The Washington State Coalition of Mental Health Professionals and Consumers put on a workshop for practitioners in Seattle this morning. First, Brian O'Neill, the CEO of Office Ally spoke about his free online billing and practice management services. I've been using Office Ally for billing for 3 years. It's easy, completely confidential and safe, and has wonderful 24-hour patient customer support who will walk you through the set up and answer as many ignorant questions as you can ask. I haven't mailed a bill in years. And it is absolutely free. I'm going to look into the Practice Mate services. I'll let you know how it works.

Then, Heidi Wasch, Jay Gelzer, Robert Odell and and I spoke about frugal practice. I went first and spoke about starting and marketing a private practice. I said, 

  • Get your professional and state and city business licenses in order.
  •  Sublet an office, if you're starting out, where there are other therapists for support and potential referrals.
  • Make or download forms to make charting easier, or use good practice management software (see Practice Mate, above).
  • Get on every insurance panel you can, that pays a decent fee. Robert Odell added that if you can't get on the panels, get on the EAP lists. He and audience members added that you can sleuth out people who have fallen off the panels, by calling them to see if they're still in practice. Then tell the insurance company that they're not actually full since these 10 people are no longer operating in your zip code. You can also get physicians or mentors to write letters for you saying that they want you on the list to send referrals to you.
  • Market yourself: Tell everyone you know. Do that by developing an expertise that is something you know about, are good at, and love to do. 

  1.  Get a website. If you don't want clients under 35, you may not need it. People find services on the internet. GET A WEBSITE if you want clients and professionals to find you. Make sure there's a picture on it. Look at other people's to see what works.
  2. Establish yourself as an expert by writing a blog or doing twitter. Use your blog or twitter account to give useful information to professionals and/or clients. Don't "friend" clients on Facebook. Don't share personal information on your professional blog or twitter account. We don't care what you had for breakfast or that you're in love. We want to know how to do what we do better. Always give credit to others. Never badmouth anyone in your professional blog. The net is forever.
  3. Go to networking groups and speak up.
  4. Give workshops, write books, be known.
  5. Get on referral services, either general (Psychology Today) or specific (EMDRIA).
  • Never stop learning. Become a workshop junkie. Never settle on just one kind of therapy. If you do, you won't be able to help many who come to you. Keep the work fresh by bringing new eyes to it.
  • Get great consultation. To save money, network, and get more hours of consult that you can afford yourself, join a consult group. Create or join a free peer consultation group. It's best not to be the most senior or knowledgeable person in the group: you're there to learn. Do not stay with a mean or unsupportive consultant. This work is hard; find someone who has expertise and can support you through the tough clients.

Jay Gelzer (who btw wants you to know that she loves to work with "gifted" people of all ages) gave great handouts. She suggests converting your business land line to a cell phone, and sharing office space. And she talked about looking closely at your revenue and expenditures: know what your real expenses are and your real revenue. Know what you're actually taking home as spendable income. She said that in this recession, or as a new practitioner, it might be necessary to support your practice, until it supports you. And market yourself (see above).

Robert Odell and Heidi Wasch took questions. Odell suggested a web-based fax service: and a web-host: Someone else suggested  Heidi suggested swapping offices one day a week with someone in another location. It works for her and has expanded her client base.

It was a very nice 3 hours with a nice turnout for a sunny Saturday, about 35 people.