Guest post by L. Gordon Brewer, Jr., MEd. LMFT
All of us want to be paid for what we do.
When a therapist goes into practice, there are essentially two basic ways a person can be paid for what they do.
One is to be employed by an agency or other provider of services for what you do. The other way is to be self-employed and get paid directly for the services you provide. And, of course, there are pros and cons to either way of doing it.
With being employed, for your income to increase, you will have to get a raise in pay each year.
This might happen if you get a merit increase or you somehow advance within the organization. Either way, it is highly dependent on the organization when and if you get an increase in pay.
But what about being self-employed; AKA private practice?
In most cases, what you get paid is determined solely by you. And of course there are a lot of factors that go into this: your average rate per session, the number of sessions you have, the cost of keeping an office open, vacation time and time off all affect your bottom line and ultimately what you get paid.
For anyone that is solo and in private practice there are limits as to how much you can make if you do not diversify your income.
In other words, there is only so much you can charge per session and only a limited number of session you can have. There is only so much time in a day.
For a solo practitioner there are three “traditional” ways to increase you income in private practice:
- Create a higher level of counseling income for your time (increasing your rates) or
- Spend more time with clients (more sessions) or
- A combination of these two approaches
Just seeing clients can be limiting.
It is not “scalable”. You can fill your practice and spend a lot of time seeing clients. But you will quickly reach a limit as to what you can do. That is why it is important to find ways to diversify your income. By diversifying streams of income, you can increase your income without having to spend more time having sessions.
Generating More Income with a Group Practice
One of the best ways to “scale-up” is to move from being a solo practice to a group practice.
In other words bring in other clinicians into your practice in order to duplicate your efforts. Group practices can be structured in several different ways. And from an income perspective the practice owner(s) get a portion of the income produced by each individual in a practice.
Group practices can be structured in any number of ways.
A common way though is for the practice owner to hire the clinicians as a contract provider and do a “fee split” with the clinician. In other words, the practice owner keeps a certain percentage of the total fee collected for each session. (Ex. 60/40 split; the clinician keeps 60% of what is collected).
Other ways to do this is for the clinician to simply pay a flat rate each month to be part of the practice. In many ways it is simply them paying “rent” or subleasing.
A third way of doing group practice is to make the other clinicians employees of the practice.
This requires more of the practice owner in terms of providing the required benefits and meeting employment regulations. And there are some states that limit you from doing split fees, so it is something that needs to be researched for your area
Other ways therapists can diversify their income
Being able to diversify your income as a therapist or counselor is something that is very doable.
It does require thinking outside the box and looking for ways to bring in either passive income or more income for the same amount of time. In other words, getting more money for the time spent. Time is limited.
So in order to increase income, you have to get more money for the time spent.
Here is a list of other ideas for increasing or generating other streams of income for your practice:
- Group therapy sessions- brings in several counseling clients at once without you having to spend the time on individual sessions.
- Offering or being trained in services outside the clinical realm. For example, mediation services. Family mediators are something that is always needed and in high demand from courts. Most states require a certification in this, but it does create the potential for charging much larger fees for your time.
- Community workshops or classes that you charge for; again this allows you to concentrate your time for a larger amount of income
- Creating online courses or webinars you can charge for; ideas would include parenting or anger management
- Writing a book or creating other materials to sell; workbooks or guides for clients are good ways to generate income; self-publishing on Kindle.
- “Monetizing” your website or blog; using affiliate marketing links to generate income when people purchase books or other items you recommend. (Affiliate links are when someone clicks on a link you provide and then get a commission if they buy something from that link):
Check into Amazon Associates – https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/ . Amazon provides a way for you to create an online “store” to sell books and products your remmend on your website. You will need to know how to embed code on your website, but it is simple to do once you learn how to do this. It is simply a matter of copying and pasting some code that Amazon provides. Here’s an example of an Amazon “Store” on my website: http://practiceoftherapy.com/recommended-reading/
- Start offering “concierge services” (retainer services); people pay in advance for sessions that they may or may not use. In other words, you could offer a “package” in which people pay a specific fee or “membership” for you to be available to them for therapy sessions.
- Related to the previous idea, start a local or mini EAP. With this idea a clinician would set-up an agreement/contract with local businesses to see employees that wanted or needed services. Really modeled after traditional EAP (employee assistance programs). The businesses or client would pay a fee to “join” the service and then a specific reduced per session rate when they use the services. The additional income for the clinician would come from the “membership fees”.
- Offer products within your practice. For example, being able to sell books, meditation products or health products can bring in additional income. Be careful about this in that having these products in your office. It could turn-off some of your clients. But if these “products” fit with what you are doing in sessions, it could bring in additional income.
Diversifying Your Private Practice Income is Doable!
As has been mentioned already, being able to diversify your income in private practice is absolutely doable.
It does take a bit of creativity and being able to think outside having a strictly “fee for service” business.
Ultimately it means being able to learn how to get more for your time and ways to bring in income that do not require your time.
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By L. Gordon Brewer, Jr., MEd. LMFT – Gordon is the President and Founder of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC. He is also a consultant and business mentor at The Practice of Therapy- http://practiceoftherapy.com
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