Marketing Strategy

4 Common Business Blunders of Newbie Private Practitioners

oops! mistake"Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself."

-Eleanor Roosevelt

When starting out in private practice, there's a lot to know. A lot. The learning curve can be painfully steep, particularly in ways for which we received no official training (finances, hiring practices, etc.). And no matter how knowledgeable or skilled a clinician is, he/she will inevitably take a few wrong steps. And that's okay!

We recently opened up a discussion on our Facebook page to get feedback about common business mistakes that therapists made when they were getting started in private practice. The responses were overwhelming; it seems many of you were eager to reflect on and share lessons that you learned the hard way! Though there were many answers given, a select few kept coming up that are worth addressing. Here are 4 common business mistakes to avoid when starting private practice:

4 Common Mistakes1) Taking Clients Who Are Not Ideal  

Building a clientele from scratch can be daunting, and if you're desperate for business, it might be tempting to take just anyone. But agreeing to see someone who is not your ideal client can be a miserable experience for both you as a therapist and the individual who is paying for professional services. Instead, politely refer to a therapist who is a better fit, continue to market yourself using the REST strategy, and wait for the right clients to come along.

2) Not Hiring a Good Accountant

Many in our group regretted that they hadn't taken on a CPA sooner to handle the finances, bookkeeping, and taxes (especially quarterly ones!). As so many in our Private Practice Toolbox group can attest, it's a worthy investment. One woman explained how she had initially set up her LLC incorrectly and later had to pay thousands of dollars to fix her mistake and get her business running smoothly again. Moral of the story: hiring a skilled accountant may be a bit expensive, but it's absolutely worth it!

3) Insufficient Infrastructure for Unexpected Growth  

For those new to the game, having an influx of clients might sound like a good thing, but the reality is quite different. Having too many clients can cause burnout, being short-staffed, and getting behind on administrative tasks. Don't be afraid to refer potential clients to trusted and reputable colleagues. Making sure your practice is secure and stable will make it so that you can handle the growth over time.

4) Not Understanding Insurance Companies         

Insurance panels are notorious for being confusing and complicated. Enlist a seasoned friend or mentor in your local area to help you navigate the process. Don't wait until you encounter a business emergency or financial crisis to understand all the ins and outs of insurance companies (such as understanding how client health benefits are different from behavioral health benefits). Become as versed and experienced in how to work with them as you possibly can so that you can avoid problems and get properly paid on time.

(I do hope that your goal is to eventually get off of insurance panels altogether and instead adopt a fee-for-service model. Click here to access my webinar about how to do so.)

What mistakes have YOU made that you would advise others against?

What did you learn from them?

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Content Creation Opportunities For Shrinks

Writing articles for high-traffic websites can help you grow online presence and your practice.

Content creation is crucial for building an online presence, particularly on your own professional blog on your private practice website. In addition to creating content for your own small website, you may want to start strategically writing for other websites, too. Seek out higher-traffic sites to write for

If the thought overwhelms you, don't stop reading quite yet. Some of the benefits of writing or blogging on other sites as part of your private practice marketing strategy are:

    • Getting more back links to your own site which increases traffic and boosts SEO
    • Increase name/brand recognition
    • More credibility as a trusted expert
    • Opportunity to educate and build awareness of important issues
    • And best of all, you can re-purpose the content and post it on your own website

All of these benefits will help bring more visitors to your website, which will, over time, mean more clients for your practice. It's important to write on topics directed to your ideal client. Write  on your areas of passion and expertise in order to bring in clients that are a good fit for your practice. Writing articles for other websites does take some commitment, but in my experience, it has been well worth the effort.

Consider pitching articles or blogs to these sites: has different levels of paid contributors: guides, topic writers, and video producers.

Psych Central

If you're ready to make a regular commitment to create and write regularly for your own blog, pitch your passion here. you can also submit individual articles to PsychCentral's World Of Psychology blog.

Sharecare is a health social media site owned by Dr. Oz. You can sign up as an expert and answer questions on a variety of health and mental health questions. Here's my Sharecare page.

Your local news website

Every newspaper and TV news station have websites and I've yet to come across one that doesn't have additional bloggers contributing. Here's an example from my articles on a local Utah news website

The Examiner accepts bloggers based on specific topics and locations. See if they are looking for bloggers in your area of expertise.

Professional organization websites

Check with your professional organization to see if they have a blog and accept articles from licensed professionals. The American Counseling Association has a blog with contributors.

This professional therapist listing site also allows therapists to become "topic experts" on their site and publish blog articles.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the writing opportunities for therapists on the web. My hope was to get you thinking about how to build your online presence and create content that you own and can reuse on your own site.

Do you contribute articles or other content to larger websites? I'd love to hear about your experience. Have you noticed an increase in traffic to your site? What benefits have you experienced writing for big websites?

I've just launched the 2013 Therapist Blog Challenge. Join us!


Benefits Of Blogging For Your Private Therapy Practice

I recently had a delightful chat with Australian counselor and consultant Clinton Powers via Skype about my evolution as a blogger. We talked about the many benefits of blogging as a marketing strategy, unexpected benefits that I've experienced through blogging, how to find your blogging voice, and how to address ethical concerns. I hope you enjoy the interview. Below, I've summarize the main points of our lively discussion.

What are the benefits of blogging as a practice marketing strategy?

  • Grow your practice by making it easier for clients to find you
  • Build your brand online
  • Fresh content improves SEO for your practice website
  • Establishes you as a credible expert in your field
  • Online networking with other mental health professionals
  • Positive impact on readers all over the world

What are your tips for developing your blogging voice?

  • Start where you are
  • Reject perfectionistic tendencies
  • Remember that you can edit
  • Re-purpose previously written content (papers, presentations, other media interviews)
  • Read and model after other therapists blogs

Where do you find inspiration for blog post topics?

  • Share your philosophical background
  • Write about themes you're seeing in therapy
  • Write about related news and current events
  • Summarize new research and add your take on it
  • Share other experts' content, including videos

How do you make time to write?

  • Write about the things that energize you and sound fun
  • Schedule time to blog once a week

How do you avoid ethical concerns?

  • Don't share client information
  • Don't share personal information

This interview first appeared on

8 Real World Marketing Strategies From Successful Therapists

Global Bathymetry DEM With Satellite Landmass (Version 2, Globe)Learning about marketing your private practice and actually doing it are very different things. I recently interviewed several successful private practice therapists about marketing strategies that have worked for them in the "real world".

My goal is to inspire you to effectively market your practice. You don't have to do all of these to build a successful practice. Just start with one that speaks to you and build from there.

1) Public Speaking

Public speaking not only educates your community, but also raises visibility and attracts clients to your private practice. "I did a lot of public speaking in neighborhood institutions - schools, churches, synagogues, hospitals to get my name recognized," says Dr. Roberta Temes of New York City. Parenting After Loss founder Amy Luster, M.A., LMFT also offers community presentations on on her specialty areas: infertility, high-risk pregnancy, and miscarriage patients as well as to the health-care providers that treat them as part of her marketing strategy.  Presentations on hypnotherapy have proven tan effective marketing tool for  Dr. Mary Sidhwani. "The community learns more about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy and also creates exposure for my practice and services," Sidhwani says.

2) Dynamic Website

Emma K. Viglucci, CFT, LMFT, CIT launched her practice website before most therapists had even considered it. "Marketing my website online has been the most effective marketing tool for me." Private practitioner Esther Kane, MSW of British Columbia agrees. An effective website has been the best way to market her practice and says it's an added benefit to be married to a website designer.

(Read 5 Common Website Mistakes And How To Fix Them)

3) Say "Yes" to Social Media

While some therapists are hesitant about using the social media to market their practice (and I'm not one of them), others are finding it to be an effective marketing tool. Viglucci says, "I've embraced this new aspect of online marketing at the beginning of this year, and was able to reduce my marketing budget by a 1/3 within 3 months." I echo her enthusiasm for using social media to build your practice. Facebook is the #2 traffic source to my private practice website Wasatch Family Therapy.

(Read Why Social Media Matters To Therapists)

4) Connect With Other Professionals

Professional networking is crucial for success in private practice, especially if you have a specific treatment niche. In addition to public speaking, Luster focuses her marketing efforts on building strong professional referral relationships with health care and childbirth providers, and parenting educators who work with her ideal clients.

Shannon Purtell, an anger management specialist finds that that getting involved in local professional organizations helps build her practice.

I found one of the best marketing strategies was to get involved with a local chapter of EAPA (Employee Assistance Professionals Association). I served on the board for 2 years as secretary and 2 years as president. These positions put me in regular contact with other mental health professionals, representatives from local and national EAP's, and marketing representatives from a variety of treatment centers. I was able to build professional relationships that have provided me with a steady referral base for years.

5) Everyday Life Networking

Networking as a marketing strategy need not be confined to other professionals. Therapist Diane Spear LCSW-R markets her New York City private practice by thinking about networking in everyday life.

The biggest thing has been learning to network in everyday life--there are millions of opportunities to mention what I do and that I'm expanding my practice, and educating friends and non-therapist professionals about how to refer their friend, colleague, or patient to me.

6) Word of Mouth

Sometimes just being an effective therapists has its own marketing benefits. There's nothing like the power of a strong recommendation from a friend or family member. Clients want to go to a therapist whom they can trust and they're more than willing to borrow that trust from someone else. "The best marketing strategy is word of mouth," says Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore. "Colleagues, pediatricians, and former clients who know me and know my work are my best referral sources!" Dr. John Duffy echoes the importance of word-of-mouth marketing. "Over the past several years now, the vast majority of my clients come from client and former client referrals."

7) Expert Media Appearances

Texas therapist Shannon Putrell, LPC recently had an amazing national TV appearance and additional visibility and credibility to her private practice.

I was contacted by a client that was participating in a reality program on MTV called True Life: I Need Anger Management. I worked with her and was featured in this episode of the series. The exposure that the program brought me helped to solidify my reputation in this niche, and increased my referrals to my program.

Regular local news, radio, and television appearances continue to help build my practice and provide a platform to educated thousands and thousands of people in one shot. As my clinic has grown, I've also trained therapists in how to pitch to the media. Watch some of our recent TV interviews here.

(Read more about building your practice through TV interviews)

 8) Write For Papers & Websites

Writing for local papers, websites, or blogs is a great way to familiarize your community with you and your specialty areas. Dr. Mary Sidhwani found that contributing articles to a small local paper increased her exposure and familiarized the community with her practice.

For a couple of years, I wrote for a local magazine, Wasatch Woman, who's readership closely matched my ideal client. Not only did it help get the word out about my practice, it added to my credibility and drew clients to my practice.

What marketing strategies have worked in your "real world" experiences? Please share your ideas below.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Kevin M. Gill

Overcoming Blogophobia (part 2): Quick and Easy Blog Post Ideas

What have I done!?Are you a beginning blogger feeling overwhelmed by the thought of coming up with original content to write about on a regular basis? I have some good news for you! Much of what is posted online is not entirely original content. Braden Talbot posted this insightful comment on my post  5 Tips To Overcoming blogophobia.

Once you understand that 99% (if not 100%) of information [posted on blogs] isn't really new, it’s not so scary.

The new part is your story and your spin and you’d be amazed at how many people are interested to hear it.

Adding your perspective on existing information makes blogging less overwhelming. I'm not talking about plagiarism here. I'm talking about using other people's ideas, books, posts, videos as a springboard to sharing your perspective on a particular topic. Remember, always credit the original author you are citing and provide links to the original work.

Here are some easy blog content ideas and examples to help spark your creativity, help you overcome "blogophobia", and add blogging to your private practice marketing strategy.

1) Share a video

Embed or share a video link that explains or expands on some aspect of your therapy work, your philosophy, or approach. Pick one of your favorite psychology "gurus" and write a brief paragraph about how this model or theory informs your clinical work. Here's a video from a brilliant psychologist who has revolutionized couples therapy that I recently shared on my clinic blog.

What is a healthy marriage? video by Dr. Sue Johnson

2) Bulleted or numbered lists

Give quick nuggets of advice or recommend resources that speak to your ideal client in a bulleted or numbered list. For example -- Top 5 parenting books, 6 ways to survive new parenthood, 5 things never to say to your teen, or 10 tips for managing depression. Here's a great post in this style from PsychCentral's Therese J Borchard.

5 Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic By Therese J. Borchard

3) Summarize relevant research

Watch for new and interesting research studies, summarize the research, and share why it's relevant to your practice. Here's a recent example of a research summary post from PsychCentral News.

Attention Problems Limit School Success By Rick Nauert PhD

4) Q & A

Solicit questions on social media sites, on your website, or make up the question based on commonly asked questions or themes drawn from your clinical practice and provide answers. This fun and informative style provides practical information and tools for potential clients and helps them understand your therapy style and philosophy.

For the past 10 years I've been unhappy By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

6) Current events

Regularly visit a local or national news websites and select a top news story to use as a springboard for your blog post topic. Hurricane Irene could lead to a post on helping your family deal with natural disasters, for example. Here's a recent post by one of my colleagues at Wasatch Family Therapy inspired by the 10th anniversary of 9-11.

How to talk to young children about 9-11 By Clair Mellenthin, LCSW

7) Seasonal topics

Consider the time of year and blog about seasonal topics. If you work with families, back to school time could lead to a post about helping your child with attention problems transition back into a routine. If you work with mood disordered clients you could blog in December about surviving the post holiday let down. You get the idea. Here's an example of one of my blog posts that I posted during spring.

"Emotional" Spring Cleaning by Julie Hanks, LCSW

Now that you have tools to overcome "blogophobia", and some blog post ideas, I want to read them! Feel free to post comments, concerns, questions, and your own blog post links below. Happy blogging.

Creative Commons License photo credit: miguelavg