Therapists in private practice are always asking what they can do to have a full practice with clients they love working with. They want to know what the secrets are to making that happen without too much effort or expense. Now that we’re getting towards the end of the year it’s a good time to reveal some of those secrets, those best practices, that lead to a full, profitable, and rewarding practice.
Here are a few to keep in mind . . .
1. Make it convenient for prospective clients to
2. Let people know you are accepting new clients—and that you welcome referrals.
3. Set aside some time for networking and marketing in your community—online or in-person.
4. Only market in ways that feel authentic to you.
5. When times are tough the best way to keep your practice going is not to cut back on costs but to spend and invest in the right areas of your practice.
Yes, this is a rather counter-intuitive approach, however, it does pay big dividends. While it can feel very scary or difficult to do, it’s one of the best ways to keep your practice full as well as make new connections.
Upgrade your smartphone, tablet, computer, headphones, computer desk chair
Get Higher Internet speed
Upgrade your Teletherapy portal
Upgrade your Electronic Health Record (HER)
Hire a Virtual Assistant, Accountant/Bookkeeper, Insurance Biller
Pay for Business, Marketing or Financial Training
Have a Professional Video made for your Website
Sponsor an event
What will you invest in instead of cutting back?
That’s enough secret spilling for today. Pick one or two of these and try them out. See what happens.
Our practices can always benefit from thoughtful attention and doing a little something new. Have some fun experimenting with these and check out what happens when you do. Private practice is always an adventure so enjoy yours!
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative Adults across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping them develop even more successful careers and practices. To learn more about her in-person and online services, workshops or monthly no-cost Online Networking & Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com or www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.
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.
Getting the word out about your therapy practice is important. To be successful in private practice, you need a steady stream of clients—QUALITY referrals that are a good match for you and your practice. Letting people know what you do therapeutically and how you can help them, not only helps fill your practice, it helps you help more people.
The more people who know about your therapy services and expertise, the easier it will be for those who need your services to find you and get the help they need. Consider the ways you can let colleagues, prospective clients, and referral sources know about you and your services.
1. Getting the word out about your practice is a community service.
Getting the word out about your therapy services and expertise is really about letting people in the community know about you, your practice and your services. It’s educating those in your community—your peers, prospective clients and referral sources—about what therapy is, who you serve in your practice and how you help them.
Tip: When clients go to your website, directory listing, and social media pages, what they are really looking for is: Who are you? What can you do for me? How can I contact you? Make sure your content on your website, directory listings, and social media pages gives them that information clearly and easily.
Tip: It doesn’t matter what you do to get the word out about your practice and services but you have to do something. Since you have to do something, ONLY do the things you like.
Tip: Remember, only do what fits or makes sense to you to get the word out—and always within legal and ethical guidelines! It’s okay to make things up to do that you like. However, you will have to try things out to see what you like.
Tip: Be sure to make the act of promoting yourself and your skills and services energy producing instead of energy draining.
2. Getting to know people in your community and letting them get to know you, the services you offer, and the type of work you do, brings in quality referrals.
People who already know about, like, or trust you are more likely to refer to you than anyone else. People trust their friends and people they know so that’s why word of mouth,whether in person or online, is the most valuable source of referrals for your practice.
Tip: Connect with local businesses. Introduce yourself to other local business owners who are your neighbors. One therapist I know who moved into a new office went to each one of the businesses around her—introduced herself, met and got to know the business owners and or those who worked there, found out about their businesses and gave them her business cards and brochures.
Tip: Join a professional organization or association. Attend meetings of professional groups, associations or organizations to get known in your community. Become a member. Volunteer. Register and attend a conference.
Tip: Post your professional and or practice information to a directory. GoodTherapy, Psychology Today, LinkedIn, etc. Remember that Linked In is social media for professionals, and is a trusted source for professional services and referrals.
Tip: Either donate products or volunteer your services to a worthy cause and get your name and the name of your practice out there to new people while doing a good deed.
Tip: Consider getting some promotional products with your name, website, phone number, email, and or practice specialties on them to hand out. Pens, notebooks, notepads, post-it notes, shopping bags, led flashlights, etc., are all favorite types of promotional swag that people appreciate.
3. Tapping into existing relationships is the fastest way to fill and grow your practice.
People trust other people and the experiences they have so that’s why when people hear from a friend, someone they know or a professional they trust, about a service or product they choose that one over others. For therapists, the first few referrals after you open your private practice will usually come through in person connections and relationships you’ve already built.
Tip: Build an email list. Who should you put on it? Include those you meet while networking but don’t stop there, add close friends, acquaintances, family members, extended family; neighbors, acquaintances. Professionals you have personally used—medical professionals such as doctors, physical therapists, psychiatrists, dentists, dental hygienists—as well as business professionals who are lawyers, estate planners, financial planners, as well as nutritionists, doulas, Lamaze instructors. Personal trainers, Pilates instructors, meditation instructors, massage therapists, aestheticians, hair stylists. Those who attend your church or who worked with you in the past as well as elementary, middle and high school teachers and coaches. Mentors, past clinical supervisors and professors, classmates and supervision group members. teachers, guidance counselors.
Tip: Send regular emails to your list to keep them informed of what you are doing in your practice—do this at least three times a year. Or start a free monthly email newsletter and send it to your email list.
Tip: Utilize Your Email Signature. Make sure your email signatures contain contact information for your business—links to your website, upcoming workshop, new book or audiobook, podcast, video, YouTube channel, etc. This makes it easy for people to know more about you and what you offer.
4. Consider using some type of social media to get the word out.
Today there are a lot of people who are looking for help—and most of them aren't asking their friends or family for referrals. They are looking on the internet at websites, social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Messenger, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp,LinkedIn, Tumblr, Tik Tok, Viber, Pinterest, etc.) and closed groups, discussion groups or forums (Quora, Reddit, etc.).
Because social media helps you build relationships, using social media to get the word out about your services allows you to showcase skills and expertise and to build relationships with existing and potential clients and referral sources.
When you post a variety of content on social media (blogs, articles, videos, quotes, podcasts—your content as well as other’s), you can build recognition, connect with your peers, referral sources, and potential clients to show them that you are trustworthy. You’ll definitely get some interest in your work from this—people will love your content and want more.
Tip: Not all social media platforms may be suitable for your business. Different customer segments frequent different social media. There's no point in spending time and money on promoting your business on a social network that your customers don't use.
Tip: When you blog or write articles regularly, social media is a great place for you to share that content. You can also share articles that you find interesting, inspirational quotes, podcasts, and videos that you think those following you would enjoy. All these are great relationship builders.
Tip: Record a video blog post and put it on your website or upload the video to YouTube. Record a Facebook Live or Instagram Stories short video. People love this content and enjoy getting to know you through what they see and hear on the videos.
5. Track what’s working and then do more of it.
Know the results you get from each thing you do to get the word out and repeat what works. Quit what doesn’t work.
These are all fairly low cost and not too time consuming tips for getting the word out. See which ones you enjoy doing and that work best to fill your practice.
When the vacation or holidays are over, it's time to focus again, and get back to work.
I bet you could use some tips, inspiration, and encouragement to get your networking and marketing going so that you can fill your practice.
So, let’s get right to it!
1. Set Aside Time for Networking and Marketing.
Tip: Track what’s working and then do more of it—repeat what works. Quit what doesn’t work or work well enough.
2. Networking is simply making professional friends and acquaintances.
Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you, make yourself targeted opportunities.
When going to a networking event or a lunch or meeting, decide on your networking goals before you arrive: Who do you want to meet and talk with? How many new people do you want to get to know?
Tip: Read How I Came to View Networking Events as Social Meetups
Tip: Make list of 10 contacts you want to meet—people you want to know or be known by in your community. Then find ways to meet and develop mutually beneficial relationships with them.
Tip: Find others who might be in contact with or serving your ideal client from other professions; find allied professionals who serve your client population or ideal client. Get to know them and let them get to know you, the services you offer, and the type of work you do.
3. Marketing is what you do to help clients—and referral sources—find you, and to get clients coming to you instead of you running after them.
Remember that people are not going to look hard to find you or to find out more about you. Make it easy for them.
Tip: Follow the Two Golden Rules of Therapist Marketing:
1.) Make the act of marketing energy producing instead of energy draining;
2.) Only do marketing activities that fit for you, your client population, your type of practice or service—and ALWAYS within legal & ethical guidelines.
Tip: When clients go to your website, directory listing, and social media pages, what they are really looking for is: Who are you? What can you do for me? How can I contact you?
Make sure your content on your website, directory listing, and social media pages addresses that.
Tip: To market effectively, you need to know two things: what you offer and who needs what you offer.
Think about what you want to be known for, the treatment options you want to be known for, and the target populations you want to attract as clients. Share this content in a way that will get it—and you and your practice—noticed and that will help you build your practice.
3. Referrals: Don’t just rely upon clients, friends, colleagues or potential referral sources to automatically know that you welcome their referrals.
It’s up to you to let them know and to educate them about who are good referrals for you and your practice.
Tip: Directly mention that you welcome referrals by using a brief, and thoughtfully scripted, phrase or statement. This can produce significant results for your practice. You can say things like:
Okay, reading time is up. Now it’s time to get out there and increase your visibility in the community so that your new clients can find you when they need you! Happy practice-filling.
If I’ve learned anything from attending networking events and hosting a monthly practice development lunch, it’s what licensed and pre-licensed therapists and related professionals want.
Top of the list are: full practice or good job; work they love; ideal clients; enough money to support themselves, family (this doesn’t have to mean having a partner or children), and practice without struggling too much; a reasonable number of hours along with time away from work for personal and family life, vacation, networking and professional development, as well as for other individual or professional pursuits
Therapists are willing to work hard for all the above—starting with graduate school and continuing through gaining hours for licensure, and post-licensure or certification, then through the accruing of years working, and the maturing of their career.
How can, and do, professionals attain these highly-desired benchmarks while still serving clients, the profession, and the community?
The good news is that it can be done with any type of practice that suits you best: cash pay, insurance, sliding scale, part-time, online, coaching; day, night, weekday or weekend; rent your own office, share, sublet full day or half day or hourly, etc. It’s your choice. In fact, having the successful practice you want depends largely on the practice being suited to you and the clients you work with.
So how do you grow and fill a practice?
Consistent, effective, and ongoing, local networking is the best way to get known in your community and the fastest way to grow a practice and keep it filled.
What is local networking and how does it work? Local networking is one of the most natural ways of interacting with people—and most professionals find this a comfortable way to get known in their community.
Local networking means raising awareness about your services and getting the word out about how you help people and doing this by regularly connecting with everyone you know and keeping them up-to-date with what you’re doing in your practice or career and maybe even inviting them to check out your website, social media, blog, article or podcast.
Local networking means letting those in your community know what you do and how you help people—relatives, friends, neighbors, social and community contacts, colleagues, those at church or temple, people you worked with at previously or were in graduate school with or a placement—don’t forget professors and supervisors.
Each one of these people is a potential referral source for your practice. Find a way to keep in contact with them and to keep them current on you and your practice. Building your contact list, e-mail list, referral sources, and resource list is a long-term project. Start today!
Getting the word out about what you do and the services you offer to the community also involves meeting new people and making new friends as you increase your practice’svisibility and grow your network.
Who you know, those who know you, and those who refer to you are valuable resources for filling your practice with clients who need your services and will pay your fees.
Think about it this way, when people know about your practice, and are familiar with your services, they can find you or refer to you when a therapist with your skills and abilities is needed.
This type of networking is viewed as a community service, so make sure your community knows how you can be of service to them. The more people, businesses, organizations, and professionals in your community who know about the work you do the faster your caseload will fill.
Local networking can take a variety of forms, in person, online, digital or print advertising, talks, blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, and any type of social media or online forum. It’s up to you to decide what works best for you, your practice, client market, available time, and budget. Take your pick. You get to choose. Try things out, then see what works best for you.
Local networking also means becoming familiar with your community and how your potential clients move through it via churches, schools, sports programs and teams, athletic and country clubs, theater arts, colleges, yoga centers, hospitals, libraries, parks and recreation, employee assistance programs, and many others.
Understanding the needs of potential therapy clients in your area and how those needs are being or not being met makes practice building easier.
Since therapists are an important part of every community, it’s important that we be visible so that our clients can find us when they need our services. The therapists I know who have a full enough practice with a consistent influx of clients are those who are known in, and know, their communities and keep up regular contact.
Local networking also includes getting known in your professional community. Joining and attending your professional organization is a great way to get connected with other professionals in your area and to develop and maintain relationships and friendships as well as referral sources for your network.
Through monthly networking events, workshops, member events, newsletter articles, classified advertising, and e-blasts, special interest groups, support groups, and special events, Professional organizations provide many networking opportunities for therapists and related professionals to get known in the community and develop themselves and their relationships.
As you can see, filling your practice with the clients you’re meant to work with requires that you find a way to connect with your community and let them know, on a regular basis, that your practice exists, what services you offer—and how people can go about contacting you when they desire your services.
This success formula for attracting new clients, filling your schedule, earning enough income, and having vacations, consists of raising awareness about your private practice in your community.
So, go ahead, announce your presence to the world and raise community awareness about your private practice. Be sure to keep me posted about your progress. I look forward to hearing about your success — and your vacation!
March Presentation Summary
Create and Sustain a Successful Private Practice Career
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor
Joint Meeting of SVC-CAMFT and Sacramento Networking District AAMFT
Lynne Azpeitia is a licensed MFT and Approved AAMFT Supervisor. She trained at the California Family Study Center, where she received her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Lynne worked with Virginia Satir, which was evident in her experiential style of teaching.
Her practice in Santa Monica, CA includes psychotherapy, coaching and work with gifted adults. Lynn brought energy and personality to her presentation. She held our attention while challenging us to envision our ideal careers and practices.
She provided us with a booklet of “Practical & Cost Effective Tools and Approaches”. This was a helpful guide, containing an outline of much of the material that was covered in the presentation. It also provided a resource to be used as we continue to plan strategies to design our own practices.
The following are some of the areas covered
*5 Main Tools to Develop Your Private Practice: Your Introduction – How you introduce yourself Your Business Card – including email
Your Contacts – you Rolodex
Your Website or Webpage
Listings on Web Directories
*The Success Star:
Skills, Expertise & Training
Personal & Professional Reputation
Referral Sources & Contacts
Personal Presence, Awareness, Growth, Consciousness, Vision & Creativity Self Care & Development of Personal Resources
Business Practices – Therapeutic and Business
She addressed the needs of each of the various levels of professional status, i.e. trainees/interns, newly licensed and experienced therapists. Although the emphasis was on private practice development, Lynne also generalized some of the material for agency work.
Individual and small group exercises helped participants evaluate their values and vision of their ideal practice, including the type of clients, setting, as well as their roles. It was an informative and thought provoking presentation that left us with the tools and information to revamp an existing private practice or start a new business.
Submitted by Eva Tak, LMFT
This article was first published in the Sacramento Valley CAMFT Newsletter April 2011
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