4 Questions To Ask Yourself When Hiring a New Therapist

Hire Me!One of the wonderful challenges that comes from having an abundance of business is the need to add new additional clinicians to your practice. But how exactly do you know who will be a good fit? How can you be sure to make the best choice that will benefit both the clients and your practice? Not too long after opening Wasatch Family Therapy, I had created relationships in my community and built my online presence to the point that the demand for my services exceeded the supply I could provide. In other words, I needed to hire new therapists! Since I do not have a background in business, the process was entirely new to me, but thankfully I found that it happened quite naturally. I identified a few key criteria (beyond simply having required credentials and experience) that a candidate must possess in order for me to feel like he/she was a good enough match to hire. Here are 4 questions to ask yourself when meeting with an applicant who you may potentially bring in to your practice:

  • Do I like him/her?  

It may seem obvious, but it's critical that you feel comfortable with an individual who may be working for you. If you do not like to be in his/her presence, why would a client? It goes without saying that people skills are invaluable in this profession; it's what we do! Look for someone who puts you at ease, is warm and inviting, and who you find yourself attaching with. Be mindful of the emotional climate of your practice; you want to bring someone in who will work well with others, avoid drama, and of course help clients through their emotional struggles. Whether or not I genuinely like someone is the most important factor determining if I hire him/her (interestingly, this same criteria is also usually first on the list of what a client looks for in a therapist).

  • Were they born to be a therapist?   

When looking to add to my practice, I look for individuals who I can sense were born to do therapy. It's common for practitioners to work with a lot of graduate level interns, and there are a select few who truly stand out; people who are naturally thoughtful, reflective, and sensitive to others' needs and feelings. I want someone who's always had the intuition and instinct of a therapist who just had to go through the official training to actually become one.

  • Are they emotionally stable?  

This question is admittedly a bit delicate. While no one has it all together all the time, it naturally follows that someone who has a handle on his/her emotional issues can better assist clients in managing their own. Good therapists often use difficult past life experiences to relate to and help clients, so being "emotionally stable" doesn't necessarily mean you've never struggled mental health or relationship problems; quite the opposite can be true! To use an analogy, you cannot be a tour guide for other people to places you've never traveled. Still, I need my therapists to be healthy in order to best serve our clients.

  • Do they reflect the values of my practice?

As the owner of my practice, I need therapists who work for me to be similar to me in many ways. This is not to say, of course, that I am wanting someone with the exact personality, training, and expertise that I have. Still, there needs to be a continuity of approach and therapy style common to our clinicians. Throughout the years, we've had inquiring individuals wanting to see me specifically after hearing me speak or learning about me through social media. When I don't have an available opening to see someone new, I like to be able to state my confidence in another therapist and tell the prospective client that I've hand-selected a particular counselor that I wholeheartedly trust to do good work. I suggest that practitioners looking to hire new therapists identify a few specific values that are key to the philosophy and setting of their private practice to look for in applicants.

What do YOU look for when hiring new clinicians?

Let me know!

This post was adapted from an interview I did with Joe Sanok, LPC on" Practice of the Practice." Click here for access to the full podcast.

Join my Private Practice Toolbox Facebook group and connect with over 3100 therapists around the globe in 2 simple steps: 1) Click request to join the group and 2) Fill out this brief questionnaire before you’ll be added to the group.Get practice tips and blog updates in your inbox.

Get 52 FREE Blog Topics and prompts when you sign up for the PPT Newsletter (that’s a year's worth of weekly blog posts!)

Rock the Media School for TherapistsWant to grow your practice and make a difference beyond the therapy office? Check out my NEW Rock The Media School for Therapists - a 6-week online media + social media training designed for health and mental health practitioners. Learn how to build your media and your online presence so you can share your passion and practice with thousands of people! I hope you'll join me. Fall cohort begins Sept. 7, 2015.


Adventures In Private Practice: Family Counselor Barbara Flor, LPC

Just six months ago Pennsylvania licensed professional counselor Barbara Flor opened her private practice. What inspired Barbara to take the leap into being her own boss? What challenges and joys has she experienced in the process? Read on.

Tell me a little about your practice…

I am a sole practitioner with an office in my home, in Mechanicsville, Pennsylvania.  I live on several acres surrounded by tranquil farms and tree-lined properties, so it’s a very peaceful, private setting.  I provide individual, family and group counseling for children, teens and adults with an emphasis on improving interpersonal relationships and family dynamics.  My years of experience as a school counselor, educator and victim’s rights advocate, gives me strong insight into issues affecting women, children and families as a whole.

Why did you decide to open a private practice?

I started my practice about 6 months ago, after years of dreaming, planning and procrastinating.  When my children were in college and I was an official “empty-nester”, I realized it was now or never.  I have been in the field of counseling and education for over 20 years, mostly working for schools and colleges, but I also volunteered my time at a victim’s assistance agency and became trained as a sexual assault counselor.  I have a passion for issues that impact women and children.   Owning a private practice allows me to concentrate on that passion.

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 have learned patience, empathy, flexibility and honesty. There is usually a reason people are the way they are.  Who am I to say that if I lived their life, in their environment, with the experiences they have endured, that I would be any different.  They are doing the best they can with the hand they’ve been dealt.  I need to do the best I can to help them with that and sometimes that means being honest and saying, “I’m feeling stuck, frustrated, confused...how can we move past this?”  With children, this can be even more difficult.  It’s imperative to meet the child on his or her developmental level and attempt to move forward from there in a manner that works for that child.  That may involve books, games, play, art, or talk therapy.

What’s your biggest pet peeve about private practice?

My biggest pet peeve in private practice is dealing with insurance.  I hope to someday become a private pay practice, but have found it is difficult to get started in my area without taking insurance.  I am competing with many other therapists who accept insurance.  I am on a few panels and am working consistently to get approved by more.  It is time consuming to do this and to do all the paperwork required to get paid.

How did you discover or develop your practice “niche”?

My passion is working with women and children.  While I do have several clients that fit in this “niche”, I also work with couples and families. I have to say I do enjoy the variety as well.  Many issues that affect women and children also affect couples and families, so the skills I have acquired over the years are helpful with all the populations I serve.  For many clients it comes down to relationships - relationships between parent and child, husband and wife, siblings, and other loved ones and significant others. We all have the basic need to feel loved, respected and to have a sense of safety, security and belonging.

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

The Internet has been the overall, best source of help in my endeavor.  Between LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups for private practitioners, as well as numerous online resources and continuing education opportunities, I have massive amounts of information at my fingertips.  Specifically, Julie Hanks’ Facebook group, “Private Practice Toolbox” was the first resource I sought out and it helped me immensely.  I felt very comfortable and welcome in this group.  The members are kind and knowledgeable and are always there with helpful advice.  From there, I learned about other groups on LinkedIn, as well as books, websites and other people who have helped me along the way.  Joseph Sanok, a member of the “Private Practice Toolbox” Facebook group, helped me with the resources I needed to create my own website.  And many other members encouraged me to start a blog.  I could not have done all that I have in the last six months without these helpful, knowledgeable profession also.  It also hasn’t hurt to have a husband who is a financial guru.

What has surprised you most about being in private practice?

I am most surprised that I find being in private practice so fulfilling.  I truly love spending time in, and working on, my practice.  It is my “baby” and as they say, “If you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life”.

Has your private practice helped you grow professionally?

I have learned so much about myself as a professional and the things I am capable of doing.  It has given me the self-confidence to continue moving forward, even on the rough days.

Has it helped you grow personally, too?

Personally, it is a great feeling to know you are a professional who can earn a living doing something you love.

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

Walk. Laugh. Love. I love to walk.  I try my best to walk at least 30 minutes a day, preferably outside if weather permits.  I love to laugh.  It is true that laughter is often the best medicine.  I make sure to try and laugh everyday, whether by watching enjoyable television shows, funny movies, or connecting with family and friends, I can feel the stress leaving my body when I laugh.  I recommend this to my clients as well.

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

I have had some very difficult jobs in my life.  When I am having a particularly difficult day, I think of those former challenges.   So far, nothing in private practice has been as stressful as some of those experiences!

What personal strengths have helped you succeed in private practice?

I have a strong business background consisting of an undergraduate degree in business, combined with experience working in business and with business start-ups.  This has been very helpful.  A private practice is a business.  Graduate school in the mental health field does not prepare you for the business side of private practice.  If you don’t have those skills, it is imperative that you get them, or find someone who can help you.

In addition, I have a very strong work ethic.  I am disciplined, responsible, and organized.  I have always lived by the motto, “Work first, play second.”  This has served me well.

 For more information about Barbara's private practice visit www.barbaraflor.com


Why Some Shrinks Fly Solo

WHITE IBISIn past posts I've explored the the positives and negatives of joining a group private practice. Now, it's time to focus on the pros and cons of running a solo private mental health practice. When I opened Wasatch Family Therapy nearly 10 years ago, it started out as a solo practice that slowly built over time into a group practice. While I like being "in charge" and autonomous, I'm also an extravert and I highly value my connections with others.

I reached out to other private practice therapists who practice alone to see why they chose to "fly solo."


Florida social worker and healthy eating expert Therapist Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. grew up as an only child, so she's used to being independent and working alone. That autonomy and comfort level has helped her to succeed. “I love being in private practice. I make my own schedule, decide whom I want to see and whom I don’t, set the fee schedule and slide if I want, and get to have an office in my home which makes both life and work easy,” Koenig shares.


Creating an environment that accurately reflects who you are is important to North Carolina therapist Erika Myers, LPC. "Having your own space in which to practice in a way that feels authentic to you, building an individual reputation rather than relying on a group name for recognition,” are reasons why Myers chooses to practice in a solo setting.


Illinois counselor Melanie Dillon, LCPC of Center For Wellness, Inc. practiced independently for 17 years. Of her experience she says, "Private practice gave me a very flexible schedule and autonomy. It also helped me grow to learn all aspects of being a small business owner. It was ideal for parenting and having a second income.” Eventually Dillon developed a mind/body group practice with two chiropractors when she found herself as a single mom and needed to provide a stable income.

As the second oldest of nine children in my family of origin I am used to being "in charge" and in having close connections with others. So, it makes sense that eventually, I grew my own solo practice into a group practice where I am still the sole owner and decision maker. Guess I just can't get away from being the "bossy" older sister.

Creative Commons License photo credit: cuatrok77

Creating Your Perfect Work Week (part 2)

In this guest blog Ashley Eder, LPC offers part 2 of "Creating Your Perfect Work Week." Ashley is a counselor and supervisor who believes we each have the potential to create a more satisfying life. Located in Boulder, CO, she works with clients and therapists through curiosity, self-awareness, and acceptance in order to create lasting change.

In Part I of Creating Your Perfect Work Week, I prompted you to evaluate how well your practice is performing as a non-monetary form of compensation. As a reminder, here are the questions for you to ask yourself to get an idea of how rewarding your private practice work week is for you now:

  • Are you excited to go to work?
  • Do you enjoy your clients?
  • Can you maintain your personal relationships?
  • Do you have time for self-care?
  • Do you feel satisfied and complete at the end of the day?
  • Are you resentment-free?
  • Are you intellectually stimulated?
  • Have you stopped doing the things you dread?

If you followed through with this exercise, you know that it really is possible to answer “yes” to all of those questions; you are ready to experiment with adding Satisfaction Builders into your week and you have a pretty good idea of where they may need to go.

Below are a handful of suggestions for ways you can re-design your practice to work better for you. Remember, the ideal practice is different for everyone! Use these ideas to get you started, then listen for your own voice to guide you in getting it just right.

Improve Your Work Satisfaction

  • Play with the flow of your day. You might sprinkle “mini-breaks” into your day (just 15 minutes to get some fresh air or eat a quick lunch); take a bigger break so you can leave the office to meet a friend or take a nap, or work straight through followed by extended time off. Which schedule leaves you least harried and most refreshed?
  • Experiment with separating client hours from administrative hours versus weaving them together. Does it feel more natural and productive to you to chart and return calls between sessions as you get time or all at once in a pre-determined window?
  • Fiddle around with work/home boundaries. Are you happier leaving work-based activities like social media and returning emails at the office, or do you prefer integrating them into your home life so that they don’t build up so much and you can maintain a connection to your business?
  • Pursue the clients who make your work meaningful and refer along those who do not. Trust that it is best for clients and therapists when we narrow our focus to serving our ideal clients, and allow other clients to seek help from clinicians who would be a more nourishing fit.
  • Raise your fees until you feel adequately compensated. Check out these tips on deciding to do that and how to broach it with clients.
  • Re-evaluate your mission statement. Why are you in private practice? Why did you become a therapist? Align your practice with your mission.
  • Seek professional support. Would it would feel good to treat yourself to expert supervision for a while? Choose a modality or style you would like to explore. Try building your own consultation network, and do not spend time with people you do not want to emulate. Get clear on who feels good to learn from and seek their support.
  • Study something new. Remember the intellectual stimulation of grad school? Well now you can have that without all of the homework. Seek continuing education that encourages you to expand your niche and work at your growing edge.
  • Do your own work. Take an honest appraisal of your clinical boundaries around time, responsibility for oneself, and money. This may involve a personal inventory and some existential exploration of what you truly believe about the nature of people. Then ask yourself: “Are these beliefs current or outdated? Do I choose to hang onto them or is it time to challenge them and my own habitual limitations?”
  • Trust yourself. If something feels “off” about your work experience, it probably is. Hang out with that observation, let it develop, and seek consultation with trusted colleagues. Your private practice is a work in progress. With your time, attention, and care, it will continue to flourish and nourish you back.
  • Imagine giving yourself permission to quit doing the things that don’t take care of you. Perhaps start by choosing one thing to let go of and observe the ripples. What happens next? Is it as scary as you thought it might be? Does your practice feel the impact? How do you feel without it? Hint: follow your resentments to find the practices that no longer serve your higher self.
  • Drop the dread. If you dread a part of your job, it is not feeding you. Be creative in your efforts to automate it, outsource it, or drop it entirely.
  • Question The ‘Busy’ Trap. Make room for self-care, including the necessity to do nothing on a regular basis. Identify what self-care truly means for you and allow it. It might mean making lovely meals or giving yourself a night off from cooking. It could look like an hour at the gym or an hour on the couch. It’s personal, and you get to choose.
  • Lighten your load. Examine your beliefs around how many client hours you should fit into a week. Would you be more energized by dropping 2 clinical hours, raising your rate $10, and writing for your professional blog or playing in nature? Do it!

As a business owner and psychotherapist, your practice really is your life. This can be an anchor weighing you down or an opportunity to build a flexible, satisfying life. Which do you choose?

Visit Ashley Eder, LPC’s practice website

Get the FREE Private Practice Toolbox mobile app

(c) Can Stock Photo

Creating Your Perfect Work Week (part 1)

This guest post is written by Ashley Eder, LPC. Ashley is a counselor and supervisor who believes we each have the potential to create a more satisfying life. Located in Boulder, CO, she works with clients and therapists through curiosity, self-awareness, and acceptance in order to create lasting change.

A successful private practice is not just defined by how many clients you see or how much income you generate. One critical stream of non-monetary compensation is the satisfaction your practice brings you.

That’s right--as a business owner in an inherently flexible field, part of your “payment” is the freedom to create a work week that works for you.

Whether your workload is in its sweet spot or not is a personal measure; what feels nourishing and sustainable for another clinician might be either under-stimulating or exhausting for you given your temperament and the other responsibilities in your life.

Ask yourself the following questions to start creating your own ideal work week:

  • Are you excited to go to work?
  • Do you enjoy your clients?
  • Can you maintain your personal relationships?
  • Do you have time for self-care?
  • Do you feel satisfied and complete at the end of the day?
  • Are you resentment-free?
  • Are you intellectually stimulated?
  • Have you stopped doing the things you dread?

Yes, you really can expect to have a practice that is that satisfying. If you found yourself shaking your head “no” to some of the questions above, it’s time to re-evaluate how you spend your work week. Take time now to explore these questions in detail. Be honest. Where are you solid in your business satisfaction and where could you use more work? What would your life look like if you were able to answer “yes” to these questions? Can you be specific now, or will it take some soul-searching to figure that out?

Check back for part 2 of Creating Your Perfect Work Week for concrete suggestions on ways to build satisfaction with your business. My suggestions will help you narrow the gap between where you are now and where you would like to be. Expect to revisit these areas throughout your career in private practice, especially as you advance in your career and skills, experience personal life changes in relationships and parenting, and do your own work in personal therapy.

Visit Ashley Eder, LPC's practice website

Get the FREE Private Practice Toolbox mobile app

Photo (c) Can Stock Photo