Where the Client Is

Building a better private practice

Interview: William D. Morgan, PsyD.

wdmorganBill Morgan is a therapist, coach, and the author of Today’s Private Practice.  He talked via email with Where the Client Is about his private-practice building work.

What’s your background?
I completed my master’s degree in counseling psychology in 1988 and began practicing as a counselor in a private group practice. Managed care had not yet surfaced in the metropolitan area where I was located. Things went well. I returned to graduate school in 1992 while continuing to practice, with the vision of obtaining my doctorate in clinical psychology and a more lucrative and independent practice as a licensed psychologist. Shortly after beginning my doctoral degree program, managed care was taking over the market in our area and across the nation.

As the impact was becoming plain, I remember the dismay of my fellow classmates who wondered if they were going to be able to earn enough as a psychologist to repay their student loans. I heard stories of practitioners leaving private practice to join groups doing managed-care work because they could not make it work in the traditional private practice model. Some were even leaving the profession.

After completing my training and obtaining my doctorate and license, I worked in a large managed-care driven group. The pay was low; I received about half of the fees collected from managed-care insurance, which was paying about half of the going rate in our area for psychologist fees. There were numerous problems and frustrations dealing with managed-care companies. I had to work long hours and many evenings to support my family.

Finally, after much deliberation and inspiration from practitioners who were successful in managed-care-free practices, I decided to go out on a limb and set up my own private office. From the outset, I established a private-pay-only practice. I did this for several reasons:

• I believe that managed care does not cover high quality services
• Clients want and deserve customized attention
• Many people value real privacy, which they cannot have in managed care
• I believe I deserve to make a good living in the profession, and can design a more satisfying workplace outside of managed care

The question was, would enough people be willing to pay out of pocket for services? The answer was and is YES. And now at the other end of the transition, I can say it was one of the best things I ever did.

What do you do now?
When I set up my practice, I focused on clinical psychology and counseling services and business consulting. As a part of my business consulting, I found myself dealing with business and professional people quite a bit, including working with service professional organizations. With the help of some good consultants and coaches, my practice thrived–completely managed-care free. It soon occurred to me that I loved being a coach, and I todaysprivatepracticereally have a heart for mental health professionals who would like their own thriving, managed-care free private practice. I started a program called Today’s Private Practice, and in 2005 wrote the book Today’s Private Practice: Strategies for Building a Thriving Managed-Care Free Psychotherapy Practice. Today my practice includes five counselors and therapists. In addition to coaching mental health professionals in building a thriving private practice, I am still engaged in providing psychological, career, and consulting services.

What approach do you take when helping private practitioners build their practice?
I generally work with mental health professionals one-on-one providing private practice coaching. Together we talk weekly about their practice goals and develop personalized strategies to help them reach their goals. My coaching approach is a no-fluff, down-to-earth approach. I emphasize that is is very possible to break free of managed care, and help people do it. But, I also work with therapists who decide to remain in the managed-care system. In addition to weekly coaching programs, I also offer private practice consulting at an hourly rate.

Very often, my clients want help with getting more clients. The “secrets” of getting clients are really not so much secrets as they are sound marketing approaches and skills individualized for helping professionals. We often cover things like marketing strategies individualized to who they are, how to leverage their strengths and assets, ways of becoming a trusted professional and credible expert in their area, developing marketing tools, and developing the skills to attract clients to their practice effectively. We also talk about designing their ideal practice, and how to implement the vision.

Many therapists struggle with the whole idea of promoting themselves or marketing. Little preparation for this is offered in graduate school. Therapists in general are shy about promoting their practice. I help my clients over this hurdle and see that there is much that they can do to attract clients in a dignified way, and that they can become very comfortable with marketing when it is done right.

I love the mental health profession, and am often excited about the potential my clients have to enjoy the profession while having a great impact for good in people’s lives.

What have you seen make the biggest difference in private practice success?
In my book, I discuss “The Eight Steps to Developing a Thriving Private Practice.” These steps are based on my experience as a professional and as a private practice coach. What I have found is that it is important to specialize and develop a niche. It is hard to gain the attention of potential clients as a generalist. Clients will come to you when you become known as a credible expert in a certain area, or maybe a few areas. This helps gain visibility, credibility, and differentiates you from the crowd of other professionals. At the same time, it increases your confidence in your services and marketing. How to do all this is outlined in the Eight Steps.  Along with this, it is important to develop a simple but effective marketing plan based on who you are.

Any final words of wisdom for people trying to start or expand their practices?
It is possible to break free of managed care and thrive in private practice. You can design and create a great practice and make a good living in your profession.

Niche marketing is an important strategy in today’s private practice. Develop a service line based on for what people feel a need, what you love to do and for what people will be willing to pay. Develop multiple streams of referrals for each service through a set of simple, effective, low-cost marketing strategies that suit your personality and target market.

Practitioners in today’s private practice benefit from becoming more business-minded and entrepreneurial, more skilled in communicating their services to their niche market and getting out of the office more.

There is no scarcity of opportunity to make an impact in people’s lives through psychotherapy or counseling. It’s a wonderful field to be in.

Bill Morgan, author of Today’s Private Practice, is a psychologist in private practice and owner of a business and private practice coaching firm. Bill especially enjoys assisting mental health professionals in designing and building thriving private practices. For more information or to contact Bill, visit www.WilliamDMorgan.com.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you.Your article was very helpful.

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