Getting Paid: 5 Key Tools for Private Practice Success That Work for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, Associates, Trainees, and Students
Therapists want to know the secret to private practice success—filling one with enough clients to pay for the business, support ourselves, take a vacation, and save some money. Private practice success is doable with planning, skill, and the right kind of ongoing effort.
Five Key Tools for Private Practice Success
1. Your Introduction
What you say or write when introducing yourself online or in person is a very useful tool for letting people know who you are, where you work, who you work with—vital info for those looking to employ you, refer clients or have you as a therapist.
You may be surprised to learn how many therapists introduce themselves by just saying their first name—not where they work or who they work with as clients. How can people find you or know who they can refer without this info?
Say your full name, license or professional status, type of work, office location or work place, and who you work with—or would like to. This gives people the right information to connect and refer.
Introductions don’t have to be fancy, just key information delivered in a calm, friendly, professional manner:
Eric Hernandez, Registered Associate MFT, at the West Hollywood Counseling Center where I counsel gay men and their partners under the supervision of Dr. Aaron Cohen.
Lisa Chan, MFT Trainee, with School Counseling Services. I counsel middle school students and their parents in Silverlake. Tina Martinez, LCSW is my supervisor.
Matt Samson, student at Pepperdine’s Encino Campus. I’m interested in working with men and anger management in the Culver City area.
Jen Harvey, Licensed MFT. I work at Harbor House in Van Nuys treating adults with addictions and have a Telehealth/private practice in Sherman Oaks working with teens and their parents..
If you’re typing the intro online, list your website last, so people can click on it.
Getting the word out about your services is a community service. Make sure your community knows how you can be of service to them—and how to find you when they need your services.
2. Your Business Card, Email Signature or Online Profile
For in person interactions, your business card, including your email address, is a good marketing and connecting tool for clients, colleagues, referral sources, other business people, and professionals. Online, your email signature or social media profile info is your business card.
Licensed therapist’s business info:
Your email address is a must. Clients, colleagues, and others want to be able to connect via e-mail, text, phone. Use a business, not personal, email on your card. Save time, make a good impression, by not having to write it on the card. Make sure the printing is large so it can be read quickly and easily. Associates and Trainees wanting a business card including this information should check with their supervisor and the organization they work for about their requirements.
For an Associate or Trainee business card for networking, I recommend the personal calling card format:
You can pass the calling card out to colleagues and others so they can contact you about jobs, organizations or other information. I don’t recommend you give it to potential clients, just use it for networking purposes—it makes a better impression than writing your info on a piece of paper.
3. Your Contacts, Referral Sources & Resources
Who you know, those who know you, and those who refer to you are a valuable resource in filling a practice.
Building your contact list, email list, referral sources, followers, and resource list is a long-term project. Start today! Students who start this will have a good head start—don’t wait until you’re licensed to build the list of people who you know, who know about you, and the work you do.
Who’s on your contacts list? Colleagues, licensed and pre-licensed therapists you know, counseling centers, current and former supervisors, graduate program instructors, business people you do business with, medical and dental professionals you do business with or refer to, friends, family members, neighbors, members of your church/temple/mosque, members of organizations you or your family belong to, social contacts, community contacts, etc. Online these are your social media contacts—followers, friends, members of the groups you have or belong to.
Each is a potential referral source for your practice. Find a way to keep contact and keep them current on you and your practice. Whenever they send you a referral, thank them with a handwritten note or an e-mail or even a call—no client name necessary so confidentiality isn’t an issue.
4. Your Website or Other Online Presence
You’ll most likely need some online presence to maintain your practice since most clients who are willing to pay or use their insurance find therapists online. Think of your website or webpage, blog, podcast, TikTok, YouTube Channel, FB Page, Instagram, etc., as your online office. Ask any therapist with a thriving practice—most will report a high percentage of clients come from sources online. Think about it, people save time by searching online. Give prospective clients a website or other page to become informed about services. Even if they find you in a directory, prospective clients will look at your website or other web presence before they contact you.
Many therapists think a website is expensive. This is not the case. You don’t need to spend a lot for a website to attract clients. However, you do need at least a page or a few pages/videos/audios for clients to find or check you out when they’re referred. Clients like to see a picture or video, read something about you, your services—and e-mail you from your website. If you are going to have enough paying clients, having a website or page is a necessity.
There are many free or very low cost services for creating a professional looking website. It’s fairly easy, no coding necessary. Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, and others provide these. Check them out—ask colleagues or friends about their experiences.
If you decide to pay for a website, contact therapists you know who have websites you like—ask who designed it, what they paid—or search online and see who designed the websites you like, then contact them.
If you are pre-licensed—especially if you’re a student—I suggest you have at least a page with your name, license status, contact information—with your own domain name. If your page says that mentions or counseling you’ll have to include a supervisor’s name and information.
If you don’t want a webpage or think that you can’t afford to spend any money, consider a blog. Blogs are free at Blogger.com—you can direct people to that to check out your practice information. TikTok, FB, Insta, YouTube are free, too.
5. Your Online Listing in a Paid or Free Directory
Having a listing in a few online directories helps. Do consider that paying for a directory listing can be a good investment in reaching potential clients. Clients find you when you’re listed in a therapist directory since they advertise and promote aggressively so they’re first in online searches.
If you don’t want to pay for an online listing like Psychology Today, there are many free directory listings. CAMFT and AAMFT Clinical members have a listing as a membership benefit. Listings are also not limited to licensed therapists. Many sites have pre-licensed listings, but you must include supervisor information.
I hope you’ve found this information helpful and encouraging as you create, maintain, or upgrade your practice. I wish you much success in your private practice endeavors.
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.
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