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Harnessing the Winds of Change - Page 6

This process would be akin to reengineering the concept of private practice from a medical model to a consumer model. As a profession evolves, it needs a different approach for each developmental stage. Business ecosystems develop in four stages: birth, expansion, leadership, and self-renewal (or death). If the birth of psychotherapy (and its delivery system of private practice) started with Sigmund Freud, then during the past century we've clearly expanded—in numbers of practitioners and methodology. Today, we're poised at the leadership stage. Taking leadership means captaining our own practices to explore business models that'll give us more access and control in bringing our services to others.

Forward-Thinking Business Models

The private practice of the future—one that's profitable, relational, consumer driven, free of managed care, and highly marketable—may look quite different from the ones that therapists occupy today. There are many possible business models for a future-oriented practice, but here are four generic business structures, all of which seem resilient enough to ride out the upcoming economic ups and downs.

Boutique Practice. Also known as a premium or platinum practice, a boutique practice is one in which a patient or client can expect fine service, for a price. This business model is a growing trend with some physicians: for an additional fee, sometimes in the form of a yearly retainer, they limit their caseload and offer immediate access, longer appointment times, and a high level of medical care. The idea of a yearly retainer in addition to session fees seems to me to challenge the ethics of a psychotherapy practice; but in truth, many mental health professionals have created high-quality, boutique services, for which clients pay top dollar, out of pocket, for specialized, desired services.

To fashion a boutique practice, it's important that you openly articulate the value of your services, to help clients understand the expertise, access, and care that they'll receive. This model works best when you offer niche services targeting a specific market. You have to know your market and understand its critical features in terms of services, location, and results. For a sole proprietor, a boutique, fee-for-service-only practice can generate $80,000 to $200,000 in annual revenue. Build market share in a boutique practice by creating a loose affiliation with therapists in your local area, targeting specific markets for advertising, and leveraging marketing time and dollars. Therapists in boutique practices specialize in services such as:

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