How can you as the CEO create a space that clinicians would like to be a part of? Why should you as the owner be open to receiving constructive criticisms from your employees? What has fun got to do with learning and encouraging growth?
In this podcast takeover episode, Whitney Owens speaks with Cindy Brock about retaining clinicians in your group practice.
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Meet Cindy Brock
Cindy is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and owner of Grace Family Counseling, Inc. located in Southern California. Her passion as a therapist is to work alongside clients to help them experience hope, healing, and growth in all aspects of their life. Cindy works with all ages and is a certified EMDR therapist, specializing in trauma recovery.
As a Christian, she enjoys integrating Biblical truths and faith in God into counseling, however, she also welcomes working with clients of all faiths and backgrounds. Cindy founded Grace Family Counseling in 2018 and has since welcomed a great team of therapists and support staff. Their mission is the provide a compassionate, safe, nurturing environment for individuals to embrace healing and growth in their mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual life.
In This Podcast
- Why is culture important in a group practice?
- The importance of having fun in your practice
- Send out surveys
Why is culture important in a group practice?
I think a lot of group practice owners don’t consider this [soon] enough, they [get full] and then just start hiring people and they don’t think through the culture part and that is so key. What is your mission, your brand, your culture to your community? ‘Cos that’s what people are going to buy into and that’s what’s going to help you retain your clinicians. (Whitney Owens)
Ask yourself, what are things that you would like to incorporate into your practice? What are some guiding principles you would like to instill, spaces you would like to create, skills, and opportunities that you would want your clinicians to have?
By creating an organic, authentic space where clinicians feel like they are a part of the practice will encourage clinician retention.
Consider what you are already doing that is working before changing everything around, because you might already be on a good thing that you can simply tweak and expand on, instead of starting a new system from the ground up.
Whitney’s steps to creating a culture in a group practice:
1: have a staff meeting on a regular basis, especially when you have W2 employees because that connection is important. Having regular staff meetings creates a cohesive environment where people feel heard, listened to, and know that they have a space to voice any concerns or topics into.
[You can] bring in a guest speaker … we can bring in people from all over the country [over zoom] to teach a one hour seminar on something … or your clinicians might want to teach, maybe that have a specialty that they do … so not only are y’all growing together but they feel like they have value because they’re offering to the table and then the other clinicians are also benefitting from that, so that might help the culture piece. (Whitney Owens)
2: encouraging collaboration in the meetings so that each clinician gets the chance to offer something to the team.
3: reach out to your clinicians and find out if there is any specialty that they would like to learn, and then you can offer to help them create that plan to incorporate into their counseling.
The importance of having fun in your practice
Positive work cultures retain more clinicians. Therefore, having fun in the workplace brings in more clinicians and encourages more education and learning to occur because learning and fun go hand-in-hand.
By bringing joy and fun into your group practice, you will encourage growth, education, and upskilling in the group practice amongst your clinicians.
Consider having office parties, celebrate clinician birthdays, keep in touch with what is happening in your clinician’s lives and celebrate their successes when they come around. This will all create a sense of a professional community that clinicians would like to be a part of.
Send out surveys
Create and send our surveys to your clinicians, they can be anonymous or not, and encourage them to write back – knowing that it is a safe space to offer constructive criticism – about what some things are that they would like to change, or what they enjoy, or to offer ideas about what to implement into the practice or remove.
This will create the space where clinicians feel heard and know that they have a part in how the practice runs: they know then that you as the CEO care about their feelings and that you as the owner are open to hearing more from them about how you can adapt and learn as well to become a better boss.
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Meet Whitney Owens
In addition to running her practice, she offers individual and group consulting through Practice of the Practice. Whitney places a special emphasis on helping clinicians start and grow faith-based practices. She hosts a podcast to help faith-based practice owners called the Faith in Practice Podcast.
Whitney has spoken at the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia’s annual convention as well as Maryland. She has spoken the past two years at Practice of the Practice’s Killin’ It Camp Conference. She has also been interviewed about mental health issues on several media outlets including WSAV in Savannah and in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Whitney is a wife and mother of two beautiful girls.
Thanks For Listening!
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[WHITNEY OWENS] This is the Practice of the Practice podcast, episode 555.
Welcome. So the Practice of the Practice podcast. This is Whitney Owens here doing a podcast takeover. I’m one of the consultants with Practice of the Practice. We’re doing a special series on leveling up in your practice and interviewing amazing group practice owners who are part of our Group Practice Boss community. And today on the podcast, I have Cindy Brock, who is the founder and owner of Grace Family Counseling. She has been a part of this practice since 2018 but prior to that, she received a BA in psychology from Viola University and an MA in counseling psychology from Bethel University. And as a Christian therapist, she enjoys integrating biblical truths and faith in God into the counseling room. She enjoys working with individuals from all faith and cultural backgrounds, and she’s a licensed professional clinical counselor in the state of California. Thanks for coming on the show today, Cindy.
[CINDY BROCK] Thank you, Whitney. I’m so excited to be here.
[WHITNEY] Yes. Well, why don’t we start out with you sharing a little bit about your kind of phase of practice so that people understand kind of what your group is like and have some context as we go into your consulting question for the day?
[CINDY] Sounds great. I opened my practice in 2018 and was a solo practice until about the middle of last year, so 2020, when I took on the new phase of hiring some new therapist and I brought on two new therapists in August of 2020, and then about November, December, I hired on an intake coordinator to handle all the phone calls and emails and scheduling. And she helps out with a lot of different office tasks. And so right now my phase of growth is I am new as a group practice owner and trying to learn some new skills for continuing to grow the practice and make it a great culture to work in, to work at. So it’s an exciting part of this journey right now. So that’s where I’m at right now in 2021.
[WHITNEY] All right. So you’ve got two clinicians and an admin assistant, sounds like. Are both of those assistants, I mean, but those clinicians part-time?
[CINDY] They’re both part-time yes.
[WHITNEY] Okay, great. And then you have a W2 clinicians, is that right?
[CINDY] Correct. W2 clinicians and they are both interns right now or associates, therapists.
[WHITNEY] Okay. And so how does that work? Like, do you offer supervision or does that happen?
[CINDY] Yes. Great question. I do the supervision myself, the clinical supervision with them, which has been really fun for me, a new aspect of learning and growing for me. So yes, I do meet with them weekly for the supervision.
[WHITNEY] Great. Great. And then you’ve got someone taking your calls. Awesome. And you’re a cash pay practice, isn’t that right?
[CINDY] Yes. We are completely a cash pay practice.
[WHITNEY] Okay, fantastic. So what is your question here for today?
[CINDY] Well, Whitney, where I’m at right now in my growth is I’m really looking to build a culture of, a work environment of positivity and a work culture where the therapist and even the admin at my practice feel like it’s a place where they can grow and learn and where they want to stay. And so my question is what are some areas that I can look at in my practice that would help grow or build this culture of a positive work culture for everyone that is a part of the practice? And I think, turning to make question is that right now we are for the most part virtual. So we don’t see each other in person very often because we were at the office different days at different times. And so we don’t run into each other and then doing a lot of sessions through, still virtually. So that creates another aspect of how do I create a culture of work and work environment when we are not always seeing each other. So that’s where I’m at today.
[WHITNEY] Well, Cindy, these are great questions. I think a lot of group practice owners don’t consider this quick enough. They just kind of, “Oh, well, I’m full. So I’m going to just start hiring people.” And they don’t really think through the culture part and that is so key. What is your mission, your brand, your culture to your community, because that’s what people are going to buy into and that’s what’s going to help you retain your clinicians. So it sounds like for you, as far as your culture, one of the big components you said was positivity, a positive place to work.
[WHITNEY] What are some of the other things that you want to, that maybe you already do or that you want to incorporate into your practice?
[CINDY] Yes. I want it to be a practice where my clinicians feel like they have the opportunity to grow as professionals and they feel like it’s a place where they can even explore new avenues that they want to learn. As therapists, I think we’re always learning and growing and so I want that to be a place where they can do that. I’m also looking for a place where we can create retention so that they want to stay there, they feel valued by me, they feel valued by the practice and they feel like they have a purpose and they have a, they’re part of the vision of the practice. And I think that is, so looking for some creative ways to help them feel like they are a part of the practice, and part of bringing that vision forward to the clients.
[WHITNEY] Yes, that’s great. And so I think looking at our vision and kind of our culture, and then what are the things that are important and then how do we implement things into our practice to get to that. So one of the things you said was really great, is you want to incorporate education in, or like letting them know that they can go further in their career. And so I guess that would probably be maybe a specialization or helping educate them, even you as the business owner. So then thinking through what are some ways, and I’m curious to hear from you, if you already have some, what are some ways that you would incorporate education or training into the practice? Is there anything you’re already doing or I can provide some feedback as well?
[CINDY] Totally open for some feedback. I really don’t have anything in place right now.
[WHITNEY] Okay, great. It’s always good to first think through what am I already doing That’s working right before we want to change something. So I would say the first step would be having some kind of staff meeting on a regular basis because you have W2 clinicians. That connection point is really important. And so being able to have a space for them to talk about things with you, even though you do the supervision already, maybe having a staff meeting would also bring more cohesion. Is that something that you’ve already started doing, at all?
[CINDY] Yes, we’ve started doing about once every two months, but I’m thinking maybe we should be doing it more often. Maybe once a month would be better for us to be able to connect?
[WHITNEY] Yes, I think that’d be great. And you could incorporate some education into that, or you could try something where maybe y’all meet even every other week and maybe once a month is more of an administrative staff meeting and the other time you bring somebody in for an educational piece. You bring an extra like a guest speaker. That’s the great thing about Zoom meetings; is we can bring in people from all over the country to teach a one hour seminar on something and really benefit from it. Or your clinicians might want to teach, like maybe they have a specialty that they do, or, “Hey, here’s this anxiety treatment method that I’ve been using.” So not only are you all growing together, but they feel like they have value because they’re offering something on the table and then they’re also benefiting, the other clinicians are benefiting from that. So that might help with that culture piece.
[CINDY] That’s wonderful. I love that idea of collaborating together in the education.
[WHITNEY] Yes. I think another thing you could try on those individual meetings that you have with them is letting them know, “Hey, educationally, where do you want to go? Do you have a specialization you want to work in?” And then you help them create that plan. So let’s say your clinician comes to you in EMDR. They want to get EMDR certified, let’s say, so then you can like walk them through the process saying, “Here’s how you have to do that, X, Y, and Z and let’s put some time tables on it and let me help hold you accountable to it.” So you can do things like that individually to really help foster that educational piece as well in that training.
[CINDY] Yes. That’s wonderful. I like those ideas.
[WHITNEY] Yes. So I would look what your practice kind of like how I did that one thing at a time, what are the things that I can do to change my culture with each one? Now, I also want to talk about the importance of having fun in your practice. We actually just did a webinar today in Group Practice Boss about this idea of culture. The whole month of March, which we’re recording now in March is about having a positive work culture because we know that positive work cultures retain more clinicians, right? And that’s a big problem with practices is that turnover that group practices have. So if you can create that positive work culture, you’re going to save yourself a lot of time, money, energy, and clients, and the client’s sanity.
So having fun in the workplace brings more clinicians. They want to stay there. It increases learning actually. Statistically, what I was reading was learning is actually just as important, as fun for people in a business setting. And when you have a fun work culture, you have more spontaneous learning and so I was sharing the story about when I was in a psychiatric hospital, the psychiatrist that I just adored. He would come in and sit on my desk while I’m like admitting clients in the computer and he would tell me funny stories about the clients and different things going on and I would learn so much from these impromptu fun visits that if we had had too much of structure, I would have never had those experiences. But it allowed me to feel like I had a relationship with someone to grow, to learn. And it made me, honestly, I stayed at that place a lot longer than it should have because I love the people I’ve worked with and the culture that we created together.
So is there anything that you’re already doing that you would say has created a fun environment at your practice where people seem to enjoy?
[CINDY] Yes. I love your story that you shared about the psychiatrist that you worked with because that really hit home that yes, when you’re enjoying your work workplace, you’re having fun, it just makes all the difference. So our last staff meeting, we did something, it was a virtual staff meeting on Zoom. So what we did is we, I had each person share a picture, any picture that they wanted to, something about their life outside of work. It could be people, it could be place, it could be anything and then describing what was that picture. And we learned so much about each other and had so many laughs and so much fun just kind of getting to know each other outside of the work environment.
And that I thought was a really positive team building experience. So I was happy with that and it made me think having to do more of that meet together because when we, we don’t run into each other very often. So when we have these intentional meetings, we get intentional about bringing some fun into it.
[WHITNEY] That was a great story. I love that. I’m going to steal your idea on my next staff meeting.
[CINDY] Awesome. Please do it. It was so fun.
[WHITNEY] Yes. Okay. Well, let me throw some ideas that you do to create culture, and then you can kind of think through them and let me know what you feel like, kind of meets the need of what you’re discussing. So obviously you’re bringing up a good point about virtual and boy, COVID talk about making it difficult to feel close to people. So do think there’s some things you could do virtually, like what you just shared or like funny videos that you could create and make and send to your staff about different things happening at the practice or things going on in our world that you could just get a good laugh at? One of my therapists, he is fantastic on making videos and so he’ll make a video every few weeks just at home on his little keyboard, or we did a cultural, I mean, we did a school counselor video about being a school counselor awareness week or something like that and told him how much we appreciated them. And it was really great. He like did some funny things about being a lawnmower parent and was like pushing a lawn mower. And so it was fun for us. It was fun for the community.
So there are definitely some things you can do virtually to have fun. I mean, we see this on social media all the time. Then I also think you could create culture just by stopping by their houses, if you could, and dropping off a gift or giving them a card or just walking by to say hello. Like there are things we can safely do outside and feel relatively comfortable. Maybe that’s a socially distance lunch. What we did at Christmas time, which I will say I got super nervous kind of about the whole situation, but try my best to like social distance, but have people meet, we did an outdoor Christmas party and it was 40 degrees. And I was like, “Oh my goodness, but we can’t go inside.” Because COVID was so big at that time here in our area. And so we all socially distanced six feet apart, sat outside in our own little with fires, and we all wore a long Johns and blankets and brought our own food and all that kind of stuff but we all got together.
It was so good for our morale. We did an ugly sweater contest and everybody showed off their ugly sweaters and they all got gifts. I gave them all books that had to do with something I thought they’d be interested in. So some of them were educational, some are more fictional, but we did a safe get together outside. And that went really well. And so I tried to do a get together every quarter. So that could be something like that or it could be we’re doing a fundraiser dinner. It’s going to be very different this year, but we do a fundraiser dinner every year with an organization that we support as a practice. I’ve heard people talk about doing faff case with their practice and these are all things that we can do now safely outside or you go to hike maybe with your team, something like that.
And then there’s other things. Once you get back from the office, obviously it’s a little easier, maybe have games at your office or offer drinks or offer food, celebrate birthdays. We sell, we give the staff a form that they fill out and they have to answer questions like, “What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite restaurant?” And we give them a gift. I usually try to hit about 20, $25 mark on their birthday. So that’s always nice and then during COVID I was mailing the gifts. but they really appreciated that. And we also celebrate other things like if you get your license or have a baby or buy a house, like we do that, or sometimes things are not as happy. Like someone had a death in the family recently and we gave her flowers and went to the service, things like that. But whatever you can do to kind of bring people together. Are any of those ideas kind of jumping out at you, feel like you?
[CINDY] Yes, I really love all those ideas. I think now with where COVID is at, in my city, we could do some socially distanced meetings and that would be so much fun for us just to be face-to-face and get together and have some fun together. So I really liked that. And that reminds me, I am, I don’t know when anyone’s birthday is so like that that’d be a great place for me to start, birthdays, you know? I have one Arabic student soon to be licensed, so that will be a big celebration. And so, yes, I think those are great ideas giving people the opportunities to celebrate with them and showing our appreciation with them at the practice. Yes, I love those.
[WHITNEY] Yes, and in helping people see their worth, their value. We can never underestimate the value of just telling them, “Hey, I really appreciate you and the work you’re doing,” or, “Hey, you’re my all-star therapist. You’re always killing it or you’re always so kind and giving.” Or like the other day, we do a lot of group texting actually at my practice which has been really fun. And I saw a review that went up on Facebook on one of the counselors. And so I texted it out to everybody. I said, “Hey, look at this awesome review that Todd just got. This is so great” Everybody saw it, you know, and then today I went down to the bathroom and we have this, being a group practice, we have this bathroom with a light that super fickle and sometimes it goes out and clients are stuck in the bathroom and it’s really dark at night.
So I said to my assistant, “Can you get some kind of light that’s a battery operated, yada, yada?” And she says, “Sure.” And the next thing I know, there’s this lamp hanging from the ceiling and it’s beautiful. And it had batteries in it and everything and I was like, “Wow, I asked for that two days ago and there it is.” It was amazing. So I took a picture, sent it out to everybody, “Look how awesome Lisa is. Fantastic. Look at this.” It really brings us all together. Like, “Oh, that’s so cool.” And so I think little things can go really far in showing our appreciation.
[CINDY] Yes, you’re right. It is those little things. So those are great. This is like sparking my ideas of things that I could maybe implement.
[WHITNEY] Yes. And going back to your clinicians and doing surveys with them on their experience of working with you, I think is important. Like, “What are the things you like about working here? What are the things not going so well? What are the things I can fix?” I know that when I think about places I’ve worked, when someone has listened to my feedback and actually changed something at the business or at the practice I felt heard and cared for. And that becomes a place that I want to be.
[CINDY] Yes, absolutely. Do you have a timeframe of how often you do that, kind of check-in with your clinician?
[WHITNEY] Yes. Yes. I do that as on reviews. So I always do a three-month review, and that’s when they start getting their PTO and things like that, and just kind of see what it’s been like working at the practice and what they need from me. And then I’ll also do that at the one year. We do kind of like a performance review? So it’s a performance for them, but also of me and how I’m doing as a business owner too. And that’s when I give them a raise, which most of them will qualify for a raise. And so that’s what we do that.
[CINDY] Okay. That’s good to keep in mind.
[WHITNEY] Yes. And you know how I am about the Enneagram? I love the Enneagram. I have all my clinicians take it when they start working and we kind of use it to understand one another. And so there’s something to be said for really meeting someone’s needs based on the Enneagram. So like for example, a two, of always giving to other people. And what really makes them come alive is when you tell them how much you appreciate the way they care for people, because they often feel like no one knows or pays attention or no one meets their needs. So that’s kind of how you win with a two. And you can kind of think of that with all the numbers, like, Enneagram one, the most important thing to them is doing things right. And so being able to say to them, “You know, what you just did right there was so good.” Like that makes them feel so great. And so thinking about how can you integrate that into the way that you care for your clinicians to see if fits that or some other kind of personality tests, but what works for one person may not work for another one. It’s figuring out how what works for each one is important.
[CINDY] Wow. That’s wonderful. I had not thought about implementing something like the Enneagram with my clinicians, but that would be a very interesting thing to do. A lot of fun and then be able to understand them in a whole new level.
[WHITNEY] Yes. It’s actually something I’ve done with my staff. You know, we were talking about the staff meetings and integrating the educational piece. I had someone come and talk to them about the Enneagram and they all took the test and he explained their numbers and how it worked. And so that was a really cool thing that we did. That was a few years ago. We’re going to actually do it again because the staff has grown a ton since two years ago. So I’m excited about that.
[CINDY] Yes, that’s wonderful.
[WHITNEY] Awesome. Well, Cindy, can you talk a little bit about Group Practice Boss, kind of what that is and what you like about it?
[CINDY] Yes. So Group Practice Boss has been a place for me to get feedback from other group practice owners and other practice owners and just have a sense of community with other people who are in similar areas, but also you know, everyone’s at a different stage in their practice and in their growth and what they’re doing, but it’s been a great community to get that support and encouragement. And there’s the Facebook group where any time 24/7, I can go on, put in a question. I just did that this week. I had a question about I was asked to do some speaking and I thought, well, I don’t know how to even begin doing speaking and all that. I put in a question and like, within a couple of minutes, I got some responses and some ideas and I was like, “Yes. Okay, now I know what I’m doing. So it’s a wonderful place for anyone who was looking for some support and looking for growth.
[WHITNEY] That’s great. And I love it. It’s like my favorite part of the week when I get to do one of the webinars with Group Practice Boss. What I also love is those I’ve done consulting with such as yourself, I continue to get to see what’s going on in your practice and see your growth. And that’s a huge honor for me.
[CINDY] Oh, that’s wonderful to hear, yes.
[WHITNEY] Wonderful. Well, you have got some ideas to go implement in your practice. And so I’m super excited to hear in Group Practice Boss how you changed your culture.
[CINDY] Yes. I have so many ideas. I’m going to be writing these all down and I have to prioritize where I’m going to get started, but this is wonderful. Thank you, Whitney, for all your help and your ideas. I’m very excited.
[WHITNEY] Yes, well, let me give you one last tip here. Hearing you say that reminded me of a conversation I had with someone else about this. If you feel like you’re getting stuck on implementing things in your practice, utilize your assistant. You know, let’s say you’re thinking, we want to do this event, but I do not have the bandwidth and either time or just emotional energy to make this happen. Your assistant can do it for you. You don’t let yourself get in the way because as a group practice owner you are super busy. So utilize that assistant.
[CINDY] Awesome idea. Okay, I’ll do that.
[WHITNEY] All right, Cindy, thanks so much for taking the time to be on the show today.
[CINDY] Thank you, Whitney. It’s been a pleasure.
[WHITNEY] Cindy did such a great job with our consulting here today. And her question on being able to retain clinicians and create a better work culture is a common question that we hear over in Group Practice Boss. We create webinars and information to help you know how to keep clinicians in your practice, how to retain clients in your practice, how to create a better work culture. In fact, that was a big part of what we did last month in Group Practice Boss. So we have tons of materials and teachable to help you have a better group practice. If you’re interested in joining this community, please head over to practiceofthepractice.com\grouppracticeboss. We look forward to connecting with you.
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Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. And 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, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.