Advice for Affiliates

Many behavioral health professionals are so focused on caring for their clients that they don’t even consider creating a professional profile. They often don’t realize that it’s an important tool for growing their practice. We get it. After all, you have deep experience and expertise in behavioral health, not necessarily in marketing yourself or your practice online. At Health Affiliates Maine (HAM), we encourage affiliates to consider their professional profiles not as a superficial sales and marketing tactic or a job resume but as a space to build connections with best fit clients, foster understanding, and inspire confidence. That is why we feature affiliates’ professional profiles on our website free of charge (just one of the many perks of affiliating with us!)

When it comes time to create these professional profiles, our affiliated clinicians often ask us for advice on how best to craft their professional profiles. They want to know what’s important to include and how it should be written. 

This might seem challenging, but by answering a set of key questions, behavioral health professionals can create an engaging and empowering profile. In this blog, we explore what these questions are and why they’re important for shaping your online narrative.

Who are you beyond your qualifications?

Of course, a brief introduction with your qualifications and professional background is necessary. Yet, remember, therapy is built on human connections. So, delve a little further. Talk about your beliefs, your passions, perhaps even mention how you find solace in the calm of nature or find inspiration in the strokes of a paintbrush. Show that you, too, are human.

What are your areas of expertise, and what is your approach to treatment?

Share your areas of proficiency–whether it is cognitive behavioral therapy, Family Systems Therapy, child and adolescent psychology or anything else. Yet, remember to also discuss your approach to these treatments. Your philosophy and methodology provide a glimpse into your practice and its uniqueness.

What are some of your experiences?

Share experiences that shaped you as a therapist. Talk about the resilience you have seen, the journeys you’ve borne witness to. This is about normalizing the ups and downs of behavioral health care and portraying yourself as a compassionate companion on this journey.

Why have you chosen this path?

State why you decided to delve into this field. Perhaps, a personal encounter sparked your journey, or maybe you’ve always felt an innate calling to help others navigate their mental and emotional landscapes. These insights make you relatable and trustworthy.

How do you nurture resilience and empowerment in your clients?

Including empowering language in your profile portrays positive outcomes and encourages those seeking help. So, as an advocate, supporter, and guide, how do you encourage individual growth and resilience? What specific strategies and interventions do you use to help clients discover and bolster their strengths?

How can someone reach out to you?

Make it clear how individuals can contact you for a consultation or further queries. Normalize this process by encouraging individuals to take this step, reassuring them courageously and compassionately.

Getting Started

Once you have written your profile, put it out to the online world! We encourage all affiliated clinicians to start by crafting their professional profiles with us at HAM. Affiliates can have their professional profiles featured on the HAM website free of charge one of the many benefits of affiliating with HAM!  Other organizations, such as, will also post online profiles for a fee. 

Creating an online professional profile is about breaking down the walls and extending a hand to those seeking help. Let your profile reflect that, let it echo your dedication, let it speak in a voice that grounds, heals, and believes.

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In our digital-first society, behavioral health professionals should not overlook the importance of their online identities. At Health Affiliates Maine (HAM), we encourage our affiliated clinicians to use the web as a platform to reflect their expertise, competencies, compassion, and dedication. Doing so will not only help you connect with clients that are the best fit, but it will also help you to market your practice. This all can be achieved by crafting engaging and well-articulated online profiles that accurately represent who you are and what you do.

You might think, “Why does my online profile matter? Isn’t my real-life work enough?” The online world isn’t detached from our physical lives, it’s a natural extension. An optimized profile bridges the two by introducing your “real life” self to those seeking services or professional connection online.

Let’s break down how to build an engaging professional profile that offers that important human touch.

Prioritize Authenticity

Crafting your online profile is about being true to who you are and the values you hold dear. Your profile should undeniably reflect your authenticity. We encourage you to list your qualifications, but don’t stop there. Humanize yourself by mentioning your passions, your approach towards treatment, and your commitment towards empowering individuals. You’re more than just your degree(s).

Frame Your Experience, Not Just Your Expertise

Of course, listing your areas of expertise is essential, but it is equally powerful to narrate your experiences. People connect with stories. They inspire, they console, they empower. So, talk about the resilience you’ve seen and nurtured, share how you’ve stood as an ally. This relatability helps build an emotional connection that often goes beyond professional levels.

Use Accessible and Empowering Language

A profile filled with medical jargon may showcase your knowledge, but it often fails to connect with patients and clients. Use accessible language that anyone can understand. Emphasize the power of individuals to enhance their own quality of life.

A Gateway to Genuine Connection

At a time when screens often precede handshakes, your online profile serves as the initial handshake, smile, and conversational opener. It’s your chance to say, “I see you, I hear you, and I’m here to walk through this with you.” For individuals seeking help, making that first step can be daunting. By including your picture and a warm introduction, your profile can help break down this barrier. It offers a sense of comfort and understanding right from the start.

Because, remember, as prospective clients search for a therapist, they will search online. And they will want to see and get to know you before ever picking up the phone or sending an email inquiry. They will want to read your professional profile and see your face to help them begin to determine if they want to work with you, and if they will be able to trust you.

The Essence of Your Practice Distilled

Think of your online profile as a distilled essence of your practice’s values, philosophies, and approaches. It’s not just about attracting clients—it’s about attracting the right clients. Those whose needs align with your skillset, who seek the specific support you offer, and who you can most effectively help. This alignment is the cornerstone of meaningful therapy.

The power of a well-crafted, authentic online profile in marketing your private therapy practice cannot be overstated. It’s a testament to your dedication and a bridge to those in need. As behavioral health professionals dedicated to nurturing resilience and advocating for accessible care, use every tool at your disposal to connect, uplift, and empower. Your online profile is not just a part of your marketing strategy—it’s an extension of your mission, your values, and your unwavering commitment to making a difference.

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We can never say this enough: as a therapist in private practice, your dedication to supporting others on their journey toward wellness is remarkable. We at HAM could not be more appreciative of the work that you do to help Mainers build resilience and enhance their quality of life. Amidst the demands of the profession, it’s crucial to cultivate your own mental and emotional health. The word “self-care” immediately comes to mind. It’s a buzz word that comes up often. In supervisions, in trainings, in society in general. But what we don’t hear a lot about is self-love. In this blog, we explore the nuanced difference between self-love and self-care, offering insights into how therapists can navigate these concepts to enhance their personal and professional lives.

So, what’s the real difference between self-care and self-love? As Andrea Conley, HAM’s executive director says, “self-care is like makeup. Self-love is how you truly feel about yourself.” 

Understanding Self-Love 

Self-love is a holistic acceptance of oneself. It goes beyond the superficial and encompasses a deep appreciation for one’s strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and uniqueness. When you have a strong sense of self-love, you understand your own value, treat yourself with kindness, and know you are worthy. Therapists, often immersed in the art of understanding others, may neglect the importance of extending the same compassion towards themselves. Embracing self-love involves acknowledging personal worth, practicing forgiveness, and fostering a positive relationship with oneself.

What does that look like? In addition to our advice below, you can find great insights from researchers like Brené Brown. 

Ideas for Developing Self-Love

Define Your Self-Concept: As you start to nurture your own self-love, you may want to start by asking yourself, “What is my self-concept? What do I truly think about myself – my capabilities, my fears, my insecurities, my strengths, my weaknesses?” Embrace your own vulnerability, dare to really get to know yourself and to accept yourself for the unique human being that you are. 

Cultivate Self-Compassion: Therapists, like everyone else, are susceptible to moments of self-doubt. Practicing self-compassion involves treating oneself with the same kindness and understanding extended to clients facing challenges.

Set Boundaries: Healthy boundaries are a cornerstone of self-love. Therapists must learn to say no when necessary and prioritize their well-being, ensuring they have the energy and focus to provide quality care to clients.

Celebrate Achievements: Recognizing personal and professional accomplishments is crucial. Whether it’s completing a challenging case or achieving a personal goal, therapists should take the time to celebrate their successes.

Understanding Self-Care

While self-love involves the emotional and psychological aspects of self-acceptance, self-care is the tangible, intentional actions taken to maintain physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Sure, acts of self-care can include bath bombs and date nights, but we see it more as maintaining a proactive approach to nourishing oneself and preventing burnout, a common concern for therapists dealing with the emotional weight of your work.

Ideas for Self-Care

Prioritize Physical Well-Being: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep are foundational elements of self-care. These practices contribute to overall health and resilience, enabling therapists to navigate the challenges of their profession with vitality. You probably recommend these tactics to your own clients when you encourage them to take care of themselves! 

Engage in Relaxation Techniques: Stress is inherent in the therapy profession. Therapists can benefit from incorporating relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into you daily routine to manage stress effectively.

Maintain a Support System: Building and nurturing a support system is vital. Whether through professional supervision, peer groups, or personal connections, therapists need outlets to share their experiences, seek guidance, and receive emotional support.

As therapists in private practice, embracing both self-love and self-care is essential for sustained personal and professional fulfillment. By understanding the nuanced differences between these concepts and incorporating them into daily life, therapists can foster a resilient and compassionate relationship with themselves, ultimately enhancing their ability to provide quality care to their clients. Remember, taking care of oneself is not a luxury but a necessity on the path to becoming a more effective and fulfilled therapist. 

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Our series, Managing Your Private Practice, examines how to successfully run your private practice as a behavioral health clinician. Essential to any therapy practice is a clear process for screening new clients.

As clinicians, we know what happens in January…every January. We get inundated with new clients. Coming off the stress of the holidays, possible family drama, anxiety over the coming year, post-holiday blues. There is so much need this time of year.

Having worked with hundreds of private practice clinicians over the course of our agency’s 13-year history, we’re reminded (particularly at this time of year) of the importance of screening. With all the requests and referrals you’re likely receiving, it’s more important than ever to slow down and screen. Do you have a tried-and-true screening process? Do you know who your ideal client is? Have you identified your particular therapeutic skills so you can ensure your skills match the clients’ needs? Are you clear up front about your schedule, rates, and what insurances you do (and do not) accept?

As clinicians, one of the things we all dread is getting into a relationship with a client whose needs do not align with our therapeutic skill set or modality of treatment. And because most practitioners do this work because they are called to help, it can be challenging NOT to accept a new client. Client screening is is about creating the right match between therapist and client so that the client receives the highest quality of care. It’s also about ensuring ongoing satisfaction in your work.

Screening Strategies for Initial Client Call

Here are a few screening strategies we’ve seen our affiliated clinicians employ that have set them up for successful new client relationships.

Be True to Yourself, Your Values, and Your Brand

We suggest screening clients in a way that feels authentic to you. You should have the freedom to develop a process that makes you feel comfortable and confident. You may want to do short, structured calls or longer, more free-form calls. You may want to send a follow-up email after the call to reiterate what was said. Regardless of how you screen or what your process is, the process should be followed consistently so that both you and the client get the information needed to ensure a productive, lasting relationship and also to ensure the process and level of care are the same for all, regardless of age, disability, religion, cultural background and sexual identity.

Know Your Niche

We could write an entire blog about finding your niche (and we plan to!), but for the purposes of screening, it’s important to identify what your particular therapeutic style and specialties are. What presenting concerns are you most interested in? What are you really good at?

As you know, not every therapist is the right fit for every client, and not every client’s needs align with a therapist’s expertise. Client screening allows you to evaluate your own competencies and determine if you have the necessary skills and experience to address a potential client’s specific concerns. Treatment plan interventions denoting your specific therapeutic modalities ensures more effective and focused treatment, enhancing the overall quality of care.

Consider creating a checklist of items you need to ask to identify if you might be able to help a potential client. Are there certain presenting issues you stick to within your niche? 

By knowing your niche, you will also be able to determine at the time of screening if the client’s level of distress and presenting concern are appropriate for the type and level of care you provide.

Know Your “Target Market”

Who is your ideal client? Based on your specialties or niche, what types of clients do you most enjoy treating and working with? In our experience, we see practitioners gaining much more satisfaction from their work when they are working with a population that they have identified as people they wish to serve.

Can you identify certain criteria surrounding the clients you want to treat? Do you only work with adults? Families? Adolescents? Do you only work with clients who have MaineCare or private insurance?

It’s helpful to have a list ready of other therapists in your area so you can easily refer out if you are unable to serve the client within your specialty or scope of practice.

Don’t Forget the Logistics

It’s important to inform clients of your rate at your earliest convenience. Before you schedule an appointment, ask the client if they have any questions about schedules, insurance, or fees. If a client has a pressing question about logistics at the beginning of the call, consider answering it right away so you don’t waste their time. There’s always a chance that your fee is too high for their budget, you don’t accept their insurance, or your schedules don’t align.

Be sure to have a plan for sorting out logistics in the initial call regardless of whether the potential client inquires about them. Here are some key logistics to go over:

  • Scheduling
  • Fees/Insurance
  • Location accessibility
  • Initial paperwork requirements

We encourage you to think about your screening process not as a means to exclude clients, rather as a means to create the best conditions for a successful therapeutic relationship. In private practice, you take on so many roles – from clinician to business owner. We find it’s helpful for our affiliated clinicians to think about the client screening process as a strategic tool for managing various aspects of your private practice including the mitigation of your own burnout! By carefully evaluating potential clients, you can build strong therapeutic relationships, reduce risks, and ultimately enhance your client’s overall well-being. In doing so, you provide the highest standard of care while fostering a fulfilling and sustainable private practice.<

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As a therapist, you know that finding the right office space for your private practice is critically important. Your office location can be crucial to attracting and retaining clients and to your quality of life—after all, you will be spending a large part of your time there. Equally important, the interior environment you create in an office establishes the overall vibe for your practice—it needs to feel safe, secure, and welcoming for clients. 

As you prepare to search for office space for your practice, we recommend taking some time to ensure you have a good sense of your client base, location needs, monthly budget, and the type of lease you’re looking for. Here are four questions we’ve found it helpful to consider (or re-consider, as the case may be) as you prepare to start looking at properties. 

1. Who Are Your Target Clients?

Defining your client base will help bring your office location requirements into focus. Who are you looking to serve and where are they located? Do you specialize in practicing with a specific population group? For example, do you envision working middays with office professionals on their lunch breaks, or are you hoping to serve children for after-school counseling sessions? If you’re doing individual sessions with office workers during the day, you might look at properties in downtown areas that have a concentrated number of professionals, whereas therapists working with children or adolescents may consider locations close to schools or related health services to maximize cross-references and convenience for the child and guardian alike. 

Do your best to meet your clients where they are and when it’s convenient for them—but, obviously, within the parameters of your own work style and preferences—for example, you may or may not mind a longer commute. This is, after all, one of the advantages of running your own business. 


2. How Much Rent Can You Afford?

As you can imagine in this real estate market, for most private practice therapists, rent is one of the largest items on their monthly budgets—if not the largest. There’s no fixed number for what percentage of business income your rent should be. Most financial guidelines suggest spending anywhere from 2 to 20 percent of your total practice income on rent, with the majority falling in the 5 to 10 percent range. If you are new to owning a small business and don’t yet have at least a year’s worth of data to determine your annual revenue, we recommend being conservative with your projected figures. 

Five to ten percent of your revenue is still likely to be a large range. So how much rent can you truly afford? 

There are multiple factors that affect rent prices and some of these factors may be more or less important to you based on your target demographic and how you want to work. For example, if you’re conducting most of your therapy sessions online, geographical features might be less important than, say, noise control. Clinicians practicing somatic therapies or play therapy may need more space for equipment, for instance, while other therapists may value a window over more square footage. Some considerations include: 

  • Urban or rural location
  • Type and size of building
  • Square footage of office 
  • High-traffic area and/or easy to find
  • Easily accessible by public transportation
  • Ample parking
  • Services available nearby, including potential competition
  • Secure, reliable internet access (especially for those practicing telehealth) 
  • Noise/privacy levels 
  • Accessibility
  • Maintenance and repairs 
  • Windows and lighting

We have found that it’s helpful rank your priorities for office space from one to ten, with the top three or so being must-haves. 

From there, you can determine what your bare minimum requirements are for office space and what you would be willing to splurge on. Would the more expensive rent benefit your business in a tangible way? Whichever percentage you settle on within the suggested range, set it firmly in your mind before you start visiting properties, and stick to your budget.


3. What Type of Office Lease is Right For You?

There are three main types of lease contracts in commercial real estate: full service (landlord pays for all expenses); net (tenant pays the rent and a portion of taxes, insurance, and maintenance fees); and triple net (tenant pays the rent and all of the taxes, insurance, and maintenance of the property). 

If some of the fees are paid in a net contract, you’ll want to understand exactly which ones are included in the rental price, including expenses for common areas (such as the parking lot, building lighting, and property landscaping). Remember to adjust your budget accordingly if you have taxes, utilities, insurance, and cleaning/maintenance as separate expense categories.  

In addition to these types of office leases, you may also be able to find subletting options or flexible terms, such as a monthly, six-month, or yearly lease. Perhaps you can share an office with another professional whose work hours are different than yours. And your landlord may be willing to negotiate their asking price, especially if you are entering into an extended lease. If you can be creative within the lease contract, it may save you money in the long run. 


4. What Interior Factors Create the Right Environment?

Unlike some small businesses, the layout and interior design of an office rented for therapy use is critical. We all know that physical environment affects our emotions and behavior. When a client feels comfortable, relaxed, and safe in a therapy office, it builds therapeutic rapport and enhances self-disclosure. 

When scouting offices, occupy the space under consideration and imagine a therapy session taking place there. Is the space inviting as is? Are the walls thick and the doors solid to satisfy privacy concerns? Who controls the temperature? Is it quiet? Is the lighting warm and adjustable? 

Consider which elements in the office you are allowed to change and whether or not you want to spend the time and money to make those changes yourself. Can you paint the walls, hang artwork, and so forth to create a comfortable environment? Is the office semi-furnished? How much will furniture and other design elements add to your costs? What do you need to add to effectively soundproof the room? 

You can promote positive interaction with your clients through office modifications that follow healthcare design principles, such as clutter-free, light-filled spaces with greenery and soft seating. And don’t be shy about displaying your credentials: a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology (Devlin, 2009) showed people rate mental health practitioners most favorably when they have more diplomas on the wall. 

Another thing we have found it useful to keep in mind is your client’s experience with the entire building location, from the first step of their visit to their last. Can they easily find a parking spot or bike rack? Is there a security system in place? Are accessibility aids incorporated throughout the building? Is the waiting room clean and well-maintained? Who are your neighbors? Is the bathroom centrally located? When you thoughtfully consider how your client will feel throughout each moment of their therapy session, your private practice is more likely to have positive therapist-client interactions and an advantageous retention rate, which will be reflected in your bottom line.  

This Health Affiliates Maine blog post is another in our series on Managing Your Private Practice, where we explore how to successfully run your private practice as a mental health clinician. Previous articles covered how to market your private practice [link to], create office policies [link to], and billing and finances [link to].

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In this blog series, “Managing Your Private Practice,” we look at how to successfully run your private practice as a mental health professional. We started the series with a dive into how to market your private practice. Now, let’s look at a critical yet sometimes overlooked element in owning a business: policy writing.

Written policy forms are an essential component for any successful business. Therapists have an additional responsibility when it comes to paperwork: you need to ensure your bases are covered when it comes to legal, ethical, and HIPAA compliance. Fortunately, Health Affiliates Maine is here to help clinicians when it comes to compliance and current regulations.

How to Write Effective Office Policies

How a counselor runs their private practice varies from person to person. Regardless of your office size or structure, there are several office policies we advise all practices to put in writing. While some behavioral health practitioners with staff develop internal policies specific to issues such as dress code and social media, we’ll focus on advice for external office policies here—the policies your clients will see and review. Here are some guidelines for how to write effective office policies.

Office Policies Reflect Your Practice’s Core Values

When you give clients forms to fill out, it’s not only important to ensure they are clearly written in simple, easy-to-understand language, it’s also essential to make sure the forms reflect your private practice’s core values. For example, if you value inclusion and diversity, you might want to create or modify an existing form or template to include options for preferred pronouns. Remember, while filling out paperwork such as an authorization to release information, intake, insurance, and informed consent forms, as well as signing office policies, your client is getting an impression of your business.

Get Feedback

Whether you consult a colleague, a mentor, or a trusted office assistant, getting feedback from others is invaluable. Outside perspectives allow others to see things you may be too “inside” your own practice to notice, and others may also have more experience around which areas of the practice need or could use written policies to make the office run more smoothly.

So, by all means, ask a friend or colleague to review the packet of forms you’ve created and get their impression. Ask:

  • Was there enough space to write your answers?
  • Is it easy to follow?
  • Are there areas of unnecessary repetition?
  • Did you find any typos?
  • How could this be simplified?
  • Which changes or additions would you make, if any?
  • Am I missing something obvious and important? (We all do this!)

While involving others in policy writing and reviewing takes more time, the final outcome of a collaborative process ultimately makes for smoother operations and happier clients. If that’s hard to add to your to-do list, consider reframing the time investment as optimizing your client’s care.

Strive for Clarity

Setting clear policies in writing is a bit like setting clear boundaries: it helps everyone know what to expect. Clear is kind.
Make it part of your therapy practice to include office policies in a new client’s paperwork and reshare annually or when policies change. Successful practitioners have standardized forms and make use of a secure, organized paper filing and recordkeeping system.

At the same time, don’t assume clients will read through all the forms. During your first session, discuss your office policies briefly. This helps ensure that expectations are clear and understood, and it contributes to building trust in the professional relationship you’re developing.

Which Office Policies Do I Need in Private Practice?

Which office policies you include in client packets are somewhat unique to the practice you run. In general, we advise therapists to develop written office policies around cancellations, fees, social media, and—important in Maine—weather. (Keep in mind office policies are separate from other paperwork you should require from clients, including intake, insurance or billing, authorization to release information, and informed consent forms.)

Cancellations and missed appointments: Life’s little mix-ups happen. But as a counselor in private practice, missed appointments can disrupt the treatment process and therefore adversely affect your income and business—particularly if they are a chronic, recurring issue. Craft a clear understanding with your clients in writing about what happens when you or they need to cancel, in addition to missed appointments.

Fees: Practitioners may accept all or some insurance, self-pay, and/or having slide scale fees. However you structure payment, be clear and upfront with clients about how (and when) you charge and collect fees in your practice. Include your fee structure with a written policy on payment and collections in every client package, regardless of whether they currently have insurance; and, of course, all practitioners should be up to date on the new GFE (Good Faith Estimate) law, which requires providers to give patients who either do not have or are not using insurance a written estimate for non-emergency procedures. (Find more information on GFE requirements here.)

Social media: Use of social media is prevalent in our country, so therapy practices in particular need policies on the use of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and the like. Set clear boundaries on how you or anyone in your practice orbit may communicate with prospective and current clients online, keeping in mind that some clients may have differing preferences around privacy. And, while we’re focusing this blog on external office policies, if you have an office assistant or other staff, we strongly encourage you to set an internal social-media policy for staff. And, finally, check with your licensing board and code of ethics to see what is required regarding confidentiality and social media use.

Weather: Maine knows snow days! Develop a written office policy on what happens in the event of inclement weather, letting clients know how you will get ahold of them or how they can check in with your office to see if it is open. Will you call them or text them? Should they check your practice’s website if the weather forecast looks questionable? While it may seem a small matter, this office policy will help eliminate confusion and smooth operations in the long term.

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In this new series, “Managing Your Private Practice,” we’ll look at various things you can do to keep your private mental health practice thriving. Topics will include marketing and business skills, finances and taxes, writing policies, and liability and insurance issues. We’ll also explore more therapist-specific interests, such as how to balance the clinical and business aspects of being in private practice.

To start, let’s look at an essential part of attracting clients: how to market your private practice.

But before we get to a numbered list of specific marketing tactics, let’s look at the underlying idea that should guide your marketing strategy:

Marketing is all about relationships.

To market your practice effectively, you need to develop and follow a strategy to build relationships and make yourself known with potential patients, in the community, and among reliable referral sources.

If you’re new to private practice, you may find yourself spending more time establishing your referral network and getting your name out there; and if you’ve been in private practice for a while, you already know that these are areas that needs ongoing attention. Considering the effort you’ve put in to build your practice, it’s worth reassessing your marketing strategy every few months to determine if it’s still working for you, and, if it isn’t, tweaking and revising your strategy to ensure that it’s generating the clients and business you envision.

Okay—on to the numbered list!

How to Market Your Therapy Practice

To achieve your business goals, you must present yourself consistently—across all marketing channels and in-person events—as a skilled and accessible mental health professional while also communicating in a way that is authentic to your beliefs, your values, and your therapeutic approach. By developing and understanding what drives your practice, you can keep your marketing in line with your values and avoid sounding disingenuous.

1. Set core values. Core values are your fundamental beliefs, and it can be extremely helpful to formalize them in writing. Your core values are what guide decisions and behaviors, and when captured in a formal document, they can help you understand how to navigate your business accordingly. Is there a set of values that is especially meaningful to you?

Take some time to brainstorm a list of three to five core values that light a spark in you. Think about words like service, collaboration, growth, understanding, resilience, care, and what they mean to you and your practice. Once you get a handle on your core values, use them as a jumping-off point to compose a mission statement for your practice. You don’t necessarily need to post your mission statement or core values externally, but they can serve as a guide for how you do business and how you wish to be perceived by your clients and in your community.   

2. Create a digital presence. Many people find a therapist by searching online. They tend to compare mental health providers listed on their insurance company’s approved providers list with word-of-mouth recommendations, online references, and therapists’ websites and profiles on reliable databases, such as Psychology Today,, and our own Health Affiliates Maine list.

To maximize your approachability and searchability, curate your digital presence with care, and be sure your profile can be found in multiple online locations. That’s worth repeating: Post your profile in as many locations as possible! Some examples: create a simple website; consider writing a blog, vlog, or podcast; create (and maintain!) a practice profile on social media; and list yourself on professional databases. Learn more about all of these marketing options in our blog here.

In crafting your marketing content, it can be inspiring to look around and find examples you enjoy from among your peers. When you sit down to write your own content, choose your words carefully. Use your core values to inform your online voice and messaging. Consider carefully who your prospective clients are and what might resonate with them. Ask yourself, “What unique benefits do I bring my clients?” and “Would I want to engage with this therapist if I read this?”

3. Speak and teach. Libraries, adult education programs, businesses, and local community centers are wonderful venues for you to speak and teach on the topics you are most passionate about. These classes, lectures, and workshops can help get your name out into the community as an expert—and could connect you with individuals who might need your counseling services, either now or in the future.

4. Print business cards. While it may be tempting to skip this step in our increasingly digital world, this inexpensive, simple paper artifact makes it easy for potential clients to retrieve your name and contact you.

5. Learn from others. Networking with professionals from other therapy practices is a wonderful way to compare notes and share insights and information with your peers. (It’s also a great stress reliever!) Learn what’s working—and what isn’t—across practices that are similar to yours. And just as you can learn from your colleagues, they can learn from your experiences as you develop your private practice—the ultimate collegial win-win!

HAM Affiliates frequently remark that the group trainings and monthly supervision sessions are among the most-valued benefits of going into private practice with Health Affiliates Maine. Collaboration builds support for everyone involved.


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For independently licensed mental health professionals who own their practices, time management is an essential skill. You are juggling your caseload, your schedule, attentive care to your clients, and running your own business. Not to mention personal and family responsibilities – your plate is full.

To avoid overwhelm and the feeling that you just can’t get everything done, consider trying a few things to help with overall time management. Remember back in December when we talked about the issues with multi-tasking? Well, we’re revisiting the topic in order to help you strengthen your own time management talents.

Focusing on a single task at a time is a more effective time management skill because multitasking is distracting, slows you down, impairs executive function, and makes you make more mistakes. Some studies estimate that when you attempt to multitask, you actually end up taking 40 percent longer to finish the project than you would have taken if you’d given it your complete attention.

What to manage your time more effectively? Try to avoid:

  • Bouncing from one device to another; it’s just as distracting as bouncing from one task to another. Avoid spending time on multiple devices at once (aka media multitasking).
  • Constantly checking your phone or email.
  • Interrupting others who are in focused activities.

Instead, try this:

  • Self-regulate to purposefully avoid multitasking.
  • Time blocking – a powerful way to maintain control over your schedule by blocking off time on your calendar each day for specific tasks
  • Turn off electronic devices.
  • When interrupted, finish what you started first, if you can.
  • Silence online notifications. These are mini distractions!
  • Engage in single-tasking as much as possible.
  • Say no sometimes – it’s okay; we all take on too much at times.
  • Give others your full attention.
  • Model the behavior you wish to see.
  • Encourage and make time for mindfulness and mental wellness.
  • “Chunk” (single-task) your time, setting aside 25 minutes to two hours for each activity.

Is all Multitasking Bad for You?

While the research is pretty clear that multitasking isn’t healthy for you, there is some nuance in the study results. Not all tasks require our complete concentration and focus. We can, for example, fairly effectively sing and take a shower at the same time.

The human mind is “evolutionarily scripted for monotasking,” writes psychologist Jeff Comer, Psy.D. As tasks increase in complexity (and thus need more of our cognitive skills available), our ability to be efficient decreases when we multitask. So next time you are inclined to “get more done” and, say, text and write a paper, or finish up that email while you’re listening to a Zoom call? Think again. There is a real cost to your productivity and performance.

A Healthier Approach to Time Management

To complete a task, we must set a goal, identify the information we need to achieve it, and disregard irrelevant distractions. When we invite irrelevant distractions by attempting to focus on more than one task at once, we take away from our ability to complete the tasks. Over time, this behavior leads to more distraction. Research is ongoing to determine the long-term effects of multitasking on our brain function. For now, we know that studies show there are short-term negative consequences. To combat the erosion of concentration and focus that multitasking can produce, we can develop stronger mindfulness habits and engage in single-tasking.

Perhaps it’s worth pulling back and considering why we invest in time management techniques in the first place. As Anne Helen Petersen recently asked in her article, “The Diminishing Returns of Calendar Culture,” what would happen if we decouple time management and optimization from our ideas of “success” altogether?

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As a compassionate behavioral and mental health care provider, you incorporate many modalities to treat your clients. For those clients seeking recovery from addiction or substance use, one lesser-known, relatively new model is Motivational Interviewing (MI). Developed in the early 1980s, MI requires an approach based on collaboration, understanding, and empathy. 

What is Motivational Interviewing?
Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a technique commonly used in the treatment of clients with addiction or substance use. This style of treatment can be thought of as an evidence-based conversation that truly encourages behavior change from within and guides clients toward a specific end goal (in this case recovery from addition). 

Motivational Interviewing is highly collaborative. Through approachable dialogue, the client is encouraged to explore their desire for change, receiving kindness, compassion, and acceptance both from their counselor and from themselves. 

This style of treatment is not meant to manipulate, coerce, or “get people to change” as in an intervention. Motivational Interviewing is an on-going conversation between clinician and client that takes time, practice, and the client’s own self-awareness.

Essential Processes of Motivational Interviewing
There are four main processes to successful Motivational Interviewing or “keeping the conversation going.” During the “conversation” (Motivational Interviewing treatment), the clinician must always be: 

  • Engaging. The foundation to MI: actively listening, reflecting on, and affirming a client’s experience and perspective. 
  • Focusing. Steering dialogue toward the end goal of positive change.
  • Evoking. Helping clients build on their “why.”
  • Planning. The “how” to the process of change for a client.

Signs Motivational Interviewing May Benefit a Client 
Although not an exhaustive list, a client may benefit from MI if the following is present:

  • Ambivalence: having mixed feelings about change
  • Low confidence: doubting their ability to change
  • Apathy: low desire or uncertain if they want to change 

Is this tool aligned with my treatment style and will it be beneficial to my clients?
Be honest with yourself if this tool may be right for you, your clients, and your practice. Not every clinician or behavioral health provider is a good fit for motivational interviewing, just like not every client will be a good fit for this type of treatment.

The following are important characteristics in clinicians for the success of Motivational Interviewing:

  • Partnership and collaboration. Clinicians guide toward change, not force it.
  • Acceptance. Clinicians are non-judgmental and actively seek to understand their client’s perspective and life experiences. 
  • Compassion. Clinicians express unending empathy and promote their client’s wellbeing in a selfless way.
  • Patience and understanding. Clinicians actively listen, ask meaningful questions, and provide affirmations to build up client confidence

Behavioral and mental health providers should consider if Motivational Interviewing would be an impactful approach for those clients who are willing and wanting to change. It is proven to be a successful, client-centered approach to encouraging change, promoting resilience, and building confidence particularly in those seeking recovery. 

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Your mental and emotional health directly affects your ability to provide quality care to your clients. Healthcare professionals in various industries—and mostly due to factors of the coronavirus pandemic—are feeling guilt, shame and exhaustion, all symptoms of burnout. But are you experiencing something more complicated?

What is Burnout?

First, let’s discuss what burnout is. Burnout is a non-medical diagnosis characterized as a specific type of work-related stress. Burnout causes physical or emotional exhaustion (or both) that typically includes a feeling that you’ve lost your personal identity and sense of accomplishment.
Experts don’t know the cause of burnout, but some believe that depression and other individual factors may be involved.

Signs of Burnout

One person may experience burnout entirely differently from another. Take a few moments to consider these work scenarios to see if you’re experiencing burnout:

  • You feel pessimistic, critical and/or irritable
  • You feel unmotivated, easily distracted, and less productive
  • You don’t feel satisfied by your achievements or your work
  • Your sleep habits have changed (extreme fatigue, insomnia, sleep disturbances)
  • You’re experiencing headaches, stomach aches or other physical ailments
  • You’re using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to not feel at all
  • You no longer have energy for the people or things you enjoy

Possible Reasons You May Experience Burnout

Again, reasons of burnout will be different for each individual. Common factors include:

  • Lack of support
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Toxic or dysfunctional workplace environment
  • Lack of work/life balance

You may also be experiencing a heavy workload, excessive or long hours, or having little control over your work or schedule. Unfortunately, if you work in a helping profession, you may be more susceptible to burnout. If you suspect burnout, discuss your feelings and possible options with your supervisor or an HR resource.

You can also seek the advice of a healthcare professional to help address and alleviate any physical or emotional effects that are troubling you. Without intervention, burnout could lead to excessive stress, sleep issues, substance misuse, high blood pressure and higher risk of other health-related conditions.

Identifying with typical job burnout may not be sufficient for those in the helping professions, particularly in the years of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is where moral injury is increasingly getting brought into the conversation.

What is Moral Injury?

Moral injury involves the stressful social, psychological, and/or spiritual effects of having witnessed or participated in behaviors that go against a person’s core beliefs and values.

The term was developed in the 1990s to describe the moral conflicts military professionals were feeling after returning from war zones. Later, it was used to describe healthcare professionals facing similar distressing environments.

In a healthcare setting, burnout is described as a type of “chronic work stress” while moral injury is explained as the “suffering that occurs in response to moral adversity.” Having our beliefs or ethics repeatedly dishonored at our workplace can create undue psychological injury including disrupting how we feel about our individual selves and how we show up in the world.

What does moral injury look like in the helping professions?

Moral injury can occur in any profession but is on the rise in the healthcare industry. Here are some examples of what that may look like:

Feeling a sense of responsibility to make decisions that entail conflicting morals, ethics and values. For example, taking on more clients to meet the needs of your community, despite the caseload size exceeding your typical self-care standard.

Doing something that goes against your beliefs (referred to as an act of commission). Behavioral health care workers may be faced with situations where they need to decide how best to prioritize clients in need of a session (e.g., which clients receive less/more frequent sessions and how to best use limited time when multiple clients need help or when many are waiting for services).

Failing to do something in line with your beliefs (referred to as an act of omission). Moral injury can also develop in behavioral health care workers when they feel unable to provide the type of care requested by the client (e.g., in person session) for sake of their own safety or their families.

Witnessing or learning about an act that goes against your ethics and beliefs.Some may feel guilt and shame because they felt numb in the face of suffering and death. Behavioral health care workers may also witness what they perceive to be unjustifiable or unfair acts or policies that they feel powerless to confront.

Experiencing betrayal by someone you trust. A person who experiences betrayal may also feel anger, resentment, and/or diminished confidence in peers, leaders or organizations.

In behavioral health and mental health professions specifically, moral injury is a common occurrence. However, neither moral injury nor burnout is the fault of an individual, and self-care alone will not eliminate them. If you’re experiencing or have experienced moral injury, consider the following:

  • If you don’t already, attend therapy sessions regularly
  • Connect with colleagues who feel or have felt similarly
  • Take the time to self-reflect often (journal, prayer, meditation, etc.)
  • Stay connected to your true self, beliefs and values
  • Align your personal values with your business’ values
  • If you’re not self-employed, look for a workplace that prioritizes care over quotas and encourages a work/life balance

Clinicians, therapists, and other behavioral health workers are in their line of work because they truly want to help others—but remember that being an impactful, successful, and respected healthcare professional doesn’t need to come at a personal cost.

Self-care for moral injury can be particularly challenging for people working in behavioral health care given that those in the field strongly value caring for others and may prioritize the needs of others over their own. It is often only in conversations with others that we can hear a different, more helpful way to think about or make meaning from morally distressing situations.

On the positive side, there is also evidence that indicates after potentially morally injurious experiences some people develop a redefined meaning in life and, with time and support, begin to incorporate the experience into growth or helping others. Further, some develop new insights about how to help the systems in which they work or that can help them grow in their own work or lives.

Behavioral health care workers, their colleagues, and leaders can use strategies to take care of themselves and each other both during and after potential morally injurious situations, to support recovery and growth.

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