Stories of Starting a Group Practice: An Interview with Dr. Michelle Reynolds | GP 108

Image of Dr. Michelle Reynolds. On this therapist podcast, Dr. Michelle Reynolds talks about Stories of Starting a Group Practice

Are you looking for firsthand advice from someone who has started a group practice from scratch? Have you come from a group practice and now want to start up your own? What is it like joining a Mastermind group?

In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon with Dr. Michelle Reynolds about how participating in Group Practice Launch helped her grow her business.

Podcast Sponsor: Therapy Notes

An image of Therapy Notes is captured as the sponsor on the Practice of the Practice Podcast, a therapist podcast. Therapy Notes is the most trusted EHR for Behavioral Health.

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Meet Dr. Michelle Reynolds

A photo of Dr. Michelle Reynolds is captured. She is a licensed psychologist and the founder of the group practice, LifeCatalyst. Dr. Reynolds is featured on Grow A Group Practice, a therapist podcast.

Dr. Michelle Reynolds is a Licensed Psychologist and the founder of the group practice, LifeCatalyst: Therapy and Coaching. She has a passion for helping people integrate healthy lifestyle choices across all aspects of life –  using a holistic model to help patients flourish.

Dr. Reynolds graduated from Yeshiva University and has worked in a range of mental health settings, including group practices in Wallingford and Glastonbury. She has a specialization in Health Psychology and is a member of the American Psychological Association.

Visit the LifeCatalyst website, and connect with them on Facebook and Instagram.

Connect with Dr. Reynolds on LinkedIn.

In This Podcast

  • Deciding to join Group Practice Launch
  • Being in a group
  • Firsthand advice for starting a group practice

Deciding to join Group Practice Launch

Michelle was a contractor in a previous group practice, but left and went ahead on her own.

I was doing well on my own but I was doing everything on my own. (Dr. Michelle Reynolds)

After listening to one of Joe Sanok’s podcast episodes, Dr. Reynolds was inspired to hire a virtual assistant to help her organize and run her admin.

Dr. Reynolds had experience with being in a group practice before but never as the owner. So, as she decided to hire more people, she sought help.

Being in a group

Some people are nervous to join a group for the fear of being lost in amongst everyone else. However, this is not the case with Group Practice Launch.

Community is so important to me … I felt like that was missing [when I was on my own before] … I like people, I’m in this field because I like working with people. I’m an introvert that loves being around people … I [saw] the value of [being in a group]. (Dr. Michelle Reynolds)

Being in a group helps to encourage you in your business journey. It provides you with feedback, accountability, resources, and a support base made up of people who are going through the same experiences as you.

Firsthand advice for starting a group practice

  • Act sooner: when you are considering it, that is the time to move ahead and do it.
  • Invest money: invest money into consultation or in joining a group because it is worth it.
  • Ask for help: there are communities of people who are going through the same experiences as you. You do not have to do it by yourself.

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

Check out these additional resources:

Meet Alison Pidgeon, Group Practice Owner

An image of Alison Pidgeon is displayed. She is a successful group practice owner and offers private practice consultation for private practice owners to assist in how to grow a group practice. She is the host of Grow A Group Practice Podcast and one of the founders of Group Practice Boss.Alison Pidgeon, LPC is the owner of Move Forward Counseling, a group practice in Lancaster, PA and she runs a virtual assistant company, Move Forward Virtual Assistants.

Alison has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016.  She has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, through mastermind groups and individual consulting.

Transformation From A Private Practice To Group Practice

In addition, she is a private practice consultant for Practice of the Practice. Allison’s private practice ‘grew up.’ What started out as a solo private practice in early 2015 quickly grew into a group practice and has been expanding ever since.

Visit Alison’s website, listen to her podcast, or consult with Alison. Email Alison at alison@practiceofthepractice.com

Thanks For Listening!

Feel free to leave a comment below or share this podcast on social media by clicking on one of the social media links below! Alternatively, leave a review on iTunes and subscribe!

Podcast Transcription

[ALISON] You are listening to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. Whether you were thinking about starting a group practice or in the beginning stages, or want to learn how to scale up your already existing group practice, you are in the right place. I’m Alison Pidgeon, your host, a serial entrepreneur with four businesses, one of which is a large group practice that I started in 2015. Each week, I feature a guest or topic that is relevant to group practice owners. Let’s get started.

Hi and welcome to the Grow A Group Practice podcast. I’m Alison Pidgeon, your host. Today I have an interview with Dr. Michelle Reynolds. She’s a licensed psychologist from the state of Connecticut. She specializes in health psychology and uses a holistic model to help people live their healthiest lives. She is the founder of LifeCatalyst, which is a therapy and coaching multidisciplinary group practice and was in our Group Practice Launch program. She went through the process of step by step learning from Whitney Owens and I, how to set up her group practice and we talk all about how she got started and what her experience was like in Group Practice Launch.

If you have been thinking about starting a group practice, definitely attend our free webinar called how to make bank in group practice. That is going to be March 2nd, 2022 at 1:00 PM. Eastern time. You can register at www.practiceofthepractice.com/bank. If for some reason you can’t make it live, it will be recorded. If you register the recording will be sent to you so you can check it out when you have time to watch it. I hope you enjoy this interview with Michelle Reynolds.
[ALISON] Hi, Michelle. Welcome.
[DR. MICHELLE REYNOLDS] Hi Alison. Thanks so much for having me today.
[ALISON] I’m excited to talk with you. So in order to get started, how about you introduce yourself and your practice?
[DR. MICHELLE] Sure. My name is Michelle Reynolds. I’m a clinical health psychologist and my practice is LifeCatalyst: Therapy and Coaching. We’re located in Gilford, Connecticut. We are an integrated healthcare practice and have healthcare providers and coaches. We work with individuals and families to really help them create healthier ways of living, find better ways to get along and develop more skills to be successful in reaching their goals. So we work with a variety of age groups, children, teens and adults.
[ALISON] Nice. So was that your Intention setting out to create this sort of in integrative wellness center model or did that happen organically or what was that thought process like for you?
[DR. MICHELLE] Well, it’s been in my mind for many years and I think a lot of that has to do with my training. So I mentioned I’m a clinical health psychologist, and what that really means is I am trained as a clinical psychologist. So I work with a broad range of mental health difficulties with adults, adolescents and children. But I also have a health specialization. So I have specialized training and disease process and working with people who have variety of health conditions.

There’s also another part of health psychology that I feel like people are less aware of. That’s really in the promotion of good health habits and the prevention of illness. This is the part that I’m really passionate about and I feel like has really fueled my vision for this practice and what I’m trying to create. I think that we continue to be very reactionary in our culture in general, and we don’t put enough emphasis on prevention. So for me, and I’m sure for many therapists, we hear people who commonly come in and they’ll say, well, it finally got to the point where I felt like I needed to talk to someone.

For me, I feel like that’s so sad. You should have come in a year ago or two years ago when this first started. Because we probably could have done a lot of work and prevented a lot of the struggle and the pain that people have gone through if we were able to catch it earlier, catch it in the beginning. So again, using more of that preventative model I really would like to for people to be able to come in and utilize services earlier. And I feel like that’s where part of the coaching component has come into my practice. We’re able to reach people who are struggling, but they’re still okay.

So it’s not full blown in the throws of an episode of depression or their anxiety is not preventing them from functioning in their daily lives, but they know that they could do better and they want to do better and they want to reach the next level. So we have those two components of our practice, one is the traditional therapy component, but one is also coaching to help people deal with smaller problems before they become bigger problems.
[ALISON] I’m really glad that you brought up the preventative care, because I feel like that’s something in the United States we do such a poor job at. I’m curious do you find that people, just people who reach out are generally just interested in preventative care or realize the value of preventative care?
[DR. MICHELLE] I think that they’re starting to, and I think that’s why an integrated health model is so important. As part of my journey in my career, I was embedded in a pediatrician’s office one day a week and through that relationship, we were able to reach so many families that, again, it wasn’t like a full blown mental health issue, but they were struggling. And with the pediatrician saying, “Hey, just meet with Dr. Reynolds for a couple of sessions and talk about this, because I have the time. A therapy session typically is 30 minutes to 60 minutes depending on the issue.

So it’s a lot more time than pediatricians would typically have to discuss certain issues. And I found it was just so helpful in just a few sessions with a family to get them on the right track and maybe really avoid something bigger from developing. So with that experience, it again really fueled my vision for wanting to expand that aspect and preventative care and reach people before it gets to the point where they need a more intensive treatment.
[ALISON] That’s very cool. So tell us a little bit about, you had this idea in your mind that you wanted to create this more integrative wellness center model. Obviously there’s this group practice element to it. When you started thinking about that, what was really your motivation or what were you, how you thinking you were going to do that?
[DR. MICHELLE] Well of course that’s the challenge, having this vision and wanting to do it. I definitely had the vision for some of the specialties that I wanted to add just in terms of my own experience. I’ve been working in mental health for over 20 years and a lot of the components that I’ve seen where I could really see an area of where it would be great to refer to a specialist. That’s sort of where I started from and in our practice in general, again, we really take a view of looking at someone’s overall health. So when someone comes in for that initial intake with us, we’re asking about their physical health, any medical illnesses medication, the last time they had a physical.

We’re also asking about the kinds of food they’re eating, how much exercise they’re getting, how they sleep, what their social interactions like, how they’re getting along with people in their lives. I think you can’t separate the mind and the body and I feel like there’s been this shift in recognizing that. Certainly there’s been an explosion of mindfulness meditation and I think people are recognizing the connection between the two. That’s where really we start to sort of develop the specialty is okay as I’m going through this intake and we start to look at what are some of the areas in the person’s life and what would be helpful to be able to refer to?

So for example, in using this comprehensive approach, I worked with a teen many years ago who came to see me for anxiety and panic. She was getting really anxious and dizzy toward the end of the day. Through this evaluation, we figured, well, she’s having lunch at 10:20 and then she’s getting dizzy at the end of the day after school, before going to her sports and then having her track that and add a snack. At the end of the day, this was not a mental health issue at all. This was like this kid needed a snack and as soon as she had that afternoon snack, there was no need for mental health treatment.

Whereas if we didn’t do this comprehensive evaluation she could have been in therapy for months and months and working on different techniques to control her anxiety where that wasn’t really the underlying issue. So I feel like our evaluation process helps us sort of pinpoint some of the potential difficulties and really look at that more carefully. One of the first specialties that I added was a sleep specialist. And I think it this has always been an issue and mental health is so connected to sleep. So many people are having difficulty sleeping, especially in COVID times with the increase in anxiety. We have someone who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

Then I added a dietician. So she’s a dietician, nutritionist too, who is experienced and passionate about helping people. Again, a generalist in nutrition, but helping people with mental health issues. She’s worked with a lot of people who’ve had a variety of mental health issues and she really is constantly learning and has a real interest in helping people feel their best with the foods that they’re putting into their body. Recently —
[ALISON] Those are just —
[DR. MICHELLE] Those are just two, yes, two core —
[ALISON] Two quick, like specialties that came to mind when you were thinking, oh, I need to start a group practice. That was what you added first.
[DR. MICHELLE] Yes. And I think for me, a lot of it is we have the therapy or coaching component, what are you eating. How are you sleeping? Physical exercise. Those are real components. They all work together. So as part of our model, those were components that I was first looking to add to the practice. I’m really excited because the next component that we are adding and we just recently partnered with couple of fantastic teachers to do this is really looking at academic coaching and social skills coaching. I feel like, again, just looking at the needs of the community, that this is going to be huge.

I keep hearing from parents, I’m working with friends media, that parents are really worried about their kids falling behind with all the disruptions due to COVID not only academically, but how they’re getting along with other kids socially. So we’re partnering with these teachers and we’re going to be offering coaching services to help kids with this as well. So it’s sort of like my own, I guess, philosophy and health psychology coupled with what am I seeing the needs are with the people I’m working with and the needs of the community? So that’s how we’re expanding out.
[ALISON] That’s amazing. So the other specialties that you’re hiring, are they W2 employees or contractors, or what is your model like?
[DR. MICHELLE] For therapy, my right now I have full-time therapist plus myself and the therapy model is a W2. The specialists are actually contractors. I actually just from a business model standpoint, you know every state is a little bit different, but for the state of Connecticut, it’s actually two businesses technically. So I have my therapy business, which again is a professional LLC and then I have an LLC that covers the other integrated specialties that are not therapy. They’re independent contractors.
[ALISON] Okay, great. Tell us about when you were getting ready to start the group practice and you were, I’m sure thinking about all the logistics and you ended up joining us in Group Practice Launch. What was that decision making process for you?
[DR. MICHELLE] Well, I had left, I was in a group practice as a contractor and I had left and went out on my own and I was doing well on my own, but I was doing everything on my own. I heard, I don’t know if it was a podcast, it might have been a podcast, was something from Joe from Practice of the Practice talking about hiring a virtual assistant and all of the benefits of doing that. That was sort of like my first step was, “Okay, that makes so much sense to do that because I’m spending so many hours talking to insurance companies, calling people back, where I could actually be providing services.”

So I hired someone. She’s my practice manager now and she is just fantastic. Christine is really the glue that holds us together and I’ve been able to offload so many of those tasks to her to run the day to day operations. Then as I was considering hiring someone, I realized, okay, this is my vision, but I have no idea how to make this come true. There’s so many different systems. I really didn’t know, I knew a lot from running my own group practice and being in group practice, but not really as an owner. So from that original podcast, I think about the virtual assistant, I started looking into Practice of the Practice and decided to join Group Practice Launch.

It was really the best thing I could have done in terms of then going to open my own practice, not only for the practical information and sort of like these are the systems you need, here are some suggestions to look into, but for the community, I mean, that is just so important to have other people who are in the same spot that you are in with the same struggles and to have that encouragement on those days when you’re feeling like why did I even do this? This is too hard to have a other people, to alternate and see everyone going through that. We’re all taking steps forward and steps back together. That has been really wonderful. As well as just like I said, the concrete advice in talking to people you and Whitney who are successful at this and have done a lot of this and we can utilize your wisdom and what to do and what not to do.
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[ALISON PIDGEON] Great. We enjoyed having you as part of the group and it’s been so cool to see you. You were one of those people who just, once you figured out what you needed to do, you just hit the ground running and made it happen and did a lot in a short period of time. So I think that’s of course gratifying for me. But yes, congratulations. It’s amazing to see what you’ve done. So touch on a little bit more what you were saying about being in the group, because I think sometimes people like the idea of being in a group and other times people feel like, well, I’m going to get lost in this in this group of people and I don’t know if I’m really going to get what I need out of the process. So what was that like for you?
[DR. MICHELLE] I think community is so important to me and that again, going back to, why did you expand out to group practice is, I felt like that was really missing. I’m just not the type of person that, I like people, I’m in this field because I really like working with people and being around people. So I’m someone who loves, I’m an introvert that loves to be around people, if that makes sense. So joining a group is not the, I see the value in it, but I tend to hold back myself and being in a group. So I didn’t know, is this going to be like the right thing for me? But I think for me personally, it’s been fantastic. It’s great to just hear where different people are at and see the progression and be able to ask any questions and not feel stupid, asking questions.

People are at all different levels and even the smallest question or the, I don’t know what you’re talking about when you’re using this word or oh, I’m not doing that, I guess I should be like. It’s been so helpful to hear the range of where people are at and the process and everyone’s so supportive. It’s just not a place where I’ve I ever felt like judged or criticized. I felt very open, like just able and open to ask questions. Again, just seeing people in all levels and seeing how they’re struggling, like I am, has really been so helpful and in me being able to keep pushing forward on those difficult days.
[ALISON] That’s great. Thank you for describing that, because I feel like that’s what Whitney and I want people to feel like. No question is a dumb question and it’s a supportive place and we’re there to cheer each other on. So that’s cool. I’m curious, you obviously are into this process pretty deep now of having this group practice. If you had to talk to somebody who maybe at the beginning of the process, they’re just thinking about starting a group practice, are there some dos and don’ts that you would share with them, mistakes that you made or things that you think you did really well?
[DR. MICHELLE] I think I would encourage them to act sooner. I’ve heard this from other people be before. It’s like when you’re considering it, that’s probably the time to move ahead and do it. Certainly putting some money out for consultation or joining a group, I think, you know I know I had a lot of anxiety about that, is this really going to be helpful? Is this going to be worth the money and time I’m putting into it? It absolutely is. I mean, I guess that’s my biggest tip. It’s ask for help.

You’re not alone. There are communities of people who are going through the same thing and people who are willing to be a resource and mentor you as well. So you don’t have to do it all by yourself. And I wish that maybe, I was a solo practitioner for a good year before I decided to branch out and I wished maybe I had done it a little bit sooner than I did.
[ALISON] Me too. Anything else that you feel like you did really well and looking back on the initial phases of setting things up?
[DR. MICHELLE] Yes, I mean, I think one of the things that I feel like I’m doing well is really choosing the right people. That’s key. I feel like the people who’ve joined my team are all people that I would send my family to. That’s really important to me, just feeling that confidence in their abilities. So I feel like it makes sense to wait until you find the right person or people rather than just jumping in and hiring someone to fill a particular position.
[ALISON] It sounds like you did a nice job of figuring out your hiring process and making sure you were bringing on people who were good fits because that is definitely a struggle for folks in the beginning. And I’m sure you’ve heard from other group members that they tried to hire people who didn’t work out. It sounds like you figured that out and you feel good about your hiring process and you trust the folks that you hired, which is huge.
[DR. MICHELLE] Yes, absolutely. Again, I think a lot of it is in just checking your own anxiety. That can either be helpful or not helpful, but there’s certainly that anxiety and wanting to push forward and just getting things up and going. And I think it’s important to sort of follow your gut with that. Is it the right person that you want there or is it the right time? Again, in terms of timing, I probably would’ve pushed forward earlier. Then I find myself making sure I’m holding back just to get the right services in place. So it’s that sort of push pull.
[ALISON] Yes, absolutely. And I imagine too, since you were so clear about your niche and what you wanted the center to be like. You probably did a nice job of really describing that to people so that you did attract the right people, because you were clear about what you wanted and what you wanted the practice to be.
[DR. MICHELLE] I feel like we really are building a nice community and again, that’s really important to me and part of what I value, is having a community of people around me that we can rely on and support. And then our community certainly working together and supporting each other, I feel like is going to provide a really good place of care for others in in the greater community.
[ALISON] So was there anything that surprised you about becoming a group practice owner?
[DR. MICHELLE] I’m not sure that anything surprised me. I mean, I think it’s one of those situations where you know it’s going to be difficult but you don’t quite know how difficult it is until you’re doing it. It’s sort of like parenting. It’s like, yes, I never thought it was an easy job, but I didn’t quite think it was as hard as it is. So I feel like a group practice is sort of like that. You have this expectation that it’s not always going to be easy, but yes, it’s challenging in new and different ways than you might have expected, but there’s a lot of growth in that, I think for me personally.
[ALISON] Yes, I love that you brought up the parenting analogy because I often think about that as a group practice owner. I’m the parent and my employees are the children, which is probably, they may not appreciate the fact that I sometimes think of them that way, but there’s a lot of parallels there. That’s great. So where are you at now with your practice? What are your goals for the next months? What are you hoping to accomplish?
[DR. MICHELLE] Well, I’m really, I did relocate geographically when I left my previous practice and I made a switch that’s just closer to my family and where I plan on staying. So I’m still networking in the community and really my goal for the next few months is to really work on letting other people know about our services and the breadth that we can offer to their clients and patients. I would really love to be able to establish a stronger partnership with some of the primary care doctors and pediatricians in our local area so that they can really see what we have to offer and work together with us. I feel like we’re picking up some of the things that a lot of other doctors wish they had more time to delve into and they don’t. So we’re a resource that can, yes, we can handle sleep issues. We can handle the picky eating child. So you can just send them our way and we can help with a lot of those things that you wish you had more time to get into. So building relationships is really the goal.
[ALISON] That’s great. Are you planning to hire any more staff this year?
[DR. MICHELLE] Yes, I would love to hire another mental health clinician for our team. I would also like to possibly hire a speech and language pathologist to work with our teachers and really work with some of the social skills programming as well. So those are sort of the next two positions that I’d really like to fill.
[ALISON] Awesome. I think you have good momentum, so I’m sure you will make that happen. For anybody who’s thinking about starting a group practice, do you have any advice for them?
[DR. MICHELLE] Absolutely. Like I said I don’t go it alone. I think that, and not just me, you can talk to lots of people who’ve been through this program and I’m sure lots of group practice owners who are just out in the community. There’s just so much that you can learn from other people who’ve done this already. So I definitely recommend don’t reinvent the wheel. You utilize the language, the experience and the skills that other people have already developed and are often willing to help you with.
[ALISON] Yes. That’s great advice, because I think that ultimately then if you’re working with somebody who’s already done it, they’re teaching you all the shortcuts, they’re telling you which mistakes to avoid. It just speeds up the whole process, going back to what you were saying about I wish I would’ve started sooner. There’s people who start, but then they sort of fumble through the whole thing because they don’t know what they’re doing, which isn’t helpful at all because it takes them maybe three times as long as it would if they had just asked for help to begin with. So Michelle, it’s been great talking with you. It’s really exciting hearing about your very unique model for your practice. I’m excited to hear about how things grow in the future. If people want to check out your practice or if they want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to contact you?
[DR. MICHELLE] Best way to contact us would probably be through our website, which is www.lifecatalystct.com. There’s contact information right on that page where they can shoot us an email and ask more about our practice. Like I said, we’re also hiring another mental provider. So if this really resonates with someone and they’re like, that’s the place I want to be, there is a place on our website to fill out an application as well. So please feel free to check us out.
[ALISON] Very cool. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Michelle. It’s been great talking with you.
[DR. MICHELLE] Great talking with you too. Thanks again, Alison.
[ALISON] Well, I wanted to say thank you to Therapy Notes for being a sponsor of this podcast. We know your EHR is awesome and we are happy to tell other people about it. So if you want to get therapy notes for free for three months, use promo code [JOE], J-O-E. No strings attached and you can check it out and see if you’re ready to make the switch.
[ALISON] Thanks so much again for listening day. I hope you enjoyed hearing all about Michelle’s very cool wellness center model that she has started. I know lots of people really like that new model of healthcare. So I think it’s going to be really cool to see where her practice goes in the future. If you are thinking about starting a group practice and you want to learn more about Group Practice Launch, definitely sign up for our webinar at practiceofthepractice.com/bank. You are going to learn how to make bank in group practice and learn all about our program Group Practice Launch, which is starting here at the beginning of March in 2022.

So thanks so much for listening and I’ll talk to you all next time.

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This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

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