Productivity

Private Practice Tips ft. Gordon Brewer

 February 23, 2022

By  Uriah Guilford, MFT

minute read

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ft. Gordon Brewer of Practice of Therapy. 

Starting a private practice can be incredibly rewarding...but it can also be hard work and stressful at times. What can help you succeed?

In this interview with podcast hero, Gordon Brewer, we'll help you identify the tips and tools that will help you grow your practice, get more done and have more fun!

Click to listen now!

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

  • How Google Workspace is a business win
  • How to think in systems
  • Why you don't need a degree in Business to succeed
  • Why your money mindset matters

Resources Mentioned In This Episode:

Simple Practice 
Practice of Therapy (20% discount using code 'Uriah22')
Private Practice Setup Guide
Practice of Therapy podcast

⬇️ Click for full episode transcript ⬇️

Uriah
Hello and thank you for joining me on the Productive Therapist podcast! Today. I'm thrilled to be talking to Gordon Brewer who is a licensed Marriage & Family therapist as well as a podcaster, trainer, speaker and writer. Gordon is the mastermind behind the Practice of Therapy podcast, where he provides information and resources for clinicians starting, growing and scaling private practices. Gordon has worked in human services and mental health fields for over 30 years, previously in agency settings and currently in private practice as a therapist. He owns a group therapy practice called Kingsport Counseling Associates, located in Kingsport, Tennessee. Hi, Gordon, welcome to the show!

Gordon
Hi, Uriah, glad to be here! Excited about this.

Uriah
Great to be talking to you about a topic that we both know a bit about, but I would say that you're definitely more of an expert at this point than I am. So I would love to ask you some questions and toss around some ideas that would help folks starting a private practice.

Gordon
Awesome. I don't know if I'm more of an expert than you. I've been in awe of all your productivity skills.

Uriah
We have complimentary knowledge levels. How about that?

Gordon
Yeah, that's fair.

Uriah
I do have a question for you, and I don't know the answer to this one. Even though you and I've gotten to know each other better over the last year or so, how did you develop the knowledge and experience that you have with starting and growing a private practice?

Gordon
Yeah, that's a great question. I think a lot of it as I tell people that ask me this question, I've learned a lot of stuff the hard way when I started my private practice and I'm going to date myself. This would have been about circa 20 05, 20 06. There really wasn't a lot of information out there about starting a private practice. And so I had to kind of dig around. There were a few books that were out and that sort of thing, but nothing really as comprehensive as you can get now because there's so many people that are teaching just the business side of stuff. And I kind of drew some of how I learned about running a private practice, believe it or not, came from a former career of mine where I was a funeral director and I was a manager of a funeral home. So I kind of learned that's a totally different business models, so to speak. But at the same time, there was a lot about running business that I picked up from that because I don't have a business background like most of the folks in this majored in psychology and in graduate school for becoming a counselor.

Uriah
Right. Learn by doing and learn by making mistakes and figuring out what not exactly does that make sense, but you actually had the benefit of having a prior business background in your former role, so that did translate to some degree. That's interesting. Okay.

Gordon
Yeah.

Uriah
So I am actually curious to get your opinion on this. Do you think now is actually a good time or not a great time to start a new private practice?

Gordon
Wow. Yeah. Personally, I think it's a great time just because there's so much need for mental health services. If we're thinking about that niche, I realized that I probably folks listening to this, that might be another allied health kind of fields, but yeah, now is a great time to go into private practice, and there seem to be a lot of people doing it now.

Uriah
Yeah. That does make sense for sure. Unfortunately, it's a growth industry, you could say. Right? Yeah. Hopefully at some point that won't be the case. But for now it is. And so we need you to start a private practice. How about that?

Gordon
Yes.

Uriah
We need your support.

Gordon
I know in my own practice our phones are ringing off the hook, and I've just hired a couple of new therapists, and they're getting close to being full with their caseload. So, I mean, there's certainly no limit to this, I don't think.

Uriah
Right. So one of the many things that you do, Gordon, is provide consulting to private practice owners wherever they are in their stages of growth. So I'm curious, what common mistakes do you see people making in the beginning that they could save time and money by avoiding?

Gordon
Right. I think one thing is that people are maybe I think Bootstrapping is a good idea to begin with, I think for two reasons. One is to learn how everything works behind the scenes, so to speak. I think as any private practice owner, doesn't mean they have to keep doing all this stuff, but I think they need to know how it operates. But the other thing about Bootstrapping is that I think people hang on to that too long thinking that they are saving themselves money when in reality they are better served by outsourcing those things. An example of that would be and I know this is an area that you work a lot in is spending too much time answering phone calls and setting appointments and that sort of thing, rather than handing that off to a virtual assistant or somebody else that can handle those things, because that's money that could be you're not making any money by doing that. Certainly in the beginning stages when you've got a lot of time. But as your schedule gets full and you start seeing a lot of clients and seeing a lot of patients to spend an hour or two every day to return phone calls and follow up with people about appointments. You're much better served to hire somebody out by that. With that, I agree more.

Uriah
What I'm hearing you say is that it's important to know how to do all the things in your private practice, including probably insurance, billing, if you do that, accounting, marketing, et cetera. But what people do sometimes is they wait too long to get help with the things. Certain things. Okay. Yeah. That makes so much sense. I certainly waited a long time. So I'll tell you what year I started a little bit after you. But 2008, and between the time when you started and the time when I started, there weren't that many more resources. Right. Certainly if you were searching for coaches and consultants and or books on private practice, there was less than the fingers on my hand. Right, right. Yeah. And now there's just so much which I think is amazing, and I think that would have helped me so much in the beginning. But at the same time, I did exactly what you said is learn by doing and figure it out as you go, which is kind of always sometimes the best teacher, isn't it?

Gordon
Yes, it is. Not to get too far off on a tangent, but I think it's through our kind of our failures to some degree, not necessarily. As Bob Ross like to say, there are no mistakes, just happy accidents. But that's really how we learn and get better is by making those mistakes. And I've made plenty of them along the way.

Uriah
Yeah. You can't be afraid to take risks on this journey. And just starting just deciding that you're going to put yourself out there as a private practice clinician for a lot of people is pretty terrifying, right?

Gordon
Yes.

Uriah
But it also can be a lot of fun and very rewarding, too, right? Thank goodness there are people like you around to help people who are starting out. Let me take just a quick pause and tell you a bit about our sponsor.

This episode has been sponsored by Simple Practice, the leading practice management platform for private practitioners everywhere. More than 75,000 professionals use Simple Practice to power telehealth sessions, schedule appointments, file insurance claims, communicate with clients, and so much more. It truly is an all-in-one, HIPAA-compliant platform. Get your first two months of Simple Practice for the price of one when you sign up for an account today. This exclusive offer is valid for new customers only, and you can go to
SimplePractice.com/ProductiveTherapist to learn more.

Uriah
So I'm curious, like, what resources...because there are so many. It's almost like too many, right? What resources do you find the most helpful for therapists starting out? And I'll just mention there was somebody in my accountability group who is just getting licensed and starting their private practice. And the first thing that I sent them to was Practiceotherapy.com for your free download which is incredible. Yes. But including that and tell me the title of that, and then maybe share a couple of other resources you think are.

Gordon
Yeah. The startup guy is just called the Private Practice Startup Guide. And it's just a PDF that's free. Anybody that goes to the website, you can find it and sign up for that. And I think it's about 23 pages of just kind of things that I've identified along the way that you need to know when you're thinking about or things you need to consider in starting a private practice that's up there. The other thing is just looking at how you want to set up your systems and processes, because I think that's really key in making sure that your practice runs like a well oiled machine and you're not spending a lot of time jumping from this to that. I'm just discovering later in life that I've probably got a bit of ADHD. I tend to jump from one thing to another. But I think if you can have those different systems in place to kind of keep you on track with your focus, it's going to make things much easier. One resource or one tool that I'm a big proponent of. And in fact, I did a whole course on it and that's Google Workspace for therapists. And then I just think that there's a lot of tools in Google Workspace, although it's not specific to our industry or our profession, but it does just a lot of great stuff. And the thing about it is when you get the paid version of Google account, Google Workspace, you can set it up to be HIPAA secure and HIPAA compliant. And so just had a lot of folks that were really interested in that course. And what we'll do, Yuriya, while I'm thinking about it, is I'll set up a coupon code so people can get 20% off of that.

Uriah
That'd be great. Absolutely Google Workspace. I think every therapist should use it. It's a really excellent suite of tools.

Gordon
Yes.

Uriah
So you're saying think in systems and create efficient systems and improve them as you go. That makes so much sense. I remember talking to one of my clinical mentors years ago. I think I asked him a question, something along the lines of how do I become a good family therapist, like how do I serve families well? And he said, think about systems. And that was his short answer. But it makes so much sense. And if you don't have a business background, you're not going to necessarily have that mindset or that way of thinking already. But if you take advantage of these resources and listen to the Practice of Therapy podcast, you will definitely start to develop that mindset and figure out where you can save some time, save some money, make smart decisions to create a practice that you love, but also a life that you love as well, right?

Gordon
Yeah. Another thing that's just been kind of on my radar here lately is for people to really kind of understand their own money mindset. I think one of the things that we can easily do is be Pennywise, but dollar foolish, so to speak. And I think a lot of times we don't really think about return on investment. And I've learned this just along the way from people. There's that old adage you've got to spend money to make money. And I think there is some truth to that. And I think sometimes people will pinch pennies to a fault and then end up leaving money on the table, so to speak. That's one thing to kind of keep in mind the way I think about it in anything in my practice and in the practice of therapy and also in my private practice is I look for ways to get a return on the investment. If I spend money on this, am I going to get the return from that? And a simple example of that is something like having a Psychology Today profile that costs $30 a month. Some people might think that's a lot, but if you got one client from that, you would get that money back plus some. And so that's a good return on investment. And I think that's something for people to think about.

Uriah
That was super helpful when I learned about that concept and also the lifetime value of a client. So Psychology Today, I don't think they've raised their prices in like ten years or so. So it's still about like $360 a year. And you're right, if you get one client that stays maybe three, four sessions, your whole year is paid for there. So that makes a lot of sense. Yeah. And I also like to think and talk about the value of your time. And for most therapists, almost without exception, the most valuable use of your time is seeing clients.

Gordon
Yes.

Uriah
And then the admin tasks, you can get support with that. And at some point point, you really shouldn't be doing those things. You should be in the room helping the clients. And that's the best way for you to make money and leverage your time.

Gordon
And if you think about it, for us as therapist, our most valuable asset is our time and expertise. And that's what people pay us for. That's our product, so to speak. So I think we have to keep that in mind is that the more we can leverage our time so that it's spent doing that, that's how we get ahead and that's how we become profitable.

Uriah
Definitely - love that. So this might have some overlap, but I'm curious, as you're consulting with private practice therapist, what's some of the advice and guidance that you find yourself sharing most often with them?

Gordon
Oh, wow. That's a great question because I think there's a lot of different answers to that. I'm kind of repeating myself, but I think really just kind of recognizing the value of your time and also just being able to educate yourself on the you know, most of the consulting that I do is really helping educate people on the business side of running a practice and really understanding that of knowing how to manage your money, so to speak, and manage the financial side of practice. Again, it's nothing that we learn in graduate school. We've got great clinical skills and we get really polished on that. But just the business side of running things is something that we have to learn, and it's not necessarily rocket science. I mean, that's the thing. And I think a lot of times people are intimidated by that. The other thing, too, is that I think most people don't give themselves credit for their knowledge and their abilities. They get a bit of imposter syndrome to some degree. And when you look at our profession and where we are kind of on the food chain, not that there's a hierarchy, but most all of us are at least master's level folks and maybe even higher degrees. And when you look at the general population, I think last I saw is there's only like 5 to 10% of people hold a Master's degree.

Uriah
Is that right?

Gordon
Yeah. So I mean, when you think about that and think about the training and what you've spent on your education and all of that sort of thing, you're worth it. You're worth it. What people spend with you. And that's how we help people.

Uriah
That's such an important perspective. Yeah. One of our taglines of productive therapist has changed the world and love your life. I think we can do both in private practice, for sure.

Gordon
I would agree.

Uriah
So I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this. This is a question that I'm asking all of my podcast guests this year some version of this question, and the question is, what do wildly successful therapists share in common?

Gordon
Oh, wow. That's great.

Uriah
First thing that comes to your mind doesn't have to be anything.

Gordon
Yeah. They know how to connect with people. I think that's key. I know one of the other hats I wear is I'm an AAMFT-approved supervisor. One of the things - and this translates not only on the clinical side, but the business side as well - you've got to know how to engage with people and know how to interact with people. I think a lot of times people hold back on that. And I think to some degree it's a skill that you either have or you don't have. I mean, just knowing how to engage people. But I think that is the number one thing that you have to have in order to be successful as a therapist. Even the clinical research shows that the number one determination of efficacy is that the client counselor, the client therapist relationship. If you can do that, well, that's going to help you across the board to be successful in our field.

Uriah
Yeah, I like how you talk about how it applies in the room and outside of the room too. Yes, I would say that most therapists most people who get into this field, that's at least one of their superpowers. So that's really good, right?

Gordon
Yes.

Uriah
So thanks so much for being on podcast, Gordon. I'm curious where people can go to find more about you and your services.

Gordon
Yes, they can visit the website - practiceotherapy.com - and you can also listen to my podcast, the Practice of Therapy podcast. Anywhere you listen to your podcast, just do a search and you can find me there.

Uriah
That's fantastic. And we'll include links to that all of those things in the show notes as well as the private practice startup guide for folks.

Gordon
Yes, and the coupon code - and I'll go ahead and make an executive decision here - that's going to be Uriah22.

Uriah
That's perfect because that's my age.

Gordon
Yes. Okay. Yes, I knew it was somewhere around there, give or take.

Uriah
That sounds great. Well, thanks so much, Gordon. Have a wonderful day.

Gordon
Okay. You too.

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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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