Are you starting or growing a private practice? Have you been wondering about what to name your practice? Do you know where you can get the right level of support to help you on this journey?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Liz Witmer about how she started her practice and how to attract creative clients.
Next Level Practice is an industry-changing project to help counselors to start a private practice. Unlike many programs that are time-limited, or just an e-course, this brand new approach offers live and recorded trainings, small group accountability, and feedback.
Meet Liz Witmer
Liz Witmer is a passionate therapist, educator, supervisor, and parent. At Word Play Therapy, she empowers people to create a new narrative that reveals their strengths, abilities, and resilience. Liz helps child and adult survivors of traumatic experiences seek post traumatic growth by working through the anxiety, depression, eating and body issues, and addiction that have developed as a method for coping.
Liz’s blog and consulting website is http://www.word-play-therapy.com/
You can also find out more about Liz here:
Liz Witmer’s Story
Liz completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University in Human Development and Family Studies. After college, she worked with adolescents on an inpatient unit at McLean Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was as a result of this powerful experience that she decided to dedicate her life to the field of mental health. Liz completed her graduate school education in clinical psychology in 2007 at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. Now, she is a licensed clinical psychologist in both DC and Virginia. Liz is also part of several professional organizations including the National Register for Health Psychologists, the American Psychological Association, and the APA’s Practice Organization (APAPO).
Clients who work with Liz describe learning skills to help them manage emotions, developing more positive thoughts about themselves, others, and the world around them. They have so much trust in the therapy relationship such that they could be vulnerable and learn new ways of being. They also report connecting more deeply with loved ones and finding profound meaning in their lives.
In This Podcast
In this episode, Liz Witmer speaks about how she started and is currently growing her practice. Liz found inspiration by listening to podcasts and started educating herself by following all the steps in the 28 step checklist.
After getting her LLC done through a lawyer, she made the commitment by scheduling hours away from her kids to focus on her business. Liz then started networking in her community and found a place to sublease. Her next steps were to launch a website, name her practice, create a tag line and create her own logo using Canva.
What are the exercises to go through when deciding on what to name your practice?
I was writing about what I would like to have happen between me and my clients. Within this I realized I do so much work with storytelling and I picked up on themes.
- Do some research to see what other practices are doing in relation to these themes
- Think about the end goal of who you want your business to appeal to
When did it move from 4-5 clients a week to investing more time in your practice?
It took about half a year.
Liz was teaching whilst she was running her practice and very soon all her time slots were filled. She then extended the time she spent at the office so that she could up skill and learn new things which would benefit her in growing her practice.
She took the opportunity to scale her practice while she was growing and she joined Next Level Practice.
Meet Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.
Thanks For Listening!
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LIZ WITMER ON ATTRACTING CREATIVE CLIENTS
This is The Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok – Session Number 307.
Well, today, on the Practice of the Practice Podcast, we have Liz Witmer. Liz Witmer is a passionate therapist, educator, supervisor, and parent. At Word Play Therapy, she empowers people to create a new narrative that reveals their strengths, abilities, and resilience.
Liz, welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast!
[LIZ] Thank you so much for having me, Joe. I’m excited.
[JOE] Oh, I’m excited to have you here. You’re just telling me how you’ve listened for a while and you’ve made quite a few changes with your practice since you started listening to the podcast. Take me back a couple of years when you first started listening and what you have done since you started your practice.
[LIZ] Well, it was right after I had my second baby that I decided I was not going to do three hours of commuting anymore. I was working in Washington and it was just too far away. I decided that I wanted to do a local private practice where I could feel like Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman.
[JOE] Oh! My mom loved that show. I’d always watch it with her and I remember I really like that show too.
[LIZ] Yeah, so anyway, it’s a kind of thing where I can walk to work. And it kind of changed everything but the way it started out was I was listening to a podcast as I made my transition. I was home with my kids and I basically wanted to learn as much as I could. I read books, I listened to your podcasts, I tried to put into practice all of the steps that everyone was recommending. And as I did that I kind of grew in confidence and I decided I’m just going to go through the steps like in your “28-Step Checklist”, some things like this. I’m really trying to make it work and so I consulted a lawyer and did it an … that way. Once I had that, under my book, that seem to be the most intimidating part for me.
[JOE] It is! I mean we don’t know the stuff in grad school. You don’t want to screw it up and have the IRS come after you and do it wrong.
[LIZ] Yes, I didn’t want that to affect my family. So, I started networking a little bit – my community. And found a place to sub-lease and started really tiny. Four hours a week I was ranting. One of the big changes I made that actually accelerated to a next level practice was actually committing to getting childcare. And making sure I can have those hours where I could be away from the kids and work on my business and so I set that up and it was a small amount to begin with and then I, luckily, Psychology Today was really good to me and my small community of Leesburg. You had also talked a lot about how to start a website and so I started researching that. I’m a technophobe and I decided that I love being creative and I thought what if I try to do this. My husband is so technologically savvy that I’m doing it without him. I can do it! I know I can.
[JOE] I love it! It’s funny my wife, she’s an occupation therapist and she launched a private practice and she’s like, “I don’t want your help with this!” I’m like, “I literally help people launch private practices!” But she’s like, “No, I want to do it on my own!” … I’m like, “Fine! Kelly can be your consultant.
[LIZ] It’s not that I didn’t get his help at all. He’s been so helpful. When I made my own logo, when you suggested Canva, I was like, “This website is the best thing I’ve ever done!” So, I loved creating my own logo and he kind of helped me with like font, feedback on colours, etc. So, it was wonderful. He has been a big part and helped me with my creation of my name because with did a lot of exercises around, thinking about what was meaningful to me and the world of doing therapy like narrative therapy is a big part of what I do and so trying to figure out a tag line for my business and stuff. So, he has been so wonderful.
NAMING A PRACTICE[JOE] So, what kind of exercises when you were stuck on naming a practice? Because that’s one of the most common questions – barriers for people. What exercises did you do that were helpful to land on your name?
[LIZ] That’s an awesome question. So, I would say I did a lot of free writing where I just try to talk about what’s the kind of both magic and science of what I do in therapy and so I was writing basically what I like to have happened between me and my clients as writing about it. And in it, I realized I do so much work with storytelling, so much work with helping people modify their negative beliefs. I guess I picked up on themes. It was almost like qualitative research where you kind of themes emerge and when I started seeing some of those themes emerge I was like, “Okay, let me go the internet and see if people are talking about things the same way.” Looking at other people’s private practices and other places. I think I was looking up narrative therapy and trauma therapy because I’m a trauma therapist. I think as a result of that there were a few other clinicians whose work also spoke to me and I was like, “Oh my gosh! We’ve been forged in the same way as we’re thinking about things the same ways.” And there was something about it that kind of Word Play therapy kind of came from that. It just kind of emerged as like, “Yeah, this is what we do.” I think I forgot that there’s a component so I’m also a child psychologist. I wanted a way to like have my website. I’m not doing work with children like little children right now. I will work with them at lessons, but I wanted parents to be able to think of my business as something that could work for little kids, eventually, once my kids aren’t so small that I can keep my work and professional business separate, you know.
[LIZ] I think it will grow. I felt like my name appealed to children and to adults. So, the effect plays in it really kind of appeal to kids and parents of children. I think wordplay really actually attracts a lot of people who are very inquisitive, who like to write, who are very creative, and who are in the arts. I’ve been finding it’s been awesome that people who are reaching out to me. I wouldn’t even have guessed. But, there are all very inquisitive, like to tell stories, and like to write their stories, or perform them through art in some way like musicians and visual arts too. It’s been interesting.
[JOE] Yeah. It’s interesting because when I think of wordplay, I think of people have to have a certain of intellect to get it. It reminds me of an MPR show Away with Words. It reminds me of that show as a therapy practice. And also, wordplay, you know, there are double meanings. There are metaphors, allusions that happened. You think about the therapy to practice. There are times that someone’s talking about one thing but they’re really talking about something else. I think that’s great to be able to capture that part of you in your practice name. That’s a name that’s recognizable. People remember that. They won’t just get kind of thrown in to all the other typical practice names.
[LIZ] And, you know, I think I’m pretty famous in my own social circle for loving puns. Oh my, god. I love puns. I love humor. You know, because I don’t want therapy to be all doom and gloom. It’s so important for it to sometimes be celebrating the positive moments and the growth that our clients have. To use humor at times, sometimes, you can diffuse a really difficult situation with some nicely placed humor once you have a trusting relationship, you know.
[JOE] Just yesterday, I was at a mastermind call for Next Level mastermind which is for people that have 6 or 7-figure practices. It’s Lady Megan who’s in that. She’s been on the podcast. She just started adding a few more clinicians and she was talking about her wins. She’s a psychologist in the East Coast. She said, “I am so psyched about having these new people.” The psychologist is psyched. She was like… I don’t know it was just a funny moment when those things happen. I feel like, when I became a dad, puns became so much easier. I don’t know what it was about becoming a dad, but the dad jokes just flow out of me now.
Have you got the name going after you kind of got some clients? When did it kind of move from 4 or 5 clients a week, more of a hobby to something that this is really going to grow. Should I invest some time and money into this practice?
INVESTING TIME AND MONEY[LIZ] Yeah. I would say, it was probably half a year because I started the practice and at the end of May, I started teaching a class in the summer. It was that awesome next client work informing your teaching and your teaching informing your client work. And, I just saw this take off. I got to a place where all my time slots were filled. I talked with the personnel who she’s subleasing from and she had additional hours. I was like I’m going to go for like a little bit more than twice as much time renting from her so that I can have room to grow. I would use that time for a business growth-related task like there’s still so much. I still need to read and learn.
Even if I didn’t have client sessions in there already, I know 100 ways I can use. I can read about SEO. I can read about specific interventions I’m trying to learn that I’m going to use in my counselling relationships. You know the things that I’m going to do with my clients. And so, I just decided in, I want to say, November to up those hours. And then, I think what happened was I realized, “Oh my, gosh. I have 10 clients.” How did this happen? You know what, I don’t have enough time of the time I’m renting to do all my paperwork. I don’t have time now to do all the business-related stuff I wanted to do because slowly those slot hours are filled.
In January, that’s when I decided to do Next Level practice because you know, you were talking about scaling up and I was like I want to scale up, but I want to do it in a responsible way. I want to do it in a way that I can still be with my girls and take advantage of the time that they have while they’re little. Somewhere along the way, I really do feel like I found that ideal niche between having my family and also having the amazing intellectual and emotional challenge of doing therapy with clients.
[JOE] Yeah. Yeah. I think you hit on 2 really important points that I want to kind of underline because the successful practices that start and grow quickly do 2 things that you just mentioned. One of them is that they scale as they grow. The practices and the owners that had a really tough time are the ones that rent the space, they have it all week long, they have to make rent $500 a month or $1000 a month before they had their first client. And then, they’re like in the haul for 6 months or a year before they even make a profit whereas you subleased. You then said to that person, “Hey, I’d love to have a little bit more for a few more hours.”
The other thing that you said that I think is really important is that you showed up whether or not you have clients. And so, when people say, “I want to see 20 clients a week, and they have 2.” And then they decided to spend 18 hours just getting coffee with friends or doing laundry or whatever they do, those things all pole on us. But, if you want to be a 20-hour a week or 10-hours a week to actually put that time into it, those are the people that I see grow so much faster. Both of those things, I just wanted to circle back to any kind of underline because those are really important points for people that are just starting their practice and really want to grow quickly.
[LIZ] That would reinforce me for my next….
[JOE] Yeah, no problem. No problem. And so, you decided to sign up for Next Level practice. You got the invitation for it. And then, take us through kind of that first month or two of that experience. What kind of growth have you seen as a result of it?
RESULTS[LIZ] Okay, I will try not to lift my way through this because it was such a growth experience. Oh my, gosh. I think there was so much that has happened. I’m like smiling really big. I got matched with a fantastic small group of people and I got an accountability partner as the first 2 things that happened when I joined Next Level Practice. I have to give a shout out to Jen, my accountability partner.
[JOE] Yay, Jen!
[LIZ] She and I, we connected instantly. We do specialize in different issues but there’s an overlap of like trauma work. And so, you know, Emily did a great job of matching us but also, she and I just matched with both our kids. We just know that we need to balance both things – our professional life and our personal life. And, we’ve been helping each other. She’s been helping me with blogging. I’m helping her with feedback on her website. That’s how the accountability pieces worked.
The small group, they’re just such a great group of people like we’ve done hot seats already where I had to be in a hot seat for the first time where I chose to be. I talked about blogging and another colleague talked about doing a networking event. I just felt so supported by this group and everybody was like emailing to follow up with us. Like, “Hey, how did the blogging go?” They read my blog. Post before our meeting as a group. I felt very held just like we do with Becky. Also, like, one of the things that I really loved was all of the contact on the Facebook group, being able like an hour to ask a question. There will be like a group of 5 people who will respond. This is not just the people in your small group or your accountability partner, but Jen is great about that.
People will respond, and they will give you feedback about what their experiences then or they’ll tell you, you know, “Ask Joe about that. Ask Allison about that.” That’s been really helpful. The thing that… I can’t remember what I was laughing about. Oh, that was the Facebook Live. I am not someone who feels confident putting myself on camera, first of all. But then, second of all, figuring all the logistical pieces of the technology, like, it was just hilarious. I told my small group about how I have to get over my fear of technology to be able to take that and put myself out there trying to talk in a confident way of what I was doing. But, the actual act of doing that was transformative for me. Like, I’m really opening to doing some of those for my own Facebook page now, which is… because I was like near-tears with anxiety.
[JOE] Well, just to give you a backstory for people that don’t know. So, one of the very first task I have people do when I join a cohort they signup for next level practice is they have to do a video and say, “Hey, I’m Liz. This is where I specialize in.” It’s supposed to be a minute or less so it’s very easy in a sense that it’s short but it’s really hard because very few of us are used to doing that time of public speaking. It’s intentionally something that’s difficult right in the front-end. But then, for me, when I see this new cohort come in and we see 40 or 50 videos, it’s so fun to see everybody’s faces. I think the first cohort showed support for the second cohort to say, “Hey, welcome! So glad you’re here.” It instantly creates this feeling of you’re being taken care of that you’re with a community.
[JOE] Liz, for you, I mean, there’s a ton of awesome Facebook groups that are out there that are free. There are blogs or podcasts. And, Next Level Practice has a monthly fee right now. That’s $77 a month. In the first cohort, it’s cheaper than that. Why pay for something like this versus just be a part of one of the free Facebook groups?
PAYING VERSUS FREE FACEBOOK GROUPS[LIZ] Oh well. I would make an argument. It’s related to the same psychological principle so why we ask our clients to pay. Once you start paying for a service, you care so much about it. You get much more invested. I made a list before you and I spoke about all the things I have accomplished in Next Level Practice. The list is so long.
[JOE] So, what have you accomplished? Hit me with it.
[LIZ] Well, I had a new logo that I love. I love my old one but I love my new one.
[JOE] And Sam did that one for you?
[LIZ] Yeah, Sam did it.
[JOE] That was free. That was part of Next Level Practice. You got that for free.
[LIZ] I did a second like a website 2.0, the second version of my own website and updated it with my new logo and new content based on all the stuff you’ve been sharing with us about website design. I made a Facebook page on my business, which has gotten a lot of attention more than I thought it would. I’ve done a networking event in the community. I did a Q&A about teen depression and suicidality. I’ve gotten some reviews on Google My Business page or how do I refer to that page? I started blogging, which you know, you’ve been talking about on your podcast for millions of years. But, like, I was really intimidated by it. And, my group helped me get some confidence that I could do it. I wrote this really what I thought was 1 blog post. Liz, this could be 5.
[LIZ] You know, picking it up, which was great. I really committed to my work-life balance plan. I was hanging the bag in having my second daughter. Having a little bit of child care, I wanted her to start at school, but I kept dragging my feet. And by virtue, starting Next Level Practice, I made that commitment and so she’s going to go part-time.
[JOE] Oh, man.
[LIZ] That was a big deal. That’s like psychologically turned things around for me too. It made me feel like, use that time she’s in school so that when I’m home, with her when she’s home with me, I’m just focused on her and her sister.
[JOE] That’s awesome. I know that you could probably talk more and more about the results of this but if people want to sign up for Next Level Practice, we have cohorts that are going to be starting probably about once a month. So, no matter when you hear this, you can head on to practiceofhepractice.com/invite. And, you can find out when our next cohort is launching. If you want to grow like Liz has grown, if you want to great a logo, rock out private practice, if you want to be a part of a community that takes care of you and learn from me and Allison, all of our team, about how to do it right and not to waste your time, sign up over at practiceofthepractice.com/invite. And, Liz, I would love to ask you the question that I always ask people, if every practice owner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
[LIZ] I cannot believe that I didn’t anticipate this question. You do it every week. Okay, every practice owner to know… I think I want everyone to know that you have a unique voice in the therapy world. And then, if you give the time to think about who you are as a practitioner, you really do some writing or some drawing to like get in touch with what is it that you do as a therapist. You can turn that into the way of selling your expertise to others in a way that’s genuine to you and resonates with others. Your ideal client will kind of come to you. That’s what I would say.
[JOE] That’s awesome. And Liz, if people want to check your website, see your blogs, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?
[LIZ] Sure. I would use my website. It’s word-play-therapy.com.
[JOE] So, head on over there and check Liz’s website. Liz, thanks so much for being on The Practice of the Practice podcast.
[LIZ] Thank you so much, Joe. [So, if you want to join people like Liz in Next Level Practice. We would absolutely love to have you. Head on over to practiceofthepractice.com/invite. That way you’ll know when each cohort’s launching. We have one launching next month. That’s when the price drops $100 a month down to $77 per month. Just for a couple of days there, you can jump in with a new cohort together. Get connected with people. Get connected with the Facebook group. Get with all of the ongoing training, Q&A, and all those things. Those tools of the trade, they’re going to rock out private practice. Thanks for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a great day.] [Special thanks to the band Silent is Sexy. And, this podcast is designed to provide accurate and intuitive information in the subject matter covered. It’s given to the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinic, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.]