Are you curious about how to build a faith-based practice? As a business owner, how do you build a faith-based practice in an ethical way? How did Whitney do it and what is her story?
In this first episode of the Faith In Practice podcast, Whitney Owens gives insight into her experience with the success of her own faith-based practice.
Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counsellor 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.
In This Podcast
In this first episode of the Faith In Practice podcast, Whitney Owens gives insight into her experience with the success of her own faith-based practice.
The purpose of this podcast
To begin, we decided to start this podcast to help those think through whether they want to start a private practice, how exactly to do it, and then ultimately how to really grow it. We want to show clinicians how to build a practice with a faith-based perspective, and the understanding of how to do it in an ethical way.
Whitney’s story with a faith-based practice
As you may or may not know, Whitney is one of the consultants at Practice Of The Practice. She grew up in Georgia and throughout her childhood and high school, was naturally drawn into faith because of what she went through. She got involved in a church and that’s where her faith really grew.
In college, her faith grew even more. Not long after graduating, she wondered what she wanted to do as a profession. Whilst considering youth ministries, she ended up becoming a missionary. It was during that time that she started counselling and after much prayer and consideration, she figured out that she was quite good at it, and this is what she wanted to do.
So she went off to university and got a master’s degree in professional counselling. After graduation, she moved to Colorado and took a job at a psych ward for 4 years.
While she was there, she made a connection with another counsellor that supervised her and got her into private practice. Things were going really well! Until they were all let go of their jobs. All of the clinicians decided to find office space and started seeing their clients one week after they were let go. Each started their own practices but all collaborated like a group practice.
But then Whitney and her family moved out to Savana and she felt like she had taken so many steps backwards.
Coincidently, someone from graduate school reached out to her about a friend who was also a faith-based counsellor. They decided to rent some space together and just go for it. A connection from one of the churches brought them in as church counsellors where they worked with the church for a year.
They started getting really busy, with Whitney seeing 18 clients a week in 2016. It was around about that time that Whitney also started listening to Joe’s podcast. She managed to connect with him and have a consulting call with him.
Joe said to her that she needs to:
- raise her rates,
- hire an assistant
- and join his mastermind.
So the next day she joined Joe’s mastermind. And in January 2018, she hired her first contractor which was a big jump and a great experience to be able to refer people to her. She was growing and then Whitney hired another contractor after that. That summer she also hired her first assistant.
After some bumps in a road when both contractors left she changed her business model and started hiring employees rather than contractors in Nov 2018. By Jan 2019, she had hired two more and in Aug another two. It was growing fast!
The practice is now 5 times the revenue it was in 2016. But what really helped was the consulting as it pushed Whitney to make the jump as well as gave her the community support she needed.
This podcast is going to help you do just that too, to grow and scale.
What is the one thing you wish faith-based practices understood better?
Understanding that you can be a Christian counsellor without always acting overtly Christian. That means doing good work can be good work. Do good clinical work, do good for them, and if they want to talk about their faith, they can.
- Join the Faith In Practice Facebook group
- Email Whitney
- Consult With Whitney
- Free resources to help you start, grow and scale
- Join Next Level Practice
- Apply to work with Whitney
Thanks For Listening!
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[WHITNEY]: The Faith in Practice podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, an network of podcasts seeking to help you start, grow, and scale your practice. To hear other episodes like the Imperfect Thriving podcast, Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com\network.
Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. My name is Whitney Owens and I’m recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner, and private practice consultant. Each week, either through personal story or amazing interviews, I will help you learn how to start, grow and scale your private practice from a faith-based perspective. I’ll show you how to have an awesome faith-based private practice without being cheesy or fake. You too can have a successful practice, make lots of money and be true to yourself. Today you are listening to episode one Meet Whitney. I will share with you the purpose of the Faith in Practice podcast and my story going from solo to group to being a private practice consultant. I’m excited to have you here today. Let’s jump right into the episode.
Welcome to the first episode of the Faith in Practice podcast. My name is Whitney Owens and this podcast is to help you start and grow and scale a faith-based-practice. So I’m excited that you’re taking the time to be with me today. Been wanting to record a podcast for a very long time, so I am excited that I’m finally getting to do it and that you’re here with me in this journey hoping that you’ll kind of stick with me for the long haul. Want to tell you a little bit about the purpose of the podcast, give you some information about me, and maybe give you some tips at the end as we get to know one another.
So, the purpose of this podcast is to help you think through if you want to start a private practice, how do you start a private practice in counseling and then how do you actually grow that practice. Now I also have a faith-based perspective as I’ve started my own practice. Even though my whole practice isn’t faith-based in everything that we do, it is a big part of what we do. And so I’m able to help other clinicians build a practice from that perspective. I’m also able to help clinicians go to practice without a faith-based perspective as well. But this podcast is going to focus on how do we do that in different types of ways? Do we want to make faith a part of everything we do? Do we want to make faith a small part of what we do and how would I do that from an ethical way, from the business way, and in a way that fits with my vision and values as a clinician and as a business owner? So that’s the purpose of the podcast. That’s the why behind what I’m doing.
I want to help you get your name out there, help you grow your business, and help other people find you. And that’s really important, right? I mean, we want clients to be able to find really good counselors and some of them are out there thinking, “Gosh, where do I find a really good faith-based counselor or a Christian counselor?” And they’re having a hard time finding you. So that’s what we’re here to do. I’m here to help you be found by other people. So I want to share with you a little bit about me and about my background, kind of the how I got to where I am right now. And I’m sure there are going to be some parts of it that you totally relate to and some parts of it that are a little different, but I’m excited to share this story with you.
So, like I said, my name’s Whitney Owens. I am one of the consultants over at Practice of the Practice and my nature or superpower is helping people build a faith-based practice. Just to kind of go into my background, I’m originally from Valdosta, Georgia and if you have ever heard of it, you probably have heard of it because you drive through it on the way to Disney World and a lot of people heading down through Atlanta come and stop in Valdosta on their way down to Orlando. So also, another interesting thing about Valdosta, Georgia is it’s considered Titletown USA, which is an award that ESPN gave the Valdosta like 10 years ago because they have the best sports team in the nation, which I find so funny because it’s such a small town compared to so many other great sports towns in America, but I guess a lot of people came and voted. So Valdosta is Titletown USA.
So, I am from this small town, Valdosta, Georgia, and I went to college at the University of Georgia. And when I was young through many circumstances as most of us as counselors are, things happened and we decided that we were going to become counselors because of what happened. And so through my childhood, through high school I really was kind of pushed too by faith because I needed something to depend on. I grew up going to a pretty conservative church in South Georgia, really found a community there, and that was how I started getting involved in church because I felt like I had a group of people that cared about me, a group of people that were fun. We went on some really great trips and so that’s where my faith all started. And then it was after high school that I went to the University of Georgia, the Bulldogs, and I really started kind of finding myself, and I’m sure a lot of you even found that when you went to college. That was when you really started to kind of find who you were, figure out what you’re all about, maybe start to figure out what you wanted to do with your life. But sometimes we figured that out after college.
So, I was in college, I had some great friends and my faith really started to grow. I got very involved in campus ministry, the UGA Wesley Foundation. So it’s a wonderful place to be if you are looking for campus ministry. And so went to Wesley foundation, met some of my closest friends there, actually ended up meeting my husband there. So that was an extra bonus and really grew my faith in that place. And it wasn’t long after I graduated from college, I was thinking, “Oh, what do I want to do?” You know, there were so many different things I was considering. One of the big things I was considering was doing youth ministry. I even visited a couple of seminaries and it was when I visited it, I was like, “This is not what I want to do, but I’m not sure what I want to do.”
And so, I ended up volunteering kind of becoming like a missionary at the campus ministry at the Wesley foundation for three years after I graduated. It was a time for me to kind of find out what my gifting and skills were, to see what I wanted to do moving forward, and during that time I started considering counseling. I had a mentor at the time who had just gone and got her degree in counseling and I thought, “Huh, that seems like a pretty good idea, I guess.” And so after a lot of consideration and prayer and thinking about my skills, I was noticing that I was pretty good at this mentoring thing. I was meeting with probably about 10 girls a week doing mentoring and it was working out really well. So I thought I might as well go get a degree in counseling and see if this works.
So, I ended up going to a school called Richmont Graduate University, has two locations in Atlanta and Chattanooga. Had a wonderful experience there, got my masters in professional counseling. The great thing about Richmont is even though they have all the clinical skills that you need, they also have theology classes alongside those. So I took five to seven theology classes to go along with my clinical classes, which was phenomenal because we all know that clients come into our practices with so many spiritual questions. One of the great classes I took was called the Odyssey and it was the study of why bad things happen to good people. A really great class. Took some, took a lot of great classes there. So anyway, I graduated from Richmont, and then my husband actually had gotten a full scholarship to Denver Seminary as I was graduating and so as soon as we graduated, we moved out to Colorado, we lived in Littleton, which is just South West Denver.
We were there for four years and when I got there as most early clinicians experience, I applied for so many jobs and could not figure anything out. Didn’t know anybody in Littleton. So I ended up having a couple of interviews, ended up landing at a psychiatric hospital, working in missions. It was a UHS facility. I worked there for four years, started out as a PRN, moved to part time, and then full time. The skills and things that I learned there were just amazing. I feel like it really helped me understand diagnoses and how to help and treat people. I also enjoyed the staff that I worked with there. But while I was there, I made a connection with another counselor who hopefully is going to be on the podcast shortly in the coming episodes.
She ended up kind of giving me a leg in. And so many of us early in our career, we need somebody to kind of help us out. And so she supervised me but she also got me into a private practice where she was working. And so I was able to start seeing clients two days a week while I was working at the hospital three days a week. And I probably saw about eight clients a day working at that facility. I was there for three months before the owner let us all go, all the counselors in one day, called it bloody Monday. It was not a good situation. So maybe in another episode I’ll talk more about that. But we were all kind of forced out of our jobs and all the counselors, all six of us got together and said, “We got to do something. We got to do something now,” because we didn’t want to lose our clients. So we found office space immediately and we started seeing clients one week after she had fired all of us.
That was really, really awesome. I was still working on my hours towards licensure, so I was still getting the supervision but at the time in the state of Colorado, you could get your own LC and start seeing clients even with an associate level licensure. So I was able to have my own business. There were five of us that ended up sticking together and we each had our own practice but we all shared space together. We met on a regular basis together to talk about our clients, we referred clients to one another. So we really collaborated a lot, even though we all had independent practices. It was such a good experience for me, new in my career to be able to see clients in kind of a safe setting, have somebody right there supervising me, learned a great, great deal while I was there.
So that was my first experience in private practice. I did a lot of bootstrapping, my fees was super low to try to get people in. I even created the website for the group and so learned so much about what I wanted and didn’t want in private practice, but it was so scary. I remember the week between being fired and starting the practice thinking, “Gosh, can I do this? Are people really going to want to come see me? I’m really scared. This isn’t going to work and we put all this money and time into it.” But even beyond sometimes the money and the time, it’s that feeling of rejection and that fear, the emotional component that we experience going into private practice. But I can say that I’m so, so glad I did it. And I did get clients. Actually not too long after that happened, the hospital changed my position and forced me to go full time or lose my job.
So, I had to take full time gig at the hospital, which meant I had less time to see clients at the practice. So I started working only two evenings a week. All this also happened around the time that I was pregnant and having my first baby so it was just craziness. So I did work, that was probably for about five or six months that I did the full time and the practice in the evenings. And then my husband ended up getting a job, so that was wonderful. A full time job after he graduated and we moved down to Savannah, Georgia. Savannah, Georgia is right on the coast, it’s got a lot of beautiful history to it. I love living here. If you were looking for a good vacation, come to Savannah and look me up. So Savannah’s great.
I got here, I reached out to any connections that I had to see if I could get a job, tried to get a job actually at some of the Christian practices in town. They were not hiring, not interested. I went over to the hospital that’s in town, the UHS facility thinking I’d have an end because I’d already worked at one of those. Didn’t get in. So it just didn’t work out very well when I first got here and I thought, “Gosh, what am I going to do? I’m really going to start a practice when I don’t know anybody really?” I mean, the only connections I had were through my husband’s boss, the pastor at the church here. So I was thinking, “Gosh, how’s this going to work out?” Fortunately someone from graduate school that I had a pretty good relationship with reached out to me when he found out I was in Savannah and said, “You have got to connect with my friend there. He is a counselor and he has a faith-based perspective and I think the ways that you all integrate your faith are very similar.”
So, we connected over coffee and he said, “Why don’t we just do this? Like let’s rent some space and let’s make this happen.” Another glitch that occurred was when I moved to Georgia. Georgia wouldn’t give me a license equivalent for my license that I had in Colorado. So had to go back and get supervision again for a whole another year. So it felt like so many steps backward, but I just kept pressing on, which is what we have to do in private practice because you’re going to have lots of steps backwards. So pressing on and fortunately my colleague was able to get me a connection at the church, literally across the street from this office that I’m currently in. I’ve been in this office the entire time and they were able to bring me on as a counselor through the church as a contractor.
That way I could see clients but also have a director, which was required by the state of Georgia before you get your license. So we rented this little house right here across the street and worked for the church for a year. And we both were seeing clients independently, had our own businesses. We did some collaborating with working with churches, and I’ll talk more about that in other episodes to give you some ideas on working with churches. But we both kind of started advertising ourselves and he really helped me at the beginning. He had so many connections. He’s from Savannah and when you’re from Savannah you’ve got all the connections. People really like going with local people. So I hadn’t an immediate loop. So he got me my first, definitely my first client. Probably my first, like four or five clients.
And also, I had my second baby while we’ve lived here. So I grew the practice. I was probably sitting in about, I don’t know, 18 clients a week and then went on maternity leave three months, came back, a lot of my clients stuck with me. So that was back in 2016. So I started this practice in Savannah in, it was January 1st, 2015 and then 2016 had my baby and then in 2017 I’ve been doing it solo the whole time. I was getting super overwhelmed and I’m sure you all, those of you in solo practice, you know what I’m talking about where you almost don’t want anyone to call you because you don’t want to have to call them back. You don’t know what you’re going to do. And so I was getting those calls, not knowing what to do, not knowing where to refer feeling like I couldn’t take on more clients.
So it was at that point that and I guess a little previous to this, I had started listening to Joe’s podcast, Practice of the Practice and what’s given me so many great tips and helpful things and kind of to make a long story short through a challenge that he had done online. I kind of connected with him and then that led to a free consulting call that one through the challenge that was created. And Joe said these things to me. He said, “You need to raise your rates, you need to hire an assistant and you need to join my mastermind group.” And when, I have learned now when Joe tells me to do something, you do it because he’s a consultant who has been doing it for a long time and knows what he’s doing. So, I spent a lot of time thinking and praying about it, wondering is group practice what I want? Is this the direction? And ultimately felt like this was where God was leading me and He was just kind of laying all the cards out.
And I think it’s really good for us to take time to look back and say, “Okay, how is God laying out these cards and how am I going to move forward in this? That’s what I did. And so I joined the mastermind. And so that was October, 2017 and in 2008, January, 2018 I hired my first contractor. So that was a big, big job. I was really scared about that but boy, it was such a great experience and it was so awesome when people called and I could refer to her and they had a great experience and we were helping more people in the community. My vision and why for what I do is I want to help more people in Savannah get the services that they need to understand mental health and to help them get it from a good Christian perspective as needed.
And so that’s what we did. So I hired her January, 2018 and then she was growing and I hired another contractor a couple of months after that. And then I was feeling really overwhelmed with the calls. Like me managing the intake calls and paperwork for three counselors was too much so then that summer I hired my first assistant. She actually is local but also answers calls from home and does things from home, but she could come into the office. My husband makes fun of me because he calls her my work wife. I rely so much on her and she’s just wonderful and I’m definitely going to have an episode with her so you can kind of hear about how we do her role because it’s a little unique, a little different, but it works out so well for us.
So anyway, then I hired her and then we had some bumps in the road not long after that. My first contractor really only stayed for a few months, a long story, but she had had another position that she applied for before me and then they came back and offered her something she couldn’t refuse. And then my other counselor ended up leaving for different reasons and hopefully I can talk about in another episode. And so ironically, the day she left and gave me her notice was the day I interviewed the next person I hired. And so God has a way of working things out. So at that point I changed my whole model. I started having employees instead of contractors and got a lot more comradery to the group. So I hired my first employee clinician, that was November of last year, in 2018 and then January, 2019 hired two more employees and then in August that same year hired two more. So the practice has really been growing over the past few years.
And even when I look back since 2016 to now, the practice is five times the revenue of what it was three to four years ago. And I really attribute that to starting the group and getting the consulting that I needed to move forward. I actually was a part of Joe’s mastermind for two years and that really gave me the jump I needed, the community I needed to move forward. And so that’s part of what this podcast is about; is to help you get there because you can, and I didn’t think I could and I did. And I’m going to help you get there based on the things that you want in your practice. So my practice, just to give you an understanding, it’s called Water’s Edge Counseling in Savannah, Georgia. And even though I am faith-based, found faith to be a big part of what I do, and you heard that in my background, I don’t only see Christians, I don’t only see people of faith, I like seeing all different kinds of clients.
And so, when a client comes to our center, they don’t necessarily know that I’m a believer or that we’re faith-based at all. We meet them in their place of need, whatever they want to talk about with their faith and helping them move forward. Now that being said we also do tailor our treatment to Christians if that’s something that they’re looking for, we talk to them about that and we do get referrals from churches and they know that we have faith based in what we do and we get a lot, I would say we get a call once or twice a week of someone who says, “I specifically want a faith-based counselor.” Just yesterday a mom called about a teenager and in the end of the call she just wanted to confirm that that counselor was faith-based and can offer that perspective because she feels like her daughter drops in that. So we do offer that as well.
So even though I’m here to be a consultant for faith-based practices, I’m also able to consult things that are not faith-based but also able to say like, “We don’t want to be throwing religion in anyone’s face. That’s not what I’m here to do. I can help you figure out how do I run my practice from this perspective without being so in your face? So I’m super pumped about being able to help you grow and scale your practice. I do have a Facebook group called Faith in Practice, would love for you to join that group. Just put in the request. We talk about all different types of things. We talk about faith-based things, not faith-based things, how do we run a practice, people will throw out questions.
“How do I work with referral sources? What do you guys do? And when you get a referral, how do you thank people? I mean just tons of stuff in there. So I’m super excited about that and if you want to get in touch with me, you can do that by sending me an email. My email is email@example.com. And if you’re interested in working with me, you can go to the Practice of the Practice\apply and you can send out an application. I do individual consulting and mastermind groups. If you have something else you’re looking for something you need, like let me know because I can tailor things to kind of meet the needs of who’s out there.
So last thing here that’s going to be a part of the podcast I’m going to ask people is what is like the one thing that you wish Christian counselors knew or that you wish faith-based practices understood better? So that for me is understanding that you can be a Christian counselor without always acting overtly Christian. That means doing good work can be good work and it can be Christian without saying that that’s what it is. A friend of mine said the other day you know, “When you’re sharing with people, share because of your love and the way that you care for them from a Christian perspective and only use words when you have to.” And that’s what this is about. Like I’m just going to do good clinical work, I’m going to do good to the community, I’m going to do good for you. And then if we need to talk, if you want to talk about faith, let’s talk about it. But it doesn’t overtly have to be Christian and everything that we do to be something that is good. So I’m super pumped about the podcast and looking forward to doing more episodes with you guys.
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 group consulting, or just shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Would 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.