Running a therapy practice requires wearing many hats, whether you’re a solo practitioner or overseeing dozens of therapists across several locations. As a busy year drags on, it’s easy to allow your initially streamlined practice to devolve into a pile of paperwork, last-minute appointment changes, and endless stress.
Psychotherapy is an inherently stressful undertaking, with many therapists experiencing vicarious trauma, fears of inadequacy, and chronic exposure to the terrible things that can happen to their fellow human. Add in disorganization and chaos, and it’s easy for therapists to become so overwhelmed they experience burnout. Sometimes stress may even make a therapist less effective. These strategies can help you rein in the chaos and better organize your practice.
Why You Need to Organize Your Practice
A well-run practice conveys professionalism to your clients and helps you better manage the many roles you fill. Some other reasons to streamline operations include:
- You’ll offer better services to your clients. With well-organized records and notes, you never have to worry about forgetting a session or missing an important detail.
- You’ll meet your professional and legal obligations. Sloppy notes and piles of papers can be a HIPAA nightmare. Therapists who forget about client appointments or who give clients incorrect information may even face professional licensing issues.
- You’ll have more time. That means more opportunities for self-care, family outings, and marketing your practice.
- You’ll become more in-tune with your practice. Organization can help you gain a better understanding of what works and doesn’t work to run your practice, as well as a stronger sense of control.
- Your clients will have more confidence in your professional expertise. Well-run practices convey professionalism and reliability.
Strategies for Better Controlling Chaos
Whether you’re drowning under a pile of paperwork, struggling with filing insurance claims, or concerned about developing a viable marketing plan, the first step toward greater control is to identify the specific organizational issues your practice faces. Are you complying with HIPAA guidelines? Keeping diligent track of treatment notes? Taking appropriate steps to expand or market your practice?
Armed with this knowledge, consider what will be most effective to help you tackle your concerns. Do you need a better grasp of the law? Updated technology? An assistant? Legal advice? From there, these tips can help you get organized:
- Break large goals down into smaller steps. Instead of resolving to switch to electronic records, try setting weekly goals for translating paper notes to digital files.
- Start with the most important tasks. If you have overdue bills or angry clients, dealing with them can feel overwhelming. Tackling these issues first, however, can reduce overall anxiety and help you gain momentum to manage other challenges.
- Get help. Even if you can’t afford to hire an assistant, you might be able to pay for a few hours of help from a professional organizer or cleaner.
- Make the process fun. If you’re trying to better organize your office, select organizational tools you actually like, so that you’re inspired to use them.
Practice Management Software, Assistants, and Other Options
You don’t have to manage your practice alone. Consider investing in one or more sources of help, including:
- An assistant or receptionist. Even a part-time employee can make a big difference, and you may be able to offset the increased costs with greater earnings.
- Practice management software. The right program can help you manage many components of running your practice all in one place.
- A virtual assistant. If you can’t afford in-person help, consider investing in a few hours of virtual help each week.
- An intern or student. You may be able to help a future therapist get school credit while getting some extra help if you hire an intern or student worker. Contact your local college to explore options.
- Various freelancers and service providers. A lawyer can help you ensure your practice is fully compliant with the law, while an accountant can help you better manage your money. You’ll almost always save time when you hire an expert, and when you’re running your own practice, time is money. More time means more slots to see clients and grow your practice.
How to Afford the Help You Need
What if you know you need to hire an expert or assistant, but can’t afford the cost? Some strategies to consider include:
- Asking about payment plans. An attorney or accountant may be able to let you pay over time, and the advice they provide can ensure you have more money.
- Partnering with another therapist to afford an assistant. Share an assistant or receptionist and split the cost.
- Looking at cost vs. value. Sometimes the cost of something is a mere fraction of its total value. Getting HIPAA-compliant, for example, can protect you from thousands of dollars in fines for violating the law.
- Seeking part-time or contract assistance. Even if you can’t hire a full-time staffer or assistant, you can gain immense value from hiring someone a few hours a week. You may even be able to help them find additional work with other therapists to give them more stability.
When Practice Management Difficulties Signal Another Problem
Therapists are just as vulnerable to mental health issues as their clients are. If you consistently struggle to meet your obligations or organize your practice, depression, ADHD, burnout, anxiety, or another diagnosis could be a culprit. Therapist sometimes neglect their own mental health even as they do everything they can to support their clients. Don’t allow the problem to spiral out of control, because it can affect your practice, your relationships, and your health.
GoodTherapy supports therapists with a wide variety of resources to help them manage the many demands of building, growing, and sustain a practice. From continuing education seminars to therapist mental health education, we can help you become a healthier and more effective clinician. Members also get listed in our directory, opening access to clients who might not have otherwise found them. To get listed today, become a member.
- McCormack, H. M., MacIntyre, T. E., O'Shea, D., Herring, M. P., & Campbell, M. J. (2018, October 16). The prevalence and cause(s) of burnout among applied psychologists: A systematic review. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01897
- Professional health and well-being for psychologists. (n.d.). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apaservices.org/practice/ce/self-care/well-being