When we enter the field of mental health, we do so almost universally with the desire to make a difference in the lives of others. We may be drawn to this career by our own experiences: a connection with our own therapist, or seeing a loved one struggle with mental illness. Having made the decision, we spend years of our lives, along with substantial sums of money, honing our craft. Finally, at the time of graduation, be it as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or any of the other healing professions, we face a world of possibility, eager to use our hard-earned skills to ease the burden of our clients.
But as idyllic as it may seem to “hang out a shingle” and watch the clients come strolling in, the reality is far more challenging. For all those thousands of hours we spent focused on therapeutic technique during our graduate education, how many did we spend on the business side of our future career?
For many of us, those hours were few and far between if they existed at all as part of our program. While we did not go into this field to get rich quick — or at all (if you did, you chose the wrong field) — there is still the appreciable need to earn a living, if for no other reason than to pay back those niggling student loans.
Enter Lynn Grodzki’s book Building Your Ideal Private Practice: A Guide for Therapists and Other Healing Professionals, just recently released in its second edition.
Grodzki helps us create a blueprint for a successful practice, regardless of the stage of our career. Leaving her executive role in her family business, she writes, she felt called to go back to school to become a therapist after her own experience in therapy had “dramatically” changed her life. After that, she was able to combine her interests in business and therapy as a business coach for therapists, and has been doing so for nearly twenty years, in addition to maintaining her private practice. She distills these years of experience in the latest edition of her book.
One of the first things Grodzki addresses is the dichotomy we often perceive of being a therapist versus being a business person. “Recently I asked a group of therapists to give me a word that described their feelings about business,” Grodzki writes. “One bravely stood up and said, ‘Would hate be too strong a word?’”
She draws our attention to the cultural ideas we have of the ruthless, manipulative businessperson and the compassionate healer — and helps to bridge that divide. The beginning of the book works on both shifting our thinking as well as helping us nail down our core values and vision. Next, Grodzki focuses on how we can solidify the practice we already have, such as through developing our brand and connecting with others. She also covers the pros and cons of shifting to a group practice, the possibility of expanding beyond therapy to add additional services, and, for those reaching the end of their careers, how to get a practice ready to be sold.
For those who read the first edition of this book, this second edition includes six new chapters as well as various updates to cover issues that have emerged over the last fifteen years. These include leveraging the internet in establishing and expanding one’s practice as well as addressing financial changes, such as the ever evolving role of insurance and managed care.
In her chapter on establishing an internet presence, Grodzki goes beyond the basic “you need a website” admonishing. She explains how to go about optimizing a website so that it appears in search engines, how to use social networking as a tool, and how to reach out through blogs, vlogs, and e-newsletters.
Grodzki’s writing is approachable and engaging. She incorporates personal experiences as well as anecdotes from her workshops and private consulting, and she offers helpful exercises. She deftly tackles difficult topics, such as how to sustain a healing business during times of burnout. Overall, this is a well-written and useful book.
Building Your Ideal Private Practice: A Guide for Therapists and Other Healing Professionals, 2nd Edition
W. W. Norton & Company, March 2015
Hardcover, 384 pages