To group practice or not to group practice? That is the question. Whether you’re contemplating starting a new private practice in counseling or already have an established practice, creating a group therapy practice is on the mind of many mental health professionals.
Starting a new practice? Check out our new private practice PDF templates bundle you and your team can use.
You can jump to a specific section here:
- Creating a Plan
- Setting Goals
- Choosing Your Client Type(s)
- Getting Legal Help
- Picking a Practice Name
- Determining How Much to Charge Clients
- Taking Insurance or Private Pay
- Creating Client Policies
- Getting an Office, Going Online, or Both?
- Gathering the Right Forms
- Hiring Practitioners
- Choosing an EHR Company
- Creating a Website
- Marketing a Group Practice
- Tracking Progress
- Doing Great Work
In this post we will review many aspects to help you get started with your new group therapy practice. If you’re asking any of the following, this post is for you!
- “Solo private practice vs group practice?”
- “How do I start my own group practice?”
- “How do I scale a group counseling practice?”
- “How do I get more clients for my group practice?”
- “What counseling forms do I need for my group practice?
- “Should I have a physical location for my group practice or just do online counseling?”
- “Which marketing strategies should I use for my group practice?”
- “How much should I charge per hour in my group practice?”
- “How much should I pay my practitioners?”
- “What are the advantages of group therapy practice?”
- “What are disadvantages of group practice?”
- And many more questions answered!
Let’s dive in!
Advantages of Group Practices
In this section we will discuss a few advantages of a group practice, beginning with financial benefits.
1. Financial Benefits
You alone can only do so much work, there are only so many hours in the day. However, like any team, you can accomplish so much more. In terms of running a group therapy practice, having a team of mental health professionals can elevate your income earning potential. In a later section, we will discuss ideas on percentage splits you can implement for group your practice.
2. Team Expertise
Having multiple therapists and other mental health experts on your team can improve the overall expertise your practice has to offer. Sure, maybe you’re an expert with many years in practice but having 10 versions of you on staff is bound to improve treatment for your clients.
3. More Referrals
With more experts on your team, you’re bound to have more expertise on a wider range of treating different conditions and potentially different treatment styles. This opens the floodgates for receiving more clients with different needs. Having a diverse team in your group therapy practice can help you take on these different clients by way of internal referrals.
Disadvantages of Group Practices
Now that we’ve discussed a few advantages of group therapy practices, let’s balance that out with a few disadvantages.
1. Financial Costs
Yes, you can make more money in a group therapy practice. But you can also make less money. There are higher up front costs like:
- Larger office (more on having an office, virtual, or both later on)
- Larger marketing strategy required (The more clients you need, the more you need to be bringing in a steady flow of clients)
- Your own personal insurance
- Business insurance
- Accounting software or an accountant
- Invoicing software
- More complex therapy website strategy
- Website hosting
- Domain name
- Electronic health record system / patient management system
- HIPAA compliant email address
- HIPAA compliant web forms
- IT support
- Marketing costs
- Lawyer fees
- Incorporation fees
- Tax accountant
- Networking memberships
- Payroll costs and fees
- Permit costs
- Office supplies
- Software costs
- Equipment for employees, such as computers.
The bottom line is that your upfront costs are going to be higher, so your practice will need to be growing more quickly than if you were building a solo practice.
2. Less Control
When you have a team of mental health professionals who are unique and have their own style of treatment, things will be different than if you were treating the patients. If you’re a control freak, you may struggle with this aspect of a group practice. We have found the truly successful group practices are most likely run by a leader who empowers their team to use their strengths and and unique characteristics to enhance the overall practice.
3. Employee Issues
People have issues. This does not stop when you become a mental health professional. With a growing practice, you’re going to have growing pains. You’ll need to make sure you have policies in place for your employees and perhaps a way to solve internal issues. For larger practices, a HR representative may be needed. For smaller practices, you as the owner may need to sit down objectively to help team members.
Now that we’ve discussed advantages and disadvantages of having a group therapy practice, let’s dive into the steps to starting a group therapy practice.
1. Creating a Plan
Spending time to create a strategy should be thoroughly done. Abraham Lincoln famously said “If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.”
Your strategy and planning is crucial to the success and overall direction of your group practice. Even if you don’t formally write out a business plan, your notes should be an adaptive document that you change as you learn. Here are some things to include in a plan for your private practice:
- Your vision
- What makes you and your practice unique (your value proposition)
- Unique offerings
- Your target client(s)
- Who you want to hire
- Financial goals
- Practice goals (solo therapy practice or a group practice?)
- Marketing goals
- Goals for 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 5 years
- A loan repayment plan if you are not self-funding
With a good plan in place, you’ll have a blueprint to follow as you build your practice out.
Ryan Pope, a Business Coach at Out of the Box Advisors, highlights the importance of a clear marketing strategy for your practice:
One of the most common and potentially dangerous mistakes a new practice can make is to lack a clear marketing strategy. It is crucial that you not only set a budget that can meet your initial cash flow needs, but to also invest in items that reflect your quality of service. Off the cuff, internally designed websites will not cut it in todays marketplace. Unless you happen to be exceptionally skilled in web design, make sure you’re allotting budget for a professional website. Then invest in SEO or other efforts to get your site pushed out to the internet on tools like TherapyByPro and others.
Ryan Pope, Out of the Box Advisors
2. Setting Goals
Setting goals for your private practice is an important part of achieving your dream practice. You should strongly consider setting milestone goals 3 months out, 6 months out, 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, and 10 years out, for example. Here are some steps you can use to set goals for your practice for each milestone:
- What do I want to accomplish in ___ months/years?
- How many practitioners do I want to hire in the first 6 months? First year? 5 years?
- What type of practitioners do I need for my practice?
- Be specific as possible with tangible numbers you want to achieve. Ex: I want to have 5 counselors in 2 years in my group practice
- Commit to your goals
- Track results at regular checkpoints (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc)
- Hold yourself accountable with deadlines that you set
- Celebrate when you achieve milestones – As a private practice owner, celebrate the little things, and definitely celebrate the big milestone accomplishments
You should also answer some questions very early on, such as: What kind of private practice are you trying to build? Do you want a solo therapy practice or do you want a group therapy practice? Making these decisions will save you time and money if you make them early on. When you choose your branding and website name, will you name your practice after your own name or will you create a brand? We recommend using your name if you’re in a solo therapy practice, and a brand if you plan on a group therapy practice.
3. Choosing Your Client Type(s)
When you first start your practice, you’ll probably need to take any and all clients that come your way. But having a specialty niche is a great way to have long-term growth. Why? Because you’ll make more money and spend less effort to help more patients. Without a niche, you’ll be getting all types of clients with all types of issues. This is a recipe for burnout disaster. The beautiful part about a group practice is that you can start adding new specialties as you get more talent on your team. This can expand your reach and grow your profitability.
You can ask yourself these questions when choosing your client type:
- Who does my practitioners enjoy working with?
- Which type of client(s) can my practitioners help at a high level?
- Which condition(s) can my team best treat?
- Who can pay for my services?
- Who can my team help best?
After you know your ideal client type, everything you do can be focused like a laser on getting those types of clients.
From a marketing perspective, a great strategy can be built around a mental health professional with a niche. For every niche, there are near unlimited opportunities to get in front of your patients. One question we always ask new clients is “please tell us your niche along with a list of conditions that you treat.” If you bring in another counselor later on, you can expand your offerings and begin to reach a new audience type.
4. Getting Legal Help
Every state and local municipality has their own business regulations. Speaking with a business lawyer is a good idea so that you can follow laws where you want to open your therapy practice. Some important considerations include:
- Insurance for malpractice and professional liability
- Incorporating your business – What type of legal business entity will your group practice be? LLC, S Corp, or something else?
- Determining if you need a business license
- Zoning laws that dictate where you can open a practice
- Any other therapy practice concerns
5. Picking a Practice Name
Choosing a practice name is an important part of starting a new practice. This process can drive therapists crazy trying to think of the perfect name for their future thriving practice. We will approach this perhaps a little differently than you might by thinking about your domain name at the same time. Below are some pointers on choosing a name for your group practice. Make sure that:
1. Your Practice Name Is Unique
Choose a group practice name that is available. You can use tools like Godaddy’s domain name checker to see if your amazing idea is available. You should also Google your idea to see what pops up. Thirdly, you should check state business directories.
2. Not Too Long
Choose a name that is not too long. We see some practitioners whose name is 5+ words. This can be problematic in many areas, such as: domain names, client remembering the full name, fitting your name in a logo, and so on. When choosing a domain name, try to get one that is short, under 15 characters if possible.
3. Your Name Represents Your Beliefs, Expertise, An Influence, or Clinical Expertise
A good idea when choosing a practice name is to line up an important belief, your expertise, an influence, or something in your clinical experience to your name. Your name is a massive part of your brand and will help you create the practice you’re looking to create.
4. Make Sure the Name Represent Your Target Audience
This is a double edged sword when you’re creating a therapy practice name. Your name should represent the type of clients you’re looking to work with. A couple key points with this:
- Make sure you don’t exclude potential clients in your name. If a client feels your name doesn’t represent them, they probably will choose a different provider.
- If your practice treats 95% women (and that is your goal), it won’t make business sense to include something contrary to this goal.
- It’s difficult to represent everyone you treat in a short name, so we recommend choosing a name that is a little more like an umbrella (one that covers your entire practice). One of our group practice marketing and website clients, Galen Hope, chose their name based on Galen, the Greek forefather of modern psychology, and hope, part of their treatment philosophy.
5. Don’t Get Too Spammy
The final point we have when choosing a therapy practice name is to not be too spammy. For example, some practitioners choose keywords they think are going to help their SEO, like “Best Therapist Charlotte NC” as their practice name and website domain. In our opinion, this looks spammy and doesn’t showcase your true values and why a client should choose you for their therapeutic relationship.
6. Determining How Much to Charge Clients
Determining your hourly rate can be a difficult process. On one hand, you have a desire to help more people, so offering a lower rate is tempting. On the other hand, you can only take in so many patients realistically, and it’s important that you feel financially secure so that you can continue building your practice out. Also, how much should your practitioners charge? You can let them set their own price, but more than likely, you could set pricing for them so you also make maximum revenue for your group practice.
Here are some steps to help you determine your private practice fees:
1. Determine Your Personal Income Goals
As the group practice owner, what kind of lifestyle do you want to be able to afford? Do you have goals of owning a house, paying for an exotic vacation each year, or growing into a group practice? How about going out to eat or paying for that fancy gym membership? Also, saving for your retirement should be a strong consideration.
You should determine your monthly costs, you will start to see a picture of how many clients you need and how much you need to charge. Of course this is not the only consideration, let’s continue exploring other factors when determining how much to charge hourly.
2. Figure Out Your Lifestyle Goals
Money is not everything. Many people value time over financial rewards. Having time to hang out with the kids, take short trips, or take care of your own mental health can be extremely motivating factors for many therapists. It’s important to determine the lifestyle you want while working in your practice. By doing this you’ll need to know:
- How many clients you want to see each day
- How many hours you want to work each day / week
- How many weeks of vacation you want to take each year
3. Calculate your Monthly Expenses
After considering your income and lifestyle goals, think about your monthly expenses for your group practice. Some of your expenses might include:
- Personal salary
- Practice management software
- Liability insurance
- Continuing education courses
- Marketing costs
- Website costs
- Retirement / additional savings
- Equipment costs (such as computer for practitioners)
- Health insurance (if you offer your employees this perk)
After you add up all the expenses you have, you’ll have a good idea how much money you need to make to keep your practice financially healthy and running.
4. Think About Other Sources of Income
Many mental health professionals get or search for other sources of income to compliment their practice. Here are a few examples:
- Renting out a room in your office
- Supervising sessions
- Freelance writing
- Speaking opportunities
- Selling books
- Consulting services for other therapists
- Products you sell online
Your additional income should factor into your overall income number.
5. Factoring in No-Show Rate
It’s important to figure out about how many clients don’t show each week, yet cancel outside the cancellation fee window. Many times it’s hard to fill this spot, so you need to subtract out a specific number of no-shows from your overall patient numbers needed. This will further help you determine your rate.
6. Look at Your Local Competitors
How much are your local competitors charging for services similar to yours? You should look at mental health professionals with a similar educational background, similar work experience, and similar expertise as you. It’s a good idea to find a range they are charging and place yourself somewhere on that scale. Many times having the lowest price won’t benefit you because people often associate lower prices to lower quality service.
7. Calculate Your Hourly Rate
Now it’s time to calculate your group practice’s hourly rate! Here’s a basic formula:
Your Practice Income Goal
Add up all your expenses. This will be a good place to start to show you how much you need to earn (your income goal).
Here’s a formula for you to figure out how much your practice needs to make:
Your income goal – other sources of income = how much your practice needs to make
Sessions You Need Per Year
Now, you need to determine the number of sessions each year based on your lifestyle goals. The fewer clients you see, the more you’ll need to charge hourly. Here are a few formulas to figure this out:
Clients per day x days per week x (1 – no show rate) x Weeks you’ll work in a year = Number of sessions per year
Here’s a real world example:
5 clients x 5 days per week x .92 (2 clients not showing up each week out of 25) x 50 weeks per year = 1,150 clients per year
Determining How Much to Charge Each Session
Your final step is to determine how much you should charge each session. To do this, take your yearly income goal and divide by your total clients per year. Here’s an example:
$150,000 / 1,150 = $130.43. I would recommend padding this number a little towards the higher side for unaccounted expenses, so somewhere between $140 to $150 per hour.
8. Scaling Your Practice
Now that you have an idea how you could calculate an hourly rate, create a formula for how much you can make with multiple practitioners. (We speak more on ideas how to split revenue in section 11 below)
7. Taking Insurance or Private Pay
This is a big question many practitioners think about when going through their private practice checklist. There are major pros and cons of taking insurance or accepting only private pay clients. Let’s reviews some pros and cons of each:
Taking insurance has it’s pros. Let’s dissect some of them:
Pros of Taking Insurance
- More clients that find you through insurance providers
- Advantageous for private practices in rural areas
- You’ll get a greater diversity of clients
- You get a little more credibility since the insurance company credentialed you
- Lower costs for clients
- You’ll get referrals from other doctors who are in your network
Cons of Taking Insurance
Now let’s talk about the cons of taking insurance:
- The credentialing process is very tedious and time consuming
- Filing claims can be overwhelming and may require additional staff to handle
- Rejected claims can slow down your ability to getting paid
- You’ll most likely need other software in place
- Insurance companies will determine your reimbursement rate for their patients
Now let’s review private pay and why it may or may not be a great option for you:
Pros of Private Pay
- You can charge what you want to and will on average make more money per session
- You will get paid quickly (usually credit card or cash before a session begins)
- You won’t need to file any paperwork with insurance companies (hooray!)
- You will need less staff to handle this paperwork
- Your services will appeal to more affluent clients
Cons of Private Pay
- Your marketing strategy will need to be top notch to generate private pay clients
- You’ll receive a less economically diverse clientele
- You may receive less referrals unless your referral sources are also higher-end
- You’ll need to educate your clients on not using insurance
Conclusion On Taking Insurance or Private Pay Clients
Most of the mental health professionals we work with do not take insurance. But there are definite benefits and negatives to each. If you can not take insurance and still get enough clients, then from a financial perspective, the choice is clear. But not every decision is determined by your bottom line. You need to consider who you want to work with and help.
8. Creating Client Policies
Setting clear patient policies is an important part of running a smooth operation. Here are some important private practice policies to create:
- Have a a clear policy on appointment cancellations
- Have a document outlining steps you take to protect client privacy and how you comply with laws such as HiPAA
- Have a policy that outlines what to do if a client is a danger to themselves or others
- Have a policy to determine when you will refer a patient to another treatment provider
- Have a policy as to your hourly rates, if you offer any discounts, any sliding scales, or multiple session discounts
- Have a policy that spells out how a client can pay, when they should pay, and a refund policy (do you offer refunds or not?)
Having policies in place will save you a lot of headaches, time, and money.
9. Getting an Office, Going Online, or Both?
Many mental health professionals we speak with are debating where they should offer their services: In an office, online, or both. Let’s review each option:
Therapy In an Office
Therapy in an office has it’s benefits and negatives. Karolina Mankowski, a holistic healer we spoke with had to say this about having an office:
After more than a year and a half of being isolated and deprived of human interaction during Covid19, people are longing for deeper connections and new experiences. Online video may have been a good short term solution but I am seeing that more and more of my clients prefer to come see me in person and are tired of logging on to yet another technology platform. Technology will never trump the human experience.
-Karolina Mankowski, Serene Soul Studio
Let’s review some benefits and negatives of doing therapy in an office:
- Human interactions
- Higher rates can be charged typically
- Much better Search Engine Optimization
- Higher costs
- Less convenient for the owner
There are many factors to weigh when deciding if you should get an office. I would highly suggest getting an office for your marketing strategy. Our clients typically get 10 to 20 new patient calls per month by having a physical location from our Google Maps strategy.
Offering therapy online was a necessity during the earlier months of the pandemic. Some therapists love the idea of being able to work from home and still operate their practice. Let’s review some benefits and negatives of doing therapy online:
- Lower costs
- Very easy to operate sessions
- Your SEO is hurt by not having a physical location
- Many patients want in-person sessions
Offering Both in Office and Online Therapy
The final option for you as a new therapy practice owner is to offer both in office and online therapy, the best of both worlds! Let’s review some benefits and negatives:
- You can offer more flexibility to your patients
- You can benefit more from SEO
- Higher costs
- More technology services needed
Making a Decision Where to Do Therapy
So which option of doing therapy works best for you and your goals? It’s really a personal decision. As mentioned above, we typically recommend our clients to get a physical location to benefit most from their marketing strategy.
10. Gathering the Right Forms
Your group practice needs the right forms, worksheets, assessments, and other templates. Your group practice may require these templates for many different conditions and treatment styles. Let’s review a few aspects to think about when it comes to forms.
Why Assessments, Intake Forms, and Worksheets?
So why do you even need assessments, intake forms, and worksheets? Here are some reasons:
- Treatment quality necessitates that you know all important information about your clients
- Your group practice will require great organization, these documents can help
- Knowing which practitioner helped which patient and when is an important part of a group practice when a client requires treatment from a variety of practitioners
Types of Editable Forms to Run an Efficient Practice
Building forms will definitely be a pain. It can be expensive and time consuming to do it on your own. Another option is to purchase templates, which can streamline your private practice. At a minimum, you should consider the following:
- Intake form
- Health release
- Telecounseling consent
- Financial agreement
- Informed consent agreement
- Treatment plan
- Progress notes / goals
- Mental status exam
Need these templates? Check out our new private practice forms bundle
In addition to the above, here are some more template ideas including assessments, worksheets, intake forms, and other templates. We’ve built these counseling and psychiatric forms specifically for mental health professionals (including our):
- ABC Model CBT Template
- ABC Model for REBT Worksheet
- ACT Five Senses Worksheet PDF
- ACT Therapy Worksheets Bundle PDFs
- ACT Values Worksheet PDF
- ACT Values Clarification Worksheet PDF
- Addiction Relapse Triggers Worksheet PDF
- Anger Triggers Worksheet PDF
- Anxiety Triggers Worksheet PDF
- Behavioral Experiment Worksheet PDF
- Binge Eating Disorder Tracker Template
- Biopsychosocial Assessment Template
- Biopsychosocial Spiritual Assessment Template
- Brain Dump Worksheet PDF
- CBT Behavioral Activation Worksheet PDF
- CBT Belief Driven Formulation PDF
- CBT Continuum Worksheet PDF
- CBT Core Beliefs Worksheet PDF
- CBT Decatastrophizing Worksheet PDF
- CBT Problem Solving Worksheet PDF
- CBT Thinking Errors Worksheet PDF
- CBT Thought Record Worksheet PDF
- CBT Worksheets Bundle PDF
- Challenging Beliefs Worksheet PDF
- Challenging Cognitive Distortions Worksheet PDF
- Challenging Negative Thoughts Questionnaire
- Challenging Negative Thoughts Worksheet PDF
- Cognitive Distortions Worksheet PDF
- Cognitive Restructuring Worksheet PDF
- Cognitive Triangle Worksheet PDF
- Coping Skills Worksheet Template Bundle PDFs
- Coping Skills Worksheet PDF
- Counseling Intake Form PDF
- Daily Medication Schedule Template
- DBT ABC Please Worksheet PDF
- DBT Check the Facts Worksheet PDF
- DBT Emotional Regulation Worksheets Bundle
- DBT Opposite Actions Worksheet
- DBT Problem Solving Worksheet PDF
- DBT Radical Acceptance Worksheet
- DBT Wise Mind Worksheet
- DBT Worksheets Bundle
- DEARMAN Assertive Communication Worksheet
- Depression Triggers Worksheet PDF
- Distress Tolerance Scale PDF
- Eating Disorder Assessment PDF
- Eating Disorder Worksheets Bundle
- Exposure and Response Prevention Worksheet PDF
- Exposure Hierarchy Worksheet PDF
- Exposure Therapy Worksheets Bundle
- Food Log Template PDF
- Imaginal Exposure Script worksheet
- Informed Consent Form PDF
- Habit Tracker Template
- Daily Mood Chart Template Tracker PDF
- Emotional Triggers Worksheet PDF
- Identifying Triggers Worksheet PDF
- Letting Go Worksheet PDF
- Medication List Template PDF
- Medication Management Worksheet PDF
- Mental Health Check In PDF
- Mental Health Check In Questions PDF
- Mental Health Daily Check In PDF
- Mental Status Exam PDF
- Mindfulness Worksheets Bundle PDF Templates
- Narrative Therapy Worksheets Bundle PDFs
- New Counseling Practice Forms Bundle
- Perceived Stress Scale PDF
- Protective Factors Worksheet PDF
- Psychiatric Assessment Template PDF
- Psychiatric Progress Note Template PDF
- Psychiatric Templates Bundle PDFs
- Psychiatric Treatment Plan Template
- Relapse Prevention Plan PDF
- Self-Care Assessment Worksheet
- Self-Esteem Worksheets Bundle
- Self-Reflection Worksheet PDF
- Setting Boundaries Worksheet PDF
- Shame Triggers Worksheet PDF
- SOAP Note PDF
- Stages of Change Worksheet PDF
- Stop Think Act Worksheet PDF
- Stress Triggers Worksheet PDF
- Substance Abuse Assessment PDF
- Substance Abuse Worksheets Bundle
- Suicide Risk Assessment Form Template PDF
- Superbill Template for Mental Health
- Teletherapy Consent Form PDF
- Therapy Progress Notes
- Trauma Narrative Worksheet PDF
- Trauma Triggers Worksheet PDF
- Treatment Plan Template
View all of our mental health forms here
Note: We are a free directory for mental health professionals and a place to promote and lift up practitioners. We are a commuity where clients can find much needed professional counseling and treatment. We sell templates to fund TherapyByPro. We appreciate your support!
How Will My Clients Fill Out My Forms?
You should consider how you want your clients to fill out your forms. Here are a few options:
- In person – This is an old way and will take more time for you and the client. Documents filled out will also not be digital, so storing and accessing these will not be as easy as other options.
- In a EHR system – EHR systems are a popular choice for getting forms filled out by patients.
- Using a system like DocuSign – With systems like DocuSign, medical professionals can create and send forms to be filled out by clients and patients securely.
It’s a good idea to collect all the necessary forms your practice will need before you start seeing patients.
11. Hiring and Paying Practitioners
Finding the right practitioners and other employees is an important aspect of building a group practice. We recommend spending a lot of time on this aspect to make sure they fit your goals on multiple levels. You should find out their core values, treatment styles, conditions that they treat, personality style, work ethic, and overall view of private practice in mental health. You should also ask:
- Will this practitioner help me in my group practice’s vision?
- Will this practitioner be able to treat patients effectively?
- Will this practitioner help me treat the clients I am searching for?
- Will this practitioner be a good cultural fit for my group practice?
- Will this practitioner represent me and my brand well?
- Will this practitioner be a self-starter, not needing my constant attention?
Choosing Levels of Experience
Yet another topic in the hiring vein is choosing which levels of experience your practitioners will have. Some mental health professionals we spoke to told us that they look to bring young talent up, such as those finishing schooling or in training. This approach can be a great way for you to mold them into your specific style, and they cost a lot less. The downside to this approach is that your young practitioners will need more training and supervision upfront.
On the contrary, choosing very experienced practitioners can help you immediately. A potential downside to this is making sure the experienced professionals follow your structure and culture.
The final option is hiring a mix of both experienced and younger professionals. You can train up a group of younger practitioners and let your experienced practitioners get to work immediately.
Choosing the Right Mix of Mental Health Professionals
Perhaps your goals include treatment beyond therapy. Do you need psychiatrists to prescribe and manage medicine? Do you need all psychologists, therapists, counselors, or social workers? Finding the right mix of mental health professionals is an important part of covering all your basis while maintaining a high level of professionalism.
Another key aspect of any group practice is figuring out the percentage split to pay your practitioners. Some group practice owners choose to pay an easy 50 / 50 split, while others take more or less than that. Another idea is to figure out a structured formula that ensures your bills are paid (and you’re making profit) while still incentivizing your practitioners to work as well as they can for themselves and your practice. This would include doing the following:
- Covering your fixed costs – You could take the first 40 to 60% of a practitioners first $1000 to $1500 made each month
- Making profit for your practice – The next split after $1500 made in a month would favor the practitioners more, perhaps 75% (their keep) to 25% (your keep).
This is really up to you. Do the math for your specific practice. If you have 10 practitioners each following the above formula, will you cover all your costs, and make a healthy profit? We believe your practitioners should be paid well, it really makes a difference in how appreciated they feel and the overall longevity and value they will bring to your practice.
12. Choosing an EHR Company
We won’t spend too much time in this section, but we wanted to provide some things to look for when choosing an EHR.
What is an EHR?
First of all, what is an EHR? An EHR is a software that mental health professionals sometimes use to keep comprehensive records and provide an inclusive view of your client’s overall health. EHRs, or practice management software, ensure security and confidentiality for you and your clients. For security and compliance purposes, you should choose an EHR that is:
- HIPAA Compliant
- Segregates your data (this will protect who gets to see client data)
- Storage: Will the EHR store information in a cloud or on your local machine(s)/servers?
- Provides client access: Your clients will need to be able to easily access their information.
In conclusion on choosing an EHR /practice management company, there are many options available. You should choose one that fits your budget AND can grow with your practice. The cheapest option often is not the best option and may cost you much more down the line when you need key features or capabilities for your expanding group practice.
13. Creating a Website
You may be wondering how to get more clients for your mental health private practice. Word of mouth will certainly play a role, but marketing is what you need to take your counseling practice from running to thriving.
Marketing your practice is a major part of growing and accomplishing your practice goals. Investing in the right mental health marketing strategy in the beginning will save your practice time, money, and your sanity. With so many marketing options available, it can be difficult to decide where to spend your time and money. Here are our top marketing recommendations in order:
Your website strategy is the absolute foundation of your marketing strategy. Without a strategic and professional looking website, you won’t get many patients.
What Makes a Website Strategic?
When it comes to a strategic website, you might be asking “What is a strategic website?” Here are some principles:
- Is your website built in a way that clients will find it?
- Does your website include thorough, knowledgeable resources about what my clients care about?
- Is your website built to get clients the way they search for treatment or information online? Some ways include:
- By condition
- By treatment style
- By level of professional care
- By location
- By specific topics related to a specific condition
It’s incredibly important to have a strategic website if you plan on growing your practice online. Without it, many of the strategies below will fail.
What Makes a Website Professional Looking?
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if your website is professional looking:
- Does my website’s looks correlate to the rate I’m trying to charge per hour?
- Is my website mobile friendly?
- Do I get patients from my website?
- How does my website look compared to top mental health professionals in my city?
- Has my practice outgrown my current website?
- Am I embarrassed to send a client to my website?
We wrote a post on “10 reasons why your private practice needs a new website” if you’d like to see this list in more detail.
You need a website for your new group private practice. Why? Because a website is one of the major ways of legitimizing you to clients who don’t know you. Think of a website as your online practice.
Why Do I Need a Strategic and Professional Website for My Therapy Practice?
Here are some reasons why you need a professional AND strategic website for your therapy practice:
- Potential patients that don’t know you will judge your website based on its design. In fact, according to Stanford, 75% of people judge the credibility of a company based on their website design
- Your website will make it easy for clients to contact you and/or sign up for a session
- Your website will make it easy for a client to pay you
- Your website is the foundation for your online marketing strategy
When it comes to operating a website, there are basic costs you need to know:
- Website hosting – a monthly fee for getting your website online through a hosting provider
- Domain name – a yearly fee for your website name
- Maintenance – You can do this yourself or hire a professional
- Website Design – You can do this yourself or hire a professional
Getting a Professional Website to Start Your Practice on the Right Foot
If you want to expedite how fast your practice grows, we’d recommend getting a professional website built and start a SEO plan. But not just any website will cut it. We’d recommend investing in a website that will grow with you and position you for success online. Many new private practices start with a basic website that they build with their spare time while waiting for new clients, and that is fine. But when you’re serious about growing your practice, you need a website strategy.
14. Marketing a Group Practice
Marketing your group practice can seem daunting. Some questions you may ask:
Where should I even start?
First of all, unless you’re a marketing expert, a great idea would be to start speaking with a marketing consultant. I happen to do marketing consulting for mental health professionals hourly. I highly recommend (even if it’s not with me), to invest a few hours to learn the process and what you should be doing. This will save you months or years of trying things on your own, and that means tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars missed.
Do I need a marketing strategy?
You may get referrals from other practitioners, but if you’re building a group practice, you need all hands on deck in regards to lead generation. I would recommend a marketing company that specializes working with mental health professionals.
Should I choose a more traditional marketing strategy, digital, or both?
While there is no right or wrong answer, we strongly believe digital marketing is your best investment option for consistent, trackable growth. In 12 months you could have a growing and robust strategy that generates leads for the life of your group practice.
How much should I be spending on a strategy?
This is a great question. You could spend next to $0, but you’ll probably not accomplish much. On the high side of marketing spend, the number doesn’t exist. What I mean is, you could create a massive strategy with no upper limit on the spend. You need to choose an amount your practice can afford that is realistic to produce results. Again, a marketing consultant would be good to speak with. Generally, for a group practice, you’ll probably spend over $1000 per month and less than $5000.00 per month, depending on the scope of services requested.
Let’s discuss some specific tactics you could invest in for your group practice.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is our flagship service we recommend. We believe it is the best strategy to grow your practice long-term. My company, TherapistX, has a proven process that connects a website strategy with your SEO. These two things go hand in hand. Here are some things you need to know about SEO:
- SEO is a process of getting pages on your website connected with search keywords your clients are searching for on Google and other search engines
- With SEO, you are competing against other mental health professionals for exposure. The higher you’re ranked for particular search terms, the more likely a potential client will visit your site and reach out to you
- SEO takes time, on average about 4 to 6 months to start generating new clients
- We recommend at least 12 months of SEO services to benefit your practice long-term
- Unlike advertising, SEO is a more permanent option
- With advertising, you pay to be at the top of search rankings. With SEO, you work your way to the top of search rankings.
- SEO clicks are free, advertising clicks cost you money
- Once you stop advertising, you stop getting new clients. After you build out SEO, you’ll keep getting clients for the long haul
Google advertising, also known as PPC (pay per click) advertising, is a great way to get clients fast. While a SEO strategy takes time to build out, Google Ads may be a great route for your practice to get new clients quickly. We suggest building out a SEO strategy and also complimenting that strategy with Google Advertising, at least in the first 6 months.
Social media is usually a go-to strategy by many mental health professionals. Social media is easy to use and allows you to showcase your personality and expertise on a more personal level. However, we recommend social media as a complimentary strategy to your website strategy, SEO, and advertising.
Directories like TherapyByPro work in the same way SEO works, by being found by potential patients searching for many different topics on Google and other search engines. Joining directories can benefit you by placing you where patients are searching. However, you’re typically limited to only being ranked for a few keywords patients search for in your city. If you have your own SEO strategy, you’ll benefit from hundreds or even thousands of keyword rankings. Directories can be beneficial to your overall marketing strategy.
15. Tracking Progress
Tracking your progress by keeping up with your finances and marketing will help you build a more streamlined private practice. We asked data expert Jack Tompkins at Pineapple Consulting Firm what the most important things a new private practice can track and why:
When starting a new private practice, there are a few main things that you’ll want to track to make sure you start successfully. First (in no particular order) would be “Conversion Source”, or “where are your clients coming from”. Important because the answer might surprise you and it’s important to lean into what works best. Second would be “number of visits per client”. Important because it will be an indicator for your whole financial picture, which I always recommend viewing in a financial dashboard. Third would be “hourly rate”. It’s not likely that you are drastically undercharging yourself, but make sure you know where you sit in the market as it will be a potential client’s first impression of your services (before they meet you!) and another key metric to your financial picture.
– Jack Tompkins, Pineapple Consulting Firm
To sum up Jack’s recommendations, as a private practice in therapy, you should track:
- Where your clients are coming from
- The average number of visits per client
- Hourly rate that you’re charging (and what it means for your practice’s overall financial picture)
When you have the right tracking tools in place, tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) can be easy. Without proper tracking, you won’t have an idea how effective your efforts, time, and money have been.
16. Doing Great Work in your Group Therapy Practice
This final point may be pretty obvious, but we are including it in our guide: Do great work! No matter how great your culture, your marketing, your policies, or your team are, if your work is done poorly and receive many negative reviews, clients will begin to look elsewhere for more highly rated mental health professionals.
Your reputation is the gold to your practice, and you should protect it at all costs. You should guard your reputation fiercely as it can directly affect your private practice’s bottom line. Take time to review your practice on external websites like Google My Business, Psychology Today, and other directories (like ours!) to make sure your review score is close to 5.
Some things you should be doing to protect your reputation:
- Actively respond to negative reviews (professionally)
- Solve any client / ex-client issues offline and ask them to revise their reviews if they are negative
- Get Google alerts for mentions of your brand across the web
- Make sure you have guidelines around your employees / practitioners and how they behave online with the ultimate goal of protecting your brand
If your reviews are below a 4 / 5 rating, you should work on getting reviews. With mental health professionals, there are ethical questions around asking patients for reviews. An idea you should try is reaching out to colleagues and friends who have experienced your professionalism. You can kindly ask them for a review and send them the link to your Google listing.
The bottom line is, you need positive reviews. The best marketing plan in the world can’t help you if patients are turned away by your low online ratings.
Final Thoughts on Starting a Group Therapy Practice
Thank you for reading “Starting a Group Therapy Practice: The Complete Guide”. Starting a group therapy practice is exciting, and we are thrilled that you’re contemplating starting one! A group practice, like most new businesses, can be challenging (especially in year 1) to figure out all the processes, legal, hiring, marketing, and other administrative costs required to be successful. Be sure to Protect your own mental health when starting your group practice, and fight for your dreams. We know you can do it!
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