Are you considering joining a group practice? Do you want to learn more about how to be a successful couples therapist? What are some tips on how to set up a comfortable practice for your clients?
In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon speaks with Nancy Ryan and Dana McNeil about the Confident Couples Therapist.
Meet Dana McNeil and Nancy Ryan
Dana McNeil and Nancy Ryan are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and founders of thriving group practices specializing in couples therapy and utilizing an evidence-based type of couples therapy which is known as Gottman Method. Dana and Nancy’s practices both work with all types of relationship issues, parents of special needs children, sex addiction therapy, LGBTQ+, as well as a number of individual and family issues.
Recently Dana and Nancy have come together to create Confident Couples Therapy, a program focused on bringing training, education, and support to couples therapists throughout the nation. Their mission is focused on helping therapists become confident in working with couples and building a successful, cash pay practice
Visit their website and get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In This Podcast
- Benefits of cash-pay clients
- Helpful marketing tips
- How to set up a comfortable office space for your clients
- What to look for when hiring new clinicians
Benefits of cash-pay clients
Systems that work with insurance-based payments often require a diagnosis of a patient prior to starting treatment and therapy. For couples that may be in a dire situation and would like to “fix” their problems quickly may struggle with this route. Having the option of cash-pay means clients can receive therapy faster, and provides you, the clinician, with a wider set of possible patients.
Due to the faster method of payment to services, there is an incentive for clients to opt for this option as it allows them to start the therapy sooner, rather than later.
Helpful marketing tips
You have to be aware, you’re not just a practice, you also have to have the ability to do some sales.
- Get yourself visible to the public. Write blogs and have them published in local online papers and columns.
- Make videos, do more Facebook posts, have more social media outreach.
- If the budget allows, purchase some advertisements through Google.
- Be proactive, especially during uncertain times such as a pandemic, clients may not be aware of your new procedures. Phone up old clients without charge to check on how they are doing, this may motivate them to recommend you to their peers and inner circle.
How to set up a comfortable office space for your clients
Create an environment and experiences so that clients feel they are in good hands, and that they are coming to an event they might look forward to.
When a client feels comfortable in a space, they will invest in it. Providing dependability of comfort, especially when the service is therapy, will help clients feel more at ease with you and with the practice.
- Creating a safe, tranquil space for your patients is part of the process for you and for them.
- Consider seemingly small details such as furniture and wall colors. These may not seem important but they all add subtle comforts for your clients, enabling them to feel relaxed and secure in a therapy session.
- In the consulting room, have space. Provide clients with a large enough couch so that they may have some personal room between them. Perhaps have a scent in your consultation room such as vanilla, provide clients with water, or a unique offer of chocolates to make them feel at ease.
- Consider painting the colors of the walls greens and blues. Studies have shown that these colors evoke feelings of replenishing, calmness, and security.
- Use soft lighting instead of harsh overhead lights, place a carpet or coffee table.
These small touches go a long way in making your clients feel relaxed and ready to discuss their grievances with you.
What to look for when hiring new clinicians
This is an intimate process that involves looking at multiple factors. Observe how potential clinicians hold themselves in a space, if they are team players, what their attitudes to issues are like, and considering what personal work they have done in their own lives.
There are techniques that group therapists can learn that they may not find in any theory. These techniques can be learned from professionals with experience such as Nancy and Dana, and they are along the lines of knowing how to handle the room where there is conflict, noticing the partner that is not talking often, and how to incorporate them. The balance between being emotionally empathetic while maintaining professional boundaries is one of these skills that cannot be found in theory but only in practice.
- 10 Business Books that Have Changed the Way I Run My Group Practice | GP 30
- Killin’It Camp
- Move Forward Virtual Assistants – Scale Up Summit
- Email Alison: email@example.com
- PoP Group Practice Owners Facebook Group
- Free resources to help you start, grow and scale
- Work with us
- Consult With Alison
Meet Alison Pidgeon
Alison is a serial entrepreneur with four businesses, one of which is a 15 clinician group practice. She’s also a mom to three boys, wife, coffee drinker, and loves to travel. She started her practice in 2015 and, four years later, has two locations. With a specialization in women’s issues, the practices have made a positive impact on the community by offering different types of specialties not being offered anywhere else in the area.
Alison has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, through mastermind groups and individual consulting.
Thanks For Listening!
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You’re listening to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. Whether you’re thinking of starting a group practice, or in the beginning stages of a group practice, or want to learn how to scale up your already existing group practice, we have lots of great content for you.
Hi, and welcome to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. I’m Alison Pidgeon, your host. So school is about to start here. We record the podcast obviously a few weeks ahead of time, so you’re probably listening to this in September, but my kids are about to start school this coming weekend. So we’re getting ready for that. We’re doing virtual school so that’ll be interesting to see how that goes, especially with a 14 month old also in the mix. And fortunately, we were able to find a childcare provider who is going to help them so I can actually have time to work, which is an amazing thought right now considering we haven’t really had child care since the middle of March because of COVID. So I’ll let you know how all of that goes.
But I wanted to tell you about a couple of things that are coming up in October. So the first thing is Killin’It Camp, which is a virtual conference this year, put on by Practice of the Practice. We also have some great sponsors, TherapyNotes and Brighter Vision, and there’s over twenty speakers talking about all things related to the business of private practice. So there’s plenty of different topics I think that would be interesting to almost anybody, and I’m really excited to connect with folks, and I am also a speaker so I’m going to be talking about group practice.
And then the other event is one that my virtual assistant company is putting on. So I started a virtual assistant company called Move Forward Virtual Assistants back in 2018, and we are hosting our first ever virtual summit – we’re calling it the Scale Up Services Summit. It’s going to be October 20th through the 23rd. And we’re going to be talking all about different services, and tools, and resources that you can use as a practice owner to scale up your business. So whether you’re looking to hire out for those things that you no longer want to do, or just figure out what do I need to have in place so that I can really start scaling up my business, and making more money, and freeing up more of your time, this is definitely a great thing to check out.
So if you are interested in signing up for more information, it’s on our website, moveforwardvirtualassistants.com/scaleup, and we will have that link in the show notes. And then if you’re interested in Killin’It Camp, which is at the beginning of October, that is at www.killinitcamp.com. So definitely check that out. And I will be a speaker too at the Scale Up Summit, and Whitney Owens, my fellow business consultant, will also be another speaker. So looking forward to connecting with folks there.
And so today I’m excited to introduce to you Nancy Ryan and Dana McNeil. They are two clinicians who specifically work with couples, who met and struck up a friendship and decided to start a business together, and they’re going to tell you all about that. And what I think is so cool about people who have an entrepreneurial mindset is that they see a hole in the marketplace, or they see a service that people need that isn’t being provided, and so they start a business to serve those people who need that help. And that is exactly what Nancy and Dana did. And I just think their idea is brilliant and I am excited to share this interview with you.
I’m excited to introduce to you my guests today, Dana McNeil and Nancy Ryan. They’re both Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and founders of thriving group practices specializing in couples therapy. They utilize an evidence based type of couples therapy, which is known as the Gottman method. Dana and Nancy’s practices both work with all types of relationship issues, parents of special needs children, sex addiction therapy, LGBTQ, plus as well as a number of individual and family issues. Recently, Dana and Nancy have come together to create Confident Couples Therapist, a program focused on bringing training, education, and support to couples therapists throughout the nation. Their mission is focused on helping therapists become confident in working with couples and building a successful cash pay practice. So, Dana and Nancy, thank you so much for joining me today.[NANCY]:
Hi, Alison. Thanks so much for having us. [DANA]:
Hi, Alison. We’re glad to be here. [ALISON]:
Yeah. So the person you heard speaking first was Nancy. [NANCY]:
Yeah, that’s Nancy. And the person you heard second was Dana. [DANA]:
So I would love to hear about your… I know you both own a group practice and so I would love to hear the overview of how you got started with your group practice, and what you do, and how many clinicians you have, and all of that good stuff. [DANA]:
Do you want me to go first, Nance? [NANCY]:
Okay, I have a group practice in San Diego, California. We are looking for our seventh clinician right now. We’ve had the group practice for just about two years now. And it’s going well. [ALISON]:
Awesome. And you mostly specialize in couples therapy, correct? [DANA]:
I would say 75% of our clients are couples and 25% are individuals that identify with having relationship issues. So yes, the focus of our group practice is relationships themselves, with the majority of our clients being couples. [ALISON]:
Excellent. And what about you, Nancy? [NANCY]:
Yes, I’ve had my group practice for about a year and a half. I’m up to seven clinicians right now and looking to hire a couple more this week. Our practice has been just booming, and growing and even through this pandemic, I think couples are realizing the problems that exist when they stay home together, and they don’t have a lot of distractions. So we, same as Dana, we’ve got about 75% that are couples, 25% that come in as individuals. We have all cash pay, and it’s beautiful because the couples niche certainly lends itself to a cash pay practice. And it’s been exciting to watch it grow and be able to mentor people as well. [ALISON]:
Yeah, that’s amazing. Congratulations. [NANCY]:
Yeah, the one question that I get a lot as a business consultant is about how to market a self pay practice. And I think it’s interesting that you brought up that point, Nancy, about couples counseling tends to lend itself really well to self pay practices. So can you maybe explain that a little bit more, and let us know what types of marketing have worked for your practice? [NANCY]:
Sure, yeah. I never wanted to take insurance and when I first started off, that just was my preference. And I loved working with couples, and so those two together kind of drove me in this direction. But a lot of people will say, you know, couples counseling, when they do process insurance, is sometimes not covered or it’s covered less, so you have to diagnose one of the clients. So because couples find that and it’s hard to find clinicians, we have a lot of people that are just willing to pay, you know, when you’re on the verge of divorce or there’s an affair, it becomes a necessity and they’ll do whatever it takes to go save their relationship. So there’s a lot of incentive in getting work done.
The other thing that I think is really important is that we specialize in one type of couples therapy. We don’t get a lot of training in school on couples therapy and in order to be successful and really build up that referral business, you need to know what you’re doing with couples. And so we’ve got a great reputation in town because all my clinicians have gone through training specifically on couples, besides being mentored by me, so the referral business is huge. And that’s how I started growing and getting so busy and going, shoot, I need to add some more clinicians, because I was referring out a ton and it seemed kind of crazy.
So, you know, there – the referral business – but a good website. I’ve worked with someone that you know on SEO and so that I’ve got all my pages ranking really well. I do utilize Google ads for the area, and continue to stay on top of that. I write blogs, and I get them published elsewhere so I have backlinks. I’ve been featured in the media. So I’ve got kind of all these outreach areas to keep our name out there.[ALISON]:
Yeah, that’s awesome. And what do you find is like your number one source of referrals, is it word of mouth or something else? [NANCY]:
I would say it’s them finding us online, as well as referral. A referral from existing clinicians… lots of clinicians in town will refer because we specialize in couples, but clients also will refer. [ALISON]:
Right. So that word of mouth piece is working. [NANCY]:
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And what about you, Dana? What have you found in your practice has been really helpful in terms of marketing the self pay couples niche? [DANA]:
A lot of the same as Nancy. I think that once you establish yourself as someone that specializes in couples therapy in whatever town you live in, and you kind of are always attaching that. I’m sort of known as the Gottman therapist in San Diego. And so when other clinicians think of, who do I want to send my clients to? Oh, Dana. She does the Gottman method. And I’m always mindful of whenever I go to functions, or organizations, or I do a media piece, I’m always referencing back, not that I’m just a therapist and that we have a group practice, but I’m a couples therapist. And so as much as you’re combining those ideas together, then other clinicians are going to be aware of, oh, that’s who I refer to when there’s a couples issue.
So a lot of therapists get worried about pigeon-holing themselves into one kind of therapy because they think that they won’t get as many referrals. But yes, definitely do that. Because even though it’s not as many referrals, it’s the right kind of referrals. I don’t want just referrals from anybody for ADHD, or for kids, or for other types of therapy. I want the clients that are coming for couples. So I’m happy to have myself aligned with doing a specific kind of therapy. My clients as well, you know, if I have a client that’s a cash pay client, birds of a feather flock together, so typically, they’re going to know other couples that are having problems or they’re talking with their friends about the problems that are happening in their relationship. And they’re saying, I know this great couples therapy practice, let me refer you to them. So that’s been extremely helpful.
And then you do have to be mindful of marketing. It’s not the same as a practice that takes insurance and gets five to ten calls a day where somebody found you through their plan; you’re having to actively market and you’re not getting as many calls, and you have to be aware, you’re not just a practice – you also have to have the ability to do some sales. And that’s a big part of it, is knowing how to capture the client when they call.[ALISON]:
Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up because I think that is something that not many practice owners realize, that especially for a self pay practice, there needs to be some more nurturing on that initial inquiry for the person when they reach out because, you know, it’s they may view it as this is quite an investment, and they want to make sure that they’re choosing a therapist who’s going to be the right fit for them. So, are there any tips you have around what clinicians can do to help with that process? [DANA]:
I can speak for myself that during the pandemic, we were more active because obviously many practices were kind of feeling the hit of people kind of being on hold and hesitant, not sure what they wanted to do, didn’t know what their finances looked like. So we became more active. I had my clinicians make videos, and we did more Facebook posts, we did more social media outreaches, we did free mentoring to old clients, we would just do calls and check in with them, just for fifteen minutes for free, just to let them know that we’re there. We would call old clients that we haven’t seen for a while, and I would have all of my clinicians actively checking their client list to see if anybody wanted support, and a lot of times the support turned into clients wanting to have sessions. [ALISON]:
Yeah, I think that’s really smart. And that’s something that we’ve been talking a lot about the last several months. When I say ‘we’ I mean Whitney Owens and I, who’s the other consultant with Practice of the Practice; we’ve been talking a lot about, obviously, your old clients who may have gotten better, now with the pandemic there’s like a whole ‘nother layer of stress, especially with couples. I’m sure you have been seeing all kinds of – like you said, Nancy – things, relationship problems coming up, because people are like, trapped in their house together for months on end. So yeah, so that’s definitely really smart, like being proactive with calling up old clients and just saying, hey, I’m just calling to see how you’re doing. Let you know we’re still here. I think the other piece too, was like, people didn’t always connect the dots with like, oh, well, my therapist is just doing telehealth now. Like, I can still access services. I think some people just assumed like, oh, well, you just closed, you know what I mean? And they didn’t realize that they could still see their therapist. [NANCY]:
Yeah. One of the other things that I want to add on that is, when I hire clinicians that have come from insurance-based practices, or an agency, or whatnot, there’s a whole mind shift that has to happen as I’m mentoring them, as far as the clients that are coming in for cash pay are generally more professional, they might be business owners, they might be successful in their professional life. And so there’s a level of sophistication to some degree – not always – but they expect kind of a concierge type experience. And so Dana and I are really proud of the way that we’ve set up our offices, and it feels upscale. And when they’re calling in, we need to be able to… that sales piece is a lot about, this is the reason that you want to come invest here. And so there’s a lot more of that instead of, hey, how can I help you? We’ve got to be able to really plant hope and a process and how we’re going to take them from where they are to where they’re going to go, and what that process looks like, so that when they leave they’re invested in the term of treatment instead of, do you want to just book your next appointment? They’ve got a whole idea of how long this treatment is going to be. [ALISON]:
Yeah, I think that’s a very good point. Because I think a lot of times, we don’t think – because we’re so used to doing therapy – to lay out like, this is the roadmap for how we see the course of treatment from today, day one, to you being discharged. So I think that’s really great, that you lay that out in a very concrete way for them. And I wanted to ask you too what you mentioned about developing a more high end, concierge type service, like, what are those differences? Or what are those details that you paid attention to when you were planning to have your practice deliver that level of service? [NANCY]:
Yeah. Dana, you want to go with that one? [DANA]:
Yeah. One of the main takeaways is your office space. I mean, I know that we’re in a pandemic right now and that people are not coming into offices as much, but they are still wanting to come into offices for couples therapy, and you have to have a space that allows them to actually spread out a bit. So I’ve been in so many offices where my knees are practically touching the other therapists, there’s not even room for a coffee table. That does not work in a couples practice. You have to have enough… you have to have big enough couches so that the clients can separate. You have to have space away from them. You also have to have high end experiences. It has to feel like they’re coming to a spa; they have to look forward to it. There’s a whole process of getting into the car, driving over, talking about what we’re going to talk about when we’re there, but then also feeling comfortable in the space. Is your office saying hey, you’ve entered into a luxurious place? Do you have nice furnishings? Do you have some sort of smell? My offices smell like vanilla. We make chocolate chip cookies that we have for our clients when they come into the office. We have chocolate available for them. We have stress balls; we do lots of things. We have soft music playing. We create an environment, and an experience, that our clients feel like they’re in good hands and they’re actually coming to an event that they might look forward to. [ALISON]:
Yeah, I’m really glad that you brought that up because I feel like to me, that is one of my big values too, that coming to therapy feels like this really nice experience, like you said, just like going to a spa. We feel like oh, this is such a tranquil place, and everything’s so clean, and calm, and you just feel good being there. And I think like a lot of times as therapists, we don’t often think about how much being in that environment is also part of the whole process. So it sounds like you put a lot of thought into that and that’s great. Would you add anything else, Nancy? [NANCY]:
Yeah, all those same things. There’s also… I think I got off of Joe’s podcast, a long time ago, an interior designer that worked with healing spaces and the right colors that provide a feel for it. And I took that to heart and actually implemented that as well, so that when they’re there, like people will go, ah, wow, it’s so nice here. So that’s key. It’s also key that… I guess I would just agree on the couch space, on the professionalism; it’s a very different experience when you’re specializing (A) with cash, and (B) with couples. Mm hmm. [ALISON]:
Yeah. Great. Yeah, I heard that same interview, Nancy, and that’s the reason I ended up painting my whole office, the one that I own, it’s all like, this beautiful robin’s egg blue color. [NANCY]:
Yeah, because she said like, you should paint, like, everything should be blues and greens because that’s like the most soothing, healing color I guess. [NANCY]:
Yeah. Yeah. That was a great interview. [DANA]:
Yeah. I’d like to add that it needs to feel like your living room versus a medical office. There’s nothing more distracting then and when I’ve gone into a therapy office, and they have those sliding glass doors like a medical office would have, and I’ve even seen some of the receptionists in scrubs and I’m like, oh, my God, I’m going to the OB-GYN, I’m not coming to therapy. What is going on here? And why are these chairs so uncomfortable, and they’re plastic, and there’s bright fluorescent lights coming at me – what is happening here? You don’t want overhead lights. You want soft, diffused lights. You want welcoming… if there’s going to be somebody at your front desk, can you offer them water? Can you check in with them? Can you ask them how their day is going? Their experience starts right when they walk in the door. So the people that I have working for me – even if there’s a clinician walking down the hallway and it’s not their client – hi, how are you? Are you okay? Can I get you anything? Do you want something? We’re all of service to these clients. We don’t just pretend that we don’t know them because they’re not my client. [ALISON]:
Right. Yeah, that’s so important, that level of customer service. I’m curious too, because it sounds like you have such a clear vision for how you want your practices to run, and how you want to deliver service to clients. Is that challenging when you hire people to work in the practice, to impart your vision or find the right fit, to make sure that they’re having the same perspective in terms of how clients should be treated, and how service should be delivered, and all those kinds of things? [NANCY]:
Yeah, I’ll pick up on that. It is very challenging. And one of the things that I’ll say in the interview process is I want this a great place for therapists to work. And our morale, and our team, and our connectedness is like, number one, because that then conveys the next idea of this needs to be the premier place for couples to come for fantastic therapy. And so it starts with the therapists that I bring aboard so that they’re really committed to continuing education and being mentored by me as far as how to do couples therapy. And so I have to be picky, and it’s hard when we get really busy like we are right now, going through therapists like, they’ve got to (A) want to work with couples or be interested, but also have an ability to kind of get the feel of who we we serve, the professionals. And be willing to talk about money, and be willing to not sit with imposter syndrome and go, oh, my gosh, I’m asking all this money from this client, and I’m not good enough, and there’s so many things about the clinicians that we’ve got to work with to get them to be able to be effective, not just with their technique or their theory, but with how they present themselves to couples and in the cash pay realm as well. [ALISON]:
Yeah, so do you find that you’re trying to look for those qualities in the interview process? Or are you okay with bringing them on board and training them on those? [NANCY]:
I am fine training. If they want to work with couples, I’m fine with bringing them on and training them in that. And I just, I walk through them all the way up until I get them into the actual Gottman training that we do. So I’m looking for more how you hold yourself, and what’s your attitude, and are you a team player, and how do you feel around money, what personal work have you done? I’m looking for more of those qualities. And I do look for that in the interview process. [ALISON]:
Yeah, that’s really smart. Anything else that you would add, Dana? [DANA]:
I just… there’s a certain presence that I’m looking for that sometimes has a hard way to describe in a job posting. It’s this sense that I can connect with you but I also have healthy boundaries, right? And so some clinicians feel really intimidated by this sense that there’s going to be conflict in the room. And so there’s a conversation that we have to have in the interview process about how are you going to manage yourself, and what emotions are going to come up for you, and how are you going to get triggered when there’s conflict because you have to be able to like, pull your shoulders back and put your feet on the floor and ground you and remind yourself that this isn’t your pain to feel, and simultaneously manage these two opposing people that both think that you’re siding with the enemy – how do you get them to like you, manage the conflict, and not get triggered? And so sometimes when clinicians come in to have interviews, they think they know how to do therapy because they’ve done lots of individual therapy, and this is completely not the same. And so I try to give them a really strong idea of just how difficult it is – not to freak them out, but to make sure that this is really an environment that they see themselves flourishing in. [ALISON]:
Yeah, I think that’s such a good point, because that is probably one of the main differences with doing couples work is, like, a fight could sort of erupt in your office, whereas that doesn’t typically happen with an individual. So it sounds like maybe that’s something you have to really talk through if they’re not that familiar with doing couples therapy, talk through in the interview process about, is this going to be okay for you? How are you going to handle this? Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. [DANA]:
And I think that’s such a beautiful part about joining a group practice because if you try to become a couples therapist and deal with all of the business aspects, it can be really overwhelming. So some of my clinicians are attracted to being in a group practice because here is this expert teaching you how to be confident, and get weekly supervision, and get training on an evidence based method, and you just get to sit and focus on honing your craft and I take care of the business part. But at some point, those people might want to go out on their own. So we also have to learn how to be business people, so they get to have a touch of that as well, or they decide this is where I want to be. So it’s kind of like a nice option for clinicians to come and learn how to do that from us. [ALISON]:
Yeah, that’s great. What do you think has been the best part for you about running the group practice? [NANCY]:
Yeah, for me, it’s been the rewards of building a business that is producing income when I’m not there. It’s awesome to mentor some of these therapists that don’t have business experience but want to be really focused on their craft, to provide all of that for clinicians that really just want to become good couples therapists. And so even with the associates that come in, they are supervised by a licensed clinician, but then I do the mentoring as far as how to handle couples. And so it’s that bridge between okay, I get out of school, and I’ve been in my practicum, and I’ve been in my associate positions, and a couple’s come to me and shoot, okay, how do I do this? It’s different than individual.
And I think a lot of clinicians, they keep taking on couples and trying to work on their craft, or they’ll go and get a specific evidence-based training like Gottman, EFT, Terry Real’s, [unclear], The Pact Program, but what they’re missing is this ability to know how to handle the room, how to handle both people, how to make sure you’re watching both people and speaking up for the partner that isn’t talking, and watching what’s happening with them, and all those innuendos and all that managing of the room – there isn’t really training for that. And Dana and I realized that we do that really well, which is why we became really popular as couples therapists, but we have to train our employees that work for us in how to do that. And so that’s kind of why we came up with the Confident Couples Therapist, of building that gap, of sure, you want to learn but how do you manage all that, and how do you become a good couples therapist, regardless of what training you have, in theory?[ALISON]:
Yeah. And I’m glad that you transitioned us over to that topic, because that was something I definitely wanted to ask both of you about, because it sounds like such a cool program. We were chatting a few minutes before we started recording. So you developed kind of like, it’s like a separate business for both of you? [NANCY]:
Yeah. So tell us a little bit more about all the things that you’re doing in the… you’re calling it the Confident Couples Therapist, is that right? [NANCY]:
Yes. Go ahead, Dana. [DANA]:
So, Nancy and I met in a mastermind group, and we were having a chat one day and we became friends, and we usually chat on Fridays – that’s like our check in day with each other – and some of the questions that our clinicians were asking us just felt like no brainers. And we would keep going back to this over and over again, that there’s this attitude that you have to have. There’s a way of being that you have to have. There’s techniques and skills that you have to have that are nothing to do with your theory. And it’s how you apply the theory that says everything about your skills as a couples therapist.
And so we just started, you know, out of astonishment, saying, I wonder if we should develop a program to teach clinicians what has kind of just innately come to us through either our personality, or our experience, or the theory that we work with, or just being supervisors and hearing lots of the questions over and over again that we get from new couples clinicians, and so we decided that there’s really a need for it. And we looked around and there was a couple of programs that had some training, but they didn’t have the training that we thought couple therapists were really looking for. And so we developed this program called The Confident Couples Therapist that has a six month component to it, where we walk you through – we have like a topic of the month – that we walk you through on all these different aspects of learning how to be a kick ass couples therapist. And so we have been spending quite a bit of time developing it, and putting together the components of it. And so we’re going to be kicking it off with a webinar that we’re going to be doing. And so, I mean, that’s kind of… Nancy, do you want to talk some more about why you think that we put it together?[NANCY]:
Yeah, absolutely. We just kept talking about these things that come innate to us in managing the room. And its attitude, its leadership, it’s how to attune with both people at the same time, it’s how to take what’s in the room, what they bring with you and pull out interventions at the right time, instead of having an agenda of I’m going to do this intervention today and that intervention. It’s working with what’s in the room with both people and that can be really intimidating for both people. And so the webinar we’re going to be doing will be October 16th, and that’ll be a 90 minute live webinar where you’re going to learn some of these skills, a little bit about how to niche and run a cash pay practice. But really, in order to run the group practice, these are the skills that need to happen first, with you and clinicians that you bring on. So from there, then we’re gonna branch off into the six month coaching program and getting people good at this. There’s a few different steps in getting all the way to a successful group practice with couples. [ALISON]:
Yeah, and I’m so glad you’re putting something like this together because I think that, from what you’re saying, sometimes clinicians might learn the theory of Gottman, or EFT, or whatever it might be but then there’s all these other clinical skills that aren’t expressly taught, that you have learned, and that you realize are sort of common themes that people struggle with because you’ve trained so many other clinicians. And I like how you have the combination of like, the clinical training, but also you’re gonna also have like the business, you know, marketing, how do you build up a cash pay practice kind of side of it as well. [NANCY]:
Yeah, I think they both go hand in hand. [ALISON]:
Yeah, for sure. And I think couples therapy is such a huge need. I know in my area it is. And so I think it’s great because there’s definitely people who are interested in doing it and having a couples focused practice, but they just don’t know how to do it. Or they don’t have a mentor they can reach out to to help them. So this sounds like a great program. [DANA]:
Or even if someone has a group practice, and they want to designate one or two people in their practice to be the couples therapists, because yeah, I mean, maybe you have a group practice and you don’t specialize in one thing, and you have someone that sees children, somebody that works with clients with depression, somebody that works with clients with anxiety. If you have a group practice and it’s General, you’re going to have people contacting you about couples therapy. And even if you take insurance, maybe that’s the way that you want to branch into starting to do some cash pay, that you have a therapist or two that specializes in couples therapy. But if you’re not that person, you’re not going to be training them. So this is also a program where if you have clinicians that you want to train for your group practice that’s not in your wheelhouse, or that’s not something you’re interested in, but you do want to start bringing on that element of cash pay into your practice, this is a program where you can get them some training so that you feel confident in the skills that they have with your clients. [ALISON]:
Yeah, that’s an excellent point because we were talking before we started recording about how I don’t do couples therapy and so if I brought on a couples therapist, I would have no idea how to help them. So like, knowing that your resource is available would be great, because then I would feel more comfortable bringing on a couples therapist knowing I could have you help them. [NANCY]:
Yes. The other thing that we’re going to be doing in our program – we’ll touch on it a little bit in the webinar – is going over even though we’re both certified Gottman therapists, we’re fans of other theories as well. And so what we’re going to be doing is touching base on what all the other theories are, in case you want to go in a specific direction. Because it’s a lot to research all those, so we’ll be presenting those as well. [ALISON]:
Okay, great. So if people want to sign up for the webinar, how do they go about doing that? [NANCY]:
You can go to our website at confidentcouplestherapist.com. There is an Events page and the webinar is there. There’s also a free guide. It’s our website, confidentcouplestherapist.com/freeguide, and that has some tips just to be a couples therapist. So there’s a freebie there that we’ve put some time and effort in that somebody can get started right away. [ALISON]:
Oh, great. And what would be the best way for folks to get a hold of you, or Dana, if they would like to connect with you? [DANA]:
We have an email, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can send us an email and we’ll get you your answers. [ALISON]:
Okay, excellent. Yeah, I so appreciate all of your time and your expertise, and I wonder, just in the last couple of minutes that we have, if someone wants to start a couples focused practice and cash pay, do you have any words of advice for them? [DANA]:
I would say that you can do it. I know it feels really overwhelming, it feels like there’s so many steps involved, it feels like I don’t know where to begin. Find a program like ours, if it’s not ours, find a program that is structured for you. There’s so many aspects that you have to take in. There’s so many moving parts, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, right? We can walk you through it, we can give you the steps that you need, we can also be there to mentor you and to give you confidence in that you’re taking the right steps, and that you’re moving in the right direction, that you’re setting your infrastructure in place and your skills in place so that this doesn’t have to be so hard. [ALISON]:
Excellent. Yeah. What about you, Nancy? Any advice? [NANCY]:
Yes. There are pieces of it that have to balance together. Before going out and getting a huge office, you’ve got to get a clinician, you’ve got to start learning how to train them and start building it up. And so there’s all these pieces of… you’ve got to get clients calling, you’ve got to have the space, and you have to have the clinicians. And there’s a balance on doing that at all the right times so you’re not overextending yourself. And that’s one thing, you’ve got to have the calls, you’ve got to have the marketing in place, but you also, once the clients come in, you’ve got to have a great system to keep them. And you have to have a great training for your couples therapists to make sure that the referrals come. So there’s a process in doing that, but you know, don’t go out and go big; you’ve got to build it little by little. But it’s taken Dana and I less than two years to get where we are. [ALISON]:
Yeah, that’s amazing. Yeah. Good advice. Well, thank you so much for coming on today, Nancy and Dana. I really enjoyed talking with you. [NANCY]:
Yes. Thanks for having us, Alison. [ALISON]:
It was so fun talking to Dana and Nancy. I actually met Nancy at Slow Down School back in 2018. She’s such a fun person to be around and I’m so happy to be able to connect with her again, and to share her story on the podcast. So I will see you next time.
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