Extra! Extra! Using a Newsletter to Build Your Private Practice

newsletter If there is anything you've taken from reading posts on Private Practice Toolbox, it likely has to do with the importance of having a strong online presence to educate and serve your community. There's a lot to consider: social media, blogging, podcasting, SEO, etc. But there's another aspect of building your practice that we haven't quite covered yet: newsletters.

Newsletters are a tool you may consider implementing for your practice. A newsletter is a letter you send out to your clients and readers updating them on what's happening with your practice (it's a good idea to send them out monthly; you don't want to overwhelm your audience with too much from you, but you also don't want them to forget about you). They can be an effective way to connect with your readers and offer some insight on topics related to your specialty, inform them of any upcoming events or seminars, and just overall keep in touch.

Newsletter or Blog Post?

If you're continually producing fresh content, there's often a question of where to place it. Does it work better for a newsletter or for a blog post? While there will be some overlap between the two, there are significant differences between what type of content is best for what medium. Anyone can read your blog or site, but your newsletter is much more tailored and specific, and only people who have subscribed will receive it. These are local users who have shown that they have a specific interest in what you have to say. So while your blog is perhaps more for the purpose of acquiring new clients, a newsletter is best fitted for engaging with current clients.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you have information to share that you feel would be valuable for both potential and existing clients, sometimes a slight adjustment in wording or format between mediums can make your content fit both a blog post and a newsletter.

Building Your List

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to attract and engage with clients and is the means through which you'll facilitate your newsletter. This is where you create a list of contacts to communicate with via email. But acquiring a list takes time and effort. Some therapists choose to gather emails at speaking events and conferences. Others may ask for permission to leave a sign-up sheet at physicians' offices or other public settings. Also, providing an opt-in on your website or blog is another way to generate contacts for your list. If you are taking the time to create content for newsletters, you want enough readers to make it worth your while, and building your email list is key.

Programs for Email Newsletters:

Although some do choose to send hard copies of their newsletters, most opt to use emails (hard copies quickly get expensive, and dealing with home addresses can be very inconvenient). But in order to be more efficient and professional, you'll want to use another email program than simply Gmail or Yahoo. Some well-known systems for email lists include Mailchimp and Constant Contact. These both have free trial periods and then have varying prices depending on your number of subscribers and the volume of emails you send out. Thankfully, email marketing programs for your newsletters are not very costly investments; Mailchimp allows users to send unlimited emails to 500 subscribers for only $10 per month. Take time to experiment with the different features and automations of these programs, and they can be an invaluable part of your newsletter campaign.

Newsletters are yet another way to reach out to your community and get the word out about your private practice. Consider the time investment necessary, the potential results (acquiring new clients, having more individuals come to your events, gaining more blog readers, etc.), and the costs, and then decide whether they would be a useful tool for your therapy practice.

What are YOUR experiences with newsletters?

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Therapist Turned Entrepreneur: Howard Spector, Founder and CEO of SimplePractice

I'm excited to introduce you to the kick off of a new series: Therapist Turned Entrepreneur and introduce to you a mental health professional who transformed his training into creating mental health related businesses. Howard Spector is a therapist turned entrepreneur and is the creator of and more recently, SimplePractice management system. Here is his story:

Tell us about your background (college experience and degree, career beginnings, etc.). 

Wow, big question. I’ve had a number of careers as I tried to find the one that really fit. I attended USC for undergrad, and then after some years working in the entertainment industry found myself in Palo Alto while my wife was doing her medical residency at Stanford. I was always a bit of a technology geek and really connected with what was happening in Silicon Valley. We eventually ended up back in Los Angeles where I had some success with a number of technology companies. Then one day, I realized how disconnected I felt from the work I was doing and decided that I needed to reconnect with what was important to me, and also that a major career change was part of that. There was a particular school, Pacifica Graduate Institute, that I had always wanted to attend. Pacifica has a unique program where you basically live there for 3 days a month and are immersed in this wonderfully rich world of depth psychology. When I began school there, it felt like coming home. It was one of the most important experiences in my life, and I am very grateful for it.

With your business savvy and drive, you could have gone in many different directions. Why did you decide to apply your expertise to the mental health profession?

After graduating from Pacifica, I was doing my internship in California, and the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) has very confusing rules for how you need to accrue, track, and report your 3000 hours of clinical experience. After fumbling around with a complex spreadsheet, I realized that this whole process would be better served by a web-based product. So I developed a product called TrackYourHours. It had all the BBS rules and forms built in, and it turned into a very sophisticated piece of software that was simple to use. It caught on quickly, and thousands and thousands of pre-license clinicians now use it. So that was where the entrepreneur in me really kicked in - I saw a need and filled it.

How did you come to develop the management system SimplePractice

I was getting close to completing my 3000 hours of training and started to look at practice management products to find one I would want to use. To be honest, I was very unimpressed by what was out there. Products were either outdated and just horrific to look at or too complex for me. I wanted something simple and intuitive. So I decided to build my own.

3bedc89You’ve had tremendous success with your product. Explain some specific things you’ve been able to achieve with SimplePractice.

The most important thing for me is that our customers love our product for the reasons we set out to achieve - it’s simple and intuitive. I am also very proud of our team. We work insane hours to make sure we are adding the necessary features to our product so we can fulfill our promise to our customers. We are able to innovate very efficiently and are able to build out our product in ways that keeps new features well integrated and intuitive, as opposed to just slapping things on top of one another.

One of your main messages is the idea of “counselor as entrepreneur.” Why is it important for solo health practitioners to think of themselves as entrepreneurs? What are some ways that they can get into that mindset?

I don’t think this is limited to solo practitioners; it applies to anyone in any setting. I think the message that “you are an entrepreneur” provides the necessary reframe for this community. Being called to this special work is a gift, but that doesn’t mean this melding of art and science is not a business. It is very much a business, and one cannot survive and thrive by ignoring that. I want these health and wellness practitioners to embrace the business part of their practice and understand that as an entrepreneur/small business owner, there are things they can do to have greater success - and that that's ok.

One of our interests here at Private Practice Toolbox is helping counselors generate income in ways other than seeing clients. We’ve talked about speaking, writing, and teaching, but as of yet haven’t discussed software creation and development. Is there any specific advice or insight you can offer to tech-savvy clinicians thinking of venturing into that realm? 

The first thing that comes to mind is that developing software is a lot harder than it looks. There is so much detail work that has to be attended to, and there is no gray area; software is black and white. There are so many use cases for something as seemingly simple as recovering a lost password. For example, do you click on a ‘forgot password’ link and then send the user to a page to enter some information - what information? What if the user enters it wrong? Is there an error message? Where? What does it say? The list goes on…and on…and on.

I don't say this to be discouraging. I say it because based on my experience talking with customers, most don’t realize the work it takes to develop even mediocre software. So my advice is this: If you have an idea, by all means, pursue it. If it’s software-related, then find someone to work with who has experience developing software. And be prepared to spend money on good developers and designers. My mom has this great saying: “Cheap is expensive.” When it comes to developing software, especially software in the health market where there are significant security requirements needed to protect patient health information, don’t be cheap.

To recap: Follow your dreams and passions, and if that happens to be developing software, then understand the costs of time and money it takes to develop something valuable.

Not only do you have an innovative software program, but through your company blog, you are also involved in educating clinicians on how to best run their practice from a business standpoint. Why is it important for you to share your wisdom and skills?

Because I am incredibly passionate about this work. I have some insights into this field because I trained as a clinician, and I want this community to embrace the business side of their practice. The services clinicians provide are invaluable, and they should be well compensated for all the time they put into getting educated and trained. The more they think of themselves as entrepreneurs, and the more they can see the parallel between other industries and theirs, the more it will help them. I think I have more to offer than just a great software product, and if I can help clinicians, even ones that don't use SimplePractice, then that is awesome.

Howard SpectorHoward Spector is the CEO and Founder of SimplePractice. He has years of experience creating and developing technology companies and was the creator of He has a MA in Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and a BA from he University of Southern California. 
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6 Things I Learned from 'Breaking Up' With Managed Care

6 Lessons Learned From Breaking Up with Managed CareIt was a scary step to resign from all insurance panels! I wasn't aware of any therapists who had built a fee-for-service practice in my area. The things I learned in the process of were better than I had expected. When my practice Wasatch Family Therapy transitioned from managed care panels to a private pay model over a decade ago, I anticipated a few things would happen; I knew that this business decision would help allow me more control over the type and length of therapy, that I would have less paperwork, and I would get paid at the time of service. However, there were some unexpected lessons I learned as well. Here are 6 things I learned from breaking up with managed care:

I Learned:

  •  the value of my perceived value.     

When potential clients learned that I employed a private pay model, they seemed to perceive me as a more competent provider. "You must be really good if you don't have to be on insurance panels." My clinical skills hadn't changed, but my perceived value went up because of how I presented my services. It's surprising how much the way we clinicians value and present ourselves affect how others see us.

  • that I felt more alive in my clinical work.    

The stress of constant paper work and phone calls that was part of being on managed care panels unfortunately led me to resent the work I was doing. However, after transitioning to a private pay model, I could refocus my energy on the reason I went into the mental health profession. Since I no longer felt drained by jumping through hoops for insurance companies, I was able to rediscover my passion and love of doing clinical therapy.

  • that I deserved to be compensated well.

The work we do is vitally important, and it's not selfish to desire income stability for yourself as a mental health professional. Resigning from managed care helped reaffirm to me that I do deserve to be well compensated for my clinical services.

  • that I had more time and energy for family and other passions.   

The income stability, decreased stress, and increased time that a private pay model afforded me meant that I could invest more in my hobbies and in my relationships. I've been able to pursue many of my passions, including songwriting and getting my PhD, and I've cherished the relationships that I've been able to nurture and devote more time to.

  • how to present my fees with confidence.  

Understandably, a mental health professional transitioning from managed care to private pay may feel some hesitation about talking about his/her service fees. I initially felt this reluctance as well. Few people are confident in talking about money! But, as time went on I learned to overcome this challenge and present my fees and talk about a fee-for-service model with ease (click here for more about how to create and assertively implement a financial policy for your clients).

  • how to generously refer to colleagues. 

It can be difficult for many clinicians to refer potential clients to other providers. We may feel somewhat of a scarcity mentality, and that if we don't decide to do therapy work with a certain individual there may not be any other clients who want our services. I realized that even if I didn't see a client for therapy, I could still serve him/her by providing referral options. For example, I could identify sliding scale fee clinics in the area or email names of therapists who were on an insurance panel or were in some way a better fit. By doing this, not only was I helping individuals find the care they needed, but I was also helping other colleagues in my community by providing them with more business. Referring to outside sources has been an incredibly important aspect of working with a fee-for-service practice, as Wasatch Family Therapy currently refers at least 50% of our inquiries to other providers in the community.

timthumbClick here for access to the full webinar "How to Break Up With Managed Care and Build a Thriving Private Pay Model."

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3 Ways Managed Care is Hurting Your Practice

3 Ways Managed Care is hurting your
3 Ways Managed Care is hurting your

This is not the first time you've heard me share my perspective on the problems of building private practice based on managed care. The original intent of these third-party companies was to ensure equity for those who receive treatment, but the actual results have been far from successful and have caused a myriad of problems. Some have even described managed care as the cause of the mental health care crisis. And while managed care wreaks havoc on the field as a whole, this system is also problematic for private therapy practices. As a clinician, I can certainly attest to this. My guess is that you can too. Here are the 3 main ways that using managed care panels may be hurting your practice:

1) Micromanagement of Treatment

Managed care panels have a way of micromanaging you in a supposed attempt to make you accountable. This means that a therapist often has less say and control in the type, length, and modality of treatment provided to the client, who has also has less input in the process. Think about it: an outside, commercial middle-man is dictating how you, the professional, help your client. It's easy to see how such a system lends itself to inadequacy and substandard care.

The mandatory diagnosing of clients is arguably the most deplorable part of using managing care panels. You are often required to provide a diagnosis, even if you do not believe your client has one. Even worse, some companies only accept certain kinds of diagnoses, which only further restricts your ability to provide ethical and accurate information and care.

2) Business Inefficiency

Communicating with managed care companies is a nightmare. There's excessive paperwork to fill out and phone calls to make. The hassle is never-ending, and it takes away from what you want to do: use your professional skills to serve your clients. Not only is your business inefficient and time-consuming to operate, but by looking at the math, you'll discover that your overall costs are increased as well. Even analyzing things solely from a business perspective, it's evident that using managed care is not a desirable model.

3) Payment Problems

When working with managed care their contracted rates were 40-60% of my full fee. Not only was there a low fee, but there was also the frustration of denied or delayed payments. There would sometimes be problems with the paperwork, or things would get lost in the tedious communication, and I wouldn't get paid for weeks or even months. I wasn't being sufficiently compensated for my work, and I wasn't always being paid in a timely manner. It was disheartening to say the least. It is emotionally and financially draining, and we deserve better.

These are three of the major ways managed care can hurt your practice (although there are certainly more). Thankfully, there's a better way. A way you can work less and earn more. I'm excited to share you with in upcoming posts about how transitioning to a fee-for-service model helped me build a thriving practice.

Click here to access my webinar, "Breaking Up With Managed Care" to learn even more tips and strategies.

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Top 10 Websites for Building Your Private Practice

Top 10 Websites
Top 10 Websites

Like any worthwhile endeavor, building a successful private practice takes a lot of work, time, and know-how. So why not consult the experts? Here's a list of 10 of the best websites (listed in no particular order) to help you do just that:

1) Zur Institute

Drawing from his 20+ years of experience, Dr. Ofer Zur gives insight on virtually all aspects of the field of psychotherapy and the mental health profession, including practice building and continuing education. He offers practical resources on such topics as using a newsletter for marketing and how to deal with collections agencies. Many of Dr. Zur's publications and packages have a set price, but he does give some free articles and videos.

2) Private Practice From the Inside Out

Tamara G. Suttle, M.Ed., LPC has run a private clinical practice since 1991 and wants to share her secrets to success. She includes tips on blogging, how to build your website, and marketing your practice. Her site is very interactive, as you can submit your own questions and also have the potential to contribute a guest post.

3) Practice of the Practice

Joe Sanock, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC, is committed to making counselors awesome by sharing the business and social media info that he's acquired in his years of private practice. He covers a wide variety of topics, such as how to use Wordpress and Bluehost to build your own site, finding your niche as a therapist, and how to use Google Keyword Planner to rank higher in search engines. Joe also runs a very successful podcast where he discusses even more tricks of the trade. He even discloses his monthly income report and shows exactly how he has managed to increase his earnings through his side professional activities.

4) Zynny Me

Miranda Palmer, LMFT and Kelly Higdon, LMFT are no-nonsense experts in all things private practice! Become part of their Business Bootcamp, where a community of clinicians offer their experience and support to help each other (re)examine beliefs concerning money and private ownership, create a business vision, and build a sturdy foundation to grow into a thriving psychotherapy practice!

5) Get Down to Business Consulting

Cathy Hanville, LCSW knows that being a great psychotherapist is not enough, and she offers consulting to help you take your business to the next level. By reviewing your social media campaign, helping you streamline your billing procedures to make them more efficient, and helping you get started with blogging, Cathy can guide you on how to market and manage your practice to expand your outreach and create a robust practice.

6) The Counselor Entrepreneur

When Camille McDaniel, LPC, CPCS first started out in private practice, she worked long hours without a clear vision of her own. Once she educated herself on marketing, business skills, and how to develop multiple income streams, she was able to have more creative control of her practice and find more fulfillment in her work. Her goal with "The Counselor Entrepreneur" is to help other counselors tap into their own creativity and use it to help others.

7) Be a Wealthy Therapist

Building upon the principles she gives in her book, Casey Truffo spills the beans on all things related to becoming financially well-off as a therapist. She tells how to attract full-fee clients, how to change a negative or inaccurate mindset that hurts your practice, and how to increase your income when you're already capped out with clients.

8) Perfected Practice

Samara Stone, LCSW and founder of The Stone Foundation built her own practice from the ground up. Wanting to help others replicate the success that she herself has had, Samara shares valuable information and tips about the importance of networking with other professionals in the field, how to work hard in building your practice without burning out, and best practices for selecting administrative staff.

9) Heart of Business

Founder Mark Silva understands the dilemma of wanting to make a difference in people's lives but also realistically needing to earn a living. Though not specific to the mental health profession, Heart of Business seeks to help entrepreneurs run their businesses in such a way that they can serve their clients while still meeting their own needs. You can receive small-group coaching for personalized attention and support, or you can subscribe to a free newsletter to get tips and strategies delivered to your inbox.

10) Private Practice Toolbox

This list would be incomplete without the very website you are reading right now! I love the opportunity to share with my tribe the lessons that I have learned since founding my own practice in 2002, but I think the real strength of Private Practice Toolbox is that it's all about you! We crowd-source through social media to generate inquiries, ideas, and input about all things related to private practice. We also highlight and celebrate those who've found success, who then share their secrets with the rest of us.

What blogs/ sites have helped YOU

learn and grow your practice?

(Click herefor a list of top 10 book resources!)

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