Graduation

How To Find Top Student Interns To Grow Your Practice

There is an "it" factor when looking for interns to train in your private practice.

Here's how I've found amazing interns that stay at my clinic even after graduation.

Over the past several years I have trained and mentored many graduate students and new graduates working toward clinical licensure. Working with interns has been a great way to build my practice, leverage my time, and satisfy the part of me that loves mentoring.

Most graduate students who train at my clinic during school are offered a therapist position after graduation which creates a win-win situation -- the student gets a job they're already trained for and I get to add talented and enthusiastic therapists to my team! After interviewing several therapists, I've learned to be very selective about who I bring on at Wasatch Family Therapy.

I recently consulted with a private practice therapist who has a waiting list for new clients. As we started exploring the option of hiring a graduate student to train she expressed some concerns. Her biggest questions were:

  • How do you find talented graduates students?
  • When interviewing potential student interns, what qualities do you look for?
  • How do you know if they're going to be a good therapist and work well with your private practice clientele?

So, here's what I've learned after several years of interviewing and hiring student interns...

How do you find gifted graduate students?

  • Contact local graduate programs in your discipline and see if they are  looking for internship/practicum placements for their students.
  • Fill out the necessary paperwork to be an approved placement at local schools, even if you're not quite ready to bring on a student. When you're ready to train an intern you'll already be approved.
  • Reach out to traditional and for-profit schools. I've found that the for-profit programs (Argosy University and University of Phoenix in UT) are more flexible in terms of internship start times and the number of clinical hours per week required. I have been very pleased with the caliber of students from private, for-profit universities.

When interviewing potential student interns, what qualities do you look for?

  • After interviewing grad students for several years now, the biggest "it" factor I look for is likeability. I know that sounds simple, but it's true. If I enjoy talking to them and I trust them during the interview process, then it's likely they will quickly put clients at ease, too.
  • I look for people were "born" therapists and just need the formal credentials and trainig in order to actually to all themselves a therapist.
  • I look for people who have long-term goals that include working in a private practice setting, like mine, beyond the internship.
  • I always ask about their style of handling conflict, feedback, or direction in work settings and discuss several scenarios that might arise in private practice.

How do you know if they're going to be a good therapist and work well with your private practice clientele?

  • You don't. There's no guarantee that someone will be an effective clinician. I suggest that you make sure that there is a clause in your contract that you can stop training a grad student that isn't working well with your clientele.
  • I often require that interested graduate students volunteer at my clinic for several months before securing a clinical internship. There is such a high demand for interns in my area that we can be extremely selective. This volunteer time gives us both a chance to make sure it's a good fit.
  • A 3-step interview process helps screen potential interns before bringing on.  I do an initial interview, a second interview, and a "mock" case presentation at team meeting. While I ultimately decide which intern we will "hire," I trust my team's input as to whether the student would be a good fit.

While it's always a risk bringing on a new student to my team, I find comfort in the fact that the number one predictor of client outcome is the strength of the therapeutic alliance. Generally, if it's easy for me and my team to connect with a grad student in the interview process, it's safe to say that clients will feel the same way about them. Ultimately, it's your practice and your reputation on the line as the owner of your practice.

Have you trained interns in your private practice? I'd love to hear about where you find them, how you screen them, and if it's worked to build your practice!

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Are You Comfortable Asking Clients For Money?

Wallet - MoneyDuring my graduate school practicum placements I never had to think about the financial aspect of seeing clients. Billing specialists took care of collections. That was their job. After graduation I worked in a private practice setting where I was required to ask clients directly for...money. It was awkward at first to have clients share their pain with me, open their hearts, and be so vulnerable, and then ask them to pay me.

Adding to my money anxiety was the fact that I was charging the same rate as my clinical supervisor and I didn't believe my services were worth it. My supervisor helped me gain confidence by explaining that clients aren't just paying for my time and skill, but they're also paying for her years of expertise. I hadn't thought about it from that perspective before.

My supervisor also helped me to view myself as a professional. Even though I wasn't licensed to practice independently I did had a graduate degree and two years of practicum, and I was licensed to practice under supervision. I had valuable experience, knowledge, skills and tools to help my clients.

Almost 10 years ago I started a solo private practice. Suddenly, I was the therapist, the receptionist, the webmaster, the marketer, and the billing specialist/collections department. I realized that I had to get even more comfortable bringing up money with clients if I was going to build a successful practice. Through the years I've become extremely comfortable addressing the financial aspect of clinical practice with clients. Here are a few things I've learned to help you get more comfortable with money in your private practice.

1) Value your expertise

Keep in mind the time, money, energy, and passion you've invested in your education and training. The more confident you feel in yourself, the easier it will be to accept client's payments and comfortably bring up money issues.

2) Think of money as energy exchange

Money can be such a loaded topic, fraught with baggage from your own upbringing. It may help to reframe money in a more emotionally neutral way, as energy. You are offering your gift of investing energy in the therapeutic experience in order to help your client, and they are offering you their energy resource called "money."

3) Ask for payment at the beginning of the session

I've found that it works best for me to bring up money related issues at the beginning of sessions before delving into deeper therapeutic issues. It's awkward to ask for money after a client shared deep pain during their session.

4) Set firm payment policies and stick to them

Clients will take your lead with money issues. Setting consistent policies regarding payment from the onset of therapy teaches your client what you expect in the therapeutic relationship. If you're anxious about asking for money, your client will feel uncomfortable too. If you're confident, they'll likely respond positively. My clinic policy is that if you are one session behind in payment your therapy is on hold until your account is up to date. Also, we charge full fee for no shows and late cancellations, even on initial sessions, unless there is an emergency.

5) Money is a clinical issue

If you have clients who resist paying you, who "forget" their checkbook, who cancel at the last minute and don't want to pay you, treat the resistance as a clinical issue. Consider how the client's money patterns are part of the larger issues brings them into therapy and address it openly in your session.

6) Write a "money script" and practice it

I've recommended to several therapists I've supervised or consulted with who feel anxiety bringing up money with clients to write down a brief script and role play. Here's an example of the phrases I use in my practice.

At the beginning of the session, before walking into my office I ask, "How would you like to pay for your session today?"

When potential clients ask, "Do you work with my insurance company?" I respond, "While we don't bill insurance directly, I'm happy to provide you with a receipt to submit for reimbursement from your insurance company. You may want to check with them and ask if you have out-of-network mental health benefits."

Do you have money anxiety? What blocks do you have when it comes to asking clients for payment? How have your overcome them? Feel free to post your thoughts and comments below.

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