5 Ethical Mistakes Made by Practice Owners with Melissa Wesner and Daniel Mayer | FP 105

On this therapist podcast, Melissa Wesner and Daniel Mayer talk about 5 ethical mistakes made by practice owners.

Which other insurance policies should you take out besides malpractice insurance? Why should you consider working with an attorney even when you do not need one? Who should be in your team outside of therapy to help you become a great business owner?

In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks about 5 Ethical Mistakes Made by Practice Owners with Melissa Wesner and Daniel Mayer.

Podcast Sponsor: Brighter Vision

An image of Brighter Vision Web Solutions is featured as the sponsor on The Practice of the Practice Podcast, a therapist podcast. Brighter Vision builds all in one websites for therapists.

How would you like to fall into cash this month? Every year, my friends over at Brighter Vision kick off the fall season with a month-long digital conference event they call ‘Fall Into Cash’.

For the entire month of September, they’ll be teaming up with the top brands, consultants, and coaches in the mental health industry to provide you with the best advice, tools, content, podcasts, and giveaways; all centered around one main theme – helping you grow your practice and make more money.

Plus, in celebration of the 5th anniversary of ‘Fall Into Cash’, they’re also offering a very special discount exclusively for Practice of the Practice listeners. From now until the end of the month, they’re offering new websites for only $49/month for your whole first year plus no setup fees – that’s a savings of over $200!

For more information and to take advantage of this great offer, head on over to brightervision.com/joe.

Meet Melissa Wesner and Daniel Mayer

An image of Melissa Mayer is captured. Melissa is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (MD) and co-host on Protect Your Practice. Melissa is featured on the Faith in Practice Podcast, a therapist podcast.

Melissa Wesner is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (MD) and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (NH) who enjoys helping mental health providers and small business owners work through fear and growing pains in the pursuit of their dreams.

Melissa is the owner of LifeSpring Counseling Services, an online consulting service. She is a sex therapist, Certified Brainspotter, and one of the original founders of the Baltimore Brainspotting Collective. She provides consultation services to mental health practitioners through her consultation practice, Intentional Practice.

Melissa holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Community Counseling and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual and Existential Approaches to Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

An image of Daniel Mayer. Daniel is is the Principal of Mayer Law, LLC, and co-host on Protect Your Practice. Daniel is featured on the Faith in Practice Podcast, a therapist podcast.

Daniel Mayer is the Principal of Mayer Law, LLC, a practice specializing in providing top-notch legal services to healthcare and mental health practitioners.

Daniel understands all aspects of starting or running a healthcare or mental health practice. As a husband and father, he empathizes with the pressures a practitioner may be facing; whether starting their own mental health practice or working to expand and grow an existing one.

In addition to his work with Mayer Law, Daniel also serves on the board of the Maryland Pro Bono Counseling Project and serves as their legal counsel.

Melissa and Daniel are co-hosts of the Protecting Your Practice Podcast, a podcast for therapists.

Connect with them on Instagram, or send them an email at sayhello@protectingyourpractice.com.

In This Podcast

  • Not going to accurate sources of information
  • Not taking something seriously
  • Not having the proper liability and insurance protection in place
  • Not looking at the logistics of hiring 1099s or W2 employees
  • Not having the right people in place
  • Melissa and Daniel’s advice to Christian counselors

Not going to accurate sources of information

Many private practice owners make the mistake of not fact-checking their information before setting a change in motion.

A lot of times I have found [when] I meet with practitioners and they’ll tell me something and I’m like, “that’s not right – where did you hear that?” … it’s a game of broken telephone: by the time they’re repeating it’s been distorted to the point where it’s just not correct. (Daniel Mayer)

It is advised that you consult with an attorney before making any big changes and that you consult trusted sources of information, instead of unquestioningly following the crowd.

Know what you do not know so that you can get the necessary help and guidance about what you are supposed to do.

Not taking something seriously

If you’re thinking about it now if you are aware that this potentially is an issue, then you should be planning for it. (Daniel Mayer)

If something is hanging around in the periphery of your business that you shrug off and consider not that big of a deal, you are leaving a problem in the corner to grow.

When you see something crop up, be proactive and sort it out as soon as you see it. By leaving a potential issue alone, you may be causing a larger issue for the future that you will then have to spend more time and energy on to fix, than if you had dealt with it when you first saw it.

Just because you didn’t know it doesn’t mean that you are going to get off the hook … because it is our job to be informed. Obviously, there are many things that we need to be informed of but [know] that not knowing isn’t an out. (Melissa Wesner)

Not having the proper liability and insurance protection in place

If you have a business, you must have the appropriate liability protection, and having adequate insurance protection is more than malpractice.

Insuring for malpractice covers what you do in the course of your practice; essentially, what you do in your office and when you are working with a client. However, this does not cover if a client trips on the rug in the waiting room and injures themselves in the process.

Consider taking out general liability insurance to ensure that your practice and staff are kept safe from accidents that may happen in the workplace.

Connect with a good local lawyer and build up that relationship even when you do not need them legally because when something difficult happens, you can rely on them to assist you through the legal processes.

Not looking at the logistics of hiring 1099s or W2 employees

This is a big decision that many owners of growing practices have to decide on at some point.

Whether you decide to hire contractors or W2 employees will depend on the laws in your state, which direction you want your practice to go in, and what feels most comfortable for you as the owner.

Not having the right people in place

Load up your cavalry with people who can help support you as a well-rounded and informed practice owner. Create strong relationships with:

  • An attorney
  • An accountant
  • A HIPPA-compliant advisor

There should be what I call a team. It doesn’t necessarily have to be people who work in-house for you inside your practice, but they should be people outside who you do work with to help you with the areas of practice that you don’t handle. (Daniel Mayer)

Work with people who are farther along in the process who can guide you and give you seasoned tips and advice.

Melissa and Daniel’s advice to Christian counselors

Melissa – Listen, stay connected, and go within so that you can listen well.

Daniel – Remember that your practice is a business while you work as a clinician, so those are two hats that you need to wear.

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

Check out these additional resources:

Meet Whitney Owens

Photo of Christian therapist Whitney Owens. Whitney helps other christian counselors grow faith based private practices!Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.

Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.

Visit her website and listen to her podcast here. Connect on Instagram or join the Faith in Practice Facebook group. Email her at whitney@practiceofthepractice.com

Thanks For Listening!

Feel free to leave a comment below or share this podcast on social media by clicking on one of the social media links below! Alternatively, leave a review on iTunes and subscribe!

Faith in Practice is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts that are changing the world. To hear other podcasts like Empowered and Unapologetic, Bomb Mom, Imperfect Thriving, Marketing a Practice or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.

Podcast Transcription

[WHITNEY OWENS] Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. I’m your host Whitney Owens recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner, and private practice consultant. Each week through personal story or amazing interviews, I will help you learn how to start, grow and scale your practice from a faith-based perspective. I will show you how to have an awesome faith-based practice without being cheesy or fake. You too can have a successful practice, make lots of money, and be true to yourself.

Hello. I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the fall here. I appreciate you taking the time to listen to the podcast. And if you haven’t already please go rate and review. It really helps me get the word out on the podcast. So I know you might be in your car on a run hanging with your kids, doing dishes, whatever it might be. You might not be able to stop right now, but when you can, when you’re laying around, on your phone, take a second to go and listen too, give me a rating and review for the podcast. So I wanted to share with you my friends, Melissa and Daniel today, and we’re going to talk about common mistakes made in a private practice. So you’re going to want to listen to that episode, but before we jump into that, I wanted to continue to remind you about ways to connect with me. If you’re new to listening to the show, I appreciate you taking a moment to make me a part of your life and I hope that you’ll continue to stick with me.

I also have other ways that you can connect with me. So go to Facebook and I have a Facebook group called Faith in Practice. You can go in there and just learn from other people that are faith-based practice owners, ask questions. And that’s where I kind of go and tell you the new things that are going on and advertise different things, give you tips on your practice. So you don’t want to miss out with that. And then if you want to jump on my email list, I send emails that are relevant to you and growing your faith-based practice. You can go to practiceofpractice.com/faithinpractice resources. There, you can get a free PDF on the five pitfalls between counselors and churches, so you can learn more how to make those connections with churches.

So I’d love to connect with you further through the email list or through the Facebook group. And then if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you have ideas for show, or you just want to connect with me, shoot me an email, whitney@practiceofpractice.com. I always love when people just say, “Hey, I love your podcast and here’s how I benefit or here what’s my favorite show, or here’s an idea of a guest to interview.” That makes my day. So if you do that, I’ll have a smile on my face. Send me an email whitney@practiceofthepractice.com.

Today. Like I said, I have Melissa Wesner and Daniel Meyer on the show. We’re going to talk about the five common ethical mistakes that are made by practice owners. But let me tell you a little bit about Melissa. I actually met her through the Faith in Practice community. We did do a consult call at some point and kind of talked about her practice and where it was at and then since then, we’ve just continued to connect through email where I’ve been kept in touch about her moving and her starting this amazing podcast, which you’re going to hear about today called Protecting Your Practice. But Melissa is an LCPC and she is a therapist nerd, a lifetime learner and group practice owner. She’s a type A counseling nerd who likes to cross her Ts and dot her Is.

She’s the person to reign on the party and ask, “I wonder what kind of document you would need for that.” She’s the person who thinks about risk management liability document, and she reads all the books and signs up for all the tradings. As a Protecting Your Practice co-host she brings all the nerdy excitement to the table. She’s the owner of LifeSpring Counseling Services group practice in Townson, Maryland and of LifeSpring Counseling. As the owner of two thriving practices, she has lots of practice management experience to bring to the table.

Then her co-host on her podcast, who I’m also interviewing today is Daniel Meyer. Dan brings healthcare and mental health practitioners with a manner of matters involving their practices. Dan also specializes in representing individuals and families facing psychiatric emergencies, including representation at involuntary commitment hearings. So Dan is an attorney, Melissa’s a therapist and they came together and started a podcast call Protecting Your Practice. I’ve already subscribed and looking forward to listening to those shows. In fact, they had me on their show very recently. So by the time this episode airs, that episode should all already be out. So you should hop on there and rate and review their show as well and listen to me on their podcast. So it’s a great episode. You’re going to learn about these common mistakes and what to do about them. So without any further ado, we’re going to jump into episode 105.
[WHITNEY] Well thank you for taking the time to hang out with us today on the Faith and Practice podcast. I’ve got Daniel Mayer and Melissa Wesner here with me today. So we’re excited to be chatting about the five ethical mistakes that we see business owners make. How are you doing today?
[MELISSA WESNER] Good. We’re glad to be here.
[DANIEL MEYER] Very excited to be here. Thank you for having us.
[WHITNEY] Great. Well, I’m excited to jump into this. So Melissa here is a group practice owner and then Dan is an attorney and they’ve brought their powers together for an amazing podcast Protecting Your Practice, and they are going to give us these commons and little bit more about their podcast that y’all can learn about it. Let’s go ahead and get started. What do y’all find to be some of the most common ethical mistakes that practice owners are making?
[MELISSA] One of them that we’re often talking about is not going to accurate sources of information or not getting a consultant. If you don’t know something. Sometimes counselors are relying on information that they get through the grapevine or they’re going by something that they heard is true but they’re not always fact checking that information. They’re not always verifying it. And sometimes something that might be accurate or true for one person’s practice or situation, maybe it’s okay there, but it might not be accurate or true for your particular practice or situation.
[WHITNEY] Oh, I love that you brought that up.
[DANIEL MEYER] This is a big one because it comes up a lot. A lot of practitioners, I think in all states, Maryland, this is true. Our members of practitioner groups on Facebook, or maybe through their licensing board or just their licensing I should say, or things like that. So there’s a lot of information passing back and forth between practitioners. Now, a lot of it is great information and it’s always useful of course, to consult with your fellow practitioners. But because people tend to report what they hear, if that’s wrong and they’re passing it on to other people then just bad information’s being passed on. And a lot of times I found I meet with practitioners and they’ll tell me something and I’m like, “That’s not right. Where’d you hear that?”

And it’s basically what they do is that’s the game of telephone. By the time they’re repeating it, it’s been order to the point that it’s just not correct. So what I always tell people, my big thing, I always stress to people is know what you don’t know and get help and guidance so you then do know what you’re supposed to know. So if you’re like, I’m not sure then you need to go find out. You need to verify the information. If it’s something that’s going to affect your practice just on an ethical or legal basis or have implications for it, you need to make sure that information’s correct.
[WHITNEY] Yes, I see this a lot in helping people with their business. We do a lot with helping people go from a solo to a group practice and so they will listen to someone in another state tell one thing and we’re like, no, no, no, you need to consult an attorney in your state because all state laws are different. And a lot of therapists, maybe it’s the time or the money they don’t want to put into it and figuring that out and I’m like, you’re going to save so much headache in the long run by doing it the right way on the front end.
[MELISSA] Yes.
[DANIEL] I was just going to say, you just mentioned something I think is really important. And what you said was it’s investing essentially. You are investing so that now, so that later on when something goes wrong or something happens, everything’s in place as needs to be. You know what you need to be doing because as you said, if you get it wrong now you may not realize it until something happens and then it’s going to cost you a lot more. And I think that’s such a valuable piece of advice.
[MELISSA] Dan and I are often talking about how sometimes we need to spend money as part of having a practice and it might not be fun necessarily to pay an attorney or an accountant. But like you said, doing it right the first time and not having to go up and clean up afterwards because you don’t want to have to spend the money. And also sometimes when you invest, you can grow your practice faster. So we are always encouraging people to go to accurate sources of information, whether that’s your code of ethics, whether that’s your professional liability insurance, your state board website. And also if you need to hire a specialist to get answers to your questions, those are things that we are regularly talking about.
[DANIEL] Because at the end of the day, when you own a practice or you’re running a practice, whether it’s a solo practice or group practice, you’re not just a practitioner, you are a business owner. So you have a business and the only way for the business to function, I don’t care what you do, I don’t care if it’s mental health or something else you have to invest in your business. That means that you have to invest. There’s a certain amount you’re going to have to invest up front but that means in the long run, like we said, you’re doing yourself a favor now by doing it early.
[WHITNEY] Yes. That’s so important. Oh, what’s the next thing that you have there?
[DANIEL] I call it having your blinders on. Most of them have a different name for it.
[MELISSA] I just think about it as like people being like, willynilly like, I’m not really worried about that. What’s the likelihood that that’s going to happen? That’s just one of the things that I hear come up a lot and it’s usually because I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum where I’m like, oh my goodness, well, we have to think about the documentation and what would we do in terms of liability in this situation? So I’m usually that person, but on the other end of that conversation, I’m usually hearing someone say, “Well, I’m not really worried about that. What’s the chance that that’s going to happen?”
[DANIEL] I hear that a lot. And I think, well, I’m not going to worry about it right now but down the road I’ll worry about it. I’m like, that’s the worst thing you can do, because if you are thinking about it now, if you are aware that this potentially is an issue, then you should be planning for it. Whatever it is.
[MELISSA] Yes. And one of the things that I think about is something that the attorney who is teaching my ethics and law class said was that ignorance of the law does not excuse you from the consequences of the law. So if something happens in your practice and you end up in a courtroom and you’re like, “But I didn’t know that,” just because you didn’t know it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get off the hook because it’s our job to be informed. And obviously there are many, many things that we need to be informed of but knowing that, not knowing isn’t an out.
[DANIEL] And as lawyer, I’ll say it’s not just a courtroom even. It’s also ethical. If you break or don’t follow your ethics for your license, you may very well end up with a complaint from your licensing board and your license could be on the line. And I guarantee you having sat through hearings with boards that they are not going to be very happy to hear, “Oh, I didn’t know.” I always tell clients is like Melissa said, it’s an explanation, it’s not an excuse. Yes, sure, that’s why you didn’t do it, but that’s not good enough.
[MELISSA] Yes. And personally, I think making informed ethical decisions can be an easier way to be informed. We’ve all been trained in knowing our code of ethics for our profession, whether that’s CACA or the NASW. We have been exposed to those codes of ethics. We just need to be reading them regularly or whatever the guidelines are for your state, which are usually on your board website. So I find that there are so many things that we have to know about. Like HIPAA I find personally to be a very complicated thing but in terms of ethics and knowing where to find that information and to comply with them is definitely one thing that clinicians can do to cover their bases. That might be a little bit easier.
[DANIEL] Yes. I was having conversation with someone recently, and we were talking on this issue actually, and just as an analogy, I said, “Look you are, this is a business. You’re running a business. It’s no different than if I run a shipping company and I’m shipping all over the world. It’s not an excuse that I don’t know the laws where I’m shipping stuff to, or the rules for, how I run my vessel or things like that.” There are things you must know. There are things you must do. It’s not excuse to say, I didn’t know. So in the same manner, as with mental health practices, there are things you must abide by when it comes to HIPAA, when it comes to state law, when it comes to your ethics. And this kind of goes back to, if you don’t know what they are, then you need to find out. If you can, don’t know how to do that, then you need to talk to someone, if it’s an attorney or a HIPAA-compliance person who can help guide you because you’re now running a business and there are consequences if you don’t get this right.
[WHITNEY] Yes, and we’re really speaking to the importance of continuing education here, that you’ve got to get those ethics. At least in my state, you have to have so many ethics hours per round in renewal and the laws are always changing and there’s always updates. So it’s really important not only that, but that you’re involved in like your local organization, because at least for the state of Georgia, I get emails from the local LPC group and they’re telling me, “Hey, here’s this board rule that just changed. Here’s this edition so you got to be reading that stuff and educating yourself.”
[DANIEL] Yes. And I think right now with everything going on in the country with COVID, this is an example of why it’s also important. It’s that rules and regulations can change sometimes very quickly or one thing can be put and implemented and then rolled back and you need to be on top of that. And that’s where knowing what the current state of rules in your state are, the laws in your state, or knowing what your ethical requirements, you need to know when they change. So yes, to your point, I think that’s where continuing education and constantly knowing that this is a learning process. It never ends? I often tell my clients that there’s a reason they call this practice, because you keep trying to get better at it.
[WHITNEY] That’s good. I like that.
[MELISSA] And sometimes it’s as simple as reading the email. Like you said earlier, if you’re bored, sends you an email, it’s probably important. So make sure you’re reading it. Don’t just delete it because you have 500 emails to read. That’s probably one that you really want to make sure you read.
[WHITNEY] Good point. What else do you have there?
[DANIEL] For me, this is a big one that comes up. It’s not having the proper liability protection or not having the proper insurance protection in place. A lot of times when I’m consulting practitioners, they’ll say, well I have a business and they go into detail and I say, okay, are you in LLC? Are you in S-Corp? What do you have? Oh, I don’t have any of those. I’m like, so you don’t have liability protection. And they’re like, what’s that? Yes, that does come up and so I often tell people in order to get liability protection for your practice, you have to do something. You have to register with the state to become a business entity, which does give you that liability protection.

You don’t automatically have it just because you start a practice. And you are, even if you have malpractice insurance, that’s not necessarily going to be enough to protect you. It’s very important if you have a business that you have some sort of liability protection. On that same note or similar note, having insurance protection is more than just, oh, I have malpractice. Your malpractice, what I often tell clients is it covers what you do in the course of your practice, essentially what you do in your office and how you do it when you’re working with a client. It does not cover when a client walks through your door, trips on your rug and hits their head on your chair in your office.

So you need to be aware of do you need general liability insurance? What other types of things do you need to be considering? The last thing I’ll just say on this point and is that you also need to be making sure your malpractice liability carrier is also aware of what you’re doing. So if you tell them I’m going to be doing this type of therapy and then you decide, oh, I’m going to do something totally different or add this to my practice, I think the best practice is you need to update them. They need to know why because if something goes wrong and then they come along and say, “Well, we didn’t know you were doing that. We’re not covering you.” You have a big problem on your hands.
[MELISSA] And this is just something that we encourage people to do, is that if you’re paying for liability insurance, utilize it. So if you have a question that comes up or your malpractice insurance, if you have a question, call them. You’re paying for their service and this group of people are invested in helping you practice risk management. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that they can call, they can ask their questions, they don’t just have to call when there’s a fire to put out. They can call in advance to get consultation. And even with things that are happening now with telehealth and COVID, there are some liability insurance companies that do have opinions on telehealth, how telehealth is performed or how practices are managing things with COVID. There are other ones who aren’t saying anything or posting anything publicly, but there are some that are very organized and have that information spelled out. So just making sure that providers know what their particular company is saying about certain things so that they can be in compliance with whatever those expectations are.
[DANIEL] That’s a great point. And I agree with that as well, because they’re invested in you doing this the right way, because if you don’t, they may be on then the hook on having to offend you. So yes, it’s almost this point make use of that. That’s a great resource.
[WHITNEY] Yes. I’ve actually had two different liabilities more for price reasons than anything. And both companies did an excellent job when I reached out. One of them, I had been subpoenaed, but it was a quick. It was like you’ve come in in three days. I called them or had my assistant call because I had a full day of clients when I got it. I was like, you’ve got to call now. You got to find out what’s going on. And they were like, well, we can’t get anyone to help you that fast, but get your local attorney to help you and we will cover the bill, which is exactly what happened.

So then when they actually paid the attorney, I was like that worked, like, yay. And then had another situation recently where we had a client that did something that I won’t discuss here on the air, but it was not a good thing. I wasn’t really sure what we could and couldn’t do about it so I just called and they were like, “Oh yes, we’ll get you with an attorney and you can go a 15 minute consult this issue.” We jumped on it, actually really only took three minutes and he gave me a quick answer and I was like, wow. So I love that you said that Melissa, the importance of really reaching out to them because that’s what they’re there for and they really will help you.
[DANIEL] Yes, absolutely. And I think it just also highlights the importance of if you can’t or they won’t do that for you, that’s not an excuse not to do it. So if like, in your case, your subpoena issue, for example if like they couldn’t, your insurance company or malpractice wouldn’t help you, then it is important that you consult with someone like a lawyer because you do want to make sure that you get this right.
[WHITNEY] Yes. The good thing for me, and I’m always telling people have a local lawyer and don’t wait until you’re in a crisis. Create that relationship in advance because that specific situation, it was in a couple of other specific situations. We’re a small town, so he’s great and he knows the other attorneys so he can like kind of play it right. And that’s been game changer for me and my stress level.
[DANIEL] That is probably one of the biggest things I say a lot to clients, it’s I would rather be proactive than reactive. I would rather figure out what do we need to do to protect you not then have to figure out what do we have to do to fix it because we didn’t do it right the first time. But unfortunately, sometimes clients come to me after things have gone wrong and then we have to unravel everything and figure it out. So my preference is always to your point. You need to develop that relationship before things go wrong, get everything in place to your point because it’s easier for me to come in and say, okay, let’s put these policy procedures or things in place then if something goes wrong, we have a system. And I can advise you it’s also going to cost a lot less.
[MELISSA] Prevention.
[WHITNEY] That’s right.
[BRIGHTER VISION PROMO] How would you like to fall into cash this month? Every year, my friend’s over at Brighter Vision kick off the fall season with a month long digital conference event that they call Fall Into Cash. For the entire month of September, they’ll be teaming up with the top brands, consultants and coaches in the mental health industry to provide you with the best advice, tools, content, podcasts, and giveaways, all centered around one main theme, helping you grow your practice and make more money. Plus in celebration for the fifth anniversary of Fall Into Cash, they’re offering a very special discount exclusively for Practice of the Practice listeners. From now until the end of the month, they’re offering new websites for only $49 a month for your whole first year plus no setup fees. That’s a savings of over $200. For more information and to take advantage of this great offer head on over to brightervision.com/joe. That’s brightervision.com/joe.
[WHITNEY] Well, so what’s the fourth ethical mistake that we have there?
[MELISSA] Well, one of the things that I hear a lot and I know Dan does as well, we both see it come up a lot and it is legitimately a stressful question. It’s a big, important decision. It’s something that there are lots of strong opinions about. And that is if you’re a group practice owner, making the decision about whether to have independent contractors or whether or not to have employees. So there are lots of opinions about this. There are lots of strong opinions but ultimately one, it depends on your state and what you can and cannot do in your state and also depends on the direction that you in particular want to go with your practice as well. So that’s just another thing that Dan and I both see come up a lot. But also making sure that you’re seeking guidance about that, whether that is working with an attorney and a consultant to make that decision, if someone is unclear about those distinctions. That’s a big question that comes up a lot and it can create a lot of stress and a lot of anxiety.
[DANIEL] This is one of those questions where I think comes up all the time, especially as practices start to expand. When someone decides to go from being a solo to a group practice and they say, “Okay, I want to bring on other practitioners, how am I going to do that?” They’re going to have to make a consideration. Do I want to do the W2 model? Do I want to go the contractor model? Others will have contractors and maybe make a decision to instead transition to W2 at some point. It’s very important considerations here and I do see a lot of practices either get it wrong or come in to talk to me and they have lot of misconceptions. So it is really important. As Melissa said, the most important thing I think in consideration is what is your current state’s regulations because they do differ.

Maryland’s different from Georgia, which is different from California. But there are some basic things that you need to know in terms of contractors and employees. So making sure you understand, what does your state allow? What does it allow contractors? If it does, how does it define contractors? What needs to be in the contract if you’re going to do an independent contractor? If you’re doing W2, what are the state and local taxes you have to pay? What are the things, kind of benefits and lean and everything like that you have to put in place. Does your state have those? These are all considerations that matter. They are really important and if you get it wrong, this is one of those areas where if you get it wrong, because you didn’t ask, the financial consequences can be dire.
[WHITNEY] Yes it is a hot question.
[MELISSA] Yes ad because you didn’t ask a good source of information, because you can ask and you can get lots of opinions, but you might not be asking in the right place, so to speak. I’m sure you get these questions all the time, Whitney in your consultation work.
[WHITNEY] Definitely. And another important thing that you’re kind of hitting on just to reiterate is if you’re thinking about associates and fully licensed clinicians, we call them associates here, but people that have graduated working on their hours, there are some states that allow them to be at 1099 and there are other states that don’t allow them to be at 1099. So that’s another thing you have to consider in your hiring process.
[DANIEL] I know we’re kind of being a dead horse here, but to the point when made earlier, this is one of, again, one of those areas where if you don’t know the answer and someone’s will say, a colleague is saying, well, this is what it is, verify that information. If it means meeting with an attorney, even for a half hour, it’s better you do that now then find out later on, oh, by the way, now you owe us all these extra taxes because actually it wasn’t a contractor. They’re actually a W2 and you misclassified them and that can bury a practice.
[WHITNEY] Yes. I love that you’re saying this because you can’t say it enough times. I have a attorney that I work with and then I work with people in the state of Georgia. So I’ll say to them now I reviewed all this with my attorney, but I want you to review it with yours too. Don’t just go based on what I’m telling you my attorney said.
[DANIEL] Yes. Another point for practitioners, I hear this sometimes, is when it comes to relations between someone who owns a practice and the clinicians who work for them, I think because of nature of mental health and what practitioners do, there’s a collaborative spirit. So people don’t go into mental health generally who want, who like confrontation or want to have an uncomfortable situation. They like to try to work things out. So I do get the questions sometimes from people saying, “Well, I really, how do I explain this to this person that the answer is no? How do I put a firm line?” And I always say, “Hey, I’m the attorney? Tell them your attorney said no.” I’ll be the bad guy. And that’s another reason why you should have a relationship, but I guarantee you, most attorneys don’t mind. We’re used to being the bad guy here but we’re not, by bad guy, we’re really just protecting the practice.
[WHITNEY] Most definitely. That’s what you’re there for.
[DANIEL] I think the fifth one is, we have mentioned this a couple times now already, it’s having the right people in place, having a relationship with an attorney, having an accountant, maybe having some sort of relationship with someone who does a HIPAA compliance. There should be what I call a team. It doesn’t necessarily have the people who work in-house for you inside your practice, but they should be people outside who you do work with to help you with the areas of the practice that you don’t handle. If you’re doing mental health or therapy or mental health services of some sort, you’re not an accountant. You may be good at it, but maybe not at numbers and math and balancing your spreadsheets and everything like that. Then that’s fine. Get an account.
[MELISSA] Yes. And I know that this is something I’ve heard you talk about as well, Whitney, in terms of really making sure that you have your team and your supports. I think years ago in college, probably I heard someone say everybody needs a Peter, Paul and a Timothy. Everybody needs someone who’s a little bit further along than they are on this journey, someone who’s maybe wiser who can help guide you, also someone who’s kind of a peer, who’s kind of in the same spot, but they can kind of commiserate with you. And then someone who maybe is not quite where you are just yes, but someone that you can help out or mentor.

I think that sometimes we find ourselves in those roles in private practice where we need to seek out people who are further along down the road than we are, whether that’s because of their specialty, because they are consultants, someone that we can look to for guidance. Of course, it can be helpful to have people who are just kind of where you are as well to talk to. And I think it’s also not uncommon to find people who are seeking you out for information, if they want to be where you are. So that’s something that I think about as well in terms of just private practice life or group practice life.
[WHITNEY] Yes. I love that analogy there.
[DANIEL] I also would say, in addition to having your team it’s about having the right systems in place. What is your encryption policy and email? What is your EHR? What if you have employees, what’s your payroll system, who’s doing that. There are certain systems you need to have in place to run your practice. This goes back to our point about investing in your practice. You invest the money up front now to get these systems in place and that prevents problems down the road.
[WHITNEY] Yes. Well, this has been super helpful and I appreciate you all taking the time to kind of talk through these, because I think we need to hear them. We need to hear them all the time. Even those of us that are seasoned clinicians, owning group practices need to go back to these basics.
[DANIEL] Absolutely. It’s one of those things where no matter what you do, there’s questions are always going to come up. And I think it’s really good for practices to talk about and consider them and figure out what they need to do and who they need to talk to, to get them figured out.
[WHITNEY] Yes. Well, can y’all share a little bit about kind of the podcast and the work you’re doing so that people can get to know you more?
[DANIEL] Sure. Yes, go ahead Melissa.
[MELISSA] I know we’re both looking at each other, like who’s going to go. So we now have the Protecting Your Practice podcast. It’s been in the making for a little while now, but it is finally out. So Dan and I have been working hard on that, but Dan brings his legal expertise to the podcast and I bring my clinical experience as a clinician, but also as a group practice owner. So we kind of use those two different backgrounds to share information that we often hear clinicians, private practice owners and group practice owners asking about.
[DANIEL] Yes, this is something where Melissa and I joke because when we first, Melissa came to me with the idea initially, and then she thought I was actually saying no and that I was doing it already. Basically we both wanted to do it. Once we realized we both wanted to do it it just kind of took off from there. But I would say that it took us a good while to get everything in place, because we really wanted to do it the right way. We really wanted to have everything in place to do a quality podcast so that it would be beneficial to the people listening.
[MELISSA] Yes, it’s a lot of work.
[DANIEL] Yes, absolutely.
[WHITNEY] Yes. It’s a lot of work. I actually just went and subscribed to your podcast and was looking here at some of the titles. This sounds like really great stuff and you’ve already had some wonderful people on your show. So I’m looking forward to listening to this.
[DANIEL] Oh, thank you. Appreciate it.
[WHITNEY] Wonderful. Well, if somebody wants to kind of get to know you guys, I mean, do y’all offer consulting or work with people?
[DANIEL] So I know Melissa, you’re doing consulting with group practice owners, correct?
[MELISSA] Yes. So I have a consultation practice, Intentional Practice at intentionalpractice.net. Dan I’ll let you share about what you do.
[DANIEL] Sure. Obviously as an attorney in Maryland I can only advise and work with Maryland clients, but in general, people can always reach out to us. If they have a question, if we can answer it, we will. You can find us on the web at protectingyourpractice.com. We are on Facebook under the same name. You can submit a question if you have an anecdote or anything else. We would love to hear from you. We’re pretty responsive. I think we’re pretty, pretty good at responding honestly.
[WHITNEY] Oh good because I already have a lot of questions. I’ll have to send you an email with some things. Gosh, I hear all the stories. I’m sure you do too. And then I, oh, that happened to that in person? Oh, I need to put this in place. So there’s always more for us to learn. So I’m looking forward to listening to the podcast because you tackle some good issues there.
[DANIEL] Absolutely. Yes, definitely.
[WHITNEY] Well, cool. Let, let ask you the last question that I ask everyone on the show. What do you believe that every Christian counselor needs to know?
[MELISSA] I think that that’s a really good question. I think my answer’s kind of broad, but I think for me the answer would be to listen, stay connected and go with them so you can listen.
[DANIEL] And I would say that to remember that this is a business. If you’re running your own practice, it’s a business ad it doesn’t mean that every decision has to be cold and calculating. After all mental health counseling and therapy is about people. But there are certain elements that you are, in some ways separate, you’re running a mental health practice. So yes, you are a practitioner, but you are running a business at the end of the day too. And that’s important to remember that you’re actually wearing two different hats and they are both the ones that you need to wear.
[WHITNEY] Thank you. I love of how y’all both just kind of brought the spiritual and the business part to the table here. And that’s like what my podcast is all about is. I want to bring the business, but I want to bring the Lord and we’re going to put them together and do something amazing. So thank you for bringing that to the table and for all the tips that you provided today.
[DANIEL] Sure. Thanks for having us.
[MELISSA] Yes. Glad to be here.
[WHITNEY] And we want to thank our sponsor, Brighter Vision for this episode. I want to remind you the Fall Into Cash offer. Head on over to brightervision.com/joe, to earn a $49 a month website for a whole year. That’s over $200 in savings on your new website with Brighter Vision. To get that deal, go on over to brightervision.com/joe.

Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also there, you can learn more about me, options for working together, such as individual and in group consulting, or just shoot me an email, whitney@practiceofthepractice.com. We’d love to hear from you.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.