Does your work as a group practice owner make you a better version of yourself? Have you considered how moving from solo to group will change you for the better? Is there a group practice community that you can join to make the transition easier?
In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks with Stephanie Korpal about who she started and grew her group practice.
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Stephanie Korpal is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Missouri and a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the state of Illinois.
She has been in private practice since August 2018 and expanded to a group practice in September 2020. Her practice is located in St. Louis, MO.
In This Podcast
- Advice to upcoming group practice owners
- A practice owner’s experience going from solo to group
- Stephanie’s advice to Christian counselors
Advice to upcoming group practice owners
I think it’s really important to think about yourself as a person and to consider all of the pillars of self and if being a group practice owner can help you thrive as a person and in other ways in your life, it is absolutely worth considering. (Stephanie Korpal)
- Consider: how are you going to show up as a friend, as a family member, and as a colleague by taking on a group practice? Ask yourself whether all these things would be made better, or worse, and decide from that.
A practice owner’s experience going from solo to group
For Stephanie, her financial income underwent a big change.
I do feel more fulfilled. I feel that that fulfilment comes because I get to show up in other areas where I have strengths. (Stephanie Korpal)
You undergo change yourself alongside your practice as it grows. While your practice expands, your education and capacity expand too, as you learn more skills and increase your knowledge and work endurance.
Going from a solo to a group practice will push you to become a fuller, wiser, tougher version of yourself who makes more money and is in control of their hours.
Stephanie’s advice to Christian counselors
Consider how your relationship with God can be challenged in a good way because holding the title of group practice owner brings on difficulties that are very different from being a solo practice owner. Challenges in relationships can deepen and strengthen them and you can come out the other side with a fuller relationship with God and yourself.
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Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.
Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.
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Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. I’m your host Whitney Owens recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner, and a private practice consultant. Each week through personal story or amazing interviews, I will help you learn how to start, grow, and scale your practice from a faith-based perspective. And I will show you how to have an awesome faith-based practice without being cheesy or fake so that you too can have a successful practice, make lots of money, and be true to yourself.
It was just a few years ago, back in 2017, going into 2018 that I started thinking about starting a group practice. And I had so many emotions, I was nervous, I was excited and I honestly really felt called to it. You know, one of those things where you feel like God keeps telling you to do something and you keep running the other direction, and then He keeps following you and tapping you on the shoulder saying, “Hey, I told you to do this. Stop running away.” Yes, that was me. So I kept running away and then I finally turned around and said, “Okay, what do I need to do here?” I didn’t know the next step. I didn’t know how to go from a solo to a group practice and that’s when I invested in some consulting. And that really helped me make that transition from the solo to group practice and to do it in a way that was good for me, good for my finances, good for the people that I hired, and good for the community.
Now I know that investing in consulting can be a huge investment when you’re thinking about starting a group practice. And so that is why myself and Alison Pidgeon are starting a membership community called Group Practice Launch. This community is specifically to help those that are making that transition from solo to group practice. Now, if you’re not familiar with what a membership community is, I can tell you about it. It’s when you get people together within some kind of platform, we use Facebook for this, and you can talk to one another, ask questions to one another and you’re working on something together. So within this membership community, we will be hosting live events every single week that walk through the steps of growing your group practice. Along with each week, you’ll have video courses that you watch, and then you bring your questions to the meetings and then in those meetings we’ll teach you step-by-step how to do the very thing that we talked about in the videos, because you want to be able to have a place to ask your questions and to share about the wins that are happening as you start and grow your group practice.
So this membership community will go for six months. We will also give you all the paperwork that you’ll need within your group practice. So this could be contracts that you want to give to your clinicians, a handbook that you want to put together, or maybe onboarding checklists. You can take these lists, modify them for your practice and it will save you not only tons of time, but it’ll also save you a lot of money. When you go to an attorney to create a contract, when you have one that’s already mostly prepared and you just have to alter it for your practice, it will save you so much in time and energy and money with that attorney. And that’s just one example of the many different resources that we’re going to have in Group Practice Launch.
So this community, the doors are opening up on March 2nd, and we will have an early bird special on the second and third and then after that, you’ll have several more days till the eighth to register, but get the early bird special because it will save you over $200 on your six month membership. So if you’re interested in that, I want you to head over to practiceofthepractice.com\grouppracticelaunch. We will only have the doors open for that one week, March 2nd, through the eighth. And then after that, the doors will close for six months while we work with that group and then we’ll open it up six months later. But don’t delay. If you know that you want to start a group practice, or maybe you’re like me, you feel like God’s tapping you on the shoulder and you’re running the other direction, stop running because God has something really good that he wants to do, not only in your life with your clinicians, but also in your community.
So on the podcast episode today, I am interviewing Stephanie Korpal. She is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Missouri and a licensed clinical professional counselor in the state of Illinois. She has been in private practice since August, 2018 and has expanded into a group practice in September, 2020. She’s located in St. Louis, Missouri and her practice is called Marble Wellness. Thanks for coming on the show today, Stephanie.
[STEPHANIE KORPAL]: Thanks for having me, Whitney. I’m so excited to get some time with you. I haven’t had one lately.
[WHITNEY ]: Well, I always liked spending time with you too. Well, why don’t you share kind of with the audience, first of all, how you got started into your private practice?
[STEPHANIE]: So I actually backed into private practice very much. I worked in non-profit after graduate school and really found a home in the agency and particularly in the department where I worked. And then at the end of 2017, I decided to leave that job. There was a multitude of reasons for that, and I did not expect the next six months to happen, which was that I couldn’t find a job anywhere. So that really took me by surprise and I eventually just decided to hire myself and create a private practice.
[WHITNEY ]: That’s the way to do it.
[STEPHANIE]: So, I didn’t really imagine in my professional trajectory to be where I am now, but like most decisions in my life, the ones that I back into are the ones that end up working out the most.
[WHITNEY ]: I love that. So what was it like when you started your private practice?
[STEPHANIE]: It was really hard. I was definitely all by myself. I was not reaching out to very many people for help, and it was actually really slow going. What it looks like now as a group practice is the exact opposite of what I experienced as a solo practitioner, where it was just taking time coming to get a caseload built. I felt very inadequate as an owner, as a person who could figure out problems. I felt like everywhere, I looked, other people filled up within three months, four months, six months. And that was not my experience at all. So it was really hard at the beginning actually.
[WHITNEY ]: I love you that you’re bringing this up and I, honestly this gets real. I was thinking about this yesterday, how our field it’s just feels so competitive. Even though no one means to be competitive, it feels that way and so here and you kind of talk about seeing everybody else and what they were doing and just having to remind ourselves that like we’re on our own path and our own journey and it might look different. But I do think when you’re in that isolated phase, when you’re not in those authentic relationships, it’s really hard not to compare ourselves to everybody else and what they’re doing.
[STEPHANIE]: It’s so hard. And as a business owner, especially a therapy practice business owner, there’s just so much nuance and so much that is unique to it. And to hold space for yourself, going through the difficulty is just really challenging. You’re already drained from sessions and to continue to find the resilience within yourself or the skillset to keep going is really challenging some days. I’m very fortunate because I was at a training and sat next to somebody and decided to be very honest in my circles. And it turns out she was three months from where I was. So she had started practice about three months after I had and was having a similar experience. So I found someone I could be real with that was really, really helpful to find and we could just kind of vent about challenges and this inferiority complex. But it was a really hard start for me.
[WHITNEY ]: So you found your first kind of, I guess friend within the clinical world by being honest and real with somebody?
[STEPHANIE]: Absolutely. And luckily for me, being honest is not something I struggled with. I’d be a little bit of an Achilles’ heel in some situations, but, my many flaws, luckily sharing honestly, is not one of them.
[WHITNEY ]: Well, tell me Stephanie, so you had your private practice and then finally it kind of started growing, but how did you decide to start a group practice?
[STEPHANIE]: Yes, that is a little bit of a twofold story. So I decided at the end of 2019, so I was about 16 months into having a solo practice that I decided at that point that I wanted to leave St. Louis. Spoiler alert, I’m still in St. Louis. I wanted to move from my personal life and at that point I’d already been enough work that I say year, okay, maybe I’ll hire somebody to take my clients in St. Louis and to be the in-person session option there, and I will move. so I had talked to somebody about being that person. It was my former boss from nonprofit lives and we talked about it and ultimately she decided that it wasn’t the right opportunity for her. She wanted to be retired.
I completely understand. And then the pandemic hit. I was in St. Louis for the meantime anyway, and because of the pandemic, but also I think because of how long I had been in practice at that point business just started coming and didn’t stop. And so it was about July that I looked at the number of sessions I was having a week and the number of calls I was getting and thought to myself, all right, it’s time to get somebody in here. And I want to do it soon because I don’t want to turn away these calls and then hire, but word started to get out that I am not taking new clients.
[WHITNEY ]: So at that point you were still thinking, “I’m going to leave St. Louis. Someone else who’s going to take over my practice.” Is that what you were thinking?
[STEPHANIE]: It was a little bit of that, but it was also very much, I need somebody to just help me with my case overload. I was seeing anywhere between 25 and 30 people in a week at that point and just needed somebody to come in. I also very much enjoy working with the team and that was the biggest aspect of not being in a nonprofit anymore that was missing from my life is just having coworkers, having a community having [inaudible 00:11:58]. And so, that was an option that worked for the community, for my business, and for myself as a professional.
[WHITNEY ]: All right. So how did you finally take the leap and decide to start hiring people?
[STEPHANIE]: Yeah, I think it’s because I had been percolating for a long time about hiring somebody. It was really a numbers situation, I think. And I was very much able to say, “I cannot take one more new person, so I have to go ahead and hire.” And so I made the decision to hire, but then I knew, I didn’t know a single thing about transitioning from solo to group. And so at that point, I said, there’s no way I have any desire to muddy through this, on my own. There’s too many people out there with good information, with knowledge to share, and that can help me do this right, probably make this easier on myself. And so I reached out for consulting and that’s where I met you and had the good fortune of being able to partner with you as a consultant. And that just really seemed to work out in my favor.
[WHITNEY ]: Well, I feel the same way. I felt very fortunate that you chose to work with me. Why don’t you kind of share that, we worked together for three months, and obviously we continue to know each other, but why don’t you share kind of what that three months was like and what kind of changes you made in your practice?
[STEPHANIE]: Oh my gosh. I remember at our consultation call about consulting that you said, “If you’re going to hire one, you should hire two or three.” And that was mind blowing to me and I understood the logic, but all of a sudden that was okay for real, I’m going to need help figuring this out because I have to consider what kind of group practice identity I want to have. I now need to consider, do I want to stay a group practice that has one niche or do I want to hire different niches so I can serve different presenting problems in the community? And so it was really great being able to have the consulting calls. So I had a check in point, I had an accountability partner, but honestly, I love learning from people who have done it before, who were so generous in the lessons they learned and the knowledge they’ve gained over time and are so willing to share it.
And that’s, I think one of the biggest things I appreciate about how you work because you’re so freely giving of what you know. That partnership just becomes so deep because there’s not that competition you referenced earlier. There’s not that sense of, “Well, she needs figure out this, but I’ll give her this.” So being able to have access to resources like an offer letter and an employee handbook, those are things that would have taken me months to do and just so much time and energy that I was able to shift to other places where I had to be present in the business.
And so it just made the transition smoother where it could. I don’t want people who are transitioning to a group practice to think that it’s automatically smooth if you partner with the right people, but it can be made a lot easier where it’s beneficial by partnering.
[WHITNEY ]: Yes, [inaudible 00:15:29]. That is always mixed up but that’s what life is. And I love what you’re saying about that deep partnership, because yeah, it’s like and honestly I feel honored when people work with me, because then I get to like join their journey where they’re at and get to see the cool stuff that God does in their practice. Like, it’s, it’s really neat. And so when I think about your story, I mean, how, you had two clinicians when we were finished working together, is that right? Or maybe you were about to hire your second?
[STEPHANIE]: I think that I had offered to my second, but since we have finished our time together, I now have three clinicians working for me. So I hired one and she started in September and then I hired two more and onboarded them at the same time, which was the first week of January.
[WHITNEY ]: That’s awesome. So now there’s four therapists in your group practice and you didn’t even really start the group practice till last year?
[WHITNEY ]: And you’re a cash pay practice, which I think is awesome.
[STEPHANIE]: Yeah, I am. And that’s so interesting too, because the number of times I was thinking during my slow growth as a solo, just about whether I needed to consider insurance. I mean, that happens a lot and I haven’t had that thought once as a group practice owner.
[WHITNEY ]: Yeah, and not that it’s bad one way or another. It’s more of that culture that you want to bring and it sounds like the cash pay practice kind of fit that culture in the way you do clinical work.
[STEPHANIE]: It really does. And honestly, I made the decision to not take insurance for myself and knowing myself really well and my personality and what stresses me out and what things I would avoid as an owner. And I think there’s other people who handle different stressors better, or don’t even consider them stressors. So you’re right. In some practices it’s absolutely appropriate to consider insurance or to take insurance and for me, that would not have it all worked out for me as a professional or as a person. And so I am very glad that I was able to make a cash pay practice work, because I know that I wouldn’t be as happy in this work, dealing with insurance because of my stressors and move thresholds for certain things.
[WHITNEY ]: Oh, sure. It is a lot of work. So I didn’t tell you, I was going to ask you this, but I am going to ask you. If somebody was kind of like, I’m thinking about where I was three years ago or four years ago, and can’t even remember, thinking, “Oh, I think I might want to start a group practice, but I’m not sure.” What kind of advice would you give to them?
[STEPHANIE]: Well, I think there are professional considerations to mull around and I think it’s really important to think about yourself as a person, to consider all of the pillars of selves. And if being a group practice owner can help you thrive as a person in other ways in your life, it is absolutely worth considering. So I think it’s very easy for a lot of therapists’ personality types to consider, “Is this the work I want to do? Is this how I want to serve the community and do I want to be able to provide more therapy?” But my biggest piece of advice would be to consider how are you going to show up as a friend, as a family member, as a colleague, by doing that? And if those things are all made better or at least not made worse, then it’s probably a good idea.
[WHITNEY ]: I love that advice. That’s good.
[STEPHANIE]: Thanks. You know, my mom owns a business and so, I always thought it was cool that I became like my mom and I owned a business, but yeah, my mom always would talk about her business partner and how really having a business partner it’s like a marriage. And then that kind of made me think about my practice is kind of like a marriage. Honestly, it’s kind of a relationship I have with my practice, as I watch it grow and change and it changes me. And kind of hearing you say that one of the advices I used to give to people when they come to me and say, “Oh, should I marry this person? Should I not?” Is does that person make you a better you? And to kind of hear you talk about your practice, a practice that way, I think that’s another good question. Like, does my work as a private practice owner make me a better me?
[STEPHANIE]: I like that a lot [crosstalk].
[WHITNEY ]: Yeah, you gave me something to chew on tonight. So, how has your life changed when you think about going from a solo to a group practice center?
[STEPHANIE]: Wow. Definitely, you know, I mean, it’s going to be really honest from you saying my financial income has changed. As a solo practice owner, there is a threshold, period. As a group practice owner, that formula changes very quickly. I would say I do feel more fulfilled. I see all, that that to comes because I get to show up in other areas where I have strengths and that’s important to me. I like dynamic workplace. I like a dynamic profession. And so not showing up and, well while I love being a therapist and I am actually so beyond pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy being a therapist, because I didn’t do only therapy in my nonprofit life. I love being able to show up and do strategic planning and supervision and all of that. So this is [inaudible 00:21:19] and being able to use more of my personality and my strengths, and also be challenged in more areas is really important to me and holds a lot of value.
[WHITNEY ]: I like that. Now you don’t have to go into the nitty gritty here, but one of the big things people tell me about not doing a group practice is they’re really nervous about the money they have to put out in advance, or they don’t think they’re going to make enough, or they’ll say, “I don’t want to invest in consulting because it’s not worth the money.” And I always say to people, “You’re going to make that money back.” It’s like once you start your group practice, if you do it right, you can make the money back. So when you talk about the profit’s been better for you, can you give us an idea of what that is like?
[STEPHANIE]: Sure. I think in January alone, so last month, that was my first month with all four of us working and my two people were brand new. So they had couple people each. I think I made at least four times more than I did last year in January as a solo practitioner.
[WHITNEY ]: Girl, that’s killer. Four times more work.
[WHITNEY ]: I expected you to say like two or three, so four is really great [crosstalk].
[STEPHANIE]: As just the beginning of it.
[WHITNEY ]: That’s so awesome. I love it. I love it. Now Stephanie, you are a group practice boss. So can you tell people what that is and what that’s like for you?
[STEPHANIE]: Oh my gosh. It’s my favorite part of the week. And I’m not just trying to ingratiate myself to you. I love being part of a team as you’ve already heard several times in this podcast episode, but there’s nothing, there are few things in life, more special to me than having a group of like-minded similar enough personalities, like energy people. I grew up playing sports. I grew up in groups of friends that had an identity. I love that. I thrive in that space and the way Group Practice Boss is structured and the way people show up absolutely works for those people who do not want to do this alone because you form such a community and the community has that support piece, that emotional side of things.
And also the logistics support such as what kind of malpractice insurance have you guys found is the best or what kind of cancellation policy is really good for your practice. And honestly, if you can go to one place for all the things you need, or most of the things you need as a group practice owner, I think that has so much inherent value. And then from there, even being able to create one-on-one relationships with people who get it, because again, being a therapist, but being a group practice owner is such a nuance thing to be in this world. So being able to have friendships with other people who get it by you not having to break it down further, man, your life can just change on a dime.
[WHITNEY ]: Well, I love having you in there too. And you’re saying the same stuff I’m hearing from other people in the group. So thank you for sharing that. So Stephanie, I want to ask you what I ask everyone that comes on the show. What do you believe every Christian counselor needs to know?
[STEPHANIE]: I think it’s really special but valuable to consider how your relationship with God can be not just enhanced, but kind of challenged in a good way as a group practice owner, because it’s not easy. And the stress of a group practice owner is very different than that as a solo owner. There’s other people that are your employees and so much more long-term to think about. And so I think in some ways people may experience some unforeseen things in their relationship with God, but like most things in life, those challenges can really deepen and strengthen and add dynamism to a relationship. And so you can come out on a very different side of the relationship. And so I think not being scared of that relationship gets a little challenging or hard is valuable to keep in mind or just to have in the back of your head.
[WHITNEY ]: Such good advice. I appreciate that. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show. And honestly, it’s an honor for me to kind of hear your story in the sense of kind of what’s been happening and what God did and how you’ve been able to bless not only your own life, but really the community and the therapists that work for you.
[STEPHANIE]: Thank you so much for the chance to be on. I love listening to the podcast. I obviously love anytime I get to spend with you. So truly humbling to be able to be here.
[WHITNEY ]: Thanks girl.
[STEPHANIE]: You have a good one.
[WHITNEY ]: Once, again, thank you so much to Therapy Notes for sponsoring this show. It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and tele-health a whole lot easier. And if you’re coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy. Therapy Notes will import your clients’ demographic data free of charge during your trials so that you can get going right away. Use promo code [JOE] to get two free months to try out Therapy Notes for free.
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