Private Practice Visit
We regularly hear from our alums that Private Practice and Agency Visits are among the most inspiring events we host. Through these events, you have the opportunity to visit the successful practices of Pepperdine faculty and alumni and mental health agencies to learn about various career paths for a sneak preview of your career options.
What is it like to own and run a private practice? What is it like to see clients and patientsoutside of an agency? What does it take?! Your next opportunity to find out is coming up on August 21 at 10:00 a.m.! Learn from Pepperdine Alumna Kathleen Wenger, LMFT, LPCC and Clint Christie, MFT Intern, as Kathleen shares her private practice in Laguna Beach.
**Space is limited to 12 students, so be sure to RSVP**
For more information and to RSVP, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 949-223-2560.
Can’t make it to Kathleen’s event next month? We are planning another Private Practice Visit with Sulabha ‘Su’ Abhyankar, MSW, LCSW at her office in the Sanctuary Wellness Center and Yoga Studio in Tustin. Date and time TBA — sometime in September! Su gave an inspiring presentation at the recent annual OC CAMFT luncheon.
We are also scheduling Private Practice and Agency Visits for the West LA and Encino areas. We hope to see you at one soon!
by Kathleen Wenger, M.A., LMFT, LPCC, Manager M.A. Psychology Professional Development and Clinical Training
Summer is relatively slow in the M.A. Psychology Department of Professional Development and Clinical Training as we plan for an exciting series of fall events. So I wanted to take this opportunity to fill you in about some of the enriching events for students in the MAP and MACLP tracks that we’ve had so far this year and encourage you to attend the events that we host this fall! In addition to these events, there are several resources that help guide you through the practicum experience. You can make an appointment for a Quick Meet to receive a personalized explanation of the events and services offered by the department and to have any questions about practicum answered. If you want more information about an agency, you can stop by the GA’s office to read through students’ practicum site reviews (strengths and challenges). We also encourage you to use the Mentor Program, which puts you in contact with a student who has experience at a site you are interested in.
Irvine Graduate Campus
As we do each semester, we welcomed new students to the Irvine Graduate Campus with Quick Meets, our series of one-on-one meetings with new students. These personalized explanations of our departments’ events and services, as well as an overview of practicum basics for MFT students and other subjects of concern for individuals new to the program help our new students to dive right into their program prepared for success.
In February we hosted a Clinical Connections event with George Nalbach, Ph.D. and Connie Saindon, author of The Murder Survivor’s Handbook. Dr. Nalbach introduced a couple whose son was tragically murdered several years ago to share their experience with the grief and loss process. Connie provided clinical strategies for working with clients who have experienced similar tragedies. Attendees felt honored to hear the couple’s story and to receive valuable tips for working with clients who have experienced the violent loss of loved ones. One individual summed up the evening’s event by stating that “While the content and discussion was heavy, saddening, and emotional, I felt most impacted and moved by the display of human resiliency and growth. It was inspiring to hear this couple’s journey through their grief and loss, what they have learned about the process, and what they have learned about themselves.”
In February we also hosted the annual GSEP Career and Practicum Fair: Career Connections. This event gave our current students and alumni an opportunity to meet with potential practicum and internship employers. We had an outstanding turnout in terms of attendees as well as agencies – approximately 50-60 students and alums met with fifteen of the top mental health agencies in Orange County! We followed this event with the annual Practicum Mentor Fair in March. At the Mentor Fair, students ready to begin practicum had an opportunity to hear about the experiences current practicum students have had at their agencies.
Our popular Private Practice and Agency Visit series continued with two events in Orange County in March. I hosted a visit at my practice in Laguna Beach and Chris Hoff, LMFT, hosted one at his agency in Costa Mesa, the California Family Institute. One attendee at my event commented that he felt “put right at ease to ask many questions about the nuts and bolts of starting, managing, and maintaining a private practice such as this. We were also able to discuss other business aspects such as marketing tools, networking, and even google analytics to ensure that we will have enough clients to keep our businesses afloat, yet not so many that we ourselves start to drown and lose our effectiveness.”
As we do every semester, we held a New Student Meeting, the Practicum Tips Meeting, and the Intern Registration Meeting to help MACLP students along their practicum journey. Students have responded to this semester’s series of meetings by telling us things like “it is so great that the program goes the extra mile for us like this” compared to other similar programs! It’s a great vote of confidence to know the impact that we’re having on our current students.
The MFT Consortium of Orange County continues to be held at the Irvine Graduate Campus on the third Wednesday of every other month. The next scheduled meetings are scheduled for September 16 and November 18. For the past 20 years, I have been the host and co-chair of the MFT Consortium. This is a collaborative setting that brings together mental health agencies and universities with MFT graduate programs in an effort to foster community partnerships. The meetings serve as a networking opportunity for agencies to be connected with key personnel to discuss MFT employment and practicum training opportunities, programming and clinical training concerns.
West Los Angeles Graduate Campus
West LA started its spring semester with a Clinical Connections topic that we all need to visit often. Alumna Juanita Frassini Goode, MA, presented, “Self-Love Your Way through Life: The Clinical Value of Practicing Self-Love for Yourself and Clients.” Juanita’s workshop was very fun and interactive. Attendees engaged in a variety of self-love activities with the multitude of art supplies that Juanita provided. Juanita shared her unique approach to practicing with clients, which included her approach from her license in spiritual psychology. Participants left feeling excited to try out some of these new ideas and approaches with clients.
Following Juanita’s workshop on self-love, premarital counseling guru, Debbi Molnar, MA, LMFT, LPCC, spoke about, “Premarital Counseling versus Couples Therapy: Understanding the Difference and Making it Work in Your Practice.” With a beautiful manual that Debbi put together, she very clearly explained the differences between the two. Debbi shared with the audience how her sessions with couples therapy look, versus how her sessions with premarital counseling look. She also spoke about the programs for couples that she has put together, which she often holds as weekend workshops. Debbi’s impressive experience and background was very apparent and attendees walked away with an organized and clear-cut way to practice premarital counseling versus couples therapy.
Jody Echegaray, Psy.D, presented the last of the Clinical Connections workshops. Jody’s workshop, entitled “Mass Media—Its Effects, Motivations for Use, and Media-based Clinical Interventions” proved to be a very important topic amongst clinicians. Jody gave a quick historical timeline on the development of media and how it has come to play a part in the practice of psychotherapy. Jody also provided great examples of interventions he has used with his own clients. The workshop addressed some very poignant issues that media can both harm and help in the practice of psychotherapy. Participants were very impressed by the amount of information and were very intrigued by the topic.
West LA’s other professional development events included a Coffee Talk by Alice Richardson, MA, LMFT, LPCC and a Private Practice Visit to alum Curt Widhalm’s practice. For the Coffee Talk, Alice answered questions about pursuing the LPCC. While the development of the license in California is still new, many students and alums struggle with knowing much about it. Alice, who has pursued the license, shared her impressive knowledge about the license and its benefits. Students who attended felt grateful for the clarifications. Later in March, students and alums visited Curt’s practice to learn about the development and running of a private practice. The room was full as Curt spoke about his process to private practice and laying it out straight for how it goes. Attendees felt very informed and lucky to have attended this private practice field trip.
Encino Graduate Campus
This spring, the Encino Graduate Campus was pleased to have Kent Toussaint, LMFT, LPCC, speak at a Clinical Connections about “The 1-2-3’s for Treating Resistant Teens.” Kent gave attendees a better understanding of how to build rapport, earn trust, and create alliances with teens. He also spoke about the developmental needs of teens, and how unconditional positive regard helps with this age group. At the end of Kent’s presentation, the attendees had a hands-on demonstration of the games and toys Kent uses for ice-breakers and rapport building.
In March, Dr. Dennis Lowe graciously gave a 3-hour presentation about “What’s New in the DSM-5” for Pepperdine Alumni who are studying for the licensing exam. This presentation was held on a Saturday afternoon, and was well received by all attendees. Many alumni attended and seemed engaged and interested in this presentation, and some alumni even sent emails and notes of appreciation.
March is National Gambling Awareness Month, and the Encino Graduate Campus was fortunate to have an Alumna who specializes in Gambling Addiction. Audrey Johnson, PsyD, LMFT, spoke about the differences between recreational gambling and gambling addictions. Between 3% and 6% of the general population is impacted by some degree of problem gambling. Audrey spoke about helpful tools, assessment inventories and treatment plans she uses with her problem gambling clients.
Also in March, Sheila Sayani and Alice Richardson organized a Practicum Mentor Fair “Mixer” where seasoned students who are near graduating spoke with students taking the Pre-Practicum class. The students enjoyed this event immensely and we plan to continue doing these mixers in future semesters.
Alice Richardson, Clinical Training & Professional Development Coordinator, spoke about the LPCC License at “Coffee Talks” at both Encino and WLA Campuses. Encino also presented New Student Meetings, Tips for Practicum Meetings and an Intern Registration Meeting, which all three campuses present every semester to keep students as informed as we can.
- Location, location, location! Where your practice is located, the accessibility, parking, potential neighbors, how many therapists are located in that area, how close you are to other towns, handicapped accessible, were discussed, and Kathleen shared some of her personal experiences and tips with these points. For example: While Laguna Beach is a beautiful location, it is not as easily accessible for clients to drive to.
- Find an office space that is highly accessible and comfortable! It’s never good to start sessions late because your clients are consistently getting lost looking for your office. Is there ample parking for your clients? Will they have to feed a meter every time they see you? Will they have to take a toll road?
- Pay attention to the little things when signing your lease. Is there A/C? (Are you and your clients going to be sweating during the summer months in your sessions?) Is there a cleaning service included for your office or for the building? (Your office is a direct reflection of yourself!)
- Starting up your practice and expenses along the way: Kathleen discussed the pro’s and con’s of either renting or subletting a space, and shed light that subletting is a cheaper option especially for a new therapist. In terms of expenses, rent is going to be the most expensive. Other expenses to consider are whether or not to have an accountant, or a web manger for your website. Another major expense- furnishing your new space. The group was all in agreement with how comfortable and relaxing the space was. The walls were painted a relaxing, faint green, new furniture, and the comfortable chairs! Kathleen shared that the set of rocking, reclining chairs she purchased were expensive, but a “worth-it” expense so that both herself and clients are sitting comfortably during sessions. A remark I heard in the group that I feel is a great representation of Kathleen’s practice was something to the effect of the space not looking like a “typical therapist’s office ”and that it looked and felt comfortable along with being non-intimidating.
- Decor – Make it comfortable for not only your clients, but for yourself. Think about the lighting, during the day and at night. The artwork. And of course the furniture. Ask yourself, “Is there enough room to have a comfortable family session here?” (I can’t put into to words how incredibly comfortable Kathleen’s Lazy Boy Chairs were. They were a perfect balance in having the controls to sit upright and attentive during a session, and to also stretch out as the therapist in between sessions and get some much needed relaxation.)
- Make sure your office space isn’t smack dab in the middle of hundreds of other LMFTs — separate yourself from the crowd.
- WIFI, Computer Access – Unless we partner up with a large coalition of other therapists, we will have to be resourceful in finding inexpensive ways to obtain such services.A good laptop can be our best friend. Most cell phone companies offer “hot spots” (small boxes/routers) that provide internet access for around $20.00 a month.
- Billing and Scheduling – For quick billing there is a service called Square, which works directly with your cell phone or tablet and charges a fee of around $3-$5 dollars per session (depending on how much you bill your sessions). Simplepractice.com has a great layout that tracks your billing, your schedule, and even process notes. Paypal is another alternative that accepts credit cards and checks at just slightly smaller fees.
- Kathleen shared the importance of getting your name out there and strategies in doing so. Kathleen showed the group her website she created specifically for her practice. Having a website is a really useful tool for getting people to know about you, and for getting clients. In this day and age, about 60-70% of clients found their therapist online. Along with creating a website, having Social Media pages, joining registries, creating business cards, advertisements and attending conferences, have all been useful and successful tools for Kathleen in marketing her practice and gaining clients.
- There are a few companies that specialize in building great websites for therapists for very reasonable prices (approx. $100.) Therapysites.com has great ease of use to customize a highly professional site, with do it your self capability. Accompany your website with a program called Wufoo.com and you’ll be at the top of your game. Wufoo.com allows you to create forms, blogs, surveys, and data management to ensure client satisfaction and the latest up-to-date information for you clients.
- Keep your website current! Add blogs, posts, newspaper articles, etc… Just like our ever-changing technological advances, our clients want a therapist who is forward-thinking as well. We all know to well how quickly we click another link if we stumble on to a webpage that hasn’t been updated in years, so try to keep your clients engage and let them know you’re just as cutting edge as they are.
- SEO / Google Analytics – For those of you that don’t know, SEO means Search Engine Optimization. In plain English, that means doing all the things necessary to get your website at the very top of the list when someone googles anything about therapy. Once again, the more exposure the better.
- Get your name out there! – Sites like Theravive.com, Marriagefriendlytherapists.com, Psychologytoday.com, AAMFT.org, and CAMFT.org are all great places we should be advertising ourselves. There are even more out there and we should be getting ourselves on each and every one of them.
- Kathleen strongly encouraged becoming a member of CAMFT- A great resource for upcoming, and current MFT’s. CAMFT not only has a referral page, they also offer useful forms (HIPPA, other clinical forms) for you to use in your practice, great resources and information on upcoming conferences. All are ways to not only stay informed, but again to get yourself and name out there.
- Speak! Contribute! Write! Volunteer! – There are plenty of different avenues available to contribute to the field which in turn only adds exposure to ourselves. Get involved in different organizations. Write columns for magazines and journals. Speak at panels and conferences. The more exposure the better! Whether on social media sites, church newsletters, or the local neighborhood paper, all of these help. If there is a niche market you specialize in, reach out to the many organizations that already exist, or even better, start your own organizations!
The students reported this discussion to be really helpful, and a lot of light was shed on all of the nuances there are in creating a private practice and marketing yourself. Keep your eye out for the next practice/agency visit- a valuable resource for those interested in creating a practice!