How Invested Are You?

photo courtesy of Flickr

When you decided to become a therapist, how much time and money did you spend?  Most therapists spend between three and six years (longer if they are MDs) enrolled in graduate programs that cost thousands of dollars.  That’s a lot of money!  But we do this because we value the profession, the work we do, and the people we help.  We also do it because it’s reality.  You don’t show up, knock on the door of a graduate program, and say, “hey, can I sit in on a few classes for free?”  You want the education and you pay for it, by loan, scholarship or somehow.

It astounds me how this logic seems to go out the window when it comes to growing a therapy practice in a Web 2.0 world.  This is probably because technology has become so easy to acquire.  You want a blog?  WordPress will let you get registered and started in 15 minutes.  Twitter, takes 10 minutes and a valid email to enroll.  So I see a lot of colleagues decide to “take the plunge,” start a blog, and then..


Nothing happens, or they don’t get traffic.  Or they run out of ideas.  Maybe they ask me for some advice, offer to buy me a coffee if I can help them with their blog.  “Can we just chat?” they’ll say.

Then there are people like my colleague Carolyn, who hire me.  That’s right, hire. She wanted some help with her blog, both in terms of the technology and setting it up, as well as market consultation on audience, focus, and sustainability.  So she spent the time and money to do this, and even though we’ve just started working together she’s already seeing more of a focus in what she’s doing.  We’re backing up and unraveling a few stitches, so that we can get her and her practice ready for the 2011 business year.  Carolyn is going to thrive, and not because she hired me:  She’s going to thrive because she is investing in her practice and taking technology seriously.

Taking technology seriously means at least two things:

1. Taking technology seriously means you accept that the point in history when using technology was optional is over.  You can no longer ignore or opt out of using technology to have a successful practice.  Whether you use email, social media, file claims electronically, request authorizations, etc., if you do not start utilizing the resources that technology affords you you will fail.  I know that sounds brutal, but your colleagues will pass you buy.  Web sites will trump the yellow pages every time.

2. Taking technology seriously means investing time and money in learning about it and how to use it. Just enrolling in a blog service is the equivalent to signing up for a psychology course, and then going out and hanging up your shingle.  You’d be insulted if somebody implied that they could duplicate your expertise and services after taking one class or workshop.

Yet, I can’t tell you how many people approach the Web 2.0 practice that way.  They’ll email me a question or two, ask for a free consult (which I no longer do) and I think on some level they are expecting that what they will get will be commiseration or something.  A friendly “chat.” They really don’t take technology seriously, so they decide they’ll just do it themselves.

Where does he get off saying this?!

Let me give you a breakdown of the work I have done and the expertise that I have:

  • I have been a psychotherapist for over 15 years.
  • I co-founded a social media software company; meaning I participated in a startup business in many capacities to grow it.  I pitched ideas to clients at meetings, helped orchestrate launches, analyzed client needs, kept an eye on marketing trends; wrote press releases, managed budgets and negotiated CEO contracts.  Oh, and I also helped develop the product that several versions and six years later is one of the social media companies to be included in the latest Gartner Group report.
  • I have spent countless hours researching the changes and developments in the social media industry, and compared to my company’s employees I am behind the curve.  This is because I am not involved in the company’s day to day ops, and because I am focusing on doing the other projects you read about.  But I know social media, from a user experience and business perspective, and it isn’t from downloading Twitter and playing around with it or making an Excel spreadsheet.
  • I invested in my own supervision and consulting from top clinicians and coaches.
  • I have started up and grown a private practice from zero patients to a full practice in 30 weeks.  I can tell you it was 30 weeks because that is the amount of unemployment benefits I received to survive on while I built it.

So I know what it is like to take the plunge and how to make it work.

I am saying this to you because you need to take technology and growing your business seriously.  Sure if some people read this and want to consult with me, I’ll be very happy.  But if not me, please, hire somebody.  Susan Giurleo does great work, so do Casey Truffo and Juliet Austin.  And Lynn Grodzki is amazing.  Heck, check out a couple of people; we all have different styles, experience and foci.  But accept that taking your business seriously means asking for help and hiring experts.

So, yes, of course I am marketing for your business, but I am also trying to convey something more:  If you do not invest in the time and expertise to build your practice in the 21st century you will fail.

P.S. If you want to get help on generating blog ideas, a great source is Chris Brogan’s service, and yes, you’ll have to pay for it.


  1. Hey Mike, Happy New Year!

    Right on with the post. Investing in one’s business is still something a lot of therapists struggle with. I think it’s because many never think they will have to run a business, whereas most other people who start a business know that running a business requires a financial investment. On the positive side, slowly but surely, over the past 10 years therapists who are serious about succeeding do invest and reap the results when they do . 🙂

    Cheers, Juliet
    PS. And thanks for the mention, above. 🙂

  2. Mike, as usual, you are spot on. It baffles me when someone pays upwards to $100,000 on an education and then balks at spending $200 on an hour of business coaching. I encourage people to think about how many hours they need to work to cover the cost of business education. When I started out I always calculated how many client hours I’d need to pay for my business tools. My goal was to break even. Then, with that knowledge I grew a practice that supports me and my family well.

    And, thank you for the mention!
    Oh, and I did invest in Chris Brogan’s blog ideas newsletter -worth it!

    • Thanks Susan, and thanks for the reminder, very important at this tax time of year, that our businesses span MULTIPLE years, and that breaking even in one is worth it because it leads to more profitable ones in the future!

  3. Thanks – perfect timing, I was looking for some books to get me started. Great contacts for consultation.

  4. Michael:

    What they didn’t teach us in grad school was that being in private practice is a business and you have to market yourself. I’m guessing that a lot of folks in private practice don’t know how to do the marketing piece or, if they think they do, they are using old techniques. Thanks for your post and keep them coming.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Juliet Austin and Roia Rafieyan. Roia Rafieyan said: A couple of important points from @MikeLICSW in his latest blog post: How Invested Are You?: […]

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