Six Lessons I Learned About Growing A Private Practice

As I am starting to wind down and limit my practice in order to spend more time on my speaking and writing, my quest for getting new clients in the door is no longer desired – and now I get more calls! I am amused to find that now that feel I have broken the “code” to learn how to get new clients I no longer want them, and the more I am not looking the more they call! So that my top 6 lessons learned do not go to waste, I decided to share what I learned so that earlier in your career you can benefit from my lessons learned. This is certainly not a definitive guide, but this is how I crystallized what I have found in my own practice.

Have a last name that starts with a letter at the beginning of the alphabet.

Ok – Maybe that is not an option for you – but at least you can name your practice with a name that starts with an A or B! With the last name Belmont (one of the fringe benefits of marrying and going up from an F to a B in the alphabet), I am often at the top of the web search and yellow page search. I found that some of my best clients came from the yellow pages! Even though most people search online, you will still get some who prefer the old fashion way by letting their fingers do the walking!

Use a yellow page or web ad that is descriptive.

I made use of my last name being at the beginning of the alphabet to make sure I spent extra money on a box in the Yellow Pages, which is also available online. Instead of just a listing of what I do in general, which is Individual and Marriage Counseling, I also listed specific issues that people could relate to and are generally universal Thus, on my listing, I put some bullets which common issues that prompt people to seek counseling, such as listed anxiety, depression, relationships, communication, stress.
If you have a web site, which i strongly recommend, put that in your ad also.

I noticed that in the last year as I was winding down my practice, when I stopped posting a bigger ad and just had the minimal listing, much less calls came from the yellow pages, both from the directory and online.

Being on Insurance panels opens up referrals

Being on insurance panels does have its limitations which I won’t go into here, but especially if you are looking to build a practice, it is almost essential to participate on some panels. The single best reason for going with panels is that many of your referrals will come from people finding you on the insurance companies site as they search for providers. Also – most people want to go through their insurance and if you do not accept any insurance, you will limit your practice significantly, especially if you are starring out and are not established.

Branch out and speak on mental health/wellness issues for groups and workplaces

Try to get exposure out of the office by speaking to groups and various workplaces on wellness issues such as stress management, communication and other life skills. By doing this, I not only got Employee Assistance Counseling clients from some local companies, but also became a consultant who was involved in being hired to see some managers either at the workplace or in my office when there were interpersonal issues that affected work performance. The benefits of promoting mental health and wellness in the community gave me the most interesting experiences in my practice and helped me grow my expertise with workplace wellness while I was growing my client base.

Get friendly with doctors
Family doctors and internal medicine specialists have been for me the best way of getting very motivated clients, and has been my best source of referral. Don’t forget your own doctor! My own doctor’s group practice has many other internists and once they saw their patients were happy, they kept on sending more. For doctors who have busy practices and see dozens of people a day, this is a great source of a constant stream of referrals. If I was starting out now, realizing the power of relationships with referring doctors, I would have put more focus into meeting them and developing relationships early on. I was never a fan of form blanket letters to doctors, unless I suppose you have a specialty that is very unique. In that case, I would try to personally connect after a letter is sent.

Developing a personal relationship over time is the most important thing as they learn to trust you and find that by you doing their job makes it easier for them to do their job with clients! Since so many reasons people seek doctors help is stress related, it is a logical tie in for a referral basis – much more so than from other mental health practitioners that in my experience seldom refer to other practices outside their own.

Have a web site
Be current – have a web site. Blog posts that offer wellness and personal development information can be very helpful for clients, and I have also a professional Facebook page for that clients can see my postings and information, and they often comment. I am surprised at how many therapists still do not have even a simple web page. If patients actually can see you and get a sense of you from your page, they already come to the session feeling more comfortable with their choice of therapist. Furthermore, with the rise of social media marketing, having a web presence and being on Linked In and joining local groups in the group section can also increase your visibility and chance for referrals.

Of course, the most important way to develop your practice is to develop a good reputation – nothing can replace that! Judging by the fact you are reading this blog post means that you are interested in developing your skills which is a key to growing yourself while your practice grows. I wish you all the best and I welcome all questions and comments and good luck with your practice development!

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