Group Practice Panel Discussion with Alison Pidgeon, Whitney Owens, Susan Doak and Dawn Brunkenhoefer – Killin’It Camp Speakers Series 4 of 4 | PoP 525

What are some of the benefits that group practice owners enjoy? Are there some valuable words of wisdom from successful group practice owners that can benefit you in your practice? What pressing questions do you have about your practice?

We are sharing the Killin’It Camp speakers series. In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon, Whitney Owens, Susan Doak, and Dawn Brunkenhoefer speak about group practices and all that it encompasses.

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Meet Alison Pidgeon, Whitney Owens, Susan Doak, and Dawn Brunkenhoefer

In This Podcast


  • Why say yes to a group practice?
  • Group practice owners give advice about retaining clinicians
  • Advantages of being in a group practice rather than solo

Why say yes to a group practice?

As a group practice owner that runs a successful practice, you can have more free time and not have to see as many clients, you can set up the practice well so that it runs smoothly, you help by establishing a practice that caters to the community’s needs all while making extra money and spending time with your family.

You gain freedom of time and money. Having and running a successful group practice gives you the opportunity to enjoy the other important aspects of your life. This flexibility of time also enables you to envision the future of the practice, and your clinicians trust you to guide it towards success while they see to clients.

Another benefit is not having to work alone as a solo practice owner. You and other therapists can share the space together, support one another, and collaborate together under a practice that allows each person more freedom and flexibility.

Group practice owners give advice about retaining clinicians

As far as for my practice, having a W2 model and creating a culture where people want to work and they enjoy their job and they get to do the things that they like and not the things they don’t like so much has helped me keep them employed.

Creating a group practice space that clinicians feel comfortable in, enjoy their time working in, and can receive no-strings-attached perks will help to encourage long-term clinician retention.

Advantages of being in a group practice rather than solo

You can offer a lot more in a group practice than you can when you are going solo, which gives you an advantage in your community.

The more people you have in your practice, the more it’s going to grow at an exponential rate.

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Meet Joe Sanok

private practice consultant

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

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Podcast Transcription

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This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 525.

Well, over the next four sessions, I am so excited to bring you four different talks from Killin’It Camp. These are speakers that rocked it out, got great audiences, connections, and, you know, honestly are just kind of top tier people. And I’m really excited. It was so hard because we have over 30 speakers, we have over 20 hours of content, so many amazing speakers. These were some that seemed to represent a few of the biggest questions that we get. And so in this first session, we’re having Whitney, she’s going to be talking all about Instagram for therapists. Then in the next one, we’re going to have Jessica Tapanna talking all about SEO. And those are each 25 minutes sessions aimed at just kind of quick hit things. Then after that, we’re gonna have Carrie Haynes, who is talking about adding groups to your practice, specifically online groups, how do you add groups. Not a group practice, but actual groups, she has The Art of Groups podcast. So that’s coming up, the third one. And then the fourth one is this awesome group practice discussion. We have Alison, Whitney, Susan, and Dawn that are all going to be talking about group practice.

And so, I mean, we only have four episodes to do this. And so if you want to get the full access to all 30 speakers, all the 20 hours of content that we have, this was such a large three day event, with just tons of great content, head on over to, you can grab that for only $197. Now we’re gonna probably be raising our prices for this soon. So you’re gonna want to grab that, you get lifetime access. Again, that’s Without any further ado, here we go.


This is an exciting occasion for us. And it’s going to follow a little bit of a different format. Welcome back in. I know that we didn’t really have like a lunch break, per se, we’ve just all been listening and watching. And this is, welcome, I guess to the afternoon session for many of you. It’s only 9:30 where I live, in the morning. So we started nice and early. So, this is a group panel discussion. And so it is a panel of group practice owners. And we are here to share a little bit about our personal experiences being group practice owners, what that has been like over the course of the last year especially. And I’m really humbled to be able to be here and facilitate with some awesome practice owners. I’m going to have them introduce themselves.

But while everybody is coming in, I have a couple questions for you to just answer real quick for us in the chat. So we know who’s here. So if you are a current group practice owner, would you just put a 1 in the chat just so we can see you? We can know that you’re here if you’re a current group practice owner. Oh, I see you. Fantastic. Wow. If you are thinking about starting a group practice, you’re just kind of you know, maybe you’re a little bit on the fence or you’re considering it, would you just put a 2 in the chat just so we can see you? Hey, Nikki, Michael, yes, I see you. And then like, if you’re just here, like you’re just here for fun, like, I just want to hear what these people are talking about, what their year has been like as practice owners, you’re just here for fun, [unclear] 3 for me. Yeah. Jason, I see you. Yeah.

And this is, it’s been quite a year and I was excited to ask these practice owners just to come on and share a little bit about what that’s actually been like for them personally. So I’m going to ask them to introduce themselves. And I will start with Alison, and then Dawn and then I’ll have Whitney introduce herself, and then we will just go from there. You can, by the way, have if you would like to just see the person that’s talking, you can put your screen into speaker view. So if you hover over the right hand top corner of your Zoom screen, you’re going to find the speaker view. And that way, you’re always going to see the person that’s speaking, there are four of us who are going to be talking so that is going to move around a little bit. But just stay with us. There are no slides to look at. You just get to look at these beautiful people. So go ahead, I’m gonna have Alison, take it away with the introductions. Go ahead, Alison, tell us who you are, again.

Yeah, thanks. Yeah, I’m Alison Pidgeon. If you didn’t see my presentation I just gave about an hour and a half ago, I own a large group practice in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania called Move Forward Counseling. And we just had our five year anniversary, so that was very exciting. And yeah, yeah. So I’ll stop there so we don’t take up too much time. [SUSAN]:
Take up as much time as you want. Dawn, tell us about you. [DAWN]:
My name is Dawn Brunkenhoefer. I have a group practice in Buda, Texas, which is basically South Austin. I’m the newbie compared to Alison and Whitney. I have been in mental health for over 23 years as a director and a local mental health authority and two years ago, opened a group practice. So I have learned a lot in two years. [SUSAN]:
Thank you so much for being with us, Dawn. Thank you. Go ahead, Whitney. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, so I’m Whitney Owens. My practice is in Savannah, Georgia. We have six clinicians, cash pay practice. And I’m also one of the consultants with Practice of the Practice. [SUSAN]:
Fantastic. Thank you for being with us, Whitney. I’m Suzy Doak. I’m really just here to facilitate this discussion with these really wonderful women and a little bit about me, I’m also a group practice owner. I own a practice in Newberg, Oregon, we’re about 25 miles outside of Portland, in wine country. And I am like I just said, like yesterday, I’m a TCK. I’m a third culture kid. And I didn’t grow up in Oregon but I have landed here. And I’m super happy that I’m here. And so we’re, I have a few questions. I really thought that these three practice owners could give us a little snapshot of what it’s been like to be a group practice owner this year. And so the first thing I’m wondering about, and I’m just going to start with a story, and then I’ll ask the question to these practice owners. So I have a distinct memory of myself this year at my company Christmas party, this is back when we could have parties, right? And I had invited everyone to my house. I have at that time, had six clinicians, a couple of staff members, I made them this awesome Puerto Rican meal, I made Puerto Rican food for them, because that’s my love language.

And so we ate a meal together, we’re sitting around the coffee table in my living room, the fires going, I’ve got a glass of my Pinot wine in my hand. And I said to everybody in the room, I said, 2020 is going to be the best year of your life. I said, this is going to be awesome. You are just gonna, you are gonna make more money than you’ve ever made. We are setting ourselves up to have an absolutely fantastic year. This is the best group of people I’ve ever worked with. And we’re going to have an awesome year. And so I fast forward to, you know, March 15th and I’m sitting on a Google meet call with all of my staff. And we are just talking about switching over to telehealth because of COVID and they’re all looking at me, like, oh my god, Susan, do we have a job? Do I have a job this year? Like, am I going to be able to pay my bills? Am I going to be able to keep seeing my clients? What’s happening? And so it was a pretty big contrast. And so I really just want to hear from some of the practice owners and maybe we’ll just start with you, Dawn. If you would just tell us like what were your expectations for 2020 for this year, and how has that worked out so far for you?

Yeah, I can start by just talking about last year at Killin’It Camp, I, with Theresa and Jenny who are on here, hey, I was challenged by Joe to meet goals for my practice by February 1st. So we came back and my goal was to change the systems within my practice, hire more therapists and came back and started working on that and lost two full time 10-99s, like, right when I got back. So I panicked, I usually allow myself 24 hours, and then I picked myself up, and then I used that time and suggestion from Alison and Whitney to take this time, now’s the time, it will work out great, you can restructure your system, and did that. So since then I’ve hired four more, there are six of us total, therapists within my group. So I met those goals, but I met them right before COVID hit. And so I had other expectations that didn’t quite work out because of COVID. Many of the 10-99 therapists I have have children and because of childcare, they cannot go full time. So several of them are still at part time status, which has had an impact on the group, you know, for multiple reasons, financially, and so right now I’m looking to hire two more therapists. So didn’t quite go as I expected, but it’s still been good as far as I’ve been able to stay on track and grow my business. [SUSAN]:
I love how you’re still adding therapists, Dawn, you know, like, that’s the thing is that, you know, we hear all the time about the economy not doing well. But here we are doing job creation, right? Like, we are creating jobs and adding jobs in a tough economy, which I think is just fantastic. That’s like a true American right there. How about you, Whitney? What were your expectations for 2020? How is that turning out for you? [WHITNEY]:
That’s so funny. 2020, I thought would be my best year ever. Then in March, I thought it was going to be the worst year ever. And now it’s becoming the best year ever. So that’s just part of owning a group practice. Like, you have ups and downs, if it’s COVID, if it’s someone leaving your practice, you’re adding someone, you’re adding something else, it’s, I don’t know, I just feel like you’ve got to learn to laugh and be flexible with the ups and downs and then make the most of those downs. And so we are honestly in a mental health pandemic right now. I mean, and I feel like my practice in the past two months has been crazier than it’s ever been in a good kind of way, because we’re helping a lot of people. So yeah. [SUSAN]:
That’s fantastic. How about you, Alison? [ALISON]:
Yeah, I would say, you know, I’m very much into being transparent about the whole experience of being a group practice owner. So it definitely was in the beginning, it was extremely difficult, like many people across the country, our new client calls really dropped off for about six weeks. And it was really scary there for a while, I had to totally pivot our marketing and just try to innovate and just try to keep people working and keep things going. And I remember, I ended up calling Joe, because I needed a pep talk. He’s good at giving pep talks. But now, yeah, it’s interesting, because now I’m still going to meet the same goals I had at the beginning of the year, just in a different way. Like I never imagined running 100% telehealth practice, but here we are. [SUSAN]:
Is Joe open for all of us to call him for a pep talk? I think we need friends like that. We need people who we can say hey, I need a pep talk. Like, I’m like, I’m going into a dark place or whatever it might be and people who can lift us up out of that, especially when we go through, you know, just these huge, massive changes. I mean, I don’t think we knew, like you’re saying, Alison, like you didn’t, you know, I don’t think you anticipated. I know, I didn’t, flipping over to 100% telehealth practice. And then, you know, some of us are probably doing kind of a hybrid model too now where we’re seeing people in person and we’re doing quite a bit of telehealth. But you did speak to that too Alison, that there’s some pressure there involved in being a group practice owner. And how, I mean, how do you all deal with that pressure? And how, like how, like back to you, Alison, how did you deal with that pressure when you’re just like, okay, this is a big, you have a big practice. It’s a big responsibility. How do you tend to deal with pressure in those situations? [ALISON]:
Yeah, I’m very much like a doer, like, if there’s a problem or something I’m anxious about, like, I just want to solve all the problems and do it all at once. So I just like threw myself into like, okay, we got to figure out, how’s the marketing change? How’s the ideal client’s pain point change? Where are they now? Like, why aren’t they calling anymore? Like, you know, calling professionals to help me set up Facebook ads, and just all kinds of, trying all kinds of different things just to see, you know, if we could get clients to start calling again. So that made me feel better. Throwing myself into trying to fix it. [SUSAN]:
Sounds like you’re a problem solver. You go into problem solving mode. [ALISON]:
Yeah. [SUSAN]:
How about you, Whitney? Like, how do you deal with that pressure of being a practice owner when you know, you’re kind of feeling those challenges coming on? [WHITNEY]:
That’s a good question. I mean, even outside of COVID, I go on runs, that really helps me, it allows me to kind of my train of thought, that’s kind of like my grounding technique. But in within my systems, I have an assistant that I think the world of and I told her when I hired her, you’re not only my assistant at the practice, but like, you’re going to help me make decisions, you’re going to listen to me bounce things off of you, because you can’t really go to your employees, your clinicians, the same way. So that’s been super helpful, someone who knows the practice, but kind of a little outside in a different kind of way to be able to help me manage my stress when it becomes too much. So that’s been helpful. [SUSAN]:
Absolutely. Yeah. Well, and bringing up stress, that’s something that I know, as we’re, you know, many of us are probably, I know, Alison, you’re not, but other people are seeing clients, that we’re seeing clients, you know, who are going through a lot of stress. Our practice itself can be in a stressful place sometimes, just because of circumstances. And then just we’re just we’re still people. So we still have our own lives. I know, my kids are doing online school. And, you know, I’m trying, we’re trying to manage those kinds of things. How about you, Dawn? I mean, how have you kind of managed all of those different pieces of both, like as your, you know, it’s your business and personal life are kind of coming together here in the times of COVID, how do you manage that? [DAWN]:
Starting last year, I became very intentional about protecting my time and keeping my schedule. And I did shift it when COVID started, I had planned ahead and so we were online by February 1st. So by March 15th, it was an easy transition. But I had to shift my schedule. Prior to COVID, I was working eight to three. And I was very strict about not seeing anyone after three so I could pick up my kids. During COVID. I’ve shifted my schedule from like noon to four, noon to five. And so I still try to make sure that I have balance there, between family and home. But I think as far as the clinics, sticking to the systems, communicating as much as I can with the team, making sure that those foundations do not change. So we’ve just really communicated a lot more with each other and with our clients and focused on making things as easy for our clients as possible. Onboarding is all online. So having those systems in place has been really helpful as well. [SUSAN]:
I’m also curious to hear, thank you so much, Dawn, I’m also curious to hear about what, so how being a group practice owner has changed your personal life because especially for those who, you know, in the beginning of the call here, we had you press the number two if you’re thinking about starting a group practice, and if you just joined, you can do that, you can just hit two in the chat. If that’s something you’re on the fence about, you’re thinking about it. You know, this gives you just a little bit of a snapshot into what that might be like. And so what would you say are, like, I’m asking the panelists and I’ll go through you, but what would you say are the challenges, the biggest challenges for you personally, as a practice owner? So like, what would you say, Alison, has been the biggest challenge, not just this last year, but just generally as a practice owner, for a group? [ALISON]:
That is a great question. Um, I think what, you know, I guess, I know this isn’t necessarily, you weren’t asking specifically about COVID. But like, since my staff obviously is all going through the pandemic at the same time, like in the beginning of quarantine, like that’s all the clients were talking about as well, and like it was, you know, we all know that it’s just really hard to be living through the same thing your clients are living through, the same difficult situation. So, you know, I genuinely care about my staff and I was concerned about how they were handling everything. And just, you know, it was just a challenge for me to think about, okay, now I’m managing this, like 100% remote staff, like, how do you do that? How do you still maintain a good culture and let people know you value them and continue to feel like they’re part of a team and not as isolated. So that’s something that I think has been a challenge for me this year, like having to realize like, I have to change something so that they still feel like they’re part of a group, and not just all at home doing their own thing. [SUSAN]:
Oh, I’m so glad that you brought that up, Alison. Yeah. There are different challenges, managing people from a distance, like I know, I was relying on really seeing people face to face in my office. And I love just like, I love that, I love touching base with people, I love having my staff meetings, like in person, you know, and because I want to just have those interactions. But at a distance, it was hard for me, it was hard for me and also hard for clinicians to know, like, hey, am I doing this? Like, am I okay? Like, can, like, you know, and just hard for me to know how they were feeling at work, you know, like, just to get my eyes on them and read them. And see, how are you doing? How about you, Whitney? I mean, what have been the biggest challenges for you as a practice owner? [WHITNEY]:
Yes, especially at the very beginning, was just creating the culture that I wanted the practice to be. Made some mistakes in my hiring, most people do at the very beginning, when you’re trying to figure out what you want, and making a culture for them that they enjoy took a lot of time, but now I feel like I’m kind of like there. And so it’s a really sweet spot. But I would say that’s been my biggest challenge, is managing the clinicians, employees and like putting out fires that they’re experiencing. [SUSAN]:
Absolutely. How about you, Dawn, what would you say are the biggest challenges for you as a practice owner? [DAWN]:
Um, for me, it was getting my systems in place and kind of learning as I went. The way I was structured before, it didn’t protect me as much as I needed to be. So shifting that over to where I had us all under the group NPI. And I had all the money coming into the group and things like that. I’ve also learned that I, I wish I would have done earlier on, which is to outsource what I can and not try to do it all on my own. I think I just wanted to one, have an understanding of how everything was working and know what was going on. And now I’ve slowly, you know, brought in other people to help me that specialize in certain areas like starting Google ads, you know, getting a billing agency that specializes in mental health, and my EMR, the electronic record that we use, and so those have been challenges. But I think they’re growth opportunities too, you know, so I’ve learned a lot through those. And hiring, obviously, was a very big deal for me last year. [SUSAN]:
Absolutely, I mean, I think I love that perspective of it’s a growth opportunity, like there is so much growing, I know that probably all practice owners, whether you own a group practice, or you’re solo, that we’ve done over the course of the last year, because we’ve just had a change. And I know I can be resistant to that change. But like it’s kind of like that exposure that Christy was talking about this morning, of, like we’re exposing ourselves to new things, and maybe COVID didn’t really give us a choice. But I think having those changes is really making us grow as practice owners.

And I just want also to let you know if you can start, we will have time for questions towards the end of our panel discussion. And you can actually start to drop those in the chat box. I’m going to be trying to take a look at those. And it would really help me too, if you’re going to ask a question, write question just as the first word. So as I’m scanning through quickly, I can see that those are questions for the panelists, and you can address those to one person or to the whole panel, whatever you’d like to do.

So I’m, I’m wondering from the panelists too, what, like why do this? So if, you know, if having a group practice is, you know, it is a lot of work. It is a lot of work. It’s a lot of time. It is a little bit more pressure than you’re going to have doing a solo practice. Why do you have a group practice? What keeps you going? Like, what’s the purpose? What do you feel like is your purpose? And I see Whitney’s face and so I’m gonna call on her because I know she’s ready to answer this question. Go ahead, Whitney.

I’m a pretty animated person. Okay, so this is what I’ve been saying with my husband lately. And I don’t know, I just laugh about it. But it’s all about the cash. Yes, like, I love it. Like, it’s great to make money, and I’m here talking to you, doing something fun, my practice is running, and I’m making money. Like, that’s great. I have more time with my family to do other things that I enjoy. I mean, obviously, it’s really not all about the cash, it’s really about creating something in your community that meets their needs, you know, and it’s just a joy that people come to your practice and you see change in their lives, and you really can’t do it by yourself. So the more I can grow it, and the more I can meet the needs of the community, I can do something really awesome in my city. And that’s the other reason I do it. [SUSAN]:
I love that. I love that, like, when you can, when you drive away at night, and you see the lights are still on because you’ve got clinicians in there, and you’re like, I’m going home, but I’m still making money. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, you know it. [SUSAN]:
That’s what I’m talking about. That’s right. That’s right. What about you, Alison? What keeps you going? Why do you do this? [ALISON]:
Yeah, I would say it’s definitely freedom of my time. And obviously, the money goes hand in hand with that, because the more that my salary comes from the practice and other clinicians, the more freedom of my time I have to make my own schedule. Right now, I’m actually temporarily living at the beach for a month, because everybody is working from home and going to school virtually. So like, why not go to the beach? So yeah, it’s just like those types of opportunities, like I want to be able to, you know, take advantage of, and, obviously, have time with my kids, and they’re still little, and be able to do all of their activities and watch them grow up and just, you know, be a part of their life in a more substantial way than just, you know, seeing them for an hour or two after school’s over, between school and bedtime, right? [SUSAN]:
Absolutely, yeah. Yeah. So that flexibility is kind of key, I love that. You just, like said, we’re going to the beach for a month. That’s, that’s fantastic. And you having the flexibility to be able to do that because you know that people are there, they’re still making money for you. They’re still working in the practice, and that you can do some of that management from a distance now and having that time to spend with your kids. I mean, our kids are only young once. So like, I love that. What keeps you going, Dawn? What would you say, Dawn, is the thing that, you know, the reason why you have a group practice or what motivates you? [DAWN]:
I think for the same reasons, freedom and money, make more, work less. I still have a dream of driving around in a classy RV with my kids in the summer while the clinic’s running itself. So I also like the idea of having the group have support, it’s really hard when you’re a solo practice, it can become lonely. So it’s nice having the group because there are other clinicians there that you can talk to, that you can staff with, since we’re the same team. So that part of it I like a lot. I host a meeting, I did before COVID, host a meeting with other private practice therapists in our county, just to come together once every other month and visit, so we have that built in. And that’s pretty special at the clinic. [SUSAN]:
I love that. Yeah, like I like that idea of being able to work with other clinicians so you’re not so alone. I think this is an especially isolating time, but it was already isolating to be a solo practice owner, I know from just personal experience. And so being able to have other people there to bounce ideas off of and to collaborate with and if you’re kind of wondering, like is being a group practice owner or something I’m interested in, do you like to collaborate? Do you like to work with other clinicians? How do you feel about being the boss though, in that collaboration, just like Whitney was saying, like, sometimes you can’t always, you know, we can’t always go to the other clinicians that that work, you know, work under us for support in a personal way, but we can collaborate with them.

And I think there’s something also to like being able to pool our resources right, like it takes a lot to have someone even just doing administrative work, answering your phone, doing your billing. We, you know, I know in my practice, we share that resource, right? So we have those couple of administrative staff and we share that staff. And it makes it so that clinicians can come in, and they can just do clinical work. And they can do what they really do best. And so I want to start to move into some questions here very soon. But I have one last question from me just for our panelists and then I’ll just take a look at the chat.

So my question is, and I’m gonna ask you, therapists are kind of terrible at doing this. I want you to kind of brag on yourself, because honestly, I see these three practice owners as people that I look up to, really. So okay, how, like, how have you killed it this year? Like, despite COVID, despite all of the things that we’ve gone through, and there are many other things, for people that live on the West Coast, you know, like, we’ve been in fires, and we’ve been under clouds of poisonous smoke, and we’ve had people have had hurricanes. There’s adversity that’s going on. There’s a racial reckoning that’s going on in our country. So like, how have you in all of the difficulties of this last year, how do you think like, when you look back on it, you’re like, yeah, as a practice owner, you know, I think I did this really well? I’m really proud of myself. Yeah. So go for it, Whitney.

Yes, so just getting through the year for any of us and the business not falling down is killing it. So everybody can like, give themselves a little applause and feel good about that. For me, Killin’It Camp is really special, because last year was right when I started consulting with Practice of the Practice. And so at the end of Killin’It Camp last year, we’ve talked a lot about those goal settings that Joe did. And I look back at those, and I really killed it with consulting. And so being able to help other people’s businesses get better, you know, has been my joy. And so that’s been great. [SUSAN]:
Wonderful, fantastic. How about you, Alison, how have you killed it this year, despite COVID? [ALISON]:
Yeah, my goal was to gross a million dollars. And I think we’ll get close to that, if we don’t hit it. And I also, thank you, I also started an EAP service in the practice. So instead of being the middleman between like an employer and an EAP company, we actually contracted directly with employers, with businesses, to provide EAP services to their employees. So that’s something that I want to keep expanding that I think is, you know, a great opportunity. And I’m trying to, and yeah, we’re just, we’re hiring a bunch of people like I’ve, you know, we’ll probably add, like five to six clinicians this fall, which is I’ve never hired that many people at once. So that’s really cool as well, just, you know, the demand has been huge. And, you know, creating those jobs, which I feel really good about. [SUSAN]:
Awesome, wonderful. How about you, Dawn? How do you feel like you’ve killed it this year? [DAWN]:
I did rapid killing it. First three months after last year, after Killin’It Camp. I think I killed it in hiring additional therapists, filling the gaps when I lost two. Going to online. You know, that was fairly easy. I think I killed it in making that transition easy for the group and for our clients. And I am starting on my second goal for the year, which is adding revenue streams. So I’ll be adding a webinar and I’m working on an ecourse under Amy Porterfield. So I am excited about that. And my husband and I decided to build, he’s a builder so that works out, to build my clinic so that I’m no longer renting. [SUSAN]:
Wow, fantastic. Your own space. That sounds wonderful. I’m just scanning the questions here. I know there are so many from you. And so I am seeing here a question coming in from Stephanie. She says, I worry most about retaining clinicians long term. What has helped to retain clinicians? I’m wondering if, I’m wondering if, Whitney, if you can speak to that about just retaining clinicians? [WHITNEY]:
Yes, and I want to put a plug in for Aaron, because he’s going to be talking about this very topic later today at 3:30, so make sure you come to that. As far as for my practice, I feel like having a W-2 model has helped me retain and creating a culture where people will want to work and they enjoy their job. And they get to do the things that they like, and not the things they don’t like so much has helped me keep employees. [SUSAN]:
Wonderful, wonderful. I see another question here from Don Gabriel, says, I am transitioning to living the life I’m wanting and seeing hardly any clients anymore. I’ve worked my butt off for years. That’s right. This is a hard transition. I’m almost feeling guilty about having my team working more than me. Any words of wisdom for this transition time? So any words of wisdom, how about you, Alison, do you have any words of wisdom as she’s transitioning out of working her butt off? [ALISON]:
Yeah, I would say I definitely struggled with this as well. And what I think about is that if I don’t have that time to be the CEO, then I don’t have time to think about how to make the practice better. And I also don’t have time to take good care of my therapists. I look at my role is really to take care of the therapists, not that I don’t think about the clients. But my number one priority is the therapists because I know if I take care of them, then they’ll take care of the clients. And so I think they see all the things that I do to take care of them and all the things I’m constantly doing to make the practice better. And then I think they’re like, well, of course, Alison doesn’t see clients because she’s busy doing all this stuff for us, you know. So I think in that way, that sort of helped me not to feel guilty about not seeing clients anymore. [SUSAN]:
Mm hmm. And I’m also seeing a question here, I had a question that came in privately, which is, how has being a practice owner changed your personal life? So I know that when I became a group practice owner, well, first of all, I think my social life completely died. It was kind of like having a baby, just like, my social life was gone out the window. But I think things, you know, things do, they’re really intense in the beginning. And then they do shift around. But it is quite a balancing act, to actually try to have a family or have a personal life, while being a group practice owner, you have all these people who are always asking you questions, fires to put out. But how has it changed your personal life? Dawn, I was wondering if you would speak a little bit to that. [DAWN]:
I think the benefits of it are that I have more time to take care of myself. I was a regional director for the local mental health authority and running seven counties and crisis teams and I lived in crisis. I mean, I took calls in the middle of the night. And so having the group practice and jumping to that, I actually have way more freedom than I did before. And I can go for walks during the day, and I can run home and I have flexibility to set my schedule the way that I want. So in that respect, I have a lot more autonomy over my time. And this year, I’ve been able to go, I was seeing 20, 25 to 27 clients a week when I started and now I’m down to 15. So I’ve transitioned that slowly. [SUSAN]:
Did you find, Dawn, that you needed to kind of reduce down your client hours as you were increasing in your group practice responsibilities? [DAWN]:
Yes. [SUSAN]:
Yeah. Yeah, I think a lot of us find that and I know that’s something you were speaking to just in the last hour, Alison of just like the need to really make space for being a CEO, make space for running your practice and making sure we still hold that vision, like, we’re still looking out in the six to 12 months ahead. Everyone else is they’re just showing up to the office, right, or showing up online to see their clients. They’re doing a fantastic job. That’s what we want them to do. But we still hold that responsibility of the vision for the practice. So I’m wondering if you know, have you seen that, Whitney? Did being a group practice owner ever change how you felt about doing therapy, or change the kind of people that you wanted to see? Are you still seeing people, Whitney? [WHITNEY]:
Yes, all those things. So I do still see clients, it allowed me to hone in a lot more on my ideal client because I didn’t feel like I had to see all these other clients that were calling and I could hire clinicians who specialized in different things. That way, everybody’s kind of seeing their ideal client. So I do find a lot more energy and enjoyment when you’re with the ideal person rather than clients that you’re not really skilled or they’re not really your specialty in working with. And same thing, I’ve had to decrease the number of clinical hours as I’ve increased the group practice [SUSAN]:
And how, like, I’m also wanting just to know what about being a boss? So I love that you’re, it sounds like a class that you’re doing, Whitney and Alison, is just about kind of taking on the role of that CEO, what is it like to be a boss? Because when you’re a solo, you know, practitioner, you are just, you know, you’re just seeing your people, you’re running your practice. But when you have a group practice, you are the boss, even if you don’t like to be a bossy boss, but you’re still really managing people, you’re hiring people. And you’re kind of making some of those ultimate decisions about what happens when, and how we do things and what our culture is. What is it, like, how do you feel about being the boss? How has that been for you, Alison, transitioning to that mindset? [ALISON]:
Yeah, when I was working in community mental health, towards the end of my tenure there, I was the director of an outpatient program. And so I had had that experience of managing people and realized that there were things, you know, when I went off on my own that I wanted to do very differently in some cases. And I really like creating an environment as a boss that I would have wanted to work in when I was a therapist. I’m very collaborative with the staff, I really value their opinions, and I want to hear feedback from them, whether it’s positive or negative. I think when we all collaborate, we just, you know, make things better for the whole practice. So yeah, so sometimes it’s definitely hard, like, you know, when the pandemic first started, and we were trying to make the decision about whether or not to, you know, go to all telehealth, like, right around the middle of March, I realized that, like, I just sort of had to call it and that was really hard, because I thought my staff was going to, maybe some of them weren’t going to be happy about my decision. And that’s something you just have to learn how to tolerate. Just like, you know, not everybody is going to like the decisions you make, but you have to do what’s best for the majority. And thankfully, like, my staff was actually like, really thankful that I made that choice, because they didn’t want to be unnecessarily exposed to the virus. So it ended up working out. [SUSAN]:
Alison, I remember, I remember you did a Facebook Live around that time when you had made that decision, and I think it gave me, because I was, I mean, I was just looking around online, we didn’t know what to do, right? I mean, none of us knew what to do. And I think the fact that you went on your Facebook Live and you’re like, this is the decision that I’m making. This is why it is hard and I’m kind of scared. But this is what we have to do. I think really it at least gave me the courage to really do the same thing for my practice to say, like, we have to make a call. And so I appreciated that vulnerability that you were giving there just and sharing it with us, right, because we sometimes make those decisions, but we don’t really tell anybody, you just do it. And we do it internally, or we don’t explain kind of why we’re doing what we’re doing.

But I think that that does really speak to the need for group practice owners, especially, to be in relationship with other practice owners. Because we are doing something that’s a little bit different. And it is higher, it is higher pressure. And there are, you know, challenges that we face that we’re not necessarily going to be sharing those challenges with our clinicians. But so I think just knowing and honestly having this community through Practice of the Practice, and also through people that I met through Killin’It Camp, I know I met Dawn through Killin’It Camp last year. I remember sitting around the table with you, with our little cups of soda, and those red cups, you know, with the tray and everything, in the lunchroom, that I remember just just wanting to get to know other practice owners so I wouldn’t feel alone. Because there’s no one around. I know, there’s no one around me. There’s not very many people, Nathan and Aaron, I know you’re on this call, you’re here, Sandra. But I met you at Killin’It Camp and so I think that finding other people that we can talk to are you know, we have camaraderie across the country has really been, I know for me, a game changer.

Are there…? So, and I know we’re kind of getting close to around the time, I think it looks like we have about 10 more minutes if I’m tracking it right. Are there some advantages as a group practice owner? This is a question that came in to me. As group practice owners, do you see an advantage in the marketplace? So in the marketplace of counseling, therapy, is there any advantage to being a group rather than being on your own? Does that make sense? What do you like, I’m wondering if, Whitney, if you have anything to say about that? Is there any advantage?

Yeah, I kind of actually got a little confused. Do you mean, having clinicians or being in a community of a group practice owners? [SUSAN]:
Or being…? I think the question is as opposed to being a solo practice owner is, when you’re competing with other therapists, is there any advantage in being a group practice owner? [WHITNEY]:
I think I understand correctly. I mean, I would say the advantage is that you can offer a lot more at your group practice than someone can offer solo. So I do think you have an advantage in your community. And that’s just a small piece of all the marketing you do on each clinician, and all the different things they refer, you know, in the community, I mean, we even get referrals because my assistant knows people and makes connections. So the more people you have in your practice, the more it’s going to grow. And it’s like an exponential rate. [SUSAN]:
Absolutely, I’ve seen that too. I’m seeing a question here from Jason. It says, how have you accounted for or tried to resolve for Zoom fatigue among your clinicians? I know that’s probably come up for us. I know you’re nodding your head, Alison. Have you seen that with your clinicians? And how have you dealt with that? [ALISON]:
Yeah, especially in the beginning of quarantine, when we had to make that transition really swiftly. And then we would have staff meetings, and they’d be like, oh, I’m exhausted from being on Zoom meetings all day. And so we just tried to troubleshoot for people, like if there was something about, you know, the platform that was making it more difficult than it needed to be, like, some people got those blue light blocking glasses, like I just, you know, ordered them for them on Amazon and had them shipped to their house. And they, some people said, like, that really helps them and, you know, I think just talking about self care, and, you know, facilitating that conversation, just acknowledging like, hey, this is hard, you know, like, we didn’t sort of sign up for this, but we’re doing it and kind of just acknowledging that for them. [SUSAN]:
Dawn, I was wondering if you’d speak to that, about how have you helped your clinicians with either Zoom fatigue or just self care in general? [DAWN]:
Yeah, um, well, I subscribe to a couple vineyards in the area. So I take bottles of wine and set them in the kitchen at the clinic, and say, take these home, feel free, they love that. But, what I did, they’re 10-99s so I’m very careful not to treat them like W-2 employees. So that’s kind of a line I walk. But what I did was equip each of the rooms with computer risers, so they can stand, headphones, ring lights, blue light glasses, a couple of the rooms I put the yoga balls in, so they can sit on that, and move so that they’re just not sitting with the computer all day. So I’ve equipped the rooms with things to make it easier for them. And any resource I can get, like, what is the certification for online certification through tech? I can’t remember the name of the business. But I would share any type of resources like that with them so that in their off time, they have things to listen to. I’ve shared audible books, but yeah, I’m just encouraging them. Oh, we did, we started walking talks, and all of them are game for that. So we had a lot of clients who signed up for that and that kind of helped get them out and moving, getting some vitamin D with our clients. So that was really nice. And I supplied the consent forms for that. So things like that. [SUSAN]:
That’s so innovative. I love that walk and talk, that’s so innovative, to just let, people do need to move. Question came in, what is a ring light, Dawn? Tell us what a ring light is. [DAWN]:
Oh, I wish I had one right now I would look so much better. A ring light, you can get them on Amazon for like 30 bucks or less. It’s just a light that you don’t want to sit directly in front of, you want to kind of offset it, but it’s a light that can make things like warmer for you so you can turn off a lot of the overhead lights. Turn the ring light on. A lot of, you know, you’ve seen clients that sit in front of a window and the backlighting can really hurt your eyes and flood their image, so the light is nice because it just kind of takes some of the stress off of the overhead lights. [SUSAN]:
Thank you so much, Dawn. Yes. Stephanie was clarifying, I think, Person Centered Tech, Dawn, was what you were meaning? [DAWN]:
Yes, that’s it. [SUSAN]:
Yes. I love Person Centered Tech. And that’s a company, they’re actually a Portland based company, Portland, Oregon. And they are doing tech services either for group practices or for solo, helping people to manage through online systems and issues. They do that. I know that they have some really great telehealth trainings. And so one of the things that I offered for my clinicians is, if they wanted to just really quick jump on, you know, two or three hours of doing a just a telehealth training right away, in March I said, I’m going to offer this to everybody, get on a telehealth training, and make sure you know what you’re doing. And I just happened to know that Person Centered Tech had a very accessible training that was clinician specific, for doing this kind of work. And so that’s something that I’ve offered to my clinicians that they’ve really appreciated.

And I think it also helps us to think about exactly what you’re talking about, Dawn, of like, you know, the lighting situation, or just our office, it’s like, we’re still welcoming people into our space, right, even if we’re doing it via online. But just like we do, when we have people come into our office, I think we’re still, we’re still welcoming them to our space. And we want them to feel like that’s a warm and comfortable place for them to be. But sometimes we have to advise our clients about how to make it more welcoming for us too, if they’ve got that light shining behind their head.

So you can continue to put some questions into the chat. Stephanie mentioned trail therapy as a great name. I like that, the idea of doing walk and talk with trail therapy. It’s, you know, it’s really been I know, an adventure to be a group practice owner this last year. We’ll probably wrap up with this question. And it’s for the panelists. What advice would you give to yourself last October? So if you think back to the last Killin’It Camp, what advice would you give to yourself last October, if you knew what was coming this year? What would you have said to yourself? Hey, this is what I think you need to do to get yourself in order. What do you think about that, Dawn, what advice would you give to yourself?

I probably would have said start saving more money, save more money. I had savings that I was pretty blessed with that. Start hiring now, don’t be afraid of the pandemic, now’s the time to hire. And start the process because it can be a little bit slower because people were so afraid of what was going to happen next. I would say it would have been nice to tell myself start developing your support network now, which we did jump on to a group practice support with Alison, and Susan was there, and there were several of us here that I see that just kind of helped each other talking out loud some of the struggles and challenges that we were having, and that was a big support in the past year. But I think just continue to stick to your systems, continue to communicate, start making a plan with the people that you’re hiring to help you, like your billing, your accountant, you know, having a lot of talks about what’s next in the next year. [SUSAN]:
Thank you, wonderful. How about you, Whitney? If you were to give yourself advice last October about this year, how would you advise yourself? [WHITNEY]:
I’m gonna sound like a jerk. But I don’t really have any advice for myself. I feel like I’ve did the very best I possibly could and I’m sitting here racking my brain about what I would have done differently and I really can’t think of anything. [SUSAN]:
That’s okay. Cuz you’re awesome, Whitney. How about you, Alison? How would you have advised yourself? [ALISON]:
Um, I would have told myself that mental health, the business of mental health is recession proof and not to freak out if there is a, you know, a momentary dip in the business, like it will definitely recover quickly and just to keep going and keep innovating. [SUSAN]:
Wow. I think that I love that, Alison, we’re gonna have to like ride these waves. And there’s always a new wave. There’s always something that’s coming down that, you know, every practice owner, group practice owner or not, we’re going to have to deal with as they come. But I think that there’s something to saying I’m not going to freak out right now, I’m going to take, you know, take my problem solving skills and all the things that I bring to this practice, and we’re gonna make it work. And that’s something I’m really hearing from each of you today. I’m so thankful for you to be here and just talk to us about how you’ve just made it work, like COVID or not, you know, you said, we’re gonna move forward. And I’m gonna make sure that my clinicians have jobs, and that we’re working, that we’re making money.


I’m so excited that you got a sneak peek into Killin’It Camp. We had, I think 150 people that signed up for Killin’It Camp this year. In 2019, when we had our live event we had 123 people. It is such a fun community of people that think differently about private practice, that they want that community, they want that connection, they want that learning, they want to push the envelope. And so if that sounds like you, I would love for you to sign up for the Killin’It Camp course where you get full access to those 25 minute sessions on pillars of practice, those 55 minute sessions on scaling your practice, and then those 55 minute sessions that are all about multiple streams of income. It is such important work that we do and if we don’t understand the business side of it, how’s it gonna help us? So make sure that you head on over to

And today’s sponsor is Gusto. If you don’t have your payroll set up, you have to do that. Head on over to Gusto is the payroll solution that we use so make sure you go sign up for that today. Thanks for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a great day.

Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music; we really like it. This podcast is designed to provide accurate, authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.

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