From Joe: Debra knows how to stay busy with clients! She’s so busy with clients, that she doesn’t know what to do. I recently posted an invite to counselors, social workers, and psychologists that are in private practice to join my newly formed Mastermind Group. Debra Totton quickly sent me a message wondering what it was all about. As we talked, I realized that she should be teaching and planning the group, more than being a member.
The group is focused on those that have been in private practice for a while and want to grow. Debra is past the point of growing, she’s crazy busy and loving it! In fact, I asked her about what she’d say when people ask, “How to stay busy?” I invited her to do a guest blog post, since she’s absolutely killing it in private practice. Here’s what she wrote.
How to stay busy with clients
By Debra Totton, MSW, LCSW
I opened my private practice in 1996 after I realized I’d been working for people whose values and ethics I didn’t share. I followed the business model of these larger companies. I was frustrated, working too hard, and I was tired. I got off all insurance panels, fired my billers, and relocated my business to a small town. Today, I have an amazingly full practice, I take 2 1/2 months off each year, and I made a profit since day one.
I will only share with you what really worked for me, not the unproductive side trips of making brochures, visiting Dr’s and writing to schools and churches.
STEP 1 for staying busy | Know Your Talents.
Write them down. Here are some from my list: I am intuitive/sensitive; I can feel someone’s energy; I am clinically bold; I am creative especially in making family games to produce good behavior choices and habits: I have good boundaries; I continually study and I am open to learning. This journey of discovering who you are as a therapist is the beginning of increasing you business.
STEP 2 for staying busy | Cultivate an attitude of service.
Every phone call is an opportunity to earn a client or market yourself for future referrals. So I return all calls, emails and texts. I build rapport, and search out their needs. I listen for content and the underlying pain. I speak to their pain. I always try to give something to a new contact to serve them. Then I either schedule an intake appointment for them, or give them several referrals. About 1/3 of those referrals eventually end up in my office, not because I give out “bad” referrals, but because I have already established and modeled a positive working relationship with them from the beginning.
STEP 3 for staying busy | Financial Considerations.
Only take this step if you are committed to the first two steps. If not, then private practice may not be for you.
How to set a price | Setting your fee.
Many think in terms of their per session rate. I think in terms of what I earn hourly overall. Once a month I list how many clients are at full fee, at a discount, and at insurance rates. I total it up and divide by the number of clients I see that month. The outcome determines who I allow on my schedule. My goal is not a monthly goal of say $6K, it is an hourly goal. I don’t fake myself out.
How to know what you’re worth | BELIEVE IN YOUR VALUE.
You have to believe your services are worth your fee. I am at the top range in my area because I continue to do the exercises in step 1 and 2 above. Do not listen to anyone who says, “We are only worth $25.00 an hour.” I kid you not, another therapist told me that! Do these things to increase your belief: read success books; avoid people who don’t value their time and your professional gifts; find and embrace people who support what you are doing.
How to make money | Be profitable from day one.
I rented by the hour for 1 month. Then I found a big office to house my toys. It’s not perfect, it has a tiny waiting room. It had been empty for awhile so I got a great deal (the cost of three sessions per month). I did not go out and buy office furniture. At first I used furniture from home. My dining room chairs were set up in the waiting room. My love seat became my therapy couch. My lateral file cabinet was my desk. I used the toy box as another seat. Many of the professional parents I saw at first told me that they wished they had not taken out a loan or gone into debt to furnish their offices. As my business grew I reinvested in what I needed debt free.
STEP 4 for staying busy | Be Organic via internet and by word of mouth.
I set a goal for strategic marketing for my website, maps, and blogs to rise to the top of the page using search engines. I joined directories, made maps, used adwords (a $50.00 budget), embraced social media and claimed my business listings. Keep in mind I had not even used a computer until 2007. Now my marketing is all organic except for two directory listings because I like the advantages of their membership.
Four out of five referrals now come to me by word of mouth.
Quick note from Joe: The fact that Debra knows this shows how smart she is! She is tracking and monitoring what’s working so she’s not wasting time and money…well done! No wonder she is staying so busy! Back to Debra.
If you are doing a great job, people will talk to others about the success they are having. Their growth and success reflects the great job you are doing.
So if you want to grow your business, start with your own mind, stop your fears, change your attitude, be mindful of finances, market organically and strive to be the best.
Debra Totton, MSW, LCSW. Is the owner of Calimesa Counseling. Debra received her undergraduate degree in social work (BSW) from Loma Linda University in 1982. She completed the Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Southern California (USC) in 1984 with a concentration in mental health.
She is a licensed clinical social worker (LCS15007) in the State of California since 1990. She has specialty training in children at risk, severely emotionally disturbed children and adolescents, adolescents at risk, teen suicide, self-injury behaviors, bullying, eating disorders, gangs and abuse. Adjunct training includes anxiety, depression and adults molested as children.
Her clinical experience has included working in 3 different community mental health clinics working with children as young as 3 years old through adulthood. She also developed a children’s bereavement program for Riverside Hospice and trained therapists all over the County. In 1996 she began her private practice in Redlands, California and in 2007 relocated to Calimesa. She volunteered for 30 years working as a mentor to seventh and eighth graders. She has been married to her college sweetheart since 1981 and they have two adult children. She still rock climbs, mountain climbs, backpacks, camps, gardens, paints and snorkels. From Joe: And if I’m ever in Calimesa I want to hang out with her!
Thanks for the photo MrsTG