Tag: private practice

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, goodtherapy.org, 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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Thinking about opening your own private practice? Way to go! Health Affiliates Maine is proud to help behavioral health professionals as they venture into entrepreneurship, making that potentially overwhelming experience a little easier to navigate.

Signs You’re Ready to Run Your Own Business

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. However, odds are that if you’ve been thinking about it, you know deep down that you can do this! Here are some signs to look out for when considering if the time is right to strike out on your own:

  • You can think of better, more efficient ways of doing things
  • Your values no longer align with your employer’s or company’s values
  • You feel limited at your current position
  • You want more freedom and flexibility in your lifestyle
  • There’s a strong market or need for your unique services and abilities
  • You’ve outlined or thought about a business plan
  • You have support or know where to find it, such as creating a network of colleagues
  • You believe in yourself and are excited by the idea of owning your own business

Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

Although not everyone wants to run their own business (and that’s okay!), there also isn’t only “one type” of person who would be successful at it. Here’s a list of a few common attributes in entrepreneurs:

  • You’re passionate
  • You’re independent
  • You’re organized
  • You’re not risk-averse
  • You’re resilient
  • You’re not afraid to go it alone or ask for help

If you don’t immediately identify with any of those characteristics, it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t run your own practice if you wanted to. We suggest taking time to reflect inward on why you want your own business, what you would offer and how you would start taking steps to get there.

Feeling ready to open your own private practice? Take a look at five ways you can market your new business. Marketing yourself and your business may sound unnecessary (you already have clients!) but it’s important for maintaining your professional relationships, attracting potential clients, and keeping your new business relevant.

How Not to Become Overwhelmed When Starting a Business

We won’t lie—your private practice won’t happen overnight, and you’ll likely face challenges and hard decisions along the way. When you feel overwhelmed or stressed, try the following:

  • Take a walk or do an exercise workout
  • Try yoga or mediation to calm your nervous system
  • Turn on “do not disturb” on all your devices to limit distractions
  • Consider reaching out to someone in your network for advice or support
  • Mark a day on your calendar that’s just for you (take yourself out to lunch, do errands, go shopping, go the spa, anything to distract yourself from overwhelm and allow yourself to reset)

When running your own private practice, there will be days when you’re firing on all cylinders and other days when you may question your business decisions. Both are normal and a part of being an entrepreneur! Take a few moments to remember your why. Why did you leave your previous employer? Why did you want to be your own boss? Why did you decide to serve clients your way? These answers will remind you of the vision you have for your private practice and will re-inspire you.

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Running your own practice allows you to determine your caseload, clients, and your schedule so that your business aligns with your principles. However, if you’ve had your private practice for a while (or even if you’re just starting out) you may have experienced seasons of isolation or loneliness.

Being a solo entrepreneur has its advantages, but having workplace relationships can offer needed support, camaraderie, and guidance. We know you can go it alone, but you don’t have to for your practice to be successful! Consider our advice on building your community:

Attend trainings, workshops, and other CE opportunities. They will keep you learning and up to date with best practice standards and clinical intervention methods which will benefit your practice. They will also connect you with other mental health professionals that you can bounce thoughts and ideas off with.

Join professional organizations from local, regional, and national chapters. Reach out to small business owners via email, connect with mental health professionals with a similar niche and network during events. Don’t be afraid to make and maintain connections.

Offer consulting services to local businesses and organizations. Think employeeworkshops on interpersonal communications or HR topics such as diversity and inclusion among peers. This will grow your public speaking skills, grow your business, and expand your network and opportunities for referrals.

Submit advice to a local publication or website. Perhaps there’s an expert’s section where readers submit questions looking for professional advice or maybe it’s a monthly column with a guest speaker. Think of the audience of the publication and offer a proposed article that would benefit them.

Teach a class or workshop at a childcare center, community college or corporate event. Important and common topics are stress management, establishing boundaries, and effective communication.

Lean on one another and use colleagues for support. If there’s an individual needing help, but at the moment you are unable to take on new clients, refer them to another in your network. And let them do the same for you!

You started your private practice to serve clients your way. But when you have a community of colleagues lifting you up, your wellbeing, your clients, and your practice will thrive.

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As a nation and throughout Maine communities, there is an ever-increasing need for mental health services. To continue providing quality care during the pandemic, many clinicians, agencies, and mental health workers quickly pivoted from their normal day-to-day operations to include an underused technology—telehealth. The following are three benefits of telehealth services to consider in order to better reach your clients and grow your practice.

Access. If patients have access to a phone, computer and/or WiFi internet, telehealth services may be a great option for continuity of care. Clients who live in a rural setting, don’t have reliable transportation, or have limited mobility, can utilize telehealth right from the comfort of their home without the need or cost to travel. Telehealth sessions may also offer more availability when scheduling, and provide access to health care for those who may be vulnerable to isolation.

Flexibility. Telehealth offers flexibility for both patients and clinicians. With remote and hybrid learning options becoming more prevalent at schools, telehealth may assist those with childcare challenges. With work-from-home policies becoming more popular among organizations, patients and clinicians may be able to schedule their sessions during a part of the day where they couldn’t before. Telehealth services may also be convenient during inclement weather and reaching those with emergency healthcare needs.

Savings. Providing telehealth services to your patients can save time and money. Patients will save money on transportation, childcare costs, and potential health insurance costs and will save time commuting and waiting in the office. As a clinician, you may realize these same benefits, in addition to lower overhead costs, patient retention/new clients, and the ability to be productive in other areas of your practice’s growth.

To get started with telehealth options in your practice, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Find a HIPAA compliant platform. A free, HIPAA-compliant option that we often recommend is Doxy.me. There is also a list available here, with popular options including certain subscriptions from Zoom, Skype for Business, Webex and Microsoft teams.
  • Establish a BAA (business associate agreement) with your chosen platform vendor. This agreement describes each party’s responsibilities and safeguards used and can enable and ensure HIPAA compliancy.
  • Private space. Make sure you and your clients have a safe, private place to conduct your session.
  • Secure network. It’s best to ensure that your internet connection is private and secure and you’re able to use encryption where possible.
  • Informed Consent Form. You may already use this form at your practice, but it’s wise to include specific instructions, guidelines, and boundaries regarding telehealth.

Providing telehealth services may seem daunting for some clinicians because of lack of technical familiarity, concern regarding quality of clinical care with telehealth versus in- person sessions, or simply being overwhelmed with where to begin. It’s important to note that each clinician and client relationship is unique, and some patients may or may not like this method of providing care. Telehealth is not meant to replace in-person sessions, rather supplement an already existing method of care.

At Health Affiliates Maine, it’s part of our mission to expand access to health care and increase the quality of life for all Mainers. Although not a requirement for affiliation, many of our affiliates are finding that offering telehealth services has greatly impacted their practice in a profound way.

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