Productivity

Converting Callers For Your Clinicians

 January 12, 2022

By  Uriah Guilford, MFT

minute read

Are you concerned about getting enough clients for your clinicians?

Do most callers want you as their therapist and you're not sure how to suggest someone else?

In this episode, join Tracel and I as we give you 4 simple solutions to these challenges (plus a couple of bonuses!)

In This Episode, You'll Discover:

  • How to decide your limits and boundaries
  • How to adjust your call script to better sell your clinicians
  • Why hiring an assistant may be the best decision you make all year
  • How to be patient with your growing practice

Helpful Resources:

⬇️ Click for full episode transcript ⬇️

Uriah
Hello, and welcome to this training on converting callers for your clinicians! My name is Uriah Guilford from Productive Therapist, and I'm joined by Tracel Callahan. Hello, hello!

Tracel
Hi! I'm happy to be here.

Uriah
Yes. We're excited to share some info with you. Like I said, we're from Productive Therapist, and we provide world class virtual assistants to therapists across the United States. And we have other offerings that we'll share with you a little bit later. But I just wanted to share that I'm a group practice owner myself, so the things that we're talking about today, I have gone through those challenges and overcome them. And I'm going to share some wisdom with you on that. And I have a group practice here in Northern California. And I'm also, like I said, the founder of Productive Therapist and joined by Tracel, who's been with me for a number of years now and who I couldn't operate this business without. And can you tell everybody a little bit about what you do?

Tracel
Sure. That's very nice. Thank you. So I wear a lot of hats. It's hard to kind of quantify everything, but I talk to the new members that are thinking about using our services, I help train the new virtual assistants when they come on board, make sure that both of them are happy as time goes on. I think that's pretty much it.

Uriah
That's awesome. And just to give you a little bit of context about why we are qualified to speak to this challenge here, like I said, I'm a group practice owner and a lot of the therapists that we work with through Productive Therapist are also group practice owners, so we provide coaching as well as the VA support to them. So we're very intimately familiar with the challenges as well as the benefits and the awesome parts of being a group practice owner. So excited to share about this with you today. Actually, the first thing I wanted to say is 'Congratulations' to you listening to this, wherever you are in your group practice journey, if you are just thinking about starting it and you're planning or if you've already started it and you're in the first year, or maybe you're even in the second or third year, but you still feel like you're in the beginning. Congratulations! I know that this is a difficult journey, but it's so fulfilling as well. So I hope this program that you're going through here has been tremendously helpful to you. So let's define the problem a little bit, shall we? So most likely, if you're listening to this, you are a group practice owner and many or maybe all of the callers that are calling your practice want to work with you, and you're finding it challenging to convince them to work with your clinicians, even though they're amazing. And because nobody in your area really knows them yet, maybe you feel guilty that you can't say yes to all the people that are calling your practice, and you just can't help them all. You might also be worried that this situation won't change, wondering, sort of like what happens if nobody wants to work with anybody but me? Will my practice grow? Will my clinicians get enough clients? Those are some of the things that might be going through your mind right now, and we want to encourage you to stick with it. And basically, this is a temporary problem. Tracel, I know you've talked to a lot of new group practice owners.

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
And this has come up, hasn't it?

Tracel
Yes. So all of those things that you're just described are normal. You are feeling all the things you should be feeling at this point because it is growing pains, that's kind of the way that we describe it. And it is very common when you are the face of it. And now you're kind of changing that to a group practice. So getting the word out about your clinicians is a challenge, but we can help you with that.

Uriah
It's a unique pain point. But like I said, it's temporary. And also there's some fairly easy solutions. So there is a way forward. There's a way through this, right?

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
And Tracel, I wanted to tell you a little bit about my story. I think you know some of it, but you probably haven't heard parts of this. So I actually had a solo practice for about seven years and almost always working with teenage boys and their families. That just became my niche and something that I love doing. And so I fairly quickly became the go to therapist in my area for the families with teenage boys. Not a lot of therapists wanted to work with these challenging guys, and there has never been a lot of male therapists in general in our field and also in my area. And so over the years, I did a ton of focused, consistent marketing. And I built up this reputation as, like I said, the go-to person for that specialty. And I'm sure a lot of the people listening to this have their niche, their specialty, and they've become known for treating sleep disorders or OCD or trauma those kinds of things. And it's a wonderful thing when you've worked hard and it's paying off that the calls are coming in. So I started my group practice in 2015 because I just couldn't take all the referrals and the first hire, I didn't know anything, I didn't know what I didn't know. The first person that wanted to work for me and my group practice happened to be a female psychologist, somebody that I've known for quite some time. So I brought her on. And in the beginning, especially, it was challenging to convince people calling for me who had been told by one to three people, Hey, Uriah is the person you need to work with. And so I said, Well, I don't have any openings, but I have this female clinician, and I would always tell them, she's actually really great with boys and try to sort of pitch her to them. That was an early challenge. And we'll talk about how to solve that in a little bit. But the problem was also I was the person on the phone for those first two years of my group practice, right? Being my charming self connecting with the parents! And they would often say, Well, can I just work with you? And I have worked on this over the years, but it's still hard for me to say no to people who want my support and want my help, especially when I would also connect with them and want to work with them. And I'd be like, oh, this would be a great client. But I just can't, right? And I also needed to...over time, as my group practice grew, I needed to keep decreasing my caseload so that I could grow and run the practice. And then eventually, after a few years, I delegated the intake role to an assistant. And that made a huge difference. And we'll talk about that in depth here today. And the nice thing was that when Keith was handling that - actually in this very room right here that I'm in! - they would connect with him. He was very outgoing and very caring on the phone. He was personable. And the nice thing was that they could not work with him, right?! Not a therapist. Hey, I would love to help you, but I'm actually just...not 'just,' but I'm the intake coordinator, right? And so the problem of people wanting to work with me did continue for a little bit. That didn't solve all of it, but it decreased significantly. And then I permanently solved that problem when I closed my schedule to new clients, and I would do that off and on. I would close it and then open it. And then at the end of 2020, so the end of last year, I retired from providing direct services. But for some time within that last year, I told Tiffany, my intake coordinator, that it was always a No. And then what ended up happening up to this point where we are now is that almost nobody ever calls for me, which is fine. It's great. I'm not working as a therapist anymore, but at one point I was like, oh, I did a really good job of that!

Tracel
So it's interesting to see the shift right where you think maybe it would never change to now. Nobody's asking for you.

Uriah
It was 100% a progression. It really was. And I can tell you for sure that I felt anxious. I felt uncertain. I felt like I didn't know how to solve that problem. And I felt a bit of constant stress to say yes. And also this pressure of believing that my clinicians were awesome and wanting to get them connected with clients. So, yeah, it's a whole mix of emotions, really. It really is. And it's also a good place to be, because that is the work that you need to do to move your reputation and the incoming referrals from you to the group because you want to really elevate the group. Right?

Tracel
Right. Yes.

Uriah
I'm sure if you're listening to this right now, you can hopefully relate to some or maybe even all of that story. And we're going to share with you four reasonably simple solutions to these challenges. I say simple because they're not complicated. But I always like to say that they're simple, but not easy. Right.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
So some of these things might be tough to implement, but you can absolutely do it. Okay. So the first one...I'm actually just going to mention all four, and then we'll kind of dive into each one. The first one is make decisions about your limits and boundaries. Number two is adjust your call script to better sell your clinicians. And I put sell in quotation marks because that's the word we use it. And that's what we do, really. And then number three is hiring an assistant to handle the intake role. And then number four is be patient. Number four might be the hardest one!

Tracel
I was just going to say saving the most challenging one for the last point!

Uriah
Hang in there. It's funny how that works with all of us. It's just a human thing that when something is happening, that's uncomfortable or causes of anxiety, like one day feels like 100 years, right.

Tracel
Yeah. Exactly.

Uriah
Okay. So the first one make decisions about your limits and boundaries. And I know you talk to therapists on the phone who are busy, overwhelmed, maybe starting a group practice. And what do you notice, Tracel, about this challenge for them?

Tracel
Well, part of the reason you became a therapist, right? It's because you want to help people. And so having to tell people no seem counterintuitive. And so a lot of people don't like to say that as you mentioned. And oftentimes they're the only ones that have done the intake for themselves, obviously. And then now as they're growing their group practice. And so having the confidence that somebody else can do that well, really delegating. That is a challenge. And I like to tell people that the benefit you have with an assistant or somebody else doing the intakes is that then it removes you from that. If you have a problem setting those boundaries, they're completely removed for you by handing this task off to somebody else absolutely.

Uriah
Yeah. We'll dive into that big time and number three. But first you have to I put this one at number one because I think it really should come before all the other ones. As the therapist, as the group practice owner, as the leader, you have to decide how many clients you want to see and stick to that number. And it's helpful to be realistic. And I don't know, not all group practice owners necessarily do this, but at some point, I think we're sort of compressed. I was going to say to make this decision like, okay, because we talked to folks. I know you talked to folks who are seeing 20, 25, 30 clients a week, and maybe they've got four clinicians or however many clinicians they have, like, that's just a recipe for, well, for burnout. Really. So decide how many clients you want to see. Maybe you only have space for 15 client sessions, and you're only going to see them on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. So that's really the first step. And I would encourage you not to stretch beyond your limits and to get some accountability if you need that wherever that comes from. Because again, you're going to feel cold. And you probably do right now to, like I said, say yes, add more clients to your schedule than you should. And that will create this ongoing problem. And essentially, you'll be the bottleneck in your growing group practice. Right.

Tracel
And I love the accountability so that if you set this number, whatever it is, and you share that with your team, then somebody could say, remember, you were only going to take whatever that number is to keep you accountable for it.

Uriah
Yeah. Share that with your team. Share that with your significant other. Share that with your business coach, if you have one, whoever you need to say, hey, I'm only supposed to. I'm committed to only seeing the summer of clients a week. Please ask me about this on a regular basis, whatever that looks like, because I can remember being on the phone. And like I said, connecting with this parent would be like, oh, my gosh, I actually would be the best therapist, right? For this teenage boy. Let's see. And I'd be like, I'd look at my calendar. Go, well, you know, I could do Tuesday at 08:00 p.m.. Right. And that was almost always something that I would either regret or be like, get off the phone and be like, oh, my goodness. Why did I do that again?!

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
And I mean, the quote, unquote problem is that we care so much. And it's really a good thing that's what drives us. But when it comes to going too far past our own boundaries and wanting to help everyone else at our own expense, then it becomes a negative. Right. So the challenge here is to practice saying no without a detailed explanation.

Tracel
I love that idea.

Uriah
Yeah. It's still something I work on honestly, just in my life and in my business world, in my business ventures, and you can roleplay this. I know some therapists really like to do role playing with whoever your accountability person is or somebody that you want to work with. And you can practice this in other areas of your life that are where there's less sort of at stake, if you will.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
But you don't have to give a caveat an explanation, a reason. I'm so sorry. I can't do that. But all those kinds of things. Right. And then the reason why making decisions about your limits and boundaries is important, because if you go into these conversations, these intake calls with potential clients and you yourself are not fully committed to your plan, there's like a 50% to 80% chance you're going to cave.

Tracel
That's right.

Uriah
It's likely to happen. And at the end of the day, you're growing a group practice to help more people and design a life that you love. Right.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
And that's actually our tagline. A productive therapist is we help therapists get more done so they can have more fun.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
So that's number one and probably the easiest way to implement that would be to just grab a pad of paper or your Journal or on your computer, on your phone and just write down how you want to create your ideal schedule. How many clients? How many days a week? What are your limits? Right.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
And you'll be glad that you did, really, you will. And the people that you love and that love you will hopefully be grateful for that, too. Right.

Tracel
Yeah. And I love the idea of keeping that what your end goal is in mind is that you're trying to grow a practice so that you can help more people. And in order to do that, you have to put these limits on yourself. And that should hopefully make it easier for you to stick to whatever boundaries you've set.

Uriah
Yeah. And I know Maureen, who is the founder of the Group Practice Exchange and the creator of this program, has often shared that she would work out. She worked out the math to figure out if I add this number of clients to one of my clinician schedules. I believe it was like three basically, then that could essentially replace one of her clients. So that might be a helpful way to look at that and to sort of gradually decrease your case load. Because if you're growing which you're in this program because you are growing a group practice, you're going to need to decrease your clients. And lots of therapists want to continue to see clients, and they never want to stop. And that's totally fine. But it needs to go from 20 to 15, maybe down to twelve or ten, whatever that looks like.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
And I also say about that that this might be obvious, but it's a gradual process, and that doesn't happen overnight. And you might have times when you sort of slip on your commitment, and that's fine, because you can always kind of go back to recommitting to your own limits and boundaries. And you know what that does when you say no, that actually starts the process of diverting those referrals to the clinicians, because this can happen where the practice owner doesn't stick to their boundaries. And then they say yes all the time and then guess what? Their clinicians don't get clients. And then some things can happen with that people not getting full enough and then not wanting to stick around. So there you go - simple solution. Number one. It's actually not that simple, is it? Make those decisions about your limits and boundaries. Number two is adjusting what we call your call script to better sell your clinicians. And you may or may not have an actual written down script for what you say on these intake calls. But I guarantee you that you have a certain way of talking to people that you sort of repeat on each and every call. Right? That script has to change, kind of reflecting the things that we talked about in point number one.

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
And really being prepared before the call is key. I don't know about you trousers. But sometimes if I need to say no or set a limit with somebody, no matter how simple it is, if I don't already have the language in my mind about how I want to convey that, I will stumble and I'll kind of trip over my words. And then like I said before, maybe go back on my commitment.

Tracel
Right. Especially in this situation where probably kind of as a wrote, you say the same things. It's going to be very easy to slip back into that when you're talking to somebody on the phone. So you're going to have to be prepared so that you can make that change and not just say what you've always said because it's not going to work anymore.

Uriah
No, I'm doing the thing you've been doing. You'll get the same results. Some of this again comes with practicing these new answers. So not a bad idea to write them down, literally write out your script and then come up with the things or write down the things that people are asking you, for example, you're on the phone with somebody and they say, Well, can I just work with you? You seem really great. And that will happen for sure. And then I don't know if I'm alone in this, but then sometimes my ego would be like, oh, they think I'm great. Maybe I should work with them, right?

Tracel
Yeah.

Uriah
So I actually put these questions about this challenge in the group Practice Exchange Facebook group to see what people would say about it, both on the side of what the challenges they faced are. And then what some solutions they found were. So one therapist posted this. She said, I explained that I don't have any availability. And after hearing their issue, I say quote, 'But I have a colleague who would be perfect for you.' Emphasis exclamation point!

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
'Her specialty is exactly what you're looking for and personality-wise, I think you'd be a great fit.' And she added this, which I think is great: 'Honestly, if they weren't my employee, I would use them as my own therapist.' How's that for a vote of confidence?!

Tracel
How can somebody say no to that?

Uriah
Right. And then she said, that usually does the trick. So there you go - there's about two or three sentences that you can kind of just insert there. That will help a whole lot when they say, Well, can I just work with you? So that's pretty key. And you're going to need to practice that until you get off the phones and hand that over to somebody else. You're going to need to practice saying that on a regular basis. The next point here under adjusting your call script is don't give them the impression that you might be available soon because it's not too hard with your tone of voice or with your actual words to create some space for them to get in there. So I don't know what people might say under this circumstance, but it could be saying I'm actually full right now and then pausing or kind of starting to walk back that last statement. Right.

Tracel
Right. Or even somebody could outright ask you that question. So you'd have to be prepared for that, too. They could ask you, are you going to be have any space in the future, do you think or how would you have to be prepared?

Uriah
And that happened to me so many times. I can remember I'm not taking any new clients now or I don't have any openings right now. And they would always say, in my case, it was especially hard because they were literally probably referred by several people who said, oh, gosh, your eye is amazing. Or maybe there was even a friend who had their son or daughter work with me. Most likely son.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
And so they're committed to seeing I'm the person they were referred to. Right?

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
So like really trying to push a rock up a Hill. So I'm not taking new clients, period. Right. Yes. You can be human about it. And you can be I wouldn't say apologetic, but you can be understanding, right. I really would like to work with you. But however, you want to say that I can't do that right now and I'm not going to have availability in the future. However. And then you say the next thing, right?

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
The tricky part is when, as I mentioned before, when you really do believe that you are the best therapist. But the reality is that even if you have the specialty and the knowledge and the experience actually not the best therapist, because your schedule is probably too full right. And I told this to somebody recently, one of my coaching clients, that the truth is because you're so busy running this group practice, you actually might be a very good therapist for this client, but you don't have the time to give them the attention and what they really need. Whereas hopefully your clinician does because they're just focused on doing the clinical work.

Tracel
Right. That's a great point.

Uriah
That's a little bit of a mindset shift right there. The next tip is don't present your clinicians as an inferior option to working with you, even if you are the best therapist in the practice for them.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
And most of us wouldn't say that directly, but it comes through right. It comes through in sort of an apologetic tone. And we might talk about that a little bit because we teach intake coordinators on how to fulfill that role. And one of the things we talk about is pitching pre licensed clinicians. And this is a similar point there as to this one where it's like, don't make it sound like they're an inferior option.

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
So that's really important. Gosh. Sorry. I'm trying to keep up with my notes here. Okay. So the next point here is explain that you handpicked each clinician and that you oversee their work. So if somebody is referred to you and you have the reputation, let them know that you personally hired these people in your practice and you recommend them fully.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
And that should go a long way. And if you're also supervising them even better because you are really more involved. So try to translate that credibility, I guess. Right.

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
From you and let the person on the phone know that that extends to the people that you've hired because they're your A team. Right.

Tracel
Right. I think both of those things go a long way. If you can add that as part of your script, it's going to go a long way to help make that shift from you to them. And somebody feel good about it. Not like you said. It's not the B team. They can feel good about this choice that you're suggesting to them for sure.

Uriah
And one thing I want to mention, too, is something that I actually learned from. I believe I learned this from you, Tracel, from your experience being an intake coordinator role about if somebody is not totally convinced that the person that has been chosen for them, that they're the right one, do you know what I'm talking about? Do you remember what you used to say? Can you share that?

Tracel
So sometimes if you just give somebody the permission, I guess, to know if this person isn't a good fit, I don't have to be stuck with them forever and verbalizing that and telling them if you have a session or two with Jim, and he just doesn't feel like it's a good fit for you, then let me know. And we're happy to find somebody that would be a better fit for you in the practice and sometimes just giving them that permission allows them to open their mind and go, okay. I know I really wanted to see this person, but now you're suggesting somebody else, and it will allow them to be open minded enough to give that person a fair shot. And most of the time, they won't reach back out to you because they will give Jim or whoever that other option is a chance. But in the event that it's not good, then you've given them a way to come back to you and know that it's okay. I would even throw in nobody's going to have any hard feelings. Jim is not going to have any hard feelings because he wants what we all want and that's for you to be successful. It goes a long way to help them feel like it really does.

Uriah
What you do is you remove that objection because they're thinking maybe they're on the fence. They're talking to you and you're sharing all kinds of positive things about your clinician about Jim. He really is great. Jim works in my practice. He's fantastic, but it removes that objection and hopefully not pushes them, but encourages them to go ahead and commit and sign up for therapy with that person and a caveat I'll put there, too. And this is more related to hiring, but it really is important because of all the things we're talking about here that you hire people that you can legitimately say those things about, yes, and really get behind. I have had people on my team in the past that I was less than excited to promote, right. And that became an internal conflict for me. And people can pick up on that kind of thing. If you're saying, Jim, Jim is really great option for you, but they can tell you you don't really believe that. So you want to make sure and fill your team with people who you think are really awesome.

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
And then the last one here is to be prepared to offer them a few referrals and quote, unquote lose them as a client and that's I think something that we're all a little bit afraid of because we don't want to say no to potential clients that are ready to sign up, ready to pay us money to our services. But if they're not a good fit for you, for all the reasons we talked about, and they're not quite ready to commit to seeing one of your clinicians, giving them some referrals and going that extra mile with that customer service can really come back around to be a benefit for your practice. And that's just sometimes the best, the most ideal outcome it really is.

Tracel
And it might not be something that you see right away, but it's definitely planting seeds for the future, because if they end up being a good fit in the future, they'll come back to you or if they know somebody, that's a good fit for you. Now they're going to send them your way.

Uriah
Yeah, definitely. So there you go: simple tip Number one is make a decision about your limits and boundaries, Number two is adjust your call script to better sell your clinicians, Number three, of course, this is one of our favorite because we're all about delegating and outsourcing!

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
And to be honest, I think this is probably one of the best solutions to this challenge is to hire an assistant to handle the intake role, and this will get you further faster for sure, because as long as you're the one on the phone, it's just going to always be tricky. So so many benefits to having somebody else handle the intake calls. And if you've thought about this and you're sort of on the fence or not, sure, I can almost guarantee you that you'll love not having to do that job anymore. So give it some thought. But some of the benefits here. Number one, it helps you avoid difficult conversations and having to say no to people all the time. And that works great for me because I have an avoidant personality. So it's easier half of a joke there for you. But I don't like disappointing people. The truth is, I don't like disappointing people. So when I handed it over to Keith and he could be the one, and then eventually Tiffany would be the one to say no. I'm sorry. Your schedule is full, and he's not taking on new clients. Honestly, quite a relief. So that's one big benefit number two that goes along with that. It makes it more challenging for people to get on your calendar. Challenging or impossible. Right. And it really assists you in helping you stick to your plan and your time boundaries. So that's critical, because if it's up to me, I'm going to be the weakest link in that situation. Even today, I think I would be right.

Tracel
So your assistant can be that accountability partner to say no. You said this is how many you were going to take.

Uriah
Actually, that's a really good point. Yeah, that is the best accountability partner, because they can say, hey, you said 15 was the Max, right? Let's stick to that. And then, of course, it removes you from the front line so that you can focus on growing and running the practice, which is honestly invaluable because you don't want to be the bottleneck that keeps your practice from growing, especially in the beginning. And as it progresses. So those are a lot of benefits. Also, you can go on vacation. Like I said, I didn't put that on our list. Yeah. You know, when you said your intake coordinator can be your accountability partner, that's made me think about in the past. Jamie one of my best assistants that helps me run productive therapist. She will always get on me when I'm on vacation and I try to work, right?

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
So it's really helpful when you have somebody else that knows what you've committed to.

Tracel
Yes. Exactly.

Uriah
And they can kind of gently in a friendly way, hold you to it, right?

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
So there are a lot of challenges for people moving from handling the intake role to hiring an intake coordinator. What are some of those challenges in your experience for sale?

Tracel
Well, I sort of mentioned it a little bit earlier as people feel. And it is. It's a very personal part of your practice. And a lot of times people think that nobody will advocate the way that they can or sell them the way that they can. And those things may be true. And some people are really hesitant to delegate that to somebody else, or they're afraid of conversion going down or all sorts of things can happen. So what I usually tell people is the pain of continuing to do it yourself has to be greater than the pain of handing it off to somebody else. That is a tipping point. You may know you want to grow, but if you aren't there, you'll end up micromanaging. Even if that's not your normal method of management, that's what happens. And then nobody's going to be happy because you'll end up spending more time than if you just did the task yourself if you're following up with somebody else. So part of that comes from having a script that you've written that you feel confident in handing that off to somebody so they can say the same things that you said it's going to be different, but that doesn't make it a lesser choice.

Uriah
Delegating, in general, is really hard for us therapists, especially group practice centers, because we're just used to doing absolutely everything and we have superhero syndrome. Have you ever heard that?

Tracel
No.

Uriah
Yeah. Like, I can do all the things confidently because I'm amazing, right. And you most likely are amazing like me. But that doesn't mean that you don't need to learn to delegate. It's one of the major things you have to develop as a business owner with a growing business that's bigger than just you, right. We've actually got a course that you can check out called Delegation Pro, that is our sort of best tips and practices on delegating, as well as a course called Virtual Advantage, which helps people really understand how to work effectively with a virtual assistant. So you can check out both of those things, and we'll give you some links to those as well. So, yeah, I guess the encouragement there really is to do the I guess, the emotional work, the personal work around, getting to the point where you're ready to delegate and you understand the value of that, the importance of that. And then you can move on to tackle the challenges of actually doing it. But there's no doubt in my mind that this is a necessary step for a growing group practice in some ways, the sooner the better. But if you go too long not handling this roll off, you will push yourself towards the edges of burnout, right?

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
So what are some of the options for filling this role and for replacing yourself? Actually, I'm going to step back and tell you real quick. I know I've mentioned this to you, Tracel, but when I first delegated the intake role, I thought for sure that the conversions, the number of new clients coming in was going to go down because I was actually quite good at converting College to clients we use. I thought that a non therapist couldn't do it as well as me. Turns out the numbers actually went up, which was very interesting and surprising, and that's not going to happen all the time. Sometimes it will go down because the person that you're training or that you brought on may not be quite as competent as you, and they need to kind of develop that skill, but you never know. You could be surprised by that. Right. So several options to fill this role, and the first one that comes to mind because you have a group practice you have, at least if you're planning on starting one, you might not have your first clinician yet. But if you are in the beginning, let's say you're in the first year, you have one or two clinicians on board. There's a good chance they have the availability, the time, potentially to help out with the intake role, whether that's sharing it between you and one of your clinicians, or if they're super interested. And maybe they've done this job before at an agency in the past or something like that. Have them take that on. Not a bad idea. I think it's not a long term solution, right? Because most likely they are going to want to prioritize seeing clients. They'll make more money, but you can definitely pay them whatever makes sense. $15, $20 an hour to handle the intakes. That's probably the easiest thing to do unless you have a sister or a relative that I don't know is already a great choice for that. You know, maybe not.

Tracel
Sometimes relatives aren't the best choice. Somebody that I was talking to the other day had a relative doing it, and they felt like they lost their voice when things came up that were a challenge. If they needed somebody to change or like, Well, this is my sister. So sometimes it's a little touchy with a relative.

Uriah
Yeah. I usually recommend not hiring family or friends. Not always, but it can be a little sticky. But number one, having a therapist fill that role is something to consider. Number two is you can recruit and hire an in office or what we like to call local remote assistant, and you can get help with that with our hiring your assistant course, we'll give you a link to that one, too. And this is not actually, the truth is, it's quite challenging. I mean, over the last four years, we've recruited and hired so many virtual assistants and learned so much from that. But there's a chance that you could have a relatively easy experience finding somebody that's competent and that's interested in part time work, because that's what you're offering is part time work as an intake coordinator. And there's benefits to that for sure. You can often pay less money per hour for that person. And if you find the right person who doesn't mind only working five or 10 hours a week and that works for them, that can be a great sort of win win situation for you and for them. And sometimes the ideal people for this kind of position are grad students or maybe studying psychology also often stay at home parents usually tends to be stay at home moms, but if they're home with their kids and maybe their kids are a little bit older, we generally don't recommend you hire somebody that has toddlers, especially if it's for phones, right?

Tracel
Right. Yeah.

Uriah
Because they tend to scream whenever they want to. But there are definitely folks out there that are looking for part time work that is meaningful and would love to do that. So that's something you can for sure do. And it's kind of as simple as creating a job posting, putting it on indeed. Or somewhere like that. Facebook, even and seeing who in your network or outside of your network might be interested.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
And then, of course, you can sign up. You can skip the front of the line and sign up with a virtual assistant company that could either be a freelance virtual assistant for somebody that's just solo or a company like Productive therapist that has a team of virtual assistants that are already trained and competent to provide that service for you. I think that's honestly, one of the biggest selling points of our services for group practice owners is that they're so busy working on so many other things that to onboard an already trained person that's managed by somebody else to do that job effectively is a huge time savings. Right. So I can't recommend that enough. And you can also find independent folks out there who will work with you if you need very little hours, and you can take a look at our directory. I'll put the link on this video, but it's productive therapist. Com and you can go there and you can search it's totally free. You can search for virtual assistants and find all the ones that we found over the years right now. As we speak, there's about 27 options on there. And these are folks that work with mental health practices, specifically with therapist.

Tracel
And I was going to say, I think that's really important whether you use our service or somebody else's that it's somebody who works and has experience with mental health, because I talked to plenty of people who've had a VA that was an independent contractor, and they just did general VA services, which there's nothing wrong with that. But then you have this extra learning curve of insurance or HIPAA or all sorts of things like that that now you're having to train to. Whereas if it was somebody that already has that experience and training them to the specifics of your practice is a lot easier than explaining mental health terms or whatever it is that you would have to do.

Uriah
Absolutely.

Tracel
Yeah.

Uriah
And on top of that, too, you might be tempted to use, like, a virtual receptionist company, like a call center. Essentially.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
I will be honest. I have heard a couple of stories that are positive where that has actually worked out well for the call center to handle that, but it's not usually the case. The one I've heard the most positive about things about is conversational. But usually the call center is set up to have many people who are answering the phone for businesses, and that's just not going to be the best sort of experience for the potential clients.

Tracel
Right. Yes.

Uriah
And then with anybody else, you hire who's already an assistant or a virtual assistant who doesn't have mental health background. It just adds to the training and the time you have to spend with them and the cost of getting them up to speed. Not impossible. But you can jump to the front of the line if you want to use a company that does this every day. And I just wanted to answer a quick question that probably some of the folks listening to this might have. And that is get this question a lot. But it's when should I hire admin support? And what I commonly say is I kind of make a parallel to somebody asking, like, when should I get marriage counseling? The answer to that question is yesterday, right? Or prior to now, probably sooner than later. So I think it is pretty good advice to get administrative support intake coordinator support sooner than you think, maybe sooner than you think you can afford it just because it makes such a difference. Both admin support and office space are two things you're going to need to invest in to grow. Otherwise it will block everything. Right?

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
With that said, you do want to make sure that you can afford it and that you don't make a commitment or sign on to something that doesn't work for your budget. So we like to share this sort of guideline that you can probably afford 5% of your gross revenue. So whatever the total amount of money you're making in a given month, on average, if you take five to 10% of that, that's roughly a pretty decent budget for admin support. And that includes everything from intake coordinator, somebody who's checking benefits for you. If you at some point have a practice manager, those kind of all fall under that admin support role. So there you go: that's number three, hire an assistant to handle the intake role. One of the best decisions you'll ever make, I promise you. And then the last one is simple but not easy. And that is just be patient. As we said before, this is a temporary problem. And if you well, I'll say it's temporary if you take some action. Right.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
If you follow some of the guidelines that we're giving you. And the truth is that your clinicians will develop their own reputation and their own direct referrals over time. I made reference to Jim earlier, but he's actually been with me for five years, and he gets tons of direct referrals from local pediatricians, from local school counselors. He's just been around long enough that people know who Jim is. His past clients referred him. So it's like there is this kind of snowball effect with the group practice where your clinicians start to get known referral sources in the community know about different people and their specialties. So as long as you're continually doing marketing and networking and spreading the word about that, it's going to happen sort of naturally. Right. And like we said in the beginning of this training, feeling a certain amount of anxiety about this totally normal. And it's good that you do, because that hopefully will push you to take some decisive actions.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
And we can pretty much guarantee you that if you follow these four tips that you're going to make steady progress, because if you put a cap on your availability and you stick to your boundaries, that will make a huge difference.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
And then obviously, if you adjust what you're saying to people on the phone, that is another great step. You hire an assistant to handle the intake role. Huge step. And then if you just stay committed and patient with that process, you're definitely going to get there.

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
So we do have a couple of bonus tips, don't we? The first bonus tip comes from my practice, and that is remove your name from the practice from the front door from the website. It's not a mistake, necessarily. I wouldn't change it at this point. But my practice has my last name in the title. Right. So that at this point doesn't make a difference. But I've come to the conclusion that having my name there is not a huge benefit. But if you have called your practice your first and last name dot com, or some people will do like you're, Ryan Guilford and associates when they start a group practice like that.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
But then you're still very much the focus of the operation.

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
So consider renaming or rebranding your practice. And I'm actually in the process of doing that right now, moving from guilty family counseling to in tune family counseling so that I can write off into the sunset, not anytime soon. So that's a bonus tip if it applies to you. And then the second one is something that came from one of the people that commented on that post when I was asking for suggestions, and they said that basically promotional videos for the individual therapist can help sell them. And I found that to be true for sure. I've had videos on my site on the bio pages for the therapist for a long time. And when the potential client can go and watch the video of Jim and actually see and get a sense of his personality, it just makes it a lot easier. Of course, the opposite can be true if they're not great on video. But hopefully you can get a good video.

Tracel
And along with that, that I was going to say if you're using any kind of social media, those same videos or even snippets of those videos could go on your social media. So when people are checking you out because they are, then they can get a little behind the scenes without committing they haven't been on your website yet. They haven't called. So it's another way that you could help people get to know who your clinicians are and why they should see them.

Uriah
Therapist spotlight. Yes, I guess the extension of that is putting videos of your clinicians on social media, right. That would be also very helpful. I should do some more of that soon, especially the new folks. That'd be really good.

Tracel
Yes.

Uriah
A couple of ideas here for specific scenarios. I often hear this one where a female group practice owner will have a group of primarily female clinicians, and then they'll bring out a male clinician and have trouble challenges getting them clients. And all of the suggestions that we just shared with you will apply, and your mileage may vary, but my advice on this, I guess this applies if you're a male therapist starting a group practice, but it generally applies that hiring somebody that's similar to you has a similar specialty or desirable characteristics, if you will, is going to be helpful. After I hired Cindy, I hired Jim, and he obviously male therapist who works with teenagers. That took a lot of the stress off of me because that made the recommendation from me to him just that much easier.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
On top of that, you may have to do some direct, some specific marketing and or networking around the ideal clients for this male clinician. And that just takes time and effort to really get that information out there. So that's one specific scenario, another one that a lot of us will deal with is selling pre licensed clinicians, and we have a whole section on that in our therapy intake pro course. I'll share a link to that as well. If you do end up hiring intake coordinator, we have a training and support program for those folks that there's a whole training on this aspect so you can talk about obviously, their fee will most likely be lower. So that's kind of a selling point. You can speak about the benefits of them being under supervision. And actually, I think this was last year my wife and I brought my daughter to see a local therapist, and it was actually a pre licensed clinician. But I knew the supervisor and had so much faith and trust in the supervisor that I was like, I know that we're going to get some great support here.

Tracel
Right. I think you even use the expression like, two for the price of one.

Uriah
Two for the price of one. Yeah. I don't know if that's easy to understand for the average therapy seeker, but it's true. Right.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
And then it's super important with pre licensed clinicians as well as any of the clinicians. This kind of Tags onto what we said before, but talking up their personality and their specialties, even if those specialties are developing like, you don't want to oversell and say, somebody's EMDR certified, for example, if they've just gone to one weekend training. Right. And somebody on Facebook said, I hyped the heck out of their specialties is what they said. And Interestingly, this is just kind of a footnote. But based on research, there's been this very kind of discouraging research for established clinicians that says that our effectiveness kind of peaks around licensure in the first couple of years after that.

Tracel
Right.

Uriah
Because we're, like, really studying and really focused and that kind of thing. You don't necessarily need to say that to the person on the phone, but just know that internally, that is a good thing. And like we said before, don't convey that they're a subpart choice or somehow lesser than so there you go. Those are our tips and strategies on converting clients to your clinicians. So to recap at the end, decide on your limits and boundaries, adjust your call script, hire an intake coordinator and be patient. So what I want you to do right now, if you're listening to this is write down your next step. Which one of those things do you need to work on next and then commit to that, and that will get you there. So there you go. And just to tag on at the end, we mentioned a couple of our courses and our services. We do obviously provide virtual assistants to therapy practices, and we work with a lot of group practices. It's the majority of our members, and so we can take over the intake coordinator role for you. And when we do have openings, which is something that we're always dealing with because we do a really good job of providing those services, and it's kind of in high demand, which is fantastic, but feel free to get in touch if you need help, if you're ready to hand over the phones and scheduling duties, and then if you do decide to hire somebody locally or even a virtual assistant who maybe might benefit from some support and training, we have a program that Tracel and I created over a year ago called Therapy Intake Pro. Just for this purpose, we use it in house to train our folks. And then we have been able to support a lot of group practices to train their staff as well. And in addition to that, we have a course called Hiring Your Assistant, which will give you our best practices on the actual process of recruiting, hiring and onboarding. And I think with those resources, I think you'll be much more supported and helped on your journey. Thanks so much for listening. I appreciate you taking advantage of this bonus training and best of luck on your group practice journey. Bye for now.

Tracel
Bye!

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Uriah Guilford, MFT


Uriah is a group practice owner and the creator of Productive Therapist. He is a technology nerd, a minimalist travel packer, a rock drummer and business development enthusiast.

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