Lessons Learned After One Year in Private Practice   

It just so happens that today my biweekly Tuesday blog post falls on the exact date that I opened the doors of my private practice! July 17, 2017 was the first day I saw clients in my own business.  So happy one year anniversary to us! 

In the past year, I have formed a business and expanded into a group practice.  I went from being a solo clinician going out on my own to hiring another therapist to be able to better serve the referrals I am receiving.  Through it all, I have appreciated your support.  The kind words, the encouragement, the “shares” and “likes”.  I hope that you are receiving helpful information from the business, and that you are more aware of how to strive for and preserve overall mental wellness.   

In reflection, here are some life lessons I’ve learned over the past year in private practice.  I hope that they can be valuable tips to you too! 

Be Willing To Grow And Ask For Help. I fully admit I don’t know everything. A year ago, I had no idea what was required to work with insurance companies as a private mental health practice.  I just knew others who had done it and figured I would be able to figure it out too!  Throughout this process, which was more than a year in the making, I have consulted with other private practitioners and other entrepreneurs. I regularly meet with others to “pick their brain” and get a sense of how they think, procedures they have in place, what’s working and what’s not, etc.  I would recommend that you consider surrounding yourself with people from which you can learn.  Always be looking for ways to learn and grow in your abilities.  You won’t be disappointed. 

Embrace Change.  Changes can be scary. Don’t we all like knowing what to expect?! Life is so much easier when our day to day is the same.  But, that can become immensely boring!  I would challenge you to work at not letting that fear of change stop you from doing the things that will help you pursue your dreams.  If you can learn to act despite fear, you might accomplish great things! 

The Next Important Thing. Starting a business is overwhelming.  Really stressful, with multiple moving parts to focus on and try to control.  I had to form an LLC, decide where to host my website, build my website, set up encrypted emails, contract with insurance companies, set up a bank account, go through the design process for a logo, finalize practice policies, write practice documents, decide on an electronic health record, find a way to send/receive faxes, decide on a phone system.  And, that’s just the short list!  Some of these tasks were of course exciting and fun, but when you have a huge list, it can be daunting!  And, yes, there were times I worked all day seeing clients, and then worked until midnight on this list, and never felt like I could get it all done.  The way that I stayed (mostly) relaxed through all that was focusing on the next important thing. By breaking down the tasks into more manageable steps, I was able to avoid being overwhelmed. Ask yourself, “what needs done next?” or “what is the most important thing to do next?” and then focus on that.  Sometimes all you have to do is focus on what needs done next. And then the next thing. And not get overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, by instead focusing on small steps. You can accomplish a lot by just focusing on the next important thing, and one small accomplishment at a time, you can get to where you want to be. 

Again, a sincere thank you for your support and encouragement as I formed the business, started writing this blog, and expanded into a group practice.  I’m working to live my dream, and I hope to help inspire you to do the same! 

Updates on the Exciting Changes at our Office

Let me explain why my blog has taken a hiatus, and why I promise it will be back on the regular schedule!  

As you might have read two weeks ago on our Facebook page, I’m delighted to announce some exciting changes with my practice. A little backstory....I opened my private practice in July 2017 and by November I was turning people away because I was full.  All through the winter, I wasn’t accepting new clients, and then I realized that I could help all of these people who I was turning away if I had other therapists who could see them! So it was earlier this year that I decided to pursue the idea of expanding my private practice to be able to better serve my clients and the referrals I was receiving.

Over the past few months, there have been a lot of changes made: I created an LLC, changed the business name, I hired my first therapist and a virtual assistant, and I've been working to train them both. I've been updating my credentialing with all the insurances I work with, and switched over both my email and phone systems.  Our Facebook page has been updated, and we launched a new website.  (My previous blog posts have been reposted at this new website in case you are looking for them.)  The Counseling Collective is also now on Instagram!  Follow us @TheCounselingCollective, or leave a message below with your handle so we can follow you!  I was looking to expand to another office eventually and space opened up in my building, and so I decided to jump on it! As of mid-June, The Counseling Collective will have two offices to see our clients in the East Petersburg location. I teamed up with my sister-in-law (my interior designer!) to outfit the new office so it feels just as homey and comfy as the first office.

All of these updates and changes have been made in order to expand, so please join me in welcoming Stacy Martinez LCSW to the practice!  She and I were previous coworkers, and I know what kind of training and work ethic she has first-hand!  Stacy is an LCSW (refer to this post about what these letters mean), and also a certified health coach, trainer, and coach.  She has been helping clients for over 6 years by focusing on their strengths with a total body wellness perspective.  She enjoys working with ages 10 through adulthood, and also enjoys working with couples.  

I’m really excited for these changes, to be better able to serve more clients, and to have Stacy join the practice.  Thank you for your support and encouragement over the past year!

Let's Talk Letters: A Quick Guide To The Letters After Our Names

I realize in the counseling field there are a lot of acronyms, and I thought it might be helpful to write about what all those letters mean.  Although it’s shorthand everyone in this field uses, I think we just assume others understand it too.  The world of therapy can seem so cryptic, because it’s hard to know what goes on in a therapy office unless you’ve actually been there.  I want to try to help explain things in this field, and part of that is educating others about things as simple as the letters after our names.  The credentials become more and more specific as you have more training.  Think about it like a path, and with each turn you are getting to a more specific location.

Let’s talk letters!

General Counseling Field:

In general, therapists diagnose and treat mental disorders, and address problem behaviors. 

MS, MA: Master’s degree in either science (MS) or arts (MA) -  Someone in the counseling field may have either of these designations, depending upon how their school classified their program.  This means that the person completed 4 years of their Bachelor’s degree, and then did another 2-3 years in a Master’s program.  This helps narrow their focus and deepen their training on a specific topic, so they are then a “Master” at that topic.

LPC:  Licensed Professional Counselor – This is the highest level of training someone with a MS or MA can receive after completing a certain amount of hours of supervised work and passing a clinical exam.

Social Work:

In general, social workers focus on helping people cope with their everyday lives.  This includes connecting them to resources, advocacy, and treating and diagnosing mental disorders.

MSW: Master’s degree in social work -  Someone would receive their Bachelor’s in social work, then get their MSW.

LSW: Licensed social worker – After receiving a MSW, someone would pass an exam to achieve this designation.

LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker -  For a Social Worker, this the highest level of training they can achieve after completing a certain amount of hours of supervised work and passing a clinical exam.

Other categories:

MFT: Master’s degree in marriage and family therapy – Someone who has extensive training in family dynamics and relationships.

LMFT: Licensed marriage and family therapist – Received supervision beyond their Master’s degree.

CADC: Certification as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor – This person has been trained regarding drug and alcohol use.  This is not a Master’s degree, but this person has a Bachelor’s degree and then received further training.

RPT: Registered Play Therapist – This person received additional training beyond a Master’s degree to use play therapy with young children as a way to express themselves.

A few other things to note:

Some insurance companies will allow any Master’s level clinician to offer therapy.  Some require a license beyond the Master’s degree.  This is why you have to verify with your insurance to make sure who you are seeing or want to see has the appropriate credentials that your insurance will cover.

This is just a basic introduction on the acronyms within the counseling field, and there are a few other less common acronyms I didn’t cover (especially for children in play therapy and BHRS).  And, there might be some exceptions to what I’ve shared.

Please let me know if you have specific questions and I’d be happy to address that.