Episode 55 – Online Group Counseling Practice

Episode 55 – Online Group Counseling Practice

December 21, 2017

We are here to learn about online therapy, and I hope today I can bring some value to you on your journey to add technology to your counseling practice. I’m not sure when this is going to air, but as I’m recording this we are building up to Christmas, and I have to tell you, there’s nothing like New York at Christmas time.

 

CC: Today I get to talk to a truly inspiring online therapy entrepreneur. She is Dr. Lisa Herman in Minnesota. She’s the founder of a 100% online counseling group practice. That’s right. Synergy eTherapy is a group practice that’s 100% online, and Lisa is just a dynamo. She’s really created a business that has a huge and growing impact on her community, and has a service that is really reaching her clients where they are, and helping the therapists that work for her learn and grow their practices underneath this really big umbrella group practice. And we talk a lot on this podcast about the ins and outs of creating and growing a private practice that is online, or at least adding that service to an already existing practice, but I thought it would be cool to talk to someone who’s truly taken it to the next level by creating a group online practice. And we really get into the nitty gritty today with her about hiring therapists, and managing them, and setting up the legal aspects, and marketing. She has some really great ideas about marketing.

 

CC: So hopefully, even if you aren’t thinking of going the way of a group practice, you will walk away with some great tips for your own. You certainly are gonna be inspired; I was.

 

CC: Hello and welcome, I’m very excited to welcome our guest, Dr. Lisa Herman of Synergy eTherapy. Lisa, thank you for coming on the podcast.

 

Lisa Herman: Thank you very much for having me, Clay, I’m excited to be here and talk with you a little bit more about online therapy.

 

CC: Absolutely. I was so fascinated to learn that you have a group practice online, which I think is really unusual. So let’s just jump in right there, how did you come to… Well, let’s start your journey maybe, and then we’ll get into the group practice, but your journey as a clinician and beginning to go online, how was that for you?

 

LH: Sure, sure. I’m happy to talk about the whole thing and tell you a little bit more about how I started, and then how Synergy eTherapy, the group practice, came to be. I was living and working in New York for about six years. I had done my internship, and I did a fellowship there, and then I was a director of a program at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital at the time. And once our SAMHSA-funded program ended, I moved back home, which is here in Minnesota, but I kept my New York license for practicing psychology. And when I came back to Minnesota and I got my license here, I said, well, what if I can still see residents of New York, even though I’m still living in Minnesota? And I just kind of pondered that idea. I didn’t know too much about online counselling, I did a little research, and started my own website; it was at the time called Dr. Lisa eTherapy. [chuckle] And it was just me, and I had a little web page, and I was doing some marketing with people back in New York.

 

LH: And I was doing that, over time I learned so much. There’s been such a great amount of development happening with telemental health, just telemedicine in general. And last year, a colleague of mine, when I was working at the University of Minnesota here doing some help in research for Department of Psychiatry. And she came to me and said, “I wanna do what you’re doing. I’m getting my license in marriage and family therapy, and I wanna be able to do this.” And our idea of well, let me expand my practice, and that’s where Synergy eTherapy started. It was really from a colleague wanting to piggyback on what I was already doing, and I thought it would be great to collaborate instead of compete.

 

LH: Yeah, so that’s how Synergy came about. It’s pretty new, we opened their doors, oh, I’d say March or April just this past year of 2017. So it has been a wonderful opportunity for several colleagues and therapists that have joined, and that’s where we’re at.

 

CC: How many therapists do you have in the group now?

 

LH: There are five of us now, and four of us are licensed in Minnesota, and we are here residing in Minnesota. I’m also dually licensed in New York, and I have another colleague, she is living and working in New York, so she’s licensed there. So as of right now, we are catering to two states, really, so any resident of Minnesota and New York are free to apply if I don’t know the therapist or if they’re not a colleague. And we go through a little bit of a process just to get to know people, and vet them out, and get references, and really make sure they’re a good fit for our culture. We’re a very small group practice, and we really like having people that fit our culture. Our personality is we wanna make sure people have great clinical experience, and we like to talk to people a lot before we get them on board. So we always have people interested since we started, it’s starting to pick up a lot more with people from different states and therapists with differing degrees from different states who are very interested in joining, which is really, really exciting.

 

CC: Yeah, that’s wonderful. So what’s it like for you, then? It sounds like you had a journey to begin expanding with telemental health, but then also to be an entrepreneur and to start this business with multiple people working with you/for you. What’s that been like?

 

LH: Yes, that is a great question. I think the one thing they don’t teach you… Well, they didn’t when I was going through grad school, is how to run a business. They teach you everything you need to know about how to help people, but not how to run a business. Luckily, I come from a family of entrepreneurs; that doesn’t mean it always translates. [chuckle] It’s definitely a learning process, but I have a lot of support, I have a lot of helping hands, and great people in my family, and close colleagues and friends that have helped and guided, and I can’t say enough about that. And at the same time, it is a learning curve of being able to provide therapy and also cater to my therapists who are independent contractors, but they’re working for Synergy, and also just the marketing aspect, the business aspect. It is an entirely new animal, and I love it. I’m learning a lot, it definitely keeps things exciting. [chuckle] It breaks up the clinical work a little bit where you have to do some marketing and a lot of networking, and it’s just a constant learning adventure, really. It’s fun.

 

CC: So, how are you then managing these other therapists? Do you have weekly staff meetings, are they local to your town, or are they all over the state?

 

LH: That’s a good question. The way that I manage, I guess, each independent therapist is we have monthly consultation calls, and everybody joins in, even Lisa Eisel from New York, she’ll join in on those calls. And we talk a lot about the process of online therapy. Everybody’s been in the field for years and years, and we’ve done a lot of different things, so this is new for some of us. And it’s a learning curve, too, just with the electronics and how to market yourself, again, teaching them the business aspect, ’cause it is their own business. And we can meet up. I have four of my colleagues here who I have talked to and grabbed coffee with and had lunch with, we can meet up. We are local to each other, we’re not all in the same city, but we’re at least in the Twin Cities. And then what helps is obviously FaceTime and Skype, where I can talk to Lisa Eisel and have more of a face-to-face conversation, even though she’s in New York.

 

LH: So it’s still that personal feel, and I help everybody individually. I spend a lot of time talking with them, texting with them, emailing, trying to help everybody get their business up and going. I kinda advocate, not just for myself as a clinician, and not just for the company as a whole, but I really want each independent clinician to have their business be successful.

 

CC: So they’re… It’s like an umbrella group then, they have their own independent businesses under Synergy eTherapy, right?

 

LH: Exactly, yes.

 

CC: So you’ve got marketing that I imagine you’re brainstorming and learning what’s working for each of them and guiding them how to market their portion of the greater, but then there’s also how do we market this as a whole, right?

 

LH: Exactly, you’re exactly correct, yes. Sometimes you get very creative, and we created… Not a bumper sticker, but the decals that can go on the back of your car window, where your windshield wipers… So there’s five of us driving around our towns with the Synergy information on our car.

 

CC: Oh, that’s great!

 

LH: Yeah, so people can see, as they’re driving, especially when it’s slow here in Minnesota winters, you’re kind of bored looking around. And so we have the website and the phone number, and it’s I guess free advertising that way. Each of us has a slightly different slant in our clinical expertise. So for example, Patsy, she’s on board here with us, and she just focuses on substance use, addiction, and individuals, and families, and adults, really. And so she’s specific to working that way. And so what’s great for us here in Minnesota is we have Hazelden and the Betty Ford Foundation here.

 

CC: Oh, yeah, right.

 

LH: Yeah. So we can really reach out to our colleagues in different clinics that might have a need for online therapy to be a resource for them. Not everybody can go to a clinic and get time off of work or pull the kids out of school, and so we really wanna have this be an increased access gateway for people to get their mental health or substance use treatment when they normally wouldn’t go, or they normally can’t go to a clinic. We provide nights and weekends and mornings, we’re really flexible as long as it fits their schedule and hours, to provide the therapy that they really deserve.

 

CC: Yeah, it really fascinates me on who is being drawn to tele-mental health. I think a lot of the younger generation because they’re so familiar with technology. But I just booked a client who is 84 years old, and so it goes across the spectrum. Who do you find are your clients? Who is being drawn to this type of service?

 

LH: Yeah, I thought the same thing would be true, that it would be more teenagers or younger adults, and we’re still waiting to see if that’s the case. What I’ve noticed just from the past year of who is coming through is really more maybe 30s, 40s, 50-year-olds, people who are in relationships, married with kids, sometimes they’re wanting help with the kids if they’re struggling, the kids maybe are struggling with anxiety, or there’s blended families and the parents want a little bit of extra support. I am noticing that it is not as young as I thought, it is the parents possibly reaching out sometimes for the kids. But I agree, I think that it is the generation that’s maybe… What do you call it? Baby boomers, possibly, is that the right generation?

 

CC: No, I think more you’re talking about Gen X, that’s me.

 

LH: Gen X!

 

CC: Yeah.

 

LH: Okay, okay, maybe that’s right. No, you’re right, you’re right. I’m thinking my parents maybe are baby boomers. [chuckle] But it is, it is, 40s and 50s, I’d say, is probably what we’re seeing the most of right now.

 

CC: Okay, wow.

 

LH: Yeah, yes.

 

CC: And is there a common theme of why? ‘Cause I’m getting people because they are super busy and they don’t have time. Sometimes it’s a confidentiality issue, they don’t wanna be seen going in and out of a doctor’s office. A lot of times it’s just the schedule issue, particularly with couples, that either… Maybe they’re not living together, they’re travelling. What are… Are you seeing any kind of themes on the reason people are seeking this out?

 

LH: Yes, I think the biggest reason is the first one you mentioned is that people just do not have the time. When you think of how packed our days are from morning to night, and if you have children or parents you’re caring for, there’s so much going on that people tend to put their self-care last. We take care of everybody else, and we have to do so many other things, and so to be able to schedule, get in your car, drive to a clinic, and talk about what’s going on in your world, and learn how to cope better and start to feel a little bit better, people think, ah, I’ll do it later. I’ll do it later. And then months go by, and they just get used to living with anxiety or depression, and they just don’t find the time to go. So that is the main reason I’ve heard is the convenience of it, that they don’t have to go anywhere. A lot of my sessions have been at 9:30 at night after everybody’s kids are in bed and you can focus on yourself, and there’s no clinic out there that I know that is open that late, nor would you maybe wanna drive there [chuckle] that late either. So I agree, that is the main reason that I’m hearing.

 

CC: Okay. Yeah, I’m seeing that more and more, it’s the convenience of it. Now, are you 100% online, or do you also see face-to-face clients?

 

LH: For Synergy eTherapy, for our business, that is a 100% online. We offer phone therapy, so we can talk over the phone. If they can’t get to a computer or cell phone that allows for video capability or for people who are maybe really anxious, maybe they’ve never done therapy before, and the thought of staring at somebody either in person or even on a computer can be nerve-wracking, and we can utilize that as a start for therapy. And then even you can move towards going towards the video therapy as part of the clinical treatment, I have done that before as well. And then we do video, which is similar to Skype or FaceTime, but we use a different platform that is for medical professionals, and it’s HIPAA-compliant and secure.

 

CC: Okay. And you’re pretty good, you’ve had any kind of glitches with the technology when doing online counseling?

 

LH: Oh, it is pretty good, but yes, we have had glitches, and it is always very fun and very funny. Hopefully as Wi-Fi gets better you have a higher speed, and sometimes you just have to learn a little bit about what area in your house is gonna work better. We always have a plan up front, so when I talk to a new patient the technology is always one of the things we talk about is what could happen if you freeze up, or I freeze up, or what happens if I can’t hear you, or the call gets dropped? We always have a plan so that it’s not a shock or surprising. And if you are in mid-sentence or something important or serious is going on, of course it makes for not the most smooth moment, but we always recoup and start again. And for a lot of people, a little glitch in Wi-Fi doesn’t compare to having to leave the house and drive to clinics, like we talked about before.

 

LH: And I think people are used to it. It’s not super uncommon to experience a glitch or have something… A computer needs to reboot or update, and things happen. [chuckle] So people are pretty flexible. I think if they’re choosing to do online therapy, they tend to be able to be flexible with the mode of transportation, so to speak. So we’re always having our backups in place so nobody’s ever left just without finishing a session or having an issue.

 

CC: But it can be funny. It was just, earlier this week I was in the session with someone, and I apparently had frozen up and didn’t know that I had frozen up, and my client took a screenshot of my face, which was distorted in this weird… You know how sometimes your face will freeze up? She’s like, “This is what I’m looking at, and I can’t hear you anymore, so I’m gonna restart.” It was like, “Oh dear. That’s embarrassing.”

 

LH: It is embarrassing but it’s like anything else. What it does is even in a little microcosm world of the therapy session, it teaches life is gonna have hiccups and we’re going to have mistakes and things aren’t gonna go as smoothly as planned. And sometimes in those moments you can utilize those skills of… Are they embarrassed or are you embarrassed? And we can talk about it and use it therapeutically. So it actually is not… It never goes without. We can always use it in some way.

 

CC: There you go. Now you’ve done a lot of research on platforms, and it’s important to be HIPAA compliant. What are some of the things as you were shopping around and looking, what were some of the features that were really important for you? Because they’ve got platforms now that have scheduling and payment and document sharing. What were some of the features that were important to you?

 

LH: Yes, well, it’s a great question. And there’s a lot out there and there’s actually more and more that’s coming out all the time. I’m seeing new platforms and different things like that. I think when we were starting, I really was looking for… We have a phone and texting app that we use that is secure. It is HIPAA compliant and really understanding that you really shouldn’t be saving voice mails from clients on your regular cellphone, that you use personally, and really understanding the ins and outs of security, and it is not easy to understand. I don’t have an IT background, and I don’t understand it all as you’re starting, but as I’ve done this over the years, and I’ve learned from experts and really dive in and talk to people who work at some of the places I vetted out, it’s important to really understand what’s gonna meet your needs as a therapist and as a group practice or as a company, and looking for things that are really easy to use for yourself and/or for the client for a video platform. I don’t wanna have the client download something that is just my personal preference, I just want them to click a link from anywhere they are and they can have access to my waiting room, a virtual waiting room.

 

LH: And so ease of getting together, I guess, whether it be by phone or by video I want it to be easy, I want it to be stress-free and looking for companies that offered really good customer service. So I was between two different phone and texting apps that they combine a phone and text and I was really talking to the people at the company, and I was asking a lot of questions and trying to understand ins and outs, and also just getting a feel for their customer service, and if one is kind of similar to another, I ended up going with one that I felt they were so responsive and receptive, and there was three different ways to get a hold of somebody quickly, and that meant a lot to me to be able to have somebody that I could talk to if something happened and I didn’t know how to fix it. I wanted to be able to find somebody who works at that company quickly.

 

CC: Okay.

 

LH: Yeah, other than that, it is really just understanding each platform and what’s out there and what your needs are. Price is obviously an important thing. There’s some things out there that are free, or low cost, and there’s some things out there that bundle a lot together and that are pretty expensive, so it just depends on what you need and be able to separate out some things, some different platforms and maybe put different things together, so it might not be the easiest streamline, all in one place, but at least you’re getting everything you need. It’s secure and HIPAA-compliant and it’s a little bit cheaper for us which makes it cheaper for the clients coming in, sort of the way we set our fees as low as we can.

 

CC: So is this a platform that all five of you use the same or do they…

 

LH: Yes.

 

CC: Okay. Alright.

 

LH: Yes. And so when a new therapist wants to come and join we do have a contract that is signed so all the legal issues are discussed and I encourage them to talk to a lawyer or an accountant just to make sure everything’s put in. Obviously they have their own malpractice, they have their own LLC or company of some sort just to kind of keep their personal life separate from their business. And I set up everything for an online therapist, I have that master control over getting somebody an email address and getting them a phone number and getting them in the calendar system so that way there’s not so many hands in the pot. I kinda have control over that. So it makes it easy to do payments, and if I need to talk to a customer service person, I can do that very easily. So everybody uses the exact same platforms or exact same apps that we use, that we all use the same electronic medical record, and we’re in that as a group.

 

CC: Okay.

 

LH: So when people join, they’re their own independent practitioner, but they are kind of bundled with what we’re all doing as a group just to make it really, really easy and to have that group practice feel. We’re all doing the same thing.

 

CC: Yeah, and I would say that that would be one of the draws of working for you versus setting up your own shop, is that you are providing all that for them, that they don’t have to think through all the tech and legal aspect of all of it.

 

LH: Exactly, and that has been what my colleagues have said is that they’re not gonna post on social media, they’re not gonna know what’s HIPAA-compliant, they just want basically an online private practice handed to them, and they also wanna be a part of a group, so we are helping each other. And the more people we have pushing Synergy, the more views we’ll get and the more clients we’ll be able to help.

 

CC: Yeah.

 

LH: It is a really great practice if you don’t wanna do it yourself. You can do it yourself. People can and should start to do it themselves, but it’s a lot of work. We have our own consent. I’ve had legal involved, I’ve had HIPAA-compliant risk assessments done. These are things that people don’t wanna do. They don’t wanna think about the business aspect and the compliance aspect, the legal aspect, and so I really take that out of that for other people and really make it a simple process for them.

 

CC: So here’s a question for me ’cause I’m running an online group practice myself aside from the podcast and the directory and all the other crazy stuff I’m doing.

 

LH: Yeah, which is great.

 

 

CC: Thank you. Thank you very much. How do you track your online therapists? And are they getting back in a timely manner to emails? Are they meeting their sessions? Are they… Because they are part of this umbrella but they need to be producing. And how are you tracking that, or do you?

 

LH: Yes, I do, and I think that goes back to how I wanted to be the one person in control of all of the different apps that we use is, I can actually see in the calendar system. So I can see their calendars, I can see, not their emails, obviously, that’s personal to them. But when a potential client or we call somebody a user, they’re using the website, they’re not yet a client, they send a consultation form to us which is easily accessed on our website, they can choose if they have a preference for a therapist. All of the bios are on the website. And when they choose… Let’s say they choose Andrea or Dr. Nicole for being a therapist, being their therapist, that email comes to me and it also… The way my wonderful web guy, Gabe of Nerd Alert, he is over in San Diego. He is phenomenal, he does way more than he should for me, so I just need to give him a shout out for web development and everything else. But he…

 

CC: Okay, good. Hello Gabe. We’re gonna shout out to Gabe.

 

LH: Hello Gabe! Nerd Alert Solutions, yes. And he set it up so that when somebody clicks on a therapist, I get that contact form as being maybe the owner of the company, and it also goes to that therapist. So, I’m tracking anybody who comes in that way. I can see the flow, I can… And then obviously, I talk with them directly a lot. There’s a lot of personal attention with each of the therapists that are on board. And we talk about it and… Did they reach out? Did they get anything back? Did they have to call, did they email? Is it appropriate for them to take it on as a patient, we all do free consultations with every potential client that comes on board just to make sure that it’s an appropriate way for them to get their treatment. And that it’s also a good fit for the therapist, and so we have a lot of communication and we also have a HIPAA compliant secure document that we keep track on. So if somebody doesn’t come through the website, let’s say a therapist has somebody they’ve encountered or a colleague referred directly to them, they just add it to what we have as a log and we keep this running log whether you become a client or not.

 

LH: So we’ve been able to see everybody who’s come through, how they come through, through Google, through Facebook, through a colleague. And we capture that information as just some basic information. A name, how they got through, an email address. Nothing too serious. But it’s a way for us to really keep track and to see what’s working and what isn’t.

 

CC: Wow, I’ve got to talk to Gabe. That’s…

 

LH: Yeah.

 

CC: That’s phenomenal. And do you do any… Because I don’t know if this has been your experience, but when I’ve hired therapists they are not necessarily adept at running a private practice or managing that aspect of… So I did a lot of training of, “You need to respond within an hour if you get an email, with a phone call, and if they don’t answer then you follow up with an email. 24 hours later you follow up this way, 48 hours… ” So there’s this huge training. And what do you say? So, I almost, I give them a template of, “Thank you for contacting me, blah, blah, blah.” So are you doing a lot of that training for your therapists?

 

LH: Yes, very similar, yes.

 

CC: Okay.

 

LH: And I did write out some different templates or things to say or if they start going into a therapy session how you can politely say that this is something obviously that’s important, right now, we are making sure this is a good platform or whatnot. Yes and so we do talk a lot about that, about following up quickly, making sure that potential clients feel that this is a very personalized experience, that they have access to us as their therapists, not 24-7, ’cause we have boundaries, which we have learned very hard to put in place over the years. But to be able to have access to us when needed, and takes out the middle man of a clinic and the administration and all that. And so it is important to be able to talk about what’s gonna work for each therapist in their life and their schedule, and also run their own business. So we do that in tandem. And I think that’s also another appeal, is that they don’t have to do it alone, or if they’re sick or out of town we have coverage, ’cause there’s several of us. So…

 

CC: Yeah. So, are you also doing some training on the logistics of online therapy? And I’m talking, lighting, camera, audio. Tell me a little bit on some of those tips that you are telling your therapists.

 

LH: Yes, well, we do talk a lot about that. I encourage/recommend/really, really encourage them to do CEUs in telehealth. We have so much out there now. Zurr Institute or different places where you can access that. And for them to really understand the ins and outs if they’ve never done this or they haven’t researched too much of it to have CEUs to back up that they have learned a little bit more. It’s like a specialty in a way. And you just wouldn’t practice out of your clinical expertise, and so you do wanna be trained in it. And so, I do spend a lot of time talking about that. Using headphones, being in your office at home and not being in the supermarket. Your client could be anywhere they want, I guess, as long as they’re okay with that. But different things about, Do you look at the camera? Do you look at the person in their eyes? The lighting where you’re sitting, what it looks like. So we talk a lot about that as well, and helping people to get a good grasp on it, and to do what’s comfortable for them.

 

CC: Yeah, I was really shocked, and I guess I shouldn’t have been, but after doing this for so many years there were things I just took for granted/ But I would interview therapists, and they would come online and they’re sitting in their bedroom with dirty laundry on the bed behind them and…

 

LH: Yeah.

 

CC: This is how they’re doing an interview. How are you doing therapy sessions? The light is directly… They’re sitting in front of a window, so all I see is a shadow because they’re back-lit. So it’s some of those logistics that… And why would they know? I’ve got a history in theater and film, and so I know that, but I forget that’s not common knowledge.

 

LH: It’s not… And again, it’s not something anybody teaches any of us. And so, yourself or myself, we’re really… We’ve studied this for a long time, we’re learning, we are collaborating with people who know these things, and IT people who know, it is something we learned, and it’s gonna be something that new therapists coming on to this type of platform are gonna have to learn as well. And some are gonna like it and some actually won’t. And you won’t really know I guess unless you try it out. But I agree with you, it is a learning curve for some people, and to be able to guide them as part of the appeal of joining in a group practice, versus doing it themselves, and maybe doing things poorly or not securely.

 

CC: Yeah.

 

LH: Which can lead sometimes to poor outcomes. You don’t think of that as possibly leading to a poor outcome, either for the therapist, their company or even for a client. If they can’t hear you, they can’t see you. You’re in your messy room. That’s probably not what they need to see.

 

LH: There’s a learning curve.

 

CC: Now, a couple of things just come to mind, and one is you requiring them to have their own malpractice insurance. Do you also have a group practice insurance?

 

LH: Yes, I have malpractice obviously for myself clinically, but you can also… Where I am getting my malpractice from, I actually add each therapist on for a very nominal fee, but it’s still a fee to add them on, and it’s not to cover them, but it’s just so my insurance knows who I have on in case anything were to come up. And then the company itself, obviously it’s a lot more of a fee than it would be if I’m doing this individually, is covered as well.

 

CC: Okay, yeah, it’s just the things that you’ve got to think about when you’re running a group practice, and it sounds like that you’re setting this up to scale, so that when you get more people on the systems are in place, and I’m real big on systems. The systems are in place to support you as you grow and have a bigger reach.

 

LH: Yes, and I’m not gonna take credit for that idea, that again was Gabe from San Diego. He really was, when I was just me, he really was thinking that way of… Well, how can we make this user friendly? And I’m the one who’s adding on each online therapist when they come on. I have to go in the back of my WordPress site, and understand how to get everybody on there. So I have learned a lot about technology and how to build a website and things I never thought I would know so well. He made it so that everything for this practice could grow very easily and adding people on and how all the emails go to different people at different states and different things like that. So he had that idea in mind, which was obviously really, really helpful and I can see the help now of what he was talking about, is being able to scale it. So if more and more people do wanna come on to the group practice that it’s easy for me and it’s easy for them.

 

CC: Absolutely. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about marketing, and whatever you’re comfortable in kind of giving any kind of tips or… I love the bumper sticker on the back of the window. That’s a winner. I’m gonna figure out how to do that. Anything else that you feel like has worked well in getting and attracting online clients, social media, Facebook ads, what’s going well for you?

 

LH: Yes, I’m happy to answer that. I’m learning a lot about marketing. Luckily, I have a husband who is a marketer and knows a lot about this. So I get a little bit of pointers from him. But what I’ve learned is that social networking, things like Facebook I have… For Synergy, we have our own professional Facebook page, Synergy e-therapy, and you can like that page. And we have so far I think in the 700s or so followers, which is really nice for a small business. And we do a lot of blog writing, different topics, different times of the year. We’ve done some online Facebook events which were kind of fun, like a question and answer type session. Like an ask the therapist type session. Locally, we’ve done in the summer here, we have a huge banner that I had created for Synergy e-therapy that we can put up in a tent. So some of the summer time festivals we’ve gone to and we have a little booth, and we have candy and a little game. We have a ton of pamphlets on mental health and all of our brochures and pens and different marketing things that we’ve created through the help of other companies, just to have some things to hand out. We’ve done that.

 

CC: Okay.

 

LH: And really just being able to have a presence online. Twitter, Instagram, we’re working on Instagram. I don’t know really how to do that so well. I like to have a blog post, I wanna say something, not just post a picture. Twitter has been great just to get information out there. A lot of people around different platforms. LinkedIn is another one where just connecting with my other professional colleagues, even outside of the clinical realm, teachers, chiropractors, medical professionals. Gosh, anybody, really, who’s interested in being able to spread the word and let their colleagues know. We’re starting to try to go after smaller local businesses who would be interested in having us as part of their health benefits.

 

CC: Oh.

 

LH: So that’s a little different.

 

CC: Yeah.

 

LH: And so far we’re just starting that. We have done a lot of local news. I’ve been in some local newspapers and business profiles and talking about synergy to get our information out to some local community members and we… What else do we do? My goodness. Oh, lot of just connecting with colleagues, psychiatrists, and letting them know that we’re here. I had recently emailed about 20 or so psychiatrists in Manhattan and let them know about our business. And I had gotten some outreach back saying, “This is interesting. Let’s chat.” So I have some calls set up.

 

CC: Nice.

 

LH: We do a lot of presentations. I am doing a presentation on anxiety and youth for a local organization called YIPA. YIPA. And through that a ton of organizations saw that I’m doing this conference and they want us to do a similar conference for… There’s one local school district, and we’re gonna do a conference for teachers, we are… We were found by another smaller area up in Bemidji here, in Minnesota, it’s about four hours outside the Twin Cities. And we’re gonna go up there in March and do a break out session on anxiety as well. And so people are finding us through a lot of the presentations we’re doing and realizing that we’re here. So I know that’s a long answer…

 

CC: It’s a good answer. And what fascinates me, and I see a lot on the Facebook groups. How do you market an online counseling practice? And Facebook ads and Instagram? It’s something different. And what you’re talking about is going and talking to your neighbor, and putting up a booth at the local festival, and having pens. Just like you would a brick-and-mortar face-to-face counseling practice. It’s about relationships, it’s doing the same thing locally that can expand online to a greater area. It’s the same, there’s some tweaks, I think, but it’s a lot of the same grunt work. Frankly.

 

LH: It is.

 

CC: Of what you would do with a regular practice. One question that came to mind is that you were talking about some blogging, do you have any requirement of your members in your group practice to participate in any of the advertising? Like I’ve had my therapists that they need to submit at least one blog post a month, ’cause it helps with content and SEO and all this other stuff, and it helps them. Do you have any requirement for your people?

 

LH: I don’t have a requirement like that. Some people just don’t wanna write or don’t wanna blog, that’s not something they wanna do and I don’t want to eliminate them from being on synergy if they’re a good clinician and a good person. But you can ask any one of them, almost every time I talk to them they’re probably ad nausea of hearing me say, “Oh wow. Look at what happened with Google Analytics when we posted this article on this.” And I will take a snapshot of the Google Analytics that shows hundreds of people just went to the website that day. And for a small local company that’s a lot of people going to a website, and it shows you who’s new and who’s repeat. So I’m always trying to showcase how much that can help. And it also… Each therapist… Their expertise can be shown, their personality can be shown through their writing, and it allows people to connect to that therapist because they’re not gonna see you in person, and so you miss a little bit of that type of interaction when you’re online by phone or by video. By video, you can still gather a lot but there’s a little bit missed.

 

LH: And so I think being able to have potential clients really connect with a therapist is important along with what you said, the content is important and getting different writing styles out and then using those to do some Facebook marketing and seeing what happens with targeted marketing.

 

CC: Right. Well, Lisa, I could talk to you all day. This is incredibly inspiring for me and hopefully to our listeners that you can create a group practice online. And some of the marketing techniques are going to be just the same as what you’re doing with your face-to-face. And it’s about getting the information, and it’s maybe hard at the beginning to set up, but if you lay a pretty good foundation this can be quite profitable and really reach a lot of people. So thank you.

 

LH: I agree. Thank you!

 

CC: Thank you so much for coming on. If people want to…

 

LH: My pleasure.

 

CC: If people wanna get in touch with Dr. Lisa Herman, you can reach her at synergyetherapy.com. Lisa, thank you so much for coming on the show.

 

LH: Thank you for having me.

 

www.synergyetherapy.com

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