The opportunity to open your own private mental health care practices is extremely attractive and enervating for many therapists and counselors. Though it also comes with a few challenges when having to balance the rewarding aspects of patient care with the business aspects of maintaining your own small practice.
To help you put your best foot forward, we collated a variety of tips to help new behavior therapists and counselors to navigate the water of growing their own small mental health practice.
Tip #1: Launch A Polished & Professional Website
Every successful business needs a website both to give them a presence and help prospective clients find them. This is especially true for mental health and counseling practices that need to engender trust in their patients from the very first second.
You can also use the content on your website to demonstrate your credibility, help patients find resources, and build your reputation. An online blog helps improve your ranking and demonstrates your passion to potential patients who are searching for just the right therapist.
Even if you aren’t technically savvy with web design, there are a lot of high-quality web design services that can develop, publish and maintain your website for a minimal fee. They can infuse your website with search engine optimization to help you rank highly, and attract more clients.
Tip #2: Do Things To Diversify Your Income
Early in the early days of small mental health practice, there can be delays and slow times in your revenue stream. These days a lot of people have a “Side Hussle” to bring more money in. Things like freelance food delivery might bring in more money, but they won’t do much to help grow your practice.
Ideally, you want to look for something you can do from the comforts of your office that let you add to your overall reputation and industry presence. This could be things like writing and publishing an E-book in your area of expertise, starting a blog, teaching an online class, or speaking at workshops.
Tip #3: Maintain Organized Records & Forms
There are a lot of forms and records that support a thriving mental health or therapy practice. This includes nuts & bolts forms like confidentiality forms and legal paperwork that need to be a critical part of any new patient intake process. Making these forms available for electronic transmission can take time, but also plays a critical role in streamlining the process of bringing new patients in as well as submitting claims to payers or receiving pre-approvals for specialty services.
Some of the key forms to make sure you always have on hand include the following:
- Informed consent
- Release of information
- HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices
- Intake form
- Social media policy
- Cancellation policy
- Credit card payment authorization
Tip #4: Respond To All Queries Promptly
Electronic correspondence and social medial make it easier than ever for prospective clients to contact you for questions and scheduling. Making a point to respond to all queries as soon as possible helps to develop a sense of trust and demonstrates your passion for helping others. Today there are sophisticated alert systems that can be directly linked to your smartphone that can let you know when someone sends a message or responds to a blog post.
Tip #5: Set The Ambiance
From your waiting room to your office area, you need every square inch of your practice to look professional, yet also warm and comfortable enough to make patients feel relaxed and at home. Make sure it is a reflection of you as well as demonstrating your credentials and areas of expertise.
This includes keeping the area clean and organized at all times. If you are overtaxed with the nuts and bolts of the business side of your small practice, there are office cleaning services that offer affordable, routine services. They can keep your office looking impeccable, while you tend to more important matters.
Tip #6: Consider Taking A Business Management Course
The nuts and bolts of the business side of things are where a lot of solo practitioners struggle in the early days. Tax codes, legal documents, billing, and coordinating with insurance companies can all be a little overwhelming. Even if you did have a few business management classes in college, if it’s been a few years, you might want to consider taking another one just to brush up on the mechanics of running a small business.
Tip #7: Continue Your Education
It’s a principle truth of life that there is always more to learn. Expanding your education by advancing your degree not only helps you better serve your patients, but can also improve your overall reimbursement rate. Most health insurance providers and public payer institutions will increase your reimbursement rate based on your level of education, experience, and specialty services your offer.
Tip #8: Set Up A Self-Care Routine
The reality is that starting your own mental health practice makes you somewhat of an entrepreneur. Starting any new business can be stressful and there will certainly be challenging times in the process of managing the business side of things. So, make sure to set up a self-care routine, to keep your own internal energies strong and your mind focused on the positive side of helping patients who rely on your services.
Tip #9: Consider Hiring An Administrative Staff
Many therapists who start their own practice are not fully versed in the nuts and bolts of maintaining the business side of things. Hiring one or perhaps two administrative staffers to manage things like keeping records, answering phones, scheduling appointments, and submitting pre-approvals to insurance providers lets you stay focused on helping patients.
Tip #10: Consider Outsourcing Your Medical Billing
There are a lot of complex CPT codes, ICD 10 codes, and DSM 5 codes in the realm of mental health practices. Errors in codes, missing information, and data entry errors can all put you at risk of a patient having a rejected or denied claim. Even something as simple as a blank field on the patient’s records can cause significant delays from the payer institution.
Outsourcing your medical billing services to a third-party agency like Operant Billing Solutions ensures that all your claims are being coded correctly. This includes a meticulous process of combing overall critical details to ensure they are correct before submitting the claim to the payer or insurance agency. This further translates into a more consistent revenue stream for your new behavioral therapy practice. It also frees you up to tackle more important aspects of growing your practice, while staying focused on your area of expertise.