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|The Business of Therapy|
The Not-So-Private Practice
A Collaborative Model For the 21st Century
By Victor Goldman
Therapists struggling to maintain successful practices in today's economy must face the great occupational hazard of our profession: isolation. The circumstances of our daily work lives—the privacy of private practice—can cut us off from the sources of information and support we need to market ourselves effectively and network within our communities. For several years, I've been working with a group of therapists to create a new model of practice-development rooted in a fuller engagement within a professional community.
My foray into developing a new practice-building model grew out of my own economic necessity. My partner and I were proud owners of a professional office building that was losing its therapist tenants as the decline in the economy was making their practices shrink. Partly to keep these offices rented, we began a practice-building and networking program for "our" therapists, so they could generate enough business to stay put.
We started by offering once-a-month seminars and gradually began supplementing our mentoring, online coaching, and homework assignments with additional services and programs, such as website-building advice, listservs, marketing groups for different clinical specialties, public relations expertise, and so forth, provided by members of our network. Word of mouth increased, and therapists who weren't renting space from us were soon asking to join our network. So did other allied professionals (massage therapists, acupuncturists, nutritionists, fitness trainers, lawyers, and so on), who wanted to increase their practice-building skills and market their services to our members. As we grew, members formed team marketing groups around specific specialties or interests. Today, our network has increased to 90 individuals, each of whom pays a monthly membership fee.
How It Works
Six months ago, Sue, a 34-year-old clinical social worker who was just starting her private practice, sat in my office for a consultation as a new member of the network. Discouraged, stressed, and teary-eyed, she said she didn't know what to do: she was only seeing 2 clients a week and needed at least 12. Like most therapists, she dreaded the idea of marketing herself. "I've never had to sell myself, and just can't imagine being successful as a salesperson."