Mental Health Field

Can I Feature Your Private Practice? Content Creation Opportunities on Toolbox

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Talk to thousands about your practice by submitting content for Private Practice Toolbox.

I've written a lot about the importance of content creation in building a professional online presence, creating value for website visitors and social media followers, and establishing yourself as an expert in your specialty area.

Incoming links to your practice website boost SEO, boost traffic, and establish credibility. It's always better to create content for larger websites. Well, here's your chance to shine. I want to feature you on THIS blog in 2013! Here are 4 ways you can be featured:

1) Pitch a guest blog 

I'm always looking for guest posts from qualified individuals from a variety of fields who can share insights about how to run, manage, market, and thrive in private practice. I recently started working on my PhD and I'm not able to blog as often as I used to. I'm open to posts from professionals outside the mental health field as well. Attorneys, accountants, SEO experts, marketing, website design, interior design...If your expertise can help private mental health practitioners build successful businesses, pitch away!

2) Be featured in my"Adventures in Private Practice" series

Answer the following questions and submit them with a photo, a brief summary of your practice and a link to your website here.

  • Tell me a little about your practice…
  • Why did you decide to open a private practice?
  • 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?
  • What’s your biggest pet peeve about private practice?
  • How did you discover or develop your practice “niche”?
  • What resource (book, website, person) helped you the most when setting up your private practice?
  • What has surprised you most about being in private practice?
  • Has your private practice helped you grow professionally? How so…
  • Has it helped you grow personally, too? How so…
  • Being a therapist can be emotionally exhausting. What do you do to care for your own emotional and psychological health?
  • How do you cope with the inevitable stressors involved with being your own boss?
  • What personal strengths have helped you succeed in private practice?

3) Be Featured in a "A Day In The Life" Series 

How do private practitioners spend their time? What does it take to create a thriving practice? Track your private practice activities for one day. Submit a word doc, photo, practice summary, and link to your practice here.

4) Be feature in my "Virtual Office Tour" series

Submit a video tour of your office space and I'll feature it on this blog! Submit you information here. Peek inside other therapist's offices.

Other ways to connect with private practice resources:

Join the Private Practice Toolbox Facebook Group

Join the Twitter conversation using hashtag #practicetoolbox (I'm @julie_hanks)

Join the 2013 Therapist Blog Challenge for help creating regular content on your private practice website.

Creative Commons License Martin Fisch via Compfight


Adventures In Private Practice: Vocational Social Worker Dawn Vincent

Dawn Vincent Specializing in vocational rehabilitation and work/life issues, Australian social worker Dawn Vincent has been  in the mental health field for 25 years. Like many therapists, she considered opening a private practice, but says she lacked the confidence to actually do it. Read how one private practice course helped her muster up the courage to open her private practice in Camberwell, Victoria, Australia where she helps clients work toward mental health and well-being and navigate changes and choices in life and in work.

Why did you decide to open a private practice?

I had thought about it for about 10 years, but lacked the confidence to go ahead.  After spending over 20 years in vocational rehabilitation I decided to take my long service leave and think about my options.  After an overseas trip I came home and enrolled in an Introduction to Private Practice course run by the Australian Association of Social Workers.  At that time there were only a small number of Social Workers in private practice and it was still somewhat controversial here in Australia.

The profession has a very strong welfare orientation where most Social Workers are employed by the Commonwealth or State governments or work in hospitals and community based settings. Having worked for a large government bureaucracy myself, I liked the idea of the independence and autonomy private practice seemed to offer. I had been a bit of a workaholic and I wanted to move to a better work/life balance and be able to work my own hours.  The course helped me to decide that private practice was what I wanted and I committed to this goal.

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?

Before private practice I had worked with clients with physical, intellectual and psychological disabilities, helping them to enter or re-enter the workforce after injury or disability.  At times it was very challenging and distressing working with people with acquired brain impairments and severe physical disabilities, particularly the younger ones whose lives were permanently changed.

I found I was drawn to the mental health clients and tended to specialise in this group and continue to do so in my private work. Working with people with disabilities reminds me how lucky I am to be fit and healthy and not take this for granted. It has also taught me about the dignity of risk and courage and resilience in life. Helping people overcome their barriers and live a full and meaningful life is incredibly rewarding. I learn from my clients daily and I am a better person from my interactions with them.

What's your biggest pet peeve about private practice?

The uncertainty of income. There are obviously times of the year when referrals are quiet and I used to worry about when I would get my next referral. Over recent years I have become more relaxed about this and accept it as part of the natural seasonal variations. I do get annoyed when clients cancel at the last minute when I have made a special time to see them outside of my normal schedule, although fortunately this does not happen often.  As a member of both the Australian Association of Social Workers and the Career Development Association of Australia I have double fees and professional development requirements from these bodies which becomes very expensive.

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

As mentioned above, my background is in vocational rehabilitation specializing in working with people with psychological disabilities.  I always enjoyed working with this client group and was fascinated by the workings of the mind.  When I entered private practice I was naturally drawn to working with mental health clients. Originally I had intended to focus on general counselling and psychotherapy, but I found that some of my colleagues were referring clients to me for career counselling.

With my experience in general counselling and vocational counselling it made sense to continue to use my skills in both areas and mix the two streams of work.  I now see approx. 70% of clients for personal counselling and psychotherapy and the other 30%  for career counselling, although sometimes there is an overlap as people may have psychological issues which impact on their career decisions. I find the career work provides some “light relief” from the common presentations of anxiety, depression and relationship problems as it is shorter in nature and less intense.

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

The Introduction to Private Practice course I did was based on Lynn Grodzki’s workbook Twelve Months to Your Ideal Private Practice. I worked my way through this workbook and reported back to the group each week. I found this helped me to be well prepared for the realities of private practice.

I still frequently refer to Lynn’s books when I need to focus on how to develop my practice further. One of the social workers who ran the course allowed me to rent her room for half a day a week and on the days I went there we would spend some time talking about my practice and she provided ongoing support and advice to me as I waited for my client base to build up. My husband was incredibly supportive and encouraging.

What has surprised you most about being in private practice?

The number of people who have been prepared to help me learn what I need to know about running a business and the amount of resources available to support this.

I belong to several business networks which have been very useful in making contacts with various professionals with expertise in website development, social media, business systems, coaching etc.  It took me a while to find these, but they are out there if you ask and look.

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

Every day I am learning new things. The longer I am in private practice, the more I realize there is to learn. Working with people and studying the human condition  is  exciting and stimulating. My skills and knowledge are continually growing as no matter what I may know about any topic or therapeutic approach, there is a constant stream of new knowledge out there.

Being in private practice makes me resource myself. I am responsible for my professional development – no one else, so I seek out opportunities to grow my knowledge and skills so I can continue to provide my clients with the best service I can and deepen my satisfaction at work.

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

Absolutely. My confidence and self belief  have developed as a result of taking a risk and putting myself “out there”.  I could have continued in my former job with a safe, secure income and never grown to be the person I am now.   It is great to have been able to overcome my own fears and insecurities and put in the hard work required to realize my dream.

I have had to learn about marketing, networking, managing a business, budgets, Business Plans, etc.  I am more independent and I have a better understanding of myself, what I need and what I am capable of.   I am happy doing work that I love and which I believe makes a difference in people’s lives.  It is for me the perfect combination.

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

I am a great believer in self care and I constantly talk to my clients about this so I make an effort to practice what I preach.  Some days it can be emotionally draining working with human pain and giving out to people. I debrief with professional colleagues as needed and I attend monthly private supervision. I try to exercise regularly, get enough sleep and eat healthily.  My husband and I love travel and we visit our daughter in New York annually and have mini breaks in between.   I make sure I catch up with family and friends on a regular basis.  I use mindfulness breathing and meditation to help me relax and I listen to music and go for walks or do some gardening to unwind.

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

I love being my own boss so I don’t find it too stressful, but I imagine you are referring to having to do everything myself. I have no office assistance so I manage my appointments, type my invoices and reports, do my own marketing, pay the bills etc.  I’m pretty organised and I am a bit of a control freak so it does not bother me to do all this myself. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have someone take on some of the small practical things while I focus on the things only I can do.

What personal strengths have helped you succeed in private practice?

Well, I think I am persistent and resilient and if I make up my mind to do something I don’t give up easily.  I am quite disciplined and conscientious and hardworking. I am happy spending time alone so although I sometimes do miss having a team of people to work with, I operate better when I have time to think, reflect and plan. Private practice requires a lot of this.

I have good people skills and I have no problem forming trusting relationships with my clients. I network well and I seek out other people when I need social contact, but I don’t need a lot of people around me all the time. I am not afraid to ask for help when I need it and I am committed to life long learning.

To learn more about Dawn's practice visit her website

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


6 Ways To Give Yourself A Raise

Dollar billYou're in the mental health field because you want to make a difference AND an income. Too many therapists are making a big difference but only making a small income. Here are 6 ways you can make your private practice more profitable within the next month. 1) Cut expenses

Look more closely at your recurring monthly expenses. Can you find a way to reduce any of them? You might want to sub-lease your office on the days you're not there so you're paying less rent. Do you pay monthly for a therapist referral listing that rarely sends referrals your way that you could cancel? How about buying bulk printer paper of files online? We recently cut expenses by replacing water bottles that we offered to for all clients with a water cooler in the waiting area. This save $100 a month. The little things add up.

2) Raise your fees

When is the last time you raised your fees? Do some research on therapist's fees in your area with similar level of experience are charging and see where you fall in comparison. Ask yourself what is keeping you from raising your fees?

3) Hire an office manager

Most therapists who don't hire a billing person or office manager because of the added expense. I want you to count up the minutes and hours you spend doing clerical work each week. Let's say it's 10 hours per week. If you saw additional 10 clients at $100 per session that's $1000 of additional income per week, or $4000 more every month. With that additional income you can hire an office assistant for $13 per hour for 10 hours per week. You'd be paying out only $130 a week or $520 per month for the additional support. After paying your assistant you'd be bringing in $3480 every month just by replacing your time spent doing clerical hours with clinical hours.

4) Charge more if sessions go over

Do you allow clients to go over the scheduled session time without paying for it? Consider this...If you're seeing 6 clients in a day and 5 of them go over 10 minutes, you're giving away the equivalent of one session that day. If you charge $100 for a 45-50 minute session that means that you're losing $100 a day of income if you don't charge additional fee for additional time. If you charge for additional time you'll make $100 (or your session fee) each day you work. You will have given yourself a raise of several dollars in a month.

5) Charge full fee for no-shows or late cancellations

What's your no show or late cancellation policy? Do you stick to it? I don't like being at work and not getting paid, do you? For years I've charged full fee for no shows and late cancellations, even for first sessions. And a few years ago, I started requiring a credit card in order to schedule an appointment with me or one of my therapists. New clients were notified that if they failed to cancel with more than 24 hours notice they will be billed for the entire session. Guess what? We rarely have no shows and if we do, clients pay the full fee for the therapist's time. I've found that when I require the client to invest something from the get-go they invest more in the therapy process.

6) Tighten up your collection policies

If you're in solo practice, I know how easy it is to let client accounts get out of control. You didn't get into ther therapy business to do accounting. Try scheduling some time to review your client accounts, send out bills and follow up with clients who owe you money. In my clinic, our policy is if I client is more than one session behind in payments their therapy is "on hold" until their account is current.

More on therapist and money in upcoming posts, but until then, I challenge you to try one of these suggestions this month and give yourself a raise.

Creative Commons License photo credit: ZeRo`SKiLL

Why Social Media Matters to Therapists #soudessasYou're in the mental health field because you want to make a difference and make a living, right? Technology and new media now allow therapists to educate and interact with worldwide audience and to talk directly to ideal clients...for free. Take a look at these recent statistics from the top social media sites:

  1. There are 750 million active users (
  2. 200 million Tweets go out daily on Twitter (
  3. Over 400 billion YouTube videos videos are viewed each day (

Of the 750 million Facebook users, half log into the site daily. This is great news for therapists in private practice because you now have access to thousands of your ideal clients. Can they find you? Do you have a Facebook "Page" for your therapy practice? (I'll be posting soon about the difference between a Facebook profile and a page). It's a great way to share resources, articles, and provide information about your practice and the issues that matter to you and your clients.

How about Twitter or YouTube? Can your ideal clients find you there? Are you tweeting about your specialty areas or your services? Do you have a video introducing yourself and your practice on YouTube? Think about it. Your potential clients are on the internet looking for mental health information and services. If you're feeling overwhelmed by these suggestions, never fear! I'll be walking you through effective and efficient ways to use social media sites to build your practice as the weeks go on. Keep in mind that social media sites are additional forums for building referral sources and networking, a place to talk with people.

So, why are so many therapists reluctant to embrace social media? Fears regarding breaches of confidentiality and the potential dual relationships are common concerns, however, there are ways to set up social media accounts so you're not mixing personal and professional information and relationships. In upcoming posts I'll suggest ways to utilize social media in an ethical way that helps you do a better job at educating on topics you're passionate about and using it in a way that builds your private practice.

Do you have questions, concerns, or fears about using social media to build your therapy practice? I'd love to discuss them so please post comments below.

Creative Commons License photo credit: :: nany mata.