprised by the opportunity that private practice presents. Not only do I see about 40 clinical clients a week, but I do a great deal of public speaking, mostly to parents, I published my first book this year, I’ve done TV, radio, print and other media, and blog on the Huffington Post. None of this would have been possible is I did not have the experience of my practice to rely on.

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

Along with the above, I’ve learned more about how to live life from my clients than almost anyone else in my life. I’ll never forget the young man who decided to write the “better story” every day of his life. I think about that mantra most every day.

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

I live that advice, and being in practice also keeps me far more aware of the ways in which I choose to live my life, and when my choices are maladaptive. Hopefully, I have pretty good advice for myself on how to implement change!

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

I work out regularly. I consult with a few close colleagues. I stop for a while to strum my guitar. And I laugh with my family, every day.

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

I remind myself of the freedom my practice affords me. I make my own schedule. I work hard Monday through Thursday, protecting Fridays for writing and other activities. I limit the amount of paperwork I do, as best I can. I stay organized as well. My iPhone is my virtual office.

What personal strengths have helped you succeed in private practice?

I’m an empathic, patient guy. I’m a pretty good listener, and my attitude is typically quite positive. I also feel that I have the patience to draw answers from my clients, instead of throwing out my solutions to their problems which, in the end, may not be useful at all. I truly do find that the less I think I know for sure, the more effective a therapist I am.

It's great to connect with and to be inspired by other therapists in private practice!

To find out more about Dr. John Duffy's clinical practice and book visit