Start a private practice month: Benita Thornhill on Starting a New Practice when Moving 3 times | POP 848

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A photo of Dr Benita Thornhill is captured. She is a LPC who specializes in helping couples, individuals and groups with anxiety, relationships, and trauma. Dr. Thornhill is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

Are you potentially moving states while running your private practice? How can you build a practice anywhere and at any time? Can you start a successful solo practice while preparing to move?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about starting a new private practice when moving homes with Dr. Benita Thornhill.

Podcast Sponsor: Blueprint

A photo of the Blueprint podcast sponsor is captured. Blueprint sponsor the Practice of the Practice podcast.

Providing great therapy day after day can be challenging – even for the best of us!

At Blueprint, they believe that nothing should get in the way of you doing your best work, which is why they created a platform that provides therapists with an array of clinical tools – things like therapy worksheets, intervention ideas, and digital assessments – that are designed to help you and your clients can stay connected and confident throughout the care journey. Even better, Blueprint helps streamline your documentation so that you can spend less time on your notes and more time on the things that matter.

To learn more and request a free 30-day trial, visit

Meet Benita Thornhill

A photo of Dr Benita Thornhill is captured. She is a LPC who specializes in helping couples, individuals and groups with anxiety, relationships, and trauma. Dr. Thornhill is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

Dr. Benita Thornhill, PsyD, LPC specializes in helping couples, individuals, and groups with anxiety, relationships, and trauma. Dr. Thornhill holds licensure in the states of Virginia, Texas, and North Carolina. She works with Military, Civilian, Veterans, and their families. Dr. Thornhill also works with agencies and organizations to help create a workplace environment of wellness.

Visit The Clarity Centre and connect on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

In This Podcast

  • Organize your licenses
  • How to build a practice anywhere
  • Gain traction in your solo practice
  • Benita’s advice to private practitioners

Organize your licenses

First and foremost, make sure your paperwork is right.

Depending on the rules of your state, it is best to first start with getting a license to practice.

If you have a license in another state, you can apply off [of] that license to get [another] license [in a new state], but some states require you to take additional things, so it’s important to know what it is you need for that state.

Dr. Benita Thornhill

Get your groundwork laid so that you can start applying for the rest, like insurance.

Look up the rules of the state that you are thinking of moving to, or opening a practice in, and make sure to discuss it with your attorney.

How to build a practice anywhere

What are the main aspects of building a fresh private practice that you should aim to get right at the beginning of the journey?

1 – Figure out how you will form your business: an LLC or a PLLC, and so forth

2 – Open a separate bank account for your business to not mix with your private finances

3 – Create your website and a social presence for your private practice

4 – Become acquainted with basic marketing strategies and SEO

5 – Learn how to speak directly to the pain points that you are serving in your niche

[Learn] how to create [their] avatar so that you know who your ideal client is and you know the things that [your] ideal client is looking to solve.

Dr. Benita Thornhill

Gain traction in your solo practice

Once your basics are set up, consider expanding the reach of your practice to move beyond direct clinical work and offer other services, like podcasts or e-courses.

Consider starting a blog, an email course, or even an app!

Additionally, find your circle. Running your successful private practice while working as a clinician is a lot easier when you have an inner circle rooting for and supporting you.

[Have] people that [you] can count on, that are pushing [you] to think differently. [Surround] yourself with other people that are entrepreneurs or [are] thinking like [how] you want to be is so important.

Joe Sanok

Benita’s advice to private practitioners

Instead of feeling like you can’t do it, look for all the reasons that you can – and focus on them. Look for information to inspire you and take action to keep the momentum.

Sponsors mentioned in this episode:

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

Check out these additional resources:

Meet Joe Sanok

A photo of Joe Sanok is displayed. Joe, private practice consultant, offers helpful advice for group practice owners to grow their private practice. His therapist podcast, Practice of the Practice, offers this advice.

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.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[JOE SANOK] You can spend lots of time going on YouTube, reading people’s blogs, even listening to podcasts like this but if you can find someone you trust and you understand what they’re teaching, they can save you time if you just follow them, if you dive into what they’re looking at teaching you. That’s why we put together, a totally free e-course to help you, whether you’re a solo practitioner or a group practitioner, to get the basic checklists and trainings that you need to rock out your private practice. Head on over to to get access to this free e-course. Again, that’s This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 848. I’m Joe Sanok, your host, and welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast. Last month we covered a bunch of experts, people like Pat Lynn, John Lee Dumas, Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman. They were all on the podcast with our Ask the Expert. Then this month we’ve been doing, starting a Private Practice Month. Later actually early next month in March, we’re going to do launching a group practice, and then we’re going to dive into growing a group practice, so a lot of really awesome things coming up. Today, my friend Benita Thornhill is hanging out with us today. Benita, welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast. [BENITA THORNHILL] Hello, Joe. Thanks for having me here. [JOE] Yeah, well, we’ve overcome something. We overcame our technology difficulties. First, you getting locked out of my Zencaster and then you couldn’t hear me, but we’ve accomplished something together today already. [DR. BENITA] Yes, we have. [JOE] Well, this series is all about talking with people about their solo practice. So why don’t we just start with, tell us about your practice and also tell us a little bit about your life outside of business? [DR. BENITA] Okay. Well, I have been listening to you for a very long time, Joe, long, long time and in that time I have actually created three different practices and each time, they are solo practices, I always go back to your starting a private practice. It’s been very helpful. It’s like following the yellow brick road and everything falls into place. So that’s what I’ve been doing, it’s the one year practice plan that you came up with sometime before and it’s so full of golden nuggets really. It really takes you through how to build and create a practice. People often ask me, well, how do you build a practice in different states and you don’t have a master’s in business and that’s how. [JOE] So what are some of the things from that checklist and from that one year practice plan that for you just really resonated as you started your practice? [DR. BENITA] Well, first of all, telling you why it’s important to get an LLC, because you wouldn’t know that if you’ve never, you know when you’re in grad school, they don’t teach you how to be a practice owner. They teach you how to work for a group practice and, or an agency or something like that. So really understanding that you need to get an LLC, have a website, you need to have a name, learning about branding and marketing and all those types of things have been very helpful for me throughout the years. [JOE] Now how long have you had your practice? [DR. BENITA] My current practice, the Clarity Center I’ve been in business for two years, going on three, September of this year will be three years. Prior to that I was in North Carolina and I had a practice and I had a practice there for about two years and then before that I had another practice, my very first practice, which was in Michigan. That practice I have for about two or three years. So when I — [JOE] I have to ask where in Michigan, because I’m up in Traverse City.. [DR. BENITA] Yes, I was in Dearborn, Michigan [JOE] I was just in the Dearborn area last weekend. We went down to the Detroit Institute of Art and then went to some trampoline parks down there with my daughters. I love visiting the Detroit area. [DR. BENITA] Yeah, it’s beautiful, it’s beautiful. [JOE] Wow, so you’ve had to move or you’ve chosen to move and then restart a practice, so why didn’t, maybe it was just because online counseling wasn’t a big thing at the time, but why not just keep those practices open and expand, like virtually or like, why’d you start from scratch each time? [DR. BENITA] Well, when I started my first one in Michigan, online thing, online was not a thing, it wasn’t a big thing. So I just closed it out because I moved to North Carolina with my husband who’s in military. So when we went there, because it’s not like a uniform laws of practice for counseling, every state had its own thing, and you had to meet those states requirements, I had to get some things together to get my license there. Then I opened my practice there. Then when we moved, when my husband retired, we moved back to Virginia where I’m originally from. I closed that practice there and opened a practice here. So that’s how that worked. I actually, because I go back and forth between here and Dallas, in the process of opening the practice in Dallas, using the same book that I’ve been using all these times, and it’s made me very successful and been able to run a solo practice. [JOE] So, for people that maybe know that their spouse might get transferred, maybe they’re in the military, like Traverse City’s a big Coast Guard area, thinking about folks that might be moving states and not be able to keep their in-person practice going, what advice specifically would you have for them? Then I’d love to dig into just solo practice stuff, but I mean, you’re uniquely positioned as moving that many times and having to start from scratch to speak to that crowd. What do they need to think through that is maybe a little bit different from just other folks that are starting a regular practice when they know that they won’t be moving? [DR. BENITA] Well, I would say now with the welcoming of telehealth is to look into, first what you need to do to get a license and the state that you’re going to, that’s the very first thing you need to do, because sometimes some states, if you have a license in another state, you can apply off of that license to get a license but then some states require that you take additional things. So it’s important to know what it is you need for that state. Once you get that to apply early so that then you can start looking at, okay, so how do I apply for a business license in that state, what’s required of that, all of those type of things so you can get that background work laid, you can get your insurance because you got to have your insurance to be able to practice in that state and all those types of things. That’s what I would recommend to start early once you find out so that you can have things rolling by the time that you get there. [JOE] Yeah, I can imagine that would be just such an extra layer of planning where if you knew that say it’s going to be two years before you move again or three years that like last year, knowing I got to start discharging some of these clients if you’re not going to do telehealth after that and then getting new clients in the new state if you know that ahead of time. There just seems like a lot of logistical stuff to keep track of. How did you make sure that you kept it all organized and that you didn’t drop the ball as you kept having to start and stop and restart? [DR. BENITA] Well, when I knew that we were going to be leaving my clients who were close to we had a team we discharged, I started planning with discharge. But whenever you take a client, you always start with the end in mind. So those clients who were done, we discharged the clients who would not be done, who still needed care. They were referred to other clinicians, like a warm handoff to another clinician to make that process better for them because if you don’t have, if you’re going to another state and if you’re not licensed in that state that you’re going to, you can’t provide licensed services in another state. So like when I left Michigan, I moved to North Carolina, I didn’t have a license there, so I couldn’t provide counseling to people in Michigan without a license in North Carolina because that’s where I was. You have to be licensed in both states. I think that’s important for people to know because sometimes they think, well, I still have my license in this state, but if you’re in another state, you need to be aware of what their rules are because you could be practicing without a license in that state. [JOE] Wow, that’s really good to know. So when you think about just general advice for people starting a practice, whether or not they think they’re going to move what are some things on the infrastructure side that you would say, here’s some of the operations or the nuts and bolts of it that are really important to get right, right from the beginning? [DR. BENITA] I would say how they’re going to form their business if they’re going to, if they need the L, an LLC or if they need PLLC, that depends on the state, depends on whatever your financial advisor suggests for you. That’s an important thing to get done, making sure that you have a separate bank account and a bank account for your business and a bank account for your personal and not to look up the two mix. To make sure that you pay yourself because some people think, well, all this money is my money because I’m making money. That’s not how it rolls down when it’s time for taxes. You need to make sure that those things are separate. To actually create a website, because your website is what is your home base. It’s what people will come to and learn how to market it, learn how to increase your SEO, learn how to be able to speak to the pain points of the population that you are serving, to know how to create an avatar so that you know who your ideal client is and you can know the things that that ideal client is looking to solve so that you can design your marketing around that. [JOE] Such good advice. So when you think about growing your solo practice, there’s the initial setup, the initial getting going, but really when did you start to get some traction to grow the practice? What did you do to help, get those new clients and really get that traction? [DR. BENITA] I created a podcast, Lemonade Chat, and a lot of people listened to it. I also created an app and it’s a free app where my podcast is on the app as well as my blog. I did a blog, so I wrote to the pain points of the people that I was trying to reach. In these three ways I was able to get people interested enough where they, some people said they felt like they knew me from listening to me on the podcast or reading the blog. So these are types of things that I did to get interest in the business and to grow it. [JOE] How did you track whether or not the podcast was working in getting new clients and getting the exposure you wanted for the amount of time that went into the podcast? [DR. BENITA] I would ask them, how did they hear about me. People who came in, I would ask them, how did you hear about the Clarity Center? They would say, someone said, “Listen to this podcast, and I really like the podcast. So I thought that I would give you a call. You sounded really friendly on the podcast and I wanted to talk with you.” [JOE] So when you were creating the podcast, how did you target it so that it would be, or maybe you didn’t, did you target it so it would just be people in the state you were licensed in, or was it just general for anyone that it was helpful for? [DR. BENITA] It was just general for anyone that it was helpful for. I didn’t necessarily target it for like a particular state because I felt like everyone could benefit just from the things that were on the podcast and the different guests that I had in the podcast. So it wasn’t like generalized [BLUEPRINT] Providing great therapy day after day can be challenging even for the best of us. At Blueprint, they believe that nothing should get in the way of you doing your best work, which is why they created a platform that provides therapists with an array of clinical tools, things like therapy worksheets, intervention ideas, and digital assessments that are designed to help you and your clients stay connected and confident throughout the care journey. Even better, Blueprint helps streamline your documentation so you can spend less time on your notes and more time on the things that matter. To learn more and request a 30-day free trial, visit Again, that’s [JOE SANOK] Now, when you think about like, when you felt insecure, when you felt worried, when you’re like, is this going to work, were there any times that you had those feelings and in some way overcame them and if so, how’d you overcome them? [DR. BENITA] Oh yeah, I have them. I still have them sometime. I’ll tell you, my most recent thing is I went to this this event and everyone introduced themselves and I introduced myself as Benita Thornhill and a person gave me a nudge like, “Why didn’t you say doctor?” I don’t know, something in me sometimes doesn’t resonate that you’re Doctor Thornhill so I often just say Benita Thornhill. That I know is my imposter syndrome kicking up because I get nervous, I get anxious, I’m just going to say, well, I’m just Benita. But when I think about the fact that everyone’s struggling with something that they find challenging, and for a lot of us, that’s why we became therapist, because we want to help other people with that and to be able to look your thing in the eye and say, okay, I’m going to work on this and that do your affirmations or whatever it takes monitor your automatic thoughts, it really helps to bolster your confidence. And surrounding yourself with people who are encouraging, reading information that is encouraging, even when I go through your one year practice plan, there are so many tidbits of encouragement, hey, we’re halfway through the year, we’ve been together for a long time. Keep going. That’s very helpful. [JOE] Yeah, I think that, and what she’s referring to, you can look over at It’s a $17 onetime feed and you get a weekly email that walks you through your first year of private practice. Yeah, I think that just having that accountability, it’s interesting now interviewing a bunch of people that have solo practices and saying, well, what’s the thing that has really helped? One thing that people keep saying over and over is having people that they can count on, that are pushing them to think differently, that surrounding yourself with other people that are entrepreneurs or thinking like you want to be is so important. I often use the example that when I was at the LPCs of Northern Michigan meeting and we had the summer barbecue, and I was sitting with a bunch of people that were in private practice, almost all of them were lamenting about how it felt like they made just a little bit more than their Medicaid clients made and that they were living in poverty and it’s so unfair. I just remember thinking to myself, this is not how I think and this is not the business I’m creating. To just think about if I had just trusted that those people know what the world of private practice is, that would’ve been a big downer and I wouldn’t have been able to push myself in a way compared to getting to know other successful private practice owners that really were killing it in private practice. So I love that idea of having people surround you that are really helping you. What did that look like? Were you in mastermind groups? Was it informal conversations? What’s been helpful for you to have community around you as you grow your practice? [DR. BENITA] It’s been informal groups. I have been in some groups, there are paid groups. Most recently I went to gathering of Giants for Mill Spouses, and that was phenomenal because it helped you to think about yourself and your business in a different way. I think sometimes when people are therapists they’re inclined to want to help, to want to help and sometimes that wanting to help, it can make you feel guilty about the profit side, but if you don’t make a profit, then you can’t help because you’re not able to pay for the things, your expenses to be able to run that business. So I think a lot of times therapists grapple with that because I too, have heard can’t make any money being a therapist, you’re just as poor as whatever, being a therapist. I don’t find that to be true because I don’t believe that. I don’t think that way. Just again, really putting yourself around people who have business aspect, that this is a business, you are helping people, but at the end of the day, it’s also so business and it needs to make profit. [JOE] What do you do to keep that top of mind as the practice grows? [DR. BENITA] Knowing exactly what’s in the bank, knowing exactly what my expenses are, setting benchmarks for myself. I want to make this amount of money this quarter or what can I do to make this amount of money this quarter? How can I make $5,000 small score? What type of services or products could I provide that I could do that? Or last year, I made this amount, this year, I would increase about this amount of money, just always keeping that at top of mind and making sure that the services that I offer are services that are really helpful to my client. They’re not just services, oh, let me just put this out here to make this quick money, is a service that provides something to my clients, again, to my targeted audience that they really need that is helpful in their lives. [JOE] Such good advice. Now, when you think about where you hope to grow the practice what’s next for you? [DR. BENITA] Well, I have the practice in Virginia. That’s a solo practice. Then I have the practice in Texas. In Texas I want to grow up that practice to be a group practice. [JOE] How are you deciding how to do that group practice and like, what are you sorting through? [DR. BENITA] I’m planning on sorting through some more of your stuff, Joe. [JOE] We have plenty, that’s for sure. We have lots of trainings between Next Level Practice, Group Practice Launch, and Group Practice Boss. So we’re definitely here to help you in that area as well. Well, the last question that I always ask is, if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know? [DR. BENITA] I would want them to know that instead of feeling like they can’t do it and looking for all the reasons why they can’t, to know that they can do it and to look for the reasons that they can and to, of course go and get all the information they can get from you, because it really will propel them to a level that they didn’t even know that they could get to. [JOE] So, awesome. Thank you for the shout outs around the stuff that we offer as well. Benita, Dr. Benita, I’ll say that because I didn’t say that at the top of the hour, tell us where people can find you if they want to follow your podcast, if they want to check out your website, where can they find more information about you? [DR. BENITA] They can go to and everything is there, my podcast, blog, meditations, everything. There’s that one central place. [JOE] So awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice Podcast. [DR. BENITA] Thank you for having me. [JOE] Well, go take some action. If you’re just starting a practice, we have so many resources some great places to start that are totally free, this podcast, subscribe to it so that you don’t miss any episodes. This month is all around starting a practice. We have a bunch of series that we’ve done on blogging, about SEO, all those things that it takes to start a practice. Also we have a bunch of episodes coming up around starting a group practice and then also after you start it, how do you grow a group practice. Also if you are interested, we do have Next Level Practice, which is going to be opening up in March. That’s going to be, that is our membership community. It’s our 20th cohort that will be joining us in March. That’s aimed at solo practitioners. You can read more over at Then thank you so much to Blueprint for being a sponsor of today’s show. If you are looking for a wide array of clinical tools, things like worksheets, intervention ideas, and digital assessments, you’re going to want to head over to to get a free 30-day trial. You can learn more, again over at to try Blueprint for 30 days totally free. Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a great day. I’ll talk to you soon. Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the producers, the publishers, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.