I can’t say that I’m an expert in group counseling practice-ownership. But, I have grown my solo therapy practice to a group practice over the past few years, and I’d love to share with you some things that you should definitely NOT do as a group practice owner. I’m not usually terribly opinionated, and I tend to support you in doing what you want to do and how you want to do it. However, sometimes it does help to hear from someone who’s been there, done that, and if my thoughts can help even one of you avoid some costly mistakes, that makes me happy.
Do NOT Ignore Your Gut Instincts When Hiring
I truly believe there is an art form to hiring good, quality team members. You can learn some of this process by reading books, listening to podcasts, or researching how to hire good team members. There is also no substitution for experience. What experience will show you, and what I am telling you now, is that you’re going to like almost everyone that you interview. You’re a therapist, you’re literally trained to see the good in everyone.
It is much more difficult for us therapists-turned-practice-owners to be objective when hiring, and to trust when your gut instinct is giving you warning signs about a potential new hire. I recall interviewing a good candidate for a couples therapist position with my group practice a few years ago, and I was desperate to hire a couples therapist. The experienced and licensed job candidate wanted to have at least 3 days’ notice before we scheduled a new couple with him. At our group practice, we often have clients schedule appointments 1-2 days ahead of time, and sometimes day-of. So, sadly, I had to let the candidate know that he wouldn’t be a good fit for our team and we could not meet his scheduling needs. Had I hired him, it would have been a disaster to accommodate his schedule and not meet the needs of our clients.
Do NOT Boot-strap It and Refuse to Hire Admin Help
The next thing I’ll tell you is, you cannot do everything for everyone, all of the time. In the beginning, sure, you could answer the phones, schedule new clients, attend to the billing, and still do all your clinical work. But, that phase won’t last long. You will need admin help, and you will need it sooner than you think – perhaps even yesterday.
Just think, if you could free up 5, even 10 hours a week from doing administrative work. What could you accomplish? How much quicker could you grow your practice? Could you spend 3 hours a week marketing to bring in an additional 10 clients per week? Or you can stay spending 3 hours a week doing billing and not bring in any new clients? Do yourself a favor and hire admin help STAT.
Do NOT Expect That Everything Will Go as Planned
I know, you know that even the best-laid plans will go awry. But do you really know and understand this? If you’re a planner and like to have your ducks in a row, creating and sticking to an idea of how you want your practice to grow is very important to you.
But when you limit yourself this way, you eliminate the possibility for creativity, pivoting, and taking advantage of unexpected opportunities that may pop up. Sure, create an overall, big-picture plan. But have plenty of wiggle room in there because you are still learning. You haven’t done this before, and it’s all new to you. Things may not turn out as expected, and that’s just to be expected.
From One Group Practice Owner to Another…
I hope hearing about some things NOT to do as a group practice owner are helpful to you. I know that I need to hear things multiple times before I really believe them, so if this is your first or fifth time hearing some of this stuff, it’s my wish that you take it all in, figure out what is applicable to you and your situation, and move forward doing the wonderful things that you are doing as a group practice owner!
Previous Articles by Shannon Heers
Shannon Heers is a licensed professional counselor in Colorado. She owns the private-pay group practice Catalyss Counseling in the Denver metro area, focusing on helping adults manage their anxiety, grief, and trauma. Shannon is also an experienced clinical supervisor and manager who offers business consultation services to other therapists. She balances working with raising her two young children.
Group practice ownership is daunting but can be done easily if you do your homework, prepare, and learn all you can about the process!