Podcast 75 | Marketer Turned Counselor, an interview with Shannon Stonebrook, MS, LPC



Today’s Private Practice Podcast Resource

Use promo code “joe” for $225 off, and I’ll throw in a Lifetime Membership to my Member’s Newsletter, worth $550!

What you will discover in this podcast

1:46 Something that my brother trademarked that is crazy.

7:08 How Shannon went from not having a practice to thriving in one year!

7:31 What to do 6 months before starting a private practice.

12:31 What Shannon discovered about Google Ads.

18:10 What Shannon put on one sheet that gets her counseling referrals.

21:50 One thing every counselor must know!


Practice Nation Meet Shannon Stonebook

Shannon Stonebrook is a licensed professional counselor specializing in adult individual, couples, and family therapy, and maintains a private practice in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She earned a Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology from Chatham University and a Master of Arts degree in Communication from Duquesne University. She owns Oakmont Therapy.

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Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

Joe Sanok is an ambitious results expert. He is a private practice business consultant and counselor that helps small businesses and counselors in private practice to increase revenue and have more fun! He helps owners with website design, vision, growth, and using their time to create income through being a private practice consultant.

Joe was frustrated with his lack of business and marketing skills when he left graduate school. He loved helping people through counseling, but felt that often people couldn’t find him. Over the past few years he has grown his skills, income, and ability to lead others, while still maintaining an active private practice in Traverse City, MI.

To link to Joe’s Google+ .

Here is the Transcription of This Podcast

Marketer Turned Counselor An interview with Shannon Stonebrook, MS, LPC

This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, Session 75. I’m Joe Sanok, your host. I’m so glad that you’re here today. Wow! It is a beautiful sunny day in northern Michigan. Still ice on the water, but it’s beautiful.

So, today’s resource that I want to give you is The Most Awesome Conference. It is pretty sweet Miranda, Kelly and I were just talking last week and we spent two hours on the phone breaking down the schedule for The Most Awesome Conference and honestly, it’s going to be awesome.

So, we’re going to have a cappuccino bar, we’re going to have a food truck. We’re breaking down what Julie Hanks, Miranda, Kelly and I are going to be doing. Kind of what the model is going to be is we’ll have probably at least two sessions going at a time that are like planned sessions. One of us will be doing a small group as well and the other person will kind of be a floater so that if somebody wants to talk individually or in a smaller group that it’s easier to have that kind of extra time and we can say, “Hey, I’m going to floating during this time or I’m going to be you know taking some time over here during this time or I’m going to be doing a small group around this topic.”

Something that my brother trademarked that is crazy

We brainstormed things like I’m going to be doing a whole session on podcasting. I’m actually getting my brother who owns specifically pacific.com and they actually have the federal trademark for the 101 Road logo on the West Coast. Who knew you could trademark a road? So, they go up and down the coast and sell merchandise to surf shops and he’s going to be talking a lot about marketing and creating just an amazing brand. So, I’m going to be interviewing him and then I’m going to walk people through exactly what I do next, the editing, the uploading, creating the blog post that goes along with it. I’m going to show you how I use Canva and then we’re going to do actually a podcast 2.0 where a handful of people are going to do their own recordings with one another, work on the editing of that and then have that mp3 emailed to them.

It’s just going to be so amazing and Miranda and Kelly are going to be doing a bunch on kind of selling and conversion and E-courses. I’m going to be doing a whole session on how to add clinicians to your private practice, kind of some of the best practices, how to use contracts well. Julie Hanks is going to be doing sessions all about just like how to get into the media, how to get on CNN, things like that she has done an amazing job with.

And then we have a whole host of extra people that are coming to do smaller breakout sessions, as well. And it’s just — it’s going to be awesome. I’m so freaking geeked about it and I’ve never been to San Diego or southern California and I’ve just heard it’s a really cool part of the country. So, I’m bringing my family with me so all the people are going to get to meet my little girls and my wife and it’s actually the first day of the conference is my daughter’s birthday so we are going to have s’mores around the camp fire and she’s going to be all geeked out about it. Or she’ll be really tired because of the time change. We’ll just see. It’ll be a wild card.

If you want to sign up for this conference or just check it out, you can go to mostawesomeconference.com/about and then if you do all lower case ‘joe’ J-O-E, you can get 225 bucks off. So, I’ll put that in the show notes as well which is going to practiceofthepractice.com/session75, but sorry. I just got a piece of meat in my teeth there. I just had a sandwich. It was turkey and cheddar with cucumbers and some mayonnaise. It was delicious.

I was at the ACA conference a couple of weeks ago, and they have this free lunches where you can just kind of sit down with people and talk. I sat down at this table with people that looked friendly and just started chatting. And this lady, Shannon, across from me said, “I met you in Hawaii. You gave me sunglasses” and I gave her a pair of my new sunglasses in 2014, the sunglasses I gave away for Practice of the Practice where this kind of like baby blue, the color I use quite frequently on Practice of the Practice.

This year, I did white sunglasses with baby blue writing and so gave her pair. We started chatting. She started talking about how she’s been on the podcast like listening to the podcast and the website. It was just totally awesome to hear how she has implemented so much from Practice of the Practice and she has a whole marketing background. So, right there at the table, I said, “Hey, Shannon, you want to do a podcast interview?” and she said, “Sure.” She didn’t even hesitate. I mean, she seemed maybe a little bit nervous about it, because I just like sprung it on her, but she was totally game for it.

We went and found a quiet-ish place at the conference to do this interview and it was just great. She has so much in regards to offering just consulting around just her marketing background, how’s she’s grown. I’m really excited to introduce you to Shannon Stonebrook. She’s a licensed professional counselor that specializes in adult, individual, couples and family therapy and she has a private practice in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She got a master’s of science in counseling psychology and a master’s of arts and communication. So, she knows her stuff. Without any further ado, I give you Shannon Stonebrook.

Joe Sanok: Well, Shannon Stonebrook, welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast.

SS: Thank you, glad to be here.

Joe Sanok: Yeah, we connected just momentarily back in ACA a year ago and then we just had lunch together here and we’re talking about just how you’ve kind of grown over the last year. So, why don’t we start with your story like who are you and we’ll go from there.

SS: Sure. Yeah. Well, it’s so great to see you. I was glad we connected at the table at lunch. Yeah, so last year, when we met in Hawaii at the conference, I was literally just starting my practice, my private practice. I think I had just opened my office the week prior. I think I had one client. Really, everything was new. I had not put much pre-planning into starting this practice.

A little bit about my background is, I actually have a pretty extensive background on marketing. That’s my first degree. I’ve a master’s degree in communication as well, but as time went on, I always wanted to do more of a helping profession, went back to school and become a therapist and you know, worked for years in substance abuse and addiction at a rehab center, loved it. I did a lot of group work but then always enjoyed the connection between individual, with individuals and individual therapy. I really wanted to have my own practice.

How Shannon went from not having a practice to thriving in one year!

I did that. I found a space just kind of started before I came out to Hawaii last year and learned so much at the sessions. I remember connecting with you, learning about Practice of the Practice, and I instantly signed up to follow you on Facebook and Twitter and the newsletter. It’s been really helpful to me over this past year to gain tips and tricks and just learning about the business aspect, the importance of marketing. It’s been really helpful and it’s been an awesome first year, tons of learning experiences, but it’s been a lot of fun and I’m so glad I did it.

What to do 6 months before starting a private practice

Joe Sanok: I want to go back to that when you were at ACA last year, you just launched it and you said without much pre-planning. Are there things that you wish you could go back and say to yourself, “In the six months before you launched maybe did these things because I know a lot of our listeners are brand new or they’re grad students or they’re like you know, maybe a plateaued like, what would you tell those six months prior to launch, Shannon?

SS: Save some money.

Joe Sanok: Okay.

SS: Maybe for the — and I know there are options to office-share or you know, not getting your own space but yeah, I literally went from “Hey, I think I want to do this” to you know, furnishing a full office and having office space to look for and just a lot of upfront cost that I had not anticipated.

Joe Sanok: So, when you say save money like you mean like three months of income? Do you mean like — like how would someone structure how much to save?

SS: Well, yeah. I mean, it really depends what you’re going for. I wanted to — I’m in an area that’s a little more affluent. I wanted to have an office that looked higher end so I really put a lot of thought and detail into my couch and my chair and just the décor. But again, I could have done it for much, much less. So, I can’t say really how much to save. I guess it depends on what you’re looking to do. Again, a lot of people when they’re first starting don’t choose to sign a lease you know, like for three years like I did.

Joe Sanok: Right. I just did a five-year one.

SS: Yeah.

Joe Sanok: When you leave that bottom line I’m like, “Oh, my gosh.”

SS: Right.

Joe Sanok: There’s so much money that I go and get back.

SS: Sure, that’s the thing. So, and yeah. I just made it with my account and to go to the first year expenses, I’m like, “Wow, there a lot of expenses.”

Joe Sanok: Yeah.

SS: However, going forward, I don’t anticipate that as much but I mean, even for instance, the advertising expenses. I advertise wit Psychology Today which has been one of my biggest lead generators, for sure. But I also placed a Google ad that I capped it at around $250 a month, and I’ve gotten a decent amount of referrals that way, as well. I could increase that and probably get more, but again, you know, it’s still early one. I’m still kind of weighing the pros and con. Yeah, just lots of different costs to look into. I think it’s the degree that you want to put into it, how big of a practice you want to develop. This is still new for me.   

Joe Sanok: Right. Well, I know like I left my full-time job and it was like two weeks ago.

SS: Yeah.

Joe Sanok: Eight days ago was the last day.

SS: Oh, wow!

Joe Sanok: But it was like a year of planning where my wife and I were like gophers just like hiding money away just so that you know, if things don’t work out for a month or two like we’re not sunk.

SS: Again, that’s the thing. So, I find myself now that I’m taking — I do take some insurance, a couple of insurance plans, but I also do cash. So, just finding that balance and also say, “Oh, I had a really good month”, but I don’t spend that money because I need to have that for rent or whatever I might need going forward. Yeah, it’s just being about very thoughtful and careful about spending.

Joe Sanok: Do you use any sort of formula to figure out like this is how much I’ll pay myself out versus expenses?

SS: I actually, I have another job that honestly pays for me to live.

Joe Sanok: Sure.

SS: That pays my expenses, my mortgage, all of that. So, because of that, I’m not even really paying myself a salary at this point. It’s more that I’m saving up money and looking at you know, what do I want to spend more on? What are other types of advertising venues or opportunities do I have? I’m fortunate to be in that position that I don’t have to rely on my practice as my sole source of income at this point.

Joe Sanok:  Yeah. Well, that’s an important point. I mean, up till now, you know, I’ve had my full-time job, too. My wife stays at home and you know, it’s like the private practice has been 5-10 hours on the side every week and you know, I think being smart about your money that’s really important.

SS: Exactly, exactly.

Joe Sanok: Yeah. Well, I like the idea of reinvesting your business because you don’t need to take that money out. There was a story that Warren Buffet told about how like when he was like eight or something like that, he had bought this gumball machine with a friend of his and then they realized that “Wait, we made this much money. What if we just shift that money and bought a second gumball machine”? They bought like 30 of these gumball machines.

SS: Wow!

Joe Sanok: And they started ripping all the money.

SS: Exactly.

Joe Sanok: And they like bought a pinball machine and they’re like these are 12-year-olds like making all this money, because they reinvested to get that momentum.

SS: Absolutely and I feel fortunate that I can do that again, because of the other income that I have, coming in.

Joe Sanok: Yeah. That’s super.

SS: Yeah.

Joe Sanok: So, now tell me about your practice. Like, who do you serve? How do your market yourself?

SS: Yeah. So, I say on my website, I taught that I served problems of life. So, primarily adults but I do work with adolescents, as well. I don’t work with children. That’s just not area of expertise and you know, I’d learned of the past year to be able to refer to people who you know, either work with populations I don’t work with or issues that I don’t have that expertise and because I want to make sure my clients get the best help they can. So, you know, there’s a wide range of ages. I have clients from 15 to you know, 75. You know, wide range of issues, a lot of relationship is used. I do love couple’s counseling in addition to the individual counseling, and career counseling. I do have a background in addiction and recovery so a lot of that. But really, everything’s stress management, anxiety. You know, communications goals, that’s huge with couples and families that I work with. So, just having, you know, teaching listening skills, teaching communications skills, the different types of communication. I mean, it’s really all over the board and I love it. I love the variety of it.

What Shannon discovered about Google Ads

Joe Sanok: Now, you said that you did some Google ads. Maybe take us through that process so just that advertising side because you have that brain.

SS: Yes.

Joe Sanok: Lots of counselors don’t.

SS: Right that’s the thing I am fortunate to have my marketing experience and background so that maybe has been well somewhat advantageous, at least, knowing what’s out there to work on. But basically, I created a Google business page, a Google+ page to, you know, get myself on the map as a business in the area. But then I just kind of looked into the opportunities and I saw ways, I mean, my ad is very, very simple. Honestly, I don’t even remember what it says right now, but I did it a while ago but you can update it anytime. It’s literally 10 words or less, you know, directing them to your website and yeah, I mean, I get a lot of people finding me from Google searches.

I think in addition to the Google advertising I do it like I said the Psychology Today advertising. That’s been extremely helpful and beneficial. Also, you know I made sure that I had a presence on social media, so I created a Twitter handle. You know, I created that site. I created a Facebook for business page so you know, I’ll link to articles that are of interest or talk about upcoming workshops I’m doing at the local library where I do things.

And I think all of that in combination has really helped me to get placed higher in Google. When I do a search for my name, therapists in my particular area, I come at least for four times on the first page of Google, and that has changed since I first started to just — I check it all the time but I think all of these efforts and the marketing and it just says that I’m undertaking are helping me to get boosted you know, higher up there in Google. So that’s been really great.

Joe Sanok: Well, and I want to talk about this library idea. I really like that. Talk a little bit more about that as a kind of marketing and community resource.

SS: Yes, so I love doing it. There’s a great library where I live, and they are sort of becoming known as this wellness library. I mean, they had people who teach tai-chi, who do guided meditations, yoga, all at no cost. So, right after the conference last year, I had heard someone talk about how they had success with doing something like that, and I went to talk with the librarians. They were receptive to the idea and I said, “Can I just pitch some ideas of topics?”

So, I have started having monthly workshops where I talk about the stress management techniques or setting healthy boundaries, communications skills, stress around the holidays. We had one about that, and it’s been awesome. It’s kind of like group therapy. I mean, there’s been anywhere from 15 to 30 people come together, all ages and really awesome people. I’ve learned a lot from them. I tried to teach them a little bit. I give them some materials but it’s really it’s just a really great experience coming together. I mean, it’s helped with marketing. I gained four new clients since I started doing that and you know, late or early summer and they’re some of my like best friends that I enjoy working with. It’s been a great experience. I think it’s got a name recognition you know, just getting your name out there. But yeah, I enjoy it, I give my time to do that. It’s not much and it’s a couple of hours a month and I really enjoy it.

Joe Sanok: Now, I know a lot of people you know might say to themselves, “I just opened this private practice, who am I to like go pitch this to the library?” Like did you have any of those feelings? If you did, how’d you get through it? If you didn’t have those feelings why not?

SS: You know, I didn’t have a — if we talk a little bit of this. [? 15:49] I have done a lot of the topics that I demonstrate or talk with on the workshops. I had talked about those topics for years when I was doing group therapy, family therapy at the drug and alcohol and rehab centers. A lot of it that the topics are focused on communication, and I do have another you know master’s degree in communication.

I think that having that knowledge and experience and then having presented these topics and seeing how well received they are with groups for years made me realize, “Oh, I think these are really going to resonate with the audience” and it’s just been really helpful. I’ve also gotten great feedback from the participants but then I asked them for suggestions on topics.

It’s not, again, it’s not even so much of me coming in and saying, “I’m the expert. Let me tell you everything.” It’s getting their input and sharing with one another, and it’s just a great supportive experience.

Joe Sanok: Yeah, yeah. I want you to put your marketing hat on a little bit. What are some things that you see counselors doing that as a marketer, you just shake your head and you’re like, “Come on. Like this is so simple.”

SS: Yeah.

Joe Sanok: Maybe just some common things that you notice in our field.

SS: I think not having a professional website, I know some people that don’t really you know, I think they don’t realize the brand presence. So you really — you are representing yourself, your brand as a person and as an organization as a therapist. When I created my website, it was one of the first things that I did. I wanted to look professional, I wanted it to sound professional, I went with an organization that helped me you know, allowed me to design a very professional look that’s very soothing. Like it needed to represent what I wanted to portray as a therapist and to this day, I have people regularly contact me and said, “I read your website. I love what you had to say. I love your positive attitude. This is what I want in a therapist.” Or I’ve had people say, “Oh, it’s so pretty. It’s so calm.” Then they come to my office and it’s the same color scheme as my website.

Joe Sanok: Right.

What Shannon put on one sheet that gets her counseling referrals

SS: So, it’s consistency and just keeping that message consistent across the board. So, I think it’s you know, putting money into you know, nice professional business cards or I have a flyer that I hand out when I’m at the library or if I go to a meeting with other therapists I bring in this little one-sheet just a single sheet that talks about my services. And it’s to be able to communicate you know the elevator pitch as they say, what you do can concisely and clearly and not try to be one thing to everyone in the world. Now, I just say I handle problems of life that I’m putting to take it over to population and again, I know my limits so I can keep on and to know the limits.

Joe Sanok: Well, I think that idea like spending some extra money in your business cards in particular, I handed out one of business cards which are like super, super thick and this one guy thought it was a brochure and he kept trying to like open it.

SS: Yeah.

Joe Sanok: And we know that it’s just a thick square business card.

SS: Right, right.

Joe Sanok: It didn’t fit this like business card compatible.

SS: Yeah.

Joe Sanok: I see so many therapists they have just like some cheap you know it’s just a print, one that on the back it says like get your own free business cards —

SS: Exactly.

Joe Sanok: — and I’m just like what does that portray?

SS: Right.

Joe Sanok: You’re a cheapskate. You don’t like –.

SS: Absolutely.

Joe Sanok: — invest in yourself.

SS: I just spoke with you know, someone that I know in the community who’s a psychologist, and he was saying that he liked my website and when I told him how much I pay which I really don’t think is that much of a monthly fee, he was horrified by how much it cost but then he just showed me his and he’s like, “I know that I need to upgrade.” I’m like, “Well, you need to spend some money, you know, just like the Google ad. It’s $250 a month but it’s gotten me a lot of referrals. You have to put the money into it to get the returns sometimes.”

Joe Sanok: Well, and I think looking at the return on investment, so you know if one person comes in and your rate’s 100 bucks, say. And they come in average of eight times, you have $800 per person. If you get two clients for 250, it’s that whole idea of trading like nickels for quarters.

SS: Exactly, exactly.

Joe Sanok: But which I think it’s hard for a lot of counselors to kind of wrap their head around.

SS: Right, I agree. I agree. But it’s necessary.

Joe Sanok: So, what are some actions that people can take around kind of marketing, growing their private practice that you feel like you picked up on in the last year?

SS: Sure. Again, I think and we’ll be talking or hearing this tomorrow at the keynote with Jeffrey Kottler, but I really do think first of all is just being genuine, congruent you know, being authentic as a therapist. So, first of all, is it’s getting the people on the door with a lot of these mediums that we’ve discussed but once they get in the door, it is establishing that relationship and the rapport so I think that is so important because I get a lot of referrals from my clients which is you know, a top referral source for many people. Again, being very just engaged and mindful of the relationship and the importance of that. I think that’s first and foremost. Everything else, again, I think it’s the social media, it is spending some money on advertising, for sure. But also, yeah, getting out there, putting your name out there. A lot of people I need to work on this aspect. I haven’t done as much is generating and cultivating relationships with physicians in my area, with other professionals in the area. And I have started to do that but I need to do more of that to really have close referral relationships.

I mean, I’ve had people refer to me from physicians I’ve never met and just reaching out to them. “Thanks so much. Can I meet with you? Let’s try to you know, establish a referral network here.”

Joe Sanok: Yeah.

SS: So, I think all of those are important.

Joe Sanok: I know for me like my own doctor’s appointments. I’ve mentioned that in a podcast recently. I had some back issues and now, my PT has me speaking at their whole staff meeting, my neurology, the appointment guy like he’s having me come speak. It’s like all these health issues are triggering the business.

SS: Oh, yeah, more sure.  I mean, I love my dentist. I love the staff there. They have a stack of my business cards. You never know who’s going to be —

Joe Sanok: It’s like you never know.

SS: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Joe Sanok: Excuse me.

SS: Sure.

One thing every counselor must know!

Joe Sanok: So, one question I always people at the end of the interview is if every counselor in America were listening right now, what would you want them to know? No pressure.

SS: Oh. Okay. All right. Wow! I would say in my opinion, this is having another career that I started off with that I still do part-time but to me, nothing is more rewarding than being a counselor. I mean, it can be really difficult, challenging, stressful but to sit with another human being and connect with them and have the honor to just have somebody share so openly and honestly and to be able to be with someone on their journey to try to help them improve their life or make a difference, I don’t know what else could match that. So, in my opinion, it’s the greatest for your honor.

Joe Sanok: Wow! Well, thank you Shannon.

SS: You’re welcome.

Joe Sanok: So, Shannon Stonebrook what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you if they want to connect with you?

SS: Sure. Well, my website you can visit is oakmonttherapy.com or you can send me an email at shannon@oakmonttherapy.com

Joe Sanok: And if you’re running or snow blowing or something like that right now, it’ll be in the show notes, as well.

So, thank you so much for taking time out of the conference to hang out.

SS: Absolutely. It was great seeing you. Thank you.

Joe Sanok: Yeah. Have a nice day.

SS: You, too.

Joe Sanok: “To sit with another human being, what an honor.” Man, such wise words. You know, sometimes when we talk about business and marketing and entrepreneurship and passive income and all these things, it’s easy to forget that ultimately as a counselor, we’re sitting across from someone that’s just sharing the pain of their life.

I love that that’s what Shannon just put a spotlight on at the end there because it’s so true. If we aren’t just focusing on that as the ultimate goal of everything we do, then what’s the point? If we have amazing social media and an amazing website and we’ve all these great E-books and — but you know, people don’t come to counseling and people don’t think you’re a good counselor or you’re not present in that session, it’s not worth it. It’s not the point. Like the point is helping people in a counseling session. Everything we do as private practice owners needs to point to that.

And I think it’s easy sometimes to get distracted that somehow social media is the purpose or blogging is the purpose. Yes, we can help people do those things but ultimately, a counseling private practice is about that individual relationship in a counseling session. What a magnificent field we’re in where someone five minutes after meeting us can break down and cry and can get really angry, can feel really hopeful — it’s good to have that reminder.

So, Shannon, thank you so much for that reminder.

And you the listener, oh my gosh. So many comments and emails. It’s just been amazing to hear from you. I want to invite you to The Most Awesome Conference. Please, at least check it out. It’s just mostawesomeconference.com/about. If you decide to sign up please use the promo code, ‘joe’ J-O-E all lower case so that you can get 225 bucks off. And this is only going to be good I think till the first or second week of April. And so you want to jump on that quick because there’s only a handful of spots that are left. And especially if you’re in southern California, we’re like right there. So, come hang out with us and let’s make some s’mores with my daughter on her birthday.

Again, thanks for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Session notes are practiceofthepractice.com/session75. You guys are just amazing. Keep it up.

Special thanks to the bands Silence is Sexy and the Dada Weatherman. Let’s look. They are the Dada Weatherman.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered.  It is given with the understanding that neither the host, nor publisher nor the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one. Have a good one.

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