Step-by-Step Guide: How to Grow Your Mental Health Practice

Growing your mental health practice means more than just taking on new patients or increasing the workload. Expanding your business could mean creating an online therapy presence, new office locations, hiring more staff, or adding hours to fulfill the needs of more clients. Read on to learn how to grow your mental health practice into a bolstered, thriving business that helps as many people as possible. 

Focus On Your Area of Expertise

When you’re starting out, it might feel as if you need to take on any potential client. That’s fine up to a point, but after you’ve had even some experience, you might want to decide what an ideal client looks like for you. Choosing a niche for your practice will help you provide better care to those who need it the most. It’ll also solidify your standing within your community as a mental health professional with a specific focus, rather than an all-around LMFT. 

What excites you the most when it comes to working with clients? Are you ready to take on trauma work? What about sexual assault, eating disorders, or addictions? Would you rather promote services for LGBTQIA+ clients and the community? What about the area you live in – for example, if you’re in New York or Los Angeles, are you more or less interested in working with creatives? If you’re in a more suburban area, are you hoping to focus on helping couples or married people work through their issues? There are so many areas you’ll likely want to tackle, but choosing one will help grow your business quickly as you become the go-to source for that specific issue.

Start with Client Referrals

Referrals are a huge part of what makes any business grow, and therapy practices are no exception. A significant part of any therapist's business comes from word of mouth. Beyond what your current clients may say about you, therapists often receive referrals from nonprofit organizations, community leaders, teachers, school counselors, religious figures, physicians, attorneys, and beyond. It’s important to gain a therapist client relationship so you can let your clients know when you’re taking on new clients and they will pass the message along to others they might know seeking mental health care.

If you’re new in town, or are struggling to get referrals, consider sharing on social media. Having an online presence and sharing mental health content that expresses relevant, applicable, and meaningful thoughts is a great way to spread the word about your practice. Tap into your potential client base and let the posts do the talking. You can also get creative by joining online groups or talking about your line of work within other spaces, such as a Facebook Group for parents.

No matter what, start by thinking about who and what you already have access to. Who do you know? What platforms can you share on? Where might there be places you can further talk about your message? And of the people you have access to, how many of these folks would you consider a part of your professional network? The larger your network, the more likely other therapists will refer clients to you when they can’t take them on. Go to conferences, attend in-person and virtual events, and generally keep up with your peers so they’ll think of you when their plates are full. 

Put Your Practice Online

Do you have a website for your practice? If so, great! There are probably a few ways you could improve it to attract more clientele. For starters, is everything easy to find, and is all the pertinent info included? Is there an easy way to contact you from the website? Is it a seemingly safe place one could browse, with information on mental health care? Does it look like a DIY website, or as if a professional created it? Is it aesthetically calming or super busy? Is the text legible? 

If you go the “do it yourself” route to building a website, make sure you’re using a website builder like SquareSpace that makes it easy to create a site that looks professional. Remember, your website is what people are likely to see first – it’s the initial impression of your place within the community. You, your voice, and anyone you’ve hired in your practice need to be the focus of the website. And if you don’t have a website, get one up ASAP. Having an online presence is key to letting people know the best way to contact you, what kind of therapy you practice, and how you might be able to help them. Online marketing for therapists can be very beneficial for gaining brand awareness. 

Furthermore, add yourself to psychology and therapy-specific sites like Psychology Today. This way, a potential patient will see your name in these counselor directories. It’s not a surefire way to get folks to notice you, but many therapists have found some success with them. Moreover, a lot of these sites allow for blog posts – if you have something to say, write it down and share it! If you don’t want to, you can always post on your website. The more potential clients that know who you are and what your work is about, the better.

Manage Your Time and Energy

There’s no need to make things more difficult in this line of work. Between health insurance debacles, client cancellations, paperwork, and beyond, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle rather than focusing on the patient. That’s why it’s crucial to think about what kind of systems you have in place that make it easier or harder for you to do the job of caring for your clients. 

If you haven’t already, determine some of the holes missing from your practice’s management. For example, have all your clients put everything in one place using a resource like Advekit. If the office is outdated, spruce it up with counseling office decor to make the space more calming and productive. Or look into the best therapist office essentials so neither of you is thinking about the uncomfortable chair as opposed to the issues at hand. Look into other small gestures you can extend to clients, such as thank you cards or happy birthday emails, that illustrate the kind of effort and care you show patients that add value without exerting tons of energy.

If you have employees under you, figure out the easiest way to pay them. Make sure you have a great tax professional on hand to handle the ins and outs of independent contractor work. Have budgets set aside not just for counselor salaries, but also for office expenses like furniture, group health insurance, coffee or tea in the waiting room, and so on. Think through salary and fee structures. Email invoices versus mailing them. Start using the plethora of digital tools available to you, like upgrading your accounting systems. Invest in collaboration software to run the business more efficiently while also communicating more effectively and efficiently with clients, colleagues, and other counselors under you. 

In short, if you’re struggling, find a better system so you’re not constantly playing phone tag, emailing clients about upcoming appointments, or dealing with day-to-day issues like payroll. If you like the practice management system you have in place, is there anything you can do to make better use of it? 

Staff Up

Have you hit the point where you feel drowning in work? It might be time to hire new counselors under you, whether they are students working towards becoming licensed professionals, practicing therapists with less experience than you, or other therapists you’d like to team up with to form a business partnership. 

When hiring, screen potential counselors before meeting them in person for an interview. That way, you’re able to speak with way more people than you’ll likely hire, and not waste time that could be dedicated to your clients. During the interview process, think about what needs of yours are not being met. Are you a licensed family therapist who wants a counselor who can handle PTSD cases? Look for counselors with that level of experience. Hire a specialist who works with adolescents if you’re getting asked to take on teenage clients. Consider who you’d want to mentor rather than just hire – how can you help them level up as therapists? 

Growing your therapy practice is not an overnight endeavor. That said, taking these actionable steps one at a time will help your clients and employees grow alongside you as your business continues to expand.