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My Story and Structure

Hi all… I thought I would share my own journey as to how I got here. I made a page for ‘My Story’ and I’m copying the test. I hope my journey can continue to show all of you that you really can thrive in private practice!

My Journey

I graduated from Hofstra University with a Marriage and Family Therapy degree in 2001, in NY state where the MFT license didn’t exist. Obviously there were no jobs, so I decided to start a private practice straight out of the gate. Knowing that I needed to stand out from the crowd to get clients, and get noticed, I did some market research and realized there wasn’t anyone advertising for Anger Management, something I had experience with from my internship. So…a few months prior to graduation I built my first website and niche marketed myself for anger.

It took a month or so before my phone started ringing, and I had my first client the week I graduated. I was employed full-time as a Human Resources Generalist with an Executive Recruitment Firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, and my job was demanding – the time I had to build my practice was limited.

I contacted a student from Hofstra 2 years ahead of me who just started her practice. I had just that one client and so I contracted to rent space from her hourly, for a fee of $25. That was the risk I could afford to take at that time. Thankfully, my phone kept ringing and within a year, I was seeing clients three nights per week from 5:30-10, on top of my full-time position. As the days went by, my website generated more clients then I could see and the business opportunity just presented itself to me – hire people to see clients and make money off their work!

So in late 2002/2003 I began to hire a few friends/ colleagues who were all gaining hours towards AAMFT certification as a clinical member (we didn’t have a license yet). I hired them as independent contractors (I didn’t know better back then) and I was able to make a small profit, and the calls kept coming in. My practice became known as the place to go for anger management – that was the niche that helped me grow.

I was exhausted working so many hours that I took a leap of faith – in 2004 I had the courage to quit my full time job and exist solely on my own. I rented a 2 room office in a beautiful Brownstone on 39th and Madison in NYC and I continued to hire people. I also became involved with the New York Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and held several board positions in both the state and local divisions. I became extremely knowledgable about the new license we were getting in NY and all the complications that came along with it. I was one of the first MFTs in NYC to create a business structure like this. I hired my first Limited Permit Associate in 2005 and my first intern in 2007.

In 2007 I increased my space to a five-room suite and I promoted an employee of mine, Elena Hull, to Clinical Director and we decided to really focus on hiring interns and helping them journey through the process of becoming licensed. This has been a tremendous experience as I have really learned, and become grounded in, what it takes to exist in a private practice setting. We had such success that we found that once our employees became licensed, they didn’t want to leave and we didn’t want them to leave!

So in late 2011/2012 I found myself altering my business structure (again) to support Licensed Staff and provide enough of an opportunity that Midtown MFT could profit and they could make a good living.

My Current Structure

Midtown Marriage and Family Therapy, PC is a professional corporation with ‘S’ status. All of my employees are paid with W-2′s and I also pay myself on a W-2. I used to hire Licensed staff as independent contractors until I researched enough about why they couldn’t be, and I finally listened to my accountant and payroll support person (If you hire a therapist to do the same job you are doing then they are employees). For me, I wasn’t good with saving for estimated taxes and I have found it feels safe to me to have taxes taken from my pay. I use Paychex.com for my payroll service.

We don’t take any insurance – never have and never will! I don’t see the need for anyone to do so. We have very little paperwork and total control over the work we do with clients. We offer three level of service: Interns at a rate of $75/session, Post-graduate Associates at $110/session, and Licensed Staff at $150-$200/session.

I live completely off my practice and employ eight others. I pay disability and workers compensation insurance on my staff. I have a bundle policy through CPH that gives me malpractice insurance, renters insurance, and general liability.

As far as marketing goes, I was able to build my business mostly from the web and word of mouth (friends of happy clients). To further this, and continue to expand, I began to build websites that support Midtown MFT, to increase the number of calls, through organic search. I also built the website for our local Metro Chapter of NYAMFT. I learned the secrets to WordPress.com and I love their sites. I don’t do social media – organic search has been my focus. In addition, I have spent a great deal of time on professional relationship building (I’m the President for the Metro Chapter of the NYAMFT). I see every opportunity with a colleague as a business development experience.

And this brings me today. I have had so much exposure to therapists on this journey that I developed a passion for helping therapists grow and thrive in practice. I have officially added this coaching piece as part of my ‘paid services’ in 2012, and I divide my time between equally managing Midtown MFT, providing psychotherapy for my clients, and coaching therapists along this journey. I see myself as part of the container that holds therapists so they can do the work they do best!

I am always willing to share more of my story…so just ask!!

2 Responses so far.

  1. patricemj says:

    you are an inspiration. i need to make a website. do you recommend WP for such? or the traditional format?

  2. Thank you Patrice for your kind words! About websites… I love WordPress.com – I don’t use WordPress.org. This site is wordpress.com, adn I have made several others for myself and I also build them for therapists. They are basic but beautiful and get the job done. Check out this post http://practicebuildingfortherapists.com/2012/09/24/472/

    and…this page on another site of mine (also wordpress) for more info on wordpress. http://psychotherapysites.com/wordpress-themes/

    Let me know if you have any more questions.