Getting Paid: To Have an Office orNot have an Office—That's the Question on Many Therapists’ Minds Today
While some therapists continue to work with clients face-to-face in a therapy office as a result of stay at home orders across the country, a majority of mental health professionals find themselves working virtually with the clients in their practice doing video or phone sessions. This has caused many clinicians to wonder if they still need an office for private practice and if they should keep paying for an office when they only work with clients virtually now.
Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, Craigslist, and other therapist forums are full of postings by therapists who are vacating their offices and terminating their leases or who are looking for someone to take over a full time single or group office space lease. There are also numerous for sale postings for therapy office furnishings—couches, therapist chairs, desks, end tables, lamps, waiting room furniture, and wall art.
The therapy office landscape has definitely changed.
Months ago, therapists who sublet their office space and were only working virtually with clients, made the decision to jettison their offices as they quickly gave notice and stopped paying rent. Since office space has been plentiful in the past these therapists weren’t worried about subletting an office in the future should they desire to resume in office therapy sessions with clients. About 40% of clinicians in private practice usually sublet office space. Time will tell whether subletting an office will be as easy and inexpensive as it has been in the past since no one can predict how many therapists will retain their physical office space after practicing virtually.
Those therapists new to practice who leased their own office as well as those clinicians who depend on subletting office space to others to pay their office rent each month let their offices go and terminated their leasing agreements right away, too, since they no longer had the funds to pay their office rent while working virtually. About 10% of therapists were in this category of reluctantly, but necessarily, sacrificing their offices.
For about 10% of clinicians, there is no question of them giving up their office or not paying their office rent whether or not they are working with clients in person or virtually. They made their decision right away, too—they're keeping their offices. This group seems to have it the easiest when answering this question, as it’s a no-brainer for them to keep their physical office.
Currently many clinicians with longtime practices and full caseloads are questioning themselves as to whether they should continue to pay rent for an office or if they are wasting the money. A full 50% of therapists, with or without a full practice, are currently in the process of figuring out whether it’s prudent to give up their office space and eliminate their office rent expenditure.
This is an agonizing decision-making experience for this group of therapists who have a lease agreement with them as the sole signatory. This is the question that is on many a therapist’s mind and is being discussed with colleagues and in many therapy forums online. The answer comes after a lot of soul searching, number crunching, and scenario planning.
How does a therapist go about deciding whether or not to continue paying for an office location for their practice when they’re not working with clients from the office premises?
By reevaluating your practice.
A subgroup of therapists has decided that after doing virtual work with clients these past few months, their practice will remain virtual, no office space needed. This will be about 10-15% of therapists, overall and 10% of those who rented space full time. The answer to the question of an office for these therapists is an easy one, no physical office just a virtual one.
As therapists ask themselves whether to keep paying rent for an office or to relinquish it and stop, most are focused on the financial aspects. “Why should I keep paying for an office if I’m only seeing clients virtually and tele-sessions are either free or low cost? Isn’t money being wasted.”
Another aspect to consider besides the financial one is what a clinician actually needs a physical location and address for. Many therapists are opting for a low-cost P.O. Box address as their practice and mailing address when they don’t want their home address listed. For most professional things this works out fine, however, there is concern that some insurance companies may not pay therapists or reimburse client superbills for sessions without an actual physical address. Rumors abound. It’s always good to check with the insurance company for their requirements.
More concerning for private pratitioners is how the internet search engines rank practices and websites without a physical address. Current information is showing that Google searches show results in a searcher's local area first, so the concern for therapists is whether or not their practice listing is being included in as many search listings if they don't have a actual physical address. We’ll have to see how this plays out.
Overall, the biggest things to consider when evaluating whether or not to continue renting an office are time, money, and effort. How much time will it take to find, furnish, and set up an office that works for my practice if I give this one up? How much will I save if I give this office up and set up a new one later—include costs for moving, internet, cleaning, insurance, parking, etc.?
A clinician who has a month-to-month agreement with a low rental rate with an office that’s the right size, in a good location with easy and inexpensive parking, good ventilation, and soundproofing, may find it’s less costly and time consuming to pay office rent for a full year or even two, than to move out and find and set up the office again a year or two later. Crunch your numbers for this answer.
Another clinician, one who’s looking to make a change and find a better office space with more fitting parking, soundproofing, and ventilation, may find it’s much more beneficial and cost-effective to end their lease and look for a new office space when the time comes.
Think about what fits best for you as a clinician and business owner, your clientele, and your practice. The world is full of options for you to have the practice you desire. Take some time to figure out what’s best for you now.
Enjoy this opportunity to reevaluate your practice.
Getting Paid: How Your Email Signature Can Get You More Clients & Referrals & Create a Positive, Professional Image
When therapists talk about how to make their practices more successful, the first thing they want to know is how to get more clients and referrals. Good question, right?
The best answer about how to get the word out about you, your practice, and your work so you can get more paying clients, is to make sure your practice and contact information is clear and readily accessible to potential clients, colleagues, and referral sources whenever they need it. It’s a well-known fact that prospective clients and referral sources will only contact you if they know what your services are and they can easily locate your phone number to call or text you—or your email or social media page to write or message you.
Pre-Covid, when professionals did a lot of face-to-face networking, business cards usually did the job of getting a therapist’s name, services, and contact information in front of people. Online, websites, directory listings, and social media pages did the heavy lifting of providing the therapist’s contact details so people could connect with them and make an appointment.
With just about all professional events happening virtually now, it’s rare for therapists to exchange business cards, flyers, and practice swag—pens, note pads, Post-its—so a clinician’s contact details aren’t always close at hand. Yes, the information is still online for people to look up with Google or another search engine but that takes another few clicks and more time. People are impatient these days.
Think about how many times someone has emailed you or you read an email and wanted to contact the person by phone or text or look at their website or social media and none of that information was available, sometimes not even their last name because their email address didn’t include their full name either. Did you do a search or did you skip it? Most people skip it so these referrals and opportunities are lost.
What can a therapist do today to get their practice information and contact details out and in front of everyone’s eyes so their services are always top of mind and people can easily access the details whenever they have a question, want to connect, send a referral, talk to you about an opportunity or schedule a session?
Here’s where email signatures shine bright today. Email signatures are the savvy clinician’s new secret weapon for convenient online professional networking and practice marketing. Think about it. How many emails are you sending and receiving these days? Each person you write or reply to professionally or in your community has the power to become a referral source or a client—but only if they have the right information about your practice and how to contact you.
Today, the quickest, easiest, and most cost-effective way to disseminate your contact information, let people know about your work, and fill your practice, is to make the most of your email signature. Email signatures are the new business cards. They’re one of the best ways to present you, your services, and your contact information so it’s available whenever needed.
A thoughtfully crafted email signature is a small but powerful marketing tool that makes it easy for people to know more about you and what you offer—and to contact you or refer someone to you. It’s a recurring thing that recipients of your emails see over and over again and that develops trust and recognition.
What contact info needs to be in an email signature so that prospective clients and potential referral sources can contact you or refer someone to you? Email signatures should include all the ways there are to contact you professionally. Here are some examples.
The Basic Email Signature:
Include each of these.
The More Complex Email Signature:
All the above 1-6 plus any of these that your ideal clients, colleagues, and referral sources use and make it easy for them to contact you.
As you can see from the lists above, the information on your email signature can take many different forms. Depending on your target audience and preferred clients, you can also list new services, special offerings, free consultations, event information, specific blog content, awards, professional association positions, etc. Anything that delivers value to colleagues, prospective clients and referral sources, other professionals, community members, and, yes, even friends, neighbors, and relatives, can be embodied in an email signature.
It is absolutely amazing how much value can be put into such a few lines at the end of an email. Crafted with your client, services, and profession in mind, your email signature holds the power to create a positive, professional image, and reinforce and extend your branding and marketing efforts.
An added bonus is that you don’t have to hire a graphic designer or an app developer or a coder to put together your email signature and add it to your email footer. Additionally, there are plenty of excellent templates, generators, and editors to explore, many which are free.
Have some fun exploring other clinician’s email signatures and then crafting your own.
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
For 10+ years Lynne Azpeitia has helped therapists to live richer and happier lives through her workshops, private practice and career coaching, and her practice consultation groups which train, support, and coach licensed therapists, interns & students how to create and maintain a successful, thriving clinical practice and a profitable career