I have been consulting with private practice practitioners for over 7 years and what I find most common is the struggle to think of a healthcare practice as also a business. We are in the helping service and feel we must help others before we help ourselves. Most of us came into the world of therapy because we had been helped by it and wanted to help others. We all went through long and costly years of school, but most of us never had a class or internship that taught the business of psychotherapy. We struggle with networking, knowing our value, how to set our fee and whether or not to be on managed care or insurance panels. I think most of us just followed the mentors we trusted. Our caseloads can be enough to handle without having to try and do the paperwork, insurance billing, collecting and marketing.
Major first step start to think of yourself as a small business owner and that means thinking about how much you make, how much you want to make and what it costs to run your practice. Running a practice includes your office, phones, etc. but also your marketing budget, which frightens many of us. Your investment in your therapy practice is an investment in yourself. I have made it my business to learn how to do things with as small an investment as possible. The initial outlay may seem overwhelming but there are ways to do things on the less expensive side and remember this is an investment that over the years will keep giving you a return on your dollar. I work with people with all kinds of budgets but what I have found is if I have to spend money to make something look professional it is worth the investment because it represents me in the world. You can have a designer create a website from $500 – $15,000. You can use wordpress and get templates but I have always found even with templates it helps to have a professional do some final tweaking so it looks professional. You can manage the costs by doing as much of the work as you can.
Some of the people I talk with seem afraid of marketing. Most often you are marketing and don’t even know it. When I opened my first office, I shared space with a friend of mine, neither one of us had any clients but we had a lovely office all ready to go. It was a risk and we knew we needed to take the risks to get started. There are lots of ways to get going that minimize the costs and risks, like renting space part-time. I think many of us have a hard time networking and feel uncomfortable attending group events. Think about your school or training programs and start networking with the people you met there. Wherever you are in your career start networking, start developing a referral network. Let people know where you are, what you specialize in and how you can help people. I’ve spent time, money and energy going to school, interned for next to nothing, studied for my license and now I have to go out and sell myself?
Well, the brief answer is yes
The longer answer – You are not selling goods. You are investing in yourself and I will not hide the unpleasant truth you are selling your expertise, skills and experience. The good news is it can be done with creativity, beauty, grace and a tremendous amount of professionalism and ethics.
Licia Ginne, MFT