Administrative Mistakes Your Therapy Practice Should Avoid
When it comes to running a successful therapy practice, there are a lot of factors to consider. One major area that often slips under the radar is the administrative side of the business. After all, when you were dreaming of opening your own practice, you probably weren’t excitedly thinking about client information sheets and organizational systems.
Just because it’s not the most passion-inducing part of the business doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Administrative errors can end up being costly if you aren’t paying careful attention. Here are some of the most common mistakes you’ll want to avoid in your practice.
Mistake Number 1: Disregarding Documentation
When it comes to any type of business, documenting everything is key. It doesn’t matter if you’re opening a restaurant, a swimming pool, or a private therapy clinic. The administrative side of the operation is critical to your success.
In therapy, administrative records are especially important. Without the necessary forms and organizational system in place, you can’t provide the continuous, stable help that your clients need.
So, what exactly do you need?
- A client information sheet. This has the very basic information about your client, such as age, location, how they found out about your practice, insurance information, etc.
- Progress notes. This is more or less what we were referencing above. These notes detail the length of the session and the topics discussed. You might consider using the SOAP approach: subjective, objective, assessment, and plan.
- A goal sheet. This could be incorporated into the progress notes, or it can be a separate sheet that details the actionable items you and your client can work towards in the short-term and the long-term.
- Release of information. This allows you and the client to have an understanding of what information (if any) is okay to release, to whom that information can be released, and in which circumstances.
- An informed consent form. This also creates an understanding between you and the client about what you expect from one another in regards to treatment effectiveness, fee schedules, insurance agreements, goals of therapy, etc.
The way effective therapy works is through continuity. Your client shouldn’t come in every week and start from scratch all over again. Good therapy involves planning, with thought behind all of the questions you ask and the things you discuss with your client. If you don’t have good notes from a previous session, and a reliable way to organize them, then you aren’t running an effective practice.
For example, a client comes to you seeking help with a specific area — say parenting, or relationships, or work-life balance. You want to take meticulous notes on what you discuss each week so that you can best help your client address those issues. Without notes, you might not remember what goals the client is working towards, which makes it difficult to help them.
Mistake Number 2: Disorganization
Dr. Keely Kolmes writes on her site about how therapists make mistakes.
“The details aren’t important, but I’ll acknowledge that I had taken on a few too many things. Top it off with having a few people needing to meet at different times. Add to that one way I manage client confidentiality: putting client names into my hard calendar (which I do not carry about with me) and then transcribing the sessions later to my iPhone calendar simply as ‘client’, to preserve confidentiality in the event that my phone is lost or stolen.
The result? I mistakenly transposed a client session time from my hard calendar to an hour later in my phone. And, yes, I missed the client appointment.”
It’s not an unusual blunder. But when you’re a therapist, your clients are depending on your reliability — more so than they likely do in other areas. Counseling is unique in that people are more vulnerable, and so mistakes like this can have a bigger impact and cause you to lose clients.
Kolmes also writes, “Many of our clients have long histories that involve being let down by others. When a therapist fails the client in any way, this often ripples on the theme of being let down by others.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to organizing your office, but digital software solutions are an easy, seamless way to keep track of appointments and client information, among other important pieces. Some solutions, like TheraNest, handle everything from appointment reminders and invoices to detailed business analytics.
Mistake Number 3: Lack of Staff Training
Depending on how big your operation is, you may or may not have a staff of people working for your practice. Many therapists initially work as a one man show, but as you continue to grow your client base and develop your practice, you may find yourself needing to hire additional staff.
One of the things to remember about therapy is that it’s truly unlike any other business. It’s far more personal. This can create some issues if your staff isn’t properly trained.
For example, what would the proper course of action be if an employee’s close friend was coming to you for therapy? Or what if your employee forgets to have a client fill out the consent form, because you didn’t emphasize the importance when you were training them?
The majority of people who go into therapy tend to be hardworking and dedicated. Most don’t have an issue, but it’s critical that everyone be on the same page when it comes to logistical and administrative duties and problems.
Mistake Number 4: Letting Clients Call the Shots
This is difficult, because in some ways, you do want your clients to be proactive or involved in “calling the shots.” They obviously need to be an involved part of the process. But, what we mean here is more along the lines of letting your clients continually reschedule appointments, change things around, and generally make life difficult for you — not to mention your other clients.
Counselor Marina Williams writes, “Clients rescheduling all the time is annoying and eventually even the most organized therapist is going to find themselves in trouble because of it. The cure for this is to set really strong boundaries with clients from the very first session. Explain to them that it’s best that whatever day and time they choose for their standing appointment is a day and time they can keep moving forward. Explain to them that it is very difficult for you to reschedule and that you would appreciate it if they only ask to reschedule if they absolutely have to. I go one step further and tell my clients that if rescheduling becomes excessive that I’ll have to terminate.”
When it comes to scheduling, staying firm and consistent is the key to avoiding many of these business-damaging mistakes.
Managing the administrative side of your business likely isn’t the piece of the puzzle you’re most passionate about. After all, you’d much rather be working with your clients. But, these common errors can be detrimental to the success of your business.
Want to take a little of the pain out of managing the administrative pieces of your therapy practice? TheraNest makes it simple to avoid many of these mistakes so that you can focus your attention on what you care about most — helping your clients.