Richmond Counseling Practice – Starting 2012!

richmond counselingThriveworks is planning to launch it’s third counseling location, in 2012, in Richmond, Virginia. This recent announcement came on the heals of the opening of their second location, in Philadelphia, PA, in January of this year. While an official address has not been announced, a website provides details and a general overview of the new practice. The new Richmond counseling office is expected to open for business this spring.

Learn more here: Richmond Counseling

Building a Counseling Practice: Video!

Here is a new video from Thriveworks about “Thriveworks Practice Builder.”

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hozVuSTlPz4′]

Building a Six-Figure Counseling Practice

build counseling practiceHow Much Money Can A Master’s Level Counselor in Private Practice Make?

According to Salary.com, the average Licensed Professional Counselor working in Cambridge, Massachusetts makes $39,778 a year*. That’s beyond bleak. For a city where a 900 square foot apartment can run over $400,000, it’s dismal.

Is this our fate? Financially speaking, are counselors better off getting jobs at Wal-mart?

I don’t think so.

With good practice planning, counselors can do better. For many, earning over $100,000 profit in year two of private practice is an obtainable goal. In this article, we’re going to look at the financial aspects of running a private counseling practice.

Note: the following numbers are rough estimates for a single practitioner in private practice. For your purposes, you may need to adjust expenses, client fees, and volume based on your own personal practice goals, and on the costs of living in your area.

Read Counseling Article

How to Ethically Improve Client Retention

counseling practice office chair

As professional counselors, we help others. It’s in our DNA, our learned behaviors, and our personalities.

This is usually a good thing. However, it has its dark side too. Over the last 10 years, I have noticed an alarming reluctance among counselors to run their practices so that they benefit both their clients AND their selves.

It’s as if counselors have the motto: “If it’s good for me, it’s probably bad for my clients—and it’s also probably unethical.”

The follow article–which is pretty long, so it’s broken into two parts, gives Step-by-Step strategies for improving counseling client retention. We’re really excited to have you read this article, so be sure to leave us some feedback!

7 Strategies for Ethically Improving Client Retention

7 Strategies for Ethically Improving Client Retention (Part 2)

The Online Therapy Myth: What Online Counseling Wont do for your Private Practice

market counseling practiceBeing a spokesperson for the online therapy field, I have, every week for the past several years, received calls from counselors who have recently listed their name and practice information on an online counseling website (such as eCounseling.com), or who are having someone build them an online counseling website of their own. I usually meet these calls with a certain level of excitement: “Great! Super! Excellent! Congratulations! Welcome to the club!” I will say. But I have recently grown to be a bit hesitant with my cheers, “wait a second” I might say, “What are you expecting to happen when you start your online therapy practice?”

Too often, the counselor’s response sounds something like this. “Well, I’m getting fewer new clients at my face-to-face practice, so I was thinking that, with online counseling, I would have a much larger pool of potential clients.” Then the counselor will ask me, “How long do you think it will take for me to have a full caseload?”

“Well, that’s the thing,” I’ll say, “Caseloads, especially caseloads of online clients, don’t just happen; they are BUILT with a lot of effort. Being on the Internet is a great start, in some ways it even puts you miles ahead, but it isn’t the solution to all your private practice woes.”

And then, I will tell them what I’m about to tell you.

Online Counseling is a Smaller Pond

In the example above, the counselor is operating under an understandable misconception—the syllogism is as follows:

Major Premise: Big Nets Catch Fish

Minor Premise: With Online Counseling I Have a Big Net

Conclusion: With Online Counseling I Will Catch Fish

Brings you back to undergraduate philosophy, doesn’t it? In less philosophical terms, the reasoning sounds like this: “As an online counselor, my reach is a million times longer than it is offline. Therefore, even if I don’t put a lot of effort into promoting my practice, I should still get more than enough clients!”

And here’s the flaw. One’s net may be huge, but how big is the pond?

According to Google, in January, 2009 there were 1,220,000 web searches for the keyword “Counselor.” In the same month, there were 6,600 searches for the keyword “Online Counselor.” Note the magnitude of the difference: 1,213,400 more searches for “counselors”, compared to “online counselors”. Hence, while an online counselor’s net may be huge, the pond is (for now) relatively small.

Other Nets in the Pond

When it comes to online counseling, there is increasing competition every day. While it is true that most counselors in the USA have no Internet presence what-so-ever, there are still thousands of therapists providing online services. In addition, the growing field of life coaching creates competition for counselors, and life coaches customarily provide services via telephone, or online.

Make no mistake, competition for online and telephone clients is strong, and any new online counselor is entering a competitive arena.

Immediate Benefits for Online Counselors

This column is not meant to discourage. All hope is not lost for the therapist considering online counseling! There are some immediate benefits to having online counseling training, and having an infrastructure for efficiently and ethically providing online or telephone counseling. Such will allow you to:

1.       Retain clients who relocate (a common problem in college areas like my hometown, Boston, MA)

2.       Help clients who can’t make it to all of their appointments (stuck at work, stuck in traffic, traveling, etc.)

3.       Attract a small number of new clients (your net will catch some fish)

The Competitive Online Counselor

Build a Business

Going online is not an alternative to the arduous task of building a counseling business. Therapists need to develop a solid strategic plan. Develop a company structure. Measure growth. One needs advertising and PR. One needs a marketing plan that takes into account the online audience. I recommend every online therapist create content and publish it on the web in order to begin becoming an active part of the online community where they are hanging their virtual shingle.

Find a Niche

Client X needs counseling. What makes you the best choice?

One way to attract online clients is to specialize. Focus your efforts on a specific type of client: clients with liver cancer, clients with pregnant teens, clients who have lost a child, office spouses, desperate housewives, Americans living in Japan, Japanese living in the Americas…you get the picture.

Remember…

Online counseling is not your niche! It is a method of delivering service. It is added value to your in-person clients. Build your practice. Find a target audience and help them. Don’t just be online—be so valuable that people across the country are calling and emailing you to ask—Do you take online clients?

Thriveworks helping counselors build successful practices

Thrive Boston Counseling and Life Coaching recently launched Thriveworks, a service that is helping private practice owners build their counseling practices via a series of unique services. According to thriveworks.com, service include

New Client Scheduling

24 Hour Call Answering

Medical Credentialing and Billing

and a premium model of counseling service.

For More information on starting a Thriveworks practice, visit http://thriveworks.com/build-a-counseling-practice

Building a Counseling Practice Office — Walltat.com

Looking for Wall Tatoos? check out http://www.walltat.com/ — A colleague of mine recently bought beautiful wall tattoos from them, and notes that the specific colors of their decals are labeled for easy matching with the color codes of leading paint companies. This apparently was a huge help when designing the color palate for his new apartment.

Read our article about how smart Social Marketing Techniques: Don’t Censoring Your Fans!

Thanks,

Dr. Anthony Centore
http://StartaCounselingPractice.com


Building a Counseling Practice: Counseling Office Encore

As a follow up to our last two posts about creating a counseling office that will wow your clients, I thought I’d post a couple quick videos that were taken of Thrive office’s in 2009. Enjoy!

Our office is designed in a way that there are two waiting rooms for greater client privacy. This was a good design, but it also meant buying two coffee bars!

Starting a Counseling Practice: The Counseling Office (Part 2)

start counseling practiceIn our last article, we talked about “the counseling office” and how while it may be true that therapist offices are often really poorly designed, client’s expectations are often a product of what they’ve seen on TV (read the previous post to view Pictures of some fantastic TV counseling offices!).

Exceeding Client Expectations

Creating an experience that clients remember and talk about is about creating a unique experience. One way to do this is to have the most expensive office space in town, the best view, the most square feet, and the most lavish and expensive furniture.

Truly, that’s not a bad approach. You’d sure get clients talking! In addition, some studies show that the better your practice location, the less you’ll need to spend on advertising (I believe that came from the eMyth Revisited, by Michael Gerber; a great book). However, throwing your life savings at your office is just one way to “wow” your clients and create a counseling experience that your clients will talk about.

Here is a list of ideas (most of them that we have used at Thriveworks) to create a fantastic counseling space on a budget.

Paint the Pig

counseling officeAdding color to the walls makes a huge difference to any space, and costs relatively little. At Thriveworks, we had a designer pick out 3 colors that would work with the tan walls that were in the office suite when we moved in. By using multiple colors, we were able to have a great-looking custom paint job, while not needing to paint every wall (In the end, the walls were 4 colors, Tan, a Light blue, a darker blue, and brown).

This created both a modern and interesting look that gets rave reviews every time someone visits our space.

Wall Tattoos

Wall tattoos are a way to add a ton of design to an element of your office. Check out Dali Decals at DaliDecals.com.  We bought from them, and their designs make a fun (and still professional) impression.

Word to the wise, use sparingly. Our designer warned us. Apply decals to a maximum of one wall per room, and only in a few of our 10 rooms. Good Advice.

Inexpensive, original art

build a counseling practicemywhitewalls.com offers real painted art at shockingly low prices (hint, there’s always a 50% off coupon floating around. I believe “Mother” still works as a 50% off coupon code). We bought a piece of original art for nearly every room, and it really makes an impression. Some of the paintings were great. Some were really ugly; but even the ugly paintings make good conversation pieces.

Have good Lighting

Lighting makes a huge difference. Read my text: No Dark Corners. Make sure that you have enough lighting options. No “soul draining” fluorescents. We installed Hamilton Bay track lighting (home depot brand), and bought table lamps, desk lamps, floor lamps, torch lamps, spotlights, and more. We also installed a lot of dimmer switches to make the lighting just perfect.

Lighting came make or break a room, so be sure to get it right.

Sound Machines

counseling sound machineMost therapists I know of use these brown noise machines that sound like tearing wrapping paper. I hate them. At Thrive, we purchased 10 sound machines by Homedics. They have 8 different soothing sounds, and have a great volume control switch.

A Nice Place to Sit

counseling officeWhile you might not want to take out a home equity loan on furniture, you do want to have nice furniture. At Thrive, with some trial and error, we were able to find really nice chairs at $200 a piece. We also found a discount furniture retailer, where we could buy a couch and love seat set (high quality) for about $1300. One set like this is good for two therapy offices.

No old furniture. No broken furniture. And please, don’t over-furnish a room—nothing makes a place feel more claustrophobic.

Music

Have music. Good music! At Thrive, some days our welcome rooms sound like a yoga studio, other days it’s classical, and other days it’s rock-and-roll. As I write this, we’re playing a Christmas music CD I picked up a couple years ago at Starbucks.

Magazines

counseling practiceHave Lots of magazine subscriptions for both men and women. At Thrive, we have Inc Magazine, Fast company, Golf, Sports illustrated, Time, Entertainment Weakly, Simple living(?), Martha Stewart Living (a favorite), Health, parenting, GQ (Gentleman’s Quarterly), Wired, Parenting, Some version of people, Esquire, and I’m probably forgetting some.

Why so many? Well, why not? In the grand scheme of things it’s not expensive (most yearly subscriptions cost under $15 a year! Remember, your goal is to provide something remarkable to your clients).

Plus, we like to throw away (recycle, that is) old magazines as soon as a corner is bent or a page is torn. Sometimes we even throw them out because we don’t like the condition they arrived in the mails.

We get positive comments all the time about our magazine selection.

Cell Phone Charger

counseling practice officeHere’s a neat things we started offering that was a big hit. We purchased, for about $40 a universal cell-phone charger that can charge every major cell phone on the market.

The clients at Thrive now know that we care about them so much, we even want them to be able to charge their cell phones before their session.

Heck, you can one-up us easy. Put a charger in every therapy office. That makes much more sense, anyhow.

Refreshments

Offer coffee, tea, and hot cocoa at a minimum. We use a top of the line keurig machine for coffee, offer high-quality TAZO tea, and we have a glass-frony refrigerator full of name brand sodas.

We also offer candy, and chocolate (and you should too). Does it get expensive?—you bet! We go through a lot of cups, a lot of water, and chocolate is hugely expensive!

However, it’s just one more thing that sets us apart, and helps our clients to feel special and cared for. Plus, one day I thought to myself “what sort of a business am I running if I can’t offer a cup of coffee and a couple Twizzlers to my clients?

Soon, we plan to offer pretzels and granola bars, all on the house of course.

WIFI

Have free WIFI! Your clients will thank you for it, and you’re probably already paying for it. Bonus: Put up a sign asking for some online reviews, and you might get an immediate return on your investment.

The Possibilities are Endless!

What other ways can you think of to create a counseling space that wows your clients and get’s them talking? Share with us your thoughts in the comments section below! -Anthony Centore Ph.D.

Your Counseling Office: The Bar is Both High and Low

counseling practice office chair

As a counselor, your primary focus in on providing great clinical care.

This, of course, is the most important thing you can do to help build your counseling practice. However, while great clinical care is necessary, it’s not all you need, and many good counselors fail at building a private practice.

In this article, I’m going to talk about your counseling office. We’ll look at two things:

1) What your competition’s office looks like, and

2) What your clients expect your office to look like.

Remember my philosophy on client service: doing a good job might lead to a satisfied client, but what you want isn’t just a satisfied client. You want clients so delighted by your service that they can’t help but to tell others about their experience. To do this, you need to ‘wow’ your clients with great care and great service, and the latter includes your professional space.

Your Counseling Office — The Bar is Low!

When I first moved to Cambridge, I worked for a counseling center that literally had not been cleaned for 11 years. Old, cheap carpets were threadbare and stained, and those stains were covered by more cheap throw rugs. The place had a funky smell, and some of my clients were allergic to the dust. The couch in one office was clearly a relic from the 60’s, complete with   broken springs. The walls of each therapy room were lined with cheap bookcases with sagging shelves (I later discovered that behind almost every bookshelf was a dead mouse still in a mousetrap). It was disgusting—and, I’ll admit, a bit extreme.

While I haven’t come across any other counseling office quite as bad as that one, I haven’t been impressed by many, either. Walk into your typical counseling office waiting room and you’ll see walls painted a dull white or beige, or covered in old wallpaper. If there is art on the walls at all, it’s cheap, ugly, and all too often, depressing. The furniture is old. The space is dark. There’s no WIFI. The only refreshment available is from a water cooler, with a stack of wax Dixie cups nearby.

As if that isn’t bad enough, it’s not uncommon for clients to wait in hallways. It’s not uncommon for clients to sit just inches from their therapist’s office door, and hear the session before theirs going on through the office door.

Because the bar is so low in some cases, you might think that it shouldn’t take much to ‘wow’ clients with your office space, right? WRONG!

Your Counseling Practice Office — The Bar is High!

While counseling offices are often in need of improvement, many clients’ perceptions of what a counseling office should be aren’t from the offices of other real-life clinicians in town. Nope. Many clients learn about therapy from seeing therapy on TV. And if you haven’t noticed, counseling offices on TV are over-the-top amazing!

Ever see the office of Tony Soprano’s psychotherapist? It’s huge, it’s round, and the walls are…is that mahogany?

counseling office

Have you ever seen the episodes of House M.D. where Dr. Gregory House meets with his psychiatrist? The space is incredible (the image here doesn’t do it justice). There’s a carafe of water on the coffee table (classy), and they’re each sitting in $5,000 designer chairs.

Or, my personal favorite – did you watch the episodes of Nip / Tuck when Shawn McNamara and Christian Troy went to see a couples counselor? The office is 1500 square feet, and they must be on the 30th floor, because the view of the Los Angeles skyline is breathtaking (I couldn’t find a picture, but check out the shot below of the McNamara / Troy offices in general — wow)!

counseling office

How to Wow Clients with your Counseling Space

So, with the bar being set so high on TV, how do you impress your clients with your counseling space? I have found that there are many things that therapists can do to create a fantastic office experience, even if the ‘bones’ of your space has some shortcomings, and even on a smaller budget. For example, my counseling practice (Thrive Counseling), moved from a 12th floor penthouse office suite with a stunning view of the Boston skyline, to the second floor suite, with no view, in a more industrial building, and our clients LOVED IT!

There are several things that you can do, for little money, to give your clients a wow experience when they enter your counseling space. Get ready for our next article, which will go into step-by-step specifics.

And check out www.Thriveworks.com, to learn how licensed counselors, therapists, and psychologists are using the Thriveworks model to creat client-focused, high-quality counseling practices.