Hello there, and welcome back to the Mountain Practice Journeys podcast!
I’m your host, Cindy Norton.
Here in Episode 6 I’m going to help therapists who are overwhelmed with client inquiries to consider how systems and automation can save them precious time and money.
Let’s get started.
Podcasts are growing in popularity and there are already so many great private practice podcasts out there. If you join the Trailblazer community via my seasonal newsletter you will receive a free A-Z download that includes a list of my favorite private practice podcasts.
I hope that the Mountain Practice Journeys podcast will earn its spot in your regular podcast listens.
See below for the episode show notes links and transcript…
Episode 6 Show Notes Links
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Episode 6 Transcript
Hello there, and welcome back to the Mountain Practice Journeys podcast! I’m your host, Cindy Norton. Here in Episode 6 I’m going to help therapists who are overwhelmed with client inquiries to consider how systems and automation can save them precious time and money.
Let’s get started.
Have you been wanting to start your private practice, but you can’t seem to take that first step? Maybe you’re afraid of failure or lack confidence, or maybe the idea of running your own practice is overwhelming. I’m Cindy Norton, owner of Mountain Practice Journeys and I help therapists and counselors to love the business side of private practice. I’ll share with you practical skills and advice along with a healthy dose of inspiration so that you can be on your way to the practice of your dreams. Put on your hiking boots, and let’s get going.
If you haven’t yet listened to Episode 5, I urge you to do that. In that episode I talk a bit about sliding scales in private practice, and answer the question “Do you have to offer a sliding scale in private practice?”
Now let’s get to today’s episode.
Therapists not returning phone calls from potential clients is a REAL PROBLEM. I understand why it happens, but that’s no excuse. We’ve got to do better as a profession.
I’ve had colleagues to return a potential client call several days later only to hear that they were the only one out of 10 therapists that called back.
I see both sides.
As a therapist I get it! We are the only person running our practice. We are wearing 15 different hats, and it’s really difficult to stay on top of everything. We have to be the Owner, CEO, Marketing Specialist, Accountant, Receptionist, Social Media Manager, Bookkeeper, and so on. There’s bound to be something that falls through the cracks.
That ‘something’ is usually responding to a long list of voicemails at the end of your already busy day. It’s 6:15pm, you just finished up with a full day of clients, you still need to run by the grocery store on the way home, cook dinner, and do some laundry. The last thing on your mind is your voicemails. You decide that you will find time tomorrow, and tomorrow never comes.
There is also the stark reality that being a therapist is oftentimes an incredibly difficult profession – even more so with the current state of the world. At the time of this recording we are coming up on a full year of a global pandemic, civil unrest, and a reckoning on systemic racism that has been a long time coming and has arrived much too late in the history of our country.
Not only are our clients experiencing extreme states of distress in the form of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress, we as therapists are too – yet we continue to provide a safe space, an open heart, and a listening ear hour after hour, day after day, month after month – and now it’s almost a year that we have been supporting our clients as we face the same struggles ourselves.
This is an unprecedented time. Before the pandemic hit, you probably had a mix of clients (some who were really struggling, some who were maintaining, and some who were in a pretty good place). Now you likely have an ENTIRE CASELOAD of clients who are truly struggling.
No wonder you are tired and burnt out. Consider that a caseload of 20 clients probably feels more like 40 because of all the pain and suffering that you are helping your clients move through.
Please take care of yourself, however that looks for you. Give yourself a healthy dose of grace and compassion. I’m truly amazed that we are still functioning as therapists at this time. The burnout and fatigue are real. And this will often lead to things in our business slipping through the cracks – including responding to client inquiries.
Knowing that you have a stack of voicemails to return and a full inbox of emails can only add to the sense of overwhelm that you are experiencing. I too have experienced this overwhelm. It was so distressing that it motivated me to create a system that worked for me to alleviate the added stress of managing client inquiries.
But before I share more about the system, I want to talk about our clients and their experience in this unfortunate dynamic that comes about when we as therapists are overwhelmed.
As a potential client, searching for a therapist can be incredibly frustrating. You may have been considering therapy for a while and have just worked up the courage to reach out for support when you are most vulnerable – only to have NO ONE respond to you. None of the people that are supposed to be there to help you can even return your call. This is very discouraging, and you may not have the energy to keep chasing down a therapist.
Imagine what it must be like for them. Many of you don’t have to imagine because you have had the same distressing experience as you search for your own therapist.
We have a responsibility to the potential clients who are reaching out to us for help. They deserve respect. And they deserve a response.
Now I want to share a little about my experience with this issue. As you may be aware, I hate answering my phone. I struggled with this early on in my practice. I would always ignore my phone, even when I needed clients. In my defense, the phone never seemed to ring at an appropriate time.
I would get a call when I was with a client, when I was driving, when I was in line at the grocery store, when I was out to dinner with friends, when I was watching a movie at home – you get the picture.
I always returned every phone call, but it was a dreaded chore. For example, every day or two I had something like the following: 3 telemarketing calls (which I wanted to ignore anyway) and 5 voicemails from potential clients.
The first client didn’t leave any contact information.
I returned the call from the second client only to reach a voicemail box that was full, so I had to make a note to try again the next day and hope they answered.
I reached the voicemail box for the third client and left a message.
The fourth client answered the phone but had already booked with a therapist earlier in the day.
And the fifth client was just calling to see if I accepted insurance – which I do not.
So what did I do about this problem? If you’re like me, you don’t want to grow your practice beyond yourself. You want to be able to manage all the aspects of your practice – which is quite an undertaking. But you CAN do it with the help of technology.
Because I struggled with this problem the first couple years of my practice, I was able to come up with a thoughtful solution. A solution in which I didn’t have to change any of my natural, preferred behaviors. I want to focus for a minute on what I just said – I created a system for myself where I don’t have to change any of my natural, preferred behaviors.
How often have you tried something (whether it is a new resolution or just something that you feel that you should be doing) only to find that it feels so unnatural that you either can’t keep up with the new change or can’t even bring yourself to start in the first place.
I want us to work smarter and not harder in our businesses. And I want you to design your practice around you and your preferences. Running a business is hard enough, so we don’t need to make it even harder by trying to fit into the standard ways of doing things. Let’s think outside the box.
I’m never going to like answering my phone, so I found a way that I never have to – which actually works out better for both me and my clients.
I’m able to give clients the information they need to make an informed decision about working with me, and they can decide if they want to follow through and book a phone consultation.
This system has worked wonders for me. My phone is always on silent, I typically have an average of only one voicemail per month, and I’m continuously booking new, ideal clients.
If you are interested in solving this problem of phone aversion and the overwhelm of new client inquiries, I’ve created an online course for therapists that walks you through the exact process that I use so that you can set up your very own system that will allow you to continue ignoring your phone and your email and still book ideal clients.
By setting up this system and letting technology do the work for you, you can relax knowing that the potential clients reaching out to you are well taken care of and know exactly what to expect.
The course is aptly titled The Introvert’s Guide To A Simplified Private Practice. You can find out more about the course, and decide if it’s the solution you’ve been searching for by visiting the show notes page for this episode at mountainpracticejourneys.com/episode6/
During each episode I’ll be giving you one small take away, action step, or mindset shift. I call these acorns. Listen to episode 0 to get the scoop on what the acorns are all about.
The acorn from this episode is to let technology do some of the work for you. I use automated technology in a couple areas in my practice. The first is social media (which I talked about in the ‘what I’m digging’ segment in episode 3 with the SocialBee recommendation). And the second is with client inquiries.
I will admit, it does take time to set up these systems and to get them put into place. And this lack of time in your schedule can sometimes be a barrier to getting systems implemented in your practice. But is it possible that the reason you can’t find the time in your schedule is because you don’t have any systems set in place that take advantage of automation and technology?
It is likely that you are losing hours of precious time for every week that you don’t have a system in place. By setting aside a few hours to implement a new system to manage your client inquiries, you are in turn saving yourself precious time every day, week, and month in the future. Time that could be spent with your family, or working on an important project that you’ve neglected, or to enjoy some much needed self-care.
Personally, by using technology in my practice for social media and client inquiries, I save myself 8-12 hours each month.
As I outlined in episode 0, I’ll be alternating between a fun fact and ‘what I’m digging’ segment with each new episode. The fun fact for this episode is that I’m a huge fan of the paranormal.
I love watching paranormal TV shows. One of my favorite paranormal tv shows is The Dead Files. It features Amy Allan – a psychic medium – and Steve DiSchiavi – a retired New York City homicide detective. Amy focuses on the paranormal and Steve investigates the facts. It’s a wonderful collaboration.
I’ve actually never seen a ghost personally, but I 100% believe they’re real. And every time I visit a new city, the first thing I do is check to see if they have a ghost tour.
Thank you so much for joining me today on your private practice journey.
For episode 7 I’m going to talk all about blogging, and answer the question “Should you have a blog for your private practice?” so be sure to tune in next week.
And join me over on Instagram @mountainpracticejourneys for helpful information and tips for your practice.
There’s no way you can know how much it means to me that you choose to join me here as I share all things related to private practice. Please subscribe so you don’t miss a step. For more information about this episode, please visit the show notes page at mountainpracticejourneys.com/podcast I truly appreciate you Trailblazers. Your mountain is within reach. Journey on.
I Want You To Be Successful In Business & In Life!
Starting, growing, and maintaining a business is a big deal. It's super-exciting and super-scary all at the same time. I created Mountain Practice Journeys to support you through the difficult and muddy terrain, and to celebrate with you when you have reached each summit of the many mountains you will conquer on your journey.
Happy Climbing, Cindy