Six Best Practices for Living a Social (Media) Life for Therapists
by Alexandria Fields, MSW, LISW-S, LCSW
Yes, you can be a therapist and use social media, too. In fact, as our world becomes increasingly connected via virtual platforms and applications, it’s nearly impossible to just say no to social media.
We use social media for everything from keeping up with friends and family to marketing our practices to collaborating with colleagues around the world. Think not just Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn but also Tumblr, Snapchat, YouTube, wikis, Pinterest, blogs, forums, product and services review sites, and even social gaming.
Yet as therapists, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than many other professions when it comes to social media. To be both effective and ethical mental health providers, we need to establish clear boundaries between our personal and professional lives. This is true in both our physical and digital worlds.
That doesn’t mean we can’t have social networking accounts or leave a digital footprint of any kind. But we do need to take additional steps to avoid the risk of creating multiple relationships with clients. We also need to show a higher sensitivity to the content we share and interact with.
Not sure where to start? First, check with your employer about social media policies they have in place that could affect your activity. Then follow these six best practices for maintaining a social (media) life for therapists.
#1 – Lock Your Personal Channels Down
Use the highest possible privacy controls to keep your information and activity private. Consider using alternate contact information for creating social accounts or other personal interactions (such as leaving a review). Remember that the content you post could be reshared by approved contacts. In addition, any professional activity done on your personal pages is subject to ethics and licensing complaints.
#2 – Create a Separate Persona for Your Professional Self
] If you want to market your services online, create a business or professional page separate from your personal accounts. Remember, this might be where potential clients find you, so put your business foot forward to build credibility and trust. Always use your professional email to create these pages; use personal email for your personal pages only.
#3 – Do not Interact with Clients Online
Never accept friend requests or otherwise follow clients. If you manage a blog, turn off the public comments feature. Likewise, you should never communicate with clients through social media, including “private” channels like Messenger or direct messages. Unsecured applications and platforms could put patient confidentiality at risk.
#4 – Create a Social Media Policy
If you’re going to maintain a social media presence of any kind, a social media policy should be included in the informed consent process. Your social media policy should make clear that you don’t accept friend requests nor will you follow clients, and why. It should also include a reminder that your professional accounts are public and, therefore, anything your clients post, like, reshare or otherwise interact with will be public.
#5 – Never Assume That Your Activity is Private
Just because you lock down your profile doesn’t mean that your activity with other content—your likes, comments, shares and retweets, Google and Yelp reviews and more—is private. Always consider how your activity could be perceived by clients. Don’t like, comment or share on other pages with the expectation that it will remain private.
#6 – Always Protect Patient Confidentiality
Did I mention there is no guarantee of privacy on the internet? Never seek consultations publicly, even in private therapist groups or listservs. Never post anything about a client even if the post is anonymous and you have anonymized the client’s information. Doing so could risk your reputation, your career, and most important, your client’s mental health journey.
Get More Tips for Best Practices
Want to get more tips for the ethical navigation of social media? Compass Point is offering a one-day session on Best Practices in Private Practice (Ethics). The webinar will be available in March, May, September and November as a live webinar. It will be offered in June and August on location in Mason, Ohio.
I’ll be leading the course, which will provide three CEUs. This training will clarify Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist board and insurance company rules. We’ll also look at best practices for staying in compliance with teletherapy and, yes, social media.
You can learn more about and register for the program on Compass Point Counseling’s website.
Alexandria Fields, MSW, LISW-S, LCSW
Alyx Fields is a Licensed Independent Social Worker with Supervisory designation. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and her Master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. Alyx is the director of the DBT® Center at Compass Point and is a facilitator of DBT® skills training classes. She is a blogger and entrepreneur who is passionate about helping others and their mental health. You can read more of her work on her blog, Your Mental Restoration.
by Megan Korn, Recruiter and Human Resources Leader
Thinking about a career in the mental health field?
If you’re motivated by helping others, becoming a mental health professional could be your calling. As a mental health professional, you step in to help people overcome their life challenges. You can be a source of hope by providing guidance and strategies that enable others to clear obstacles, achieve their goals, and believe in themselves. You can change lives for the better.
In terms of career potential, the field offers many career paths, including social worker, counselor, psychiatrist and psychologist. Better yet, the job prospects are exceptionally promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job growth outlook for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors and for social workers is well above average.
However, careers in the mental health field are not for everyone. If you’re exploring what mental health career is right for you, you should first ask if this field is a good match. You can start by looking at some of the soft skills that are called into play every day.
Soft skills are the non-technical skills that are needed for success in the workplace. All careers require a mastery of some soft skills, like time management and meeting your commitments. In some fields, soft skills complement technical skills. But in the mental health field, the soft skills can be just as important as the technical skills—if not more so. They also play a major role in your career satisfaction.
Before pursuing a career in this field, ask yourself these six questions.
Do You Like Working With People?
Teamwork and relationship building are foundational to mental healthcare. Working with clients is a given. But depending on your career path, you may also coordinate with other healthcare providers—such as physicians, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers—as well as partner agencies, such as housing and employment. No matter which path you take, the ability to communicate clearly, to follow up, to take the lead and to manage complex details are all skills you’ll frequently lean on.
Do You Have Empathy and Patience?
Compassion and empathy are keystones to achieving results in this field. Even if you don’t have personal experience with what a client is going through, you need to be able to listen and offer guidance. Patience and perseverance go hand-in-hand with this. People do not change overnight. You will need to work with them over the long haul to address their needs. While the small victories are tremendously rewarding, this is not a field for those who need instant gratification or who are easily discouraged by setbacks.
Do You Enjoy Problem Solving?
] If you are interested in this field, you likely enjoy solving problems. In terms of working with clients, problem solving requires active listening, critical observation, critical thinking and coordination with others. To develop effective strategies and treatment plans, you’ll need to listen to what your clients are telling you—and pay attention to what they are leaving out.
Do You Have a Strong Work Ethic?
Helping people be their best selves is only one component to working with clients. Behind the scenes, a lot of record keeping and follow up takes place. Depending on your caseload, you could be maintaining files for dozens of clients. This requires a high degree of organization and planning, as well as the ability to be self-directed.
Can You Separate the Personal From the Professional?
Professional detachment is a must in this field. Your clients may engage in behaviors or make decisions that you do not agree with on a moral level. You may be challenged by different perspectives. However, you need to reserve judgment and meet your clients where they are to help them. Likewise, you need to set healthy emotional boundaries between your personal and professional lives—in both the physical and digital worlds.
Are You Adaptable?
No matter what career path you choose, no two days are alike. Mental health providers often need to adjust on the go. You may need to work weekends and evenings. You may need to be on call. You will always need to adapt your approach to your clients and their needs. While this is a positive for those who thrive on change, it can also be cause for stress and even burnout. Stress management is a key tool that mental health professionals need to master.
(Read: Tips for Recovering from Burnout and Finding Balance)
Finding a Good Fit for Your Career
We may be a bit biased, but we believe a career spent helping others is a virtuous undertaking. And the field is in critical need of qualified, compassionate providers.
If you think the mental health field is right for you, the next best step is to thoroughly research the career paths that most resonate with you. Questions to ask yourself include:
What kind of populations do you want to work with?
What type of setting do you want to work in?
How much time are you willing to invest in post-secondary education?
What type of schedule do you want to establish?
What is your desired salary?
What are the license requirements in your state?
Most careers in this field require at least a bachelor’s degree and a license. Your career goals may also require you to pursue a master’s degree or higher. Learning everything you can about where an academic program can take you before you apply is the best use of your time and money.
Have questions about your career or interested in joining our team? I’m always happy to talk with prospective therapists. Contact me at 888-830-0347.
Megan Korn is Compass Point’s Recruiter and Human Resources Leader. Megan has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She started her career as a nurse in medical surgery and oncology, before shifting to a career in healthcare recruiting. When she’s not recruiting and supporting specialized providers for our team, Megan enjoys the great outdoors, time with her family and taking her dog for walks.
How to Breakout from Job-Related Burnout
by Alexandria Fields, MSW, LISW-S, DBTC
Have you reached your limit on work/life stress? Do you lack motivation and energy to get through your to-do list? Feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? You’re not alone. Many of us have had to manage massive upheaval in our work lives in the past year.
However, if the physical and emotional barrier of going to work is starting to feel overwhelming, you may be suffering from job-related burnout. Unsurprisingly, therapists and other mental health providers are seeing an increased incidence of burnout right now, including among our own ranks.
Job-related burnout can have a serious toll on your physical and emotional health, but there is hope. In most cases, burnout is relatively easy to treat.
How to Identify Burnout
Burnout is most often caused by ongoing stress from being over-scheduled or overworked. It can also result from a disconnect between workload and compensation—that is, when the financial reward doesn’t make up for the hours or effort you’re putting in.
The signs of burnout include:
Risk Factors for Burnout
Burnout tends to occur more often in “helper” professions, such as therapists, social workers, teachers, and doctors and nurses. People who work long hours are also at a higher risk of burnout.
However, burnout can affect anyone. That is especially true this year, when we’ve seen sources of chronic stress multiply across the spectrum. COVID-19, job and financial insecurity and the 2020 election have created a background of constant negative messages. On top of that, many people have had to navigate a sharp learning curve with working from home alongside remote schooling. And for those in people-oriented professions—such as healthcare, teaching and therapy—spending more time interacting online than in person can be a cause of strain.
It’s no wonder that feelings of being overworked and stretched thin are so prevalent this year.
How to Treat Burnout
Now for the good news: Burnout is not forever. You likely don’t need to take an extended sabbatical or jump ship on your career. In most cases, sufferers can find relief by taking intentional time to focus on self-care. Schedule time off. Take up or recommit to a hobby. Join a club or engage in sports. Go for a walk, visit a museum, or try meditation. Set aside a regular time for exercising. Decrease time on devices outside of the workday.
This may sound easier said than done. It’s hard to make time to step away when you already don’t have enough hours in the day.
If that’s the case for you, then take smaller steps. Instead of taking a day off, schedule a longer lunch once or twice a week. If you aren’t taking a lunch at all, then start making time for a mid-day break. Ask for help with your workload. Commit to shutting down your laptop and disengaging from email at a set time each night. Carve out a few hours for yourself on the weekend to do something you enjoy. Make time to talk with people who love and support you.
Above all, have grace with yourself. It’s OK to not be able to “do it all.” There is no shame in asking for help, either with managing your workload or working through your feelings. It’s OK to give yourself permission to take time to focus on your health.
If you still have trouble seeing a way forward, then consider scheduling time with a therapist. Compass Point’s good-fit model will connect you with a therapist who specializes in what you’re going through. Many of our therapists offer tele-therapy, which is a very convenient option if you feel pressed for time. Scheduling that first appointment can be a big step forward to rediscovering joy in your work and your life.
Schedule an appointment today.
Alexandria Fields, MSW, LISW-S, LCSW
Alyx Beresford is a Licensed Independent Social Worker with Supervisory designation. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and her Master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. Alyx is the director of the DBT® Center at Compass Point and is a facilitator of DBT® skills training classes. She is a blogger and entrepreneur who is passionate about helping others and their mental health. You can read more of her work on her blog, Your Mental Restoration.
What to Know Before Becoming Your Own Bossby Jodi Stevens, CPA
Thinking about becoming your own boss? One of the advantages to going out on your own is that there are no one-size-fits-all requirements to self-employment. You can open a private practice. You can work as an independent contractor (also called a 1099) with a company like Compass Point. You can create a constellation of “gig” opportunities, such as teaching, writing or coaching.
In short, you have greater independence to focus your talents on work that brings you joy. You may even discover that you can increase your income.
But asking if you should go out on your own is only half the question. You also need to determine if you can—that is, if you are financially ready. When you are an employee, you meet with clients and receive a check. When you open your own practice or become an independent contractor, your income is less stable. You need to have enough cash on hand for start-up costs. It takes time to ramp up a client base. And you still need to cover your day-to-day requirements, like housing, food and transportation.
By taking the time to get your finances in order before you make the leap, you’ll be more likely to land on both feet. Get started with these four tips:
#1 – Determine Your Start-Up and Ongoing ExpensesWhen you work for someone else as a W-2 employee, you can take things like a furnished office, technology infrastructure and health benefits for granted. When you open your own practice or become an independent contractor, the burden is on you to source and pay for these essentials. To avoid financial surprises, spend time identifying and putting numbers to your start-up expenses, which could include:
As you build your financial plan, keep in mind that many of these expenses are not one-time costs. As you build out your plan, make sure to include other costs that crop up throughout the year, such as continuing education.
#2 – Know Your Financial NeedsWhen you work for yourself, you can set your own schedule. But before you commit to short workdays and long weekends, make sure your business plan can support your lifestyle.
If you haven’t already, establish your personal budget. You’ll need to factor in your requirements—such as housing, food and utilities—as well as your wants—such as eating out or taking a vacation. Remember that you’ll also need to set aside cash for unexpected expenses as well as for long-term goals, like college funds and retirement.
Then, combine this data with your projected business expenses and compare against your desired rate and schedule. If the two don’t align, you’ll need to start making adjustments.
#3 – Budget for the Business CycleWhen you are a salaried employee, you get paid the same whether you’re in the middle of a busy season or stuck in a slow stretch. You also receive paid time off to cover vacations or sick days. You may even get paid for holidays.
When you go out on your own—whether as an independent contractor or by opening your own practice—you can earn a higher billable rate. But if business is slow, your income shows it. In addition, if you decide to open your own practice, “therapist” is just one of many hats you’ll wear. You’ll also need to set aside time for marketing, scheduling, billing and collections, bookkeeping and credentialing. All of this will eat into your billable hours.
In short, you’ll need to be ready for unplanned downtime. That requires setting aside enough cash during upswings to have a cushion for temporary downturns or time away from the office.
#4 – Don’t Forget TaxesTaxes are one of the most common stumbling blocks for the newly self-employed. While this topic alone could generate volumes, one of the most common points of confusion is quarterly estimated taxes. You will be responsible for paying estimated taxes four times a year. In addition, you will also be required to report and pay 15.3 percent in Social Security and Medicare taxes, as opposed to the 7.65 percent you pay as a W-2 employee.
The good news? Independent contractors and small businesses are not required to pay taxes to the state of Ohio on income less than $250,000. In addition, you may qualify for an array of deductions, including for a home office, mileage and health insurance.
Your best bet is to retain an accountant you trust before you go out on your own to ensure you understand your tax liability. An accountant can also help you prepare quarterly payments and annual returns and ensure you are in compliance with all applicable tax laws.
The Best of Both WorldsIf you’re ready to be your own boss but the business side gives you pause, consider becoming an independent contractor. As a contractor, you can partner with a company that will take care of the backend services so you can focus on your clients.
For example, Compass Point handles everything from marketing to scheduling to billing for its contractors. You’ll have access to furnished office space in nearly a dozen locations as well as a digital platform for remote counseling. Compass Point even takes care of credentialing.
As a Compass Point therapist, you can set your own schedule. You’ll have access to client leads as well as a team of compassionate professionals with whom you can collaborate. You can also gain peace of mind knowing that when you take time off, someone is answering the phone in your absence. And with Compass Point’s good-fit model, you’ll be matched with clients who are the right fit for your area of focus.
As a Compass Point therapist, you’ll still be required to report your own taxes. But the professionals at resource partner Stevens & Associates will be available to provide guidance on taxes and accounting.
Interested in learning more about working with Compass Point? Visit our hiring page to learn more.
Tips On Becoming A Preferred Provider
You have organized all your important documents, pulled together your logins and passwords for your CAQH and NPI accounts and are getting ready to submit all your applications. While attending a CEU training you hear from a colleague at a CEU training one of the insurance companies you planned to join is no longer accepting new clinicians.
How can you set your application apart from all the other contenders in the area?
Tip #1: Credentials Matter.
Insurance companies prefer clinicians with training. A provider that is certified in EMDR or DBT for example, registered as a play therapist or has a Chemical Dependency license may have a better chance of reaching the top of the pile.
Tip #2: Less is More.
When listing your specialties and treatment modalities, don’t list all of them. Stick to the more desirable and unusual. A clinician that speaks English and Spanish and treats depression is more likely to gain a slot in the “closed or limited” network than a clinician that speaks only English and treats depression.
Tip #3: Think real estate. Location, location, location!
Yes, location matters. If you receive a rejection letter after applying to an insurance company due to the area “being saturated” or “no need for your specialty” that is what they are saying. Seek an area that is under-served.
Tip #4: Check your work schedule.
Who wants to see a therapist at 7pm? A working mom of a teenager that has soccer practice right after school and games on Saturday. Think of the age and demographics of your clients. Are they school age children, retirees, or working adults? Offering hours in the evening and on weekends is more desirable for many clients and the insurance companies are aware of this.
Tip #5: The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
Yes, you need to be the squeaky wheel. After you submit your application, you need to continually follow-up with the insurance companies. First call to provider relations is to confirm receipt of the application, then a couple weeks later to check the status, and yet a couple more weeks later to check the status again. You get the idea. The more you contact them (every two weeks or so) the greater chance of your application being accelerated.
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Analytics have shown that the "About me" page is the second most popular web page just behind the home page and directly above the frequently asked questions page. So as a clinician you want to be sure that when they click over to your "about me" they are finding what they are looking for, but what is that exactly?
When looking to see a clinician or doctor for the first time, clients are first and foremost looking for someone who specializes in what they are coming in for and fits within their budget. However, if you are in a saturated market it is likely that there are plenty of other qualified clinicians. This is where your "about me" will set you apart.
Clients are looking to find someone they connect with.
When clients call to schedule an appointment with a clinician our scheduling staff often hear comments like "I would love to see Mandy, I saw that she has a therapy dog and I think my child will connect easily with her." or "Sarah made a reference to "The Office" in her bio and that is my favorite show to binge." That doesn't mean that Mandy and Sarah just went on and on about themselves in their bio. In fact Mandy just has a picture of her pup with a blurb about therapy dogs and Sarah just included a quote from Micheal Scott at the bottom of her page, but those personal touches were all they needed to make the connection with their ideal client. It made the clinician "human" for the client.
Know who your ideal client is.
Take a look at your caseload and see if their is a common thread in your case load or something that the clients that you would love to see all day everyday have in common. That is who you should be talking to in your "about me." If you are a child therapist you will most likely be talking to moms who are concerned for their children, what can you say to connect with them? This would be a great place to mention your own child. If your target demographic is young adults and you know they are often stressed about college and adjusting to adult life include something in your "about me" section that will appeal to them. These two therapists would have completely different ideal clients and their biographies should look and read completely different.
Your about you page is not actually about you.
A lot of people make the mistake of getting too comfortable and relaxed in their "about me" and end up missing an opportunity to convert that potential client to an actual client. You are providing information about yourself in an effort to connect with your client and ensure that they follow through on your call to action. Take the time to talk directly to them, connect on the issues that matter most, and then call them to an action - to schedule an appointment with you. You understand them, you are empathetic to the struggles they are going through and if they pick up the phone and schedule today you can help.
Don't forget a picture.
A picture is worth a thousand words and knowing who they will see when they show up at the office can help put them at ease.
Combined with your bio above and your FAQ page they should come to your session feeling comfortable and excited to work with you. If you are missing a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website, visit our blog on why you should have a FAQ page and what you should include.
We would love to learn a little more about you, comment below with a link to your "about me" page along with a sentence that you include to help show your personality to potential clients. Bonus! This will count as a back link to help with your SEO!
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Getting ready to start the process of getting credentialed with insurance panels? Check out these 5 common credentialing mistakes to avoid during the process.
5 Common Credentialing Mistakes
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Interested in having someone else take over your credentialing?Check out our credentialing services for more information or contact us to learn more.
When a potential client is looking for a provider in your area, they are most likely going to type something like "'specialty provider' in 'city name'." Google will then show a list of practices for them to look through. The client client is going to click around on a few hoping to find what they are looking for, and most likely click on a link of a private practice that has a page that lists their specialties. They don't want to have to search through a website just to find out if the practice has what they need. By placing your specialty list on you your website, they know the practice has some experience in their specialty, along with a multitude of other topics. While having just a simple list of specialties might be enough for that potential client to book, these websites are missing a huge SEO opportunity by NOT having each specialty get a dedicated webpage, which gives them a chance to better educate and help their client make the best choice for themselves before they even call you.
So why do we recommend giving each specialty it's own page? How does this help your SEO?
1. Clients stay on your page longer.
You want clients to stay on your page as long as possible. This is because when clients stay on your site longer, Google knows the information you have is quality, in turn making them more likely to recommend your page to others.
2. Adds more keywords to your practice listing
Keywords are the bread and butter of your website. You want your name, your location and words that clients type into Google when looking for a clinician to all be organically on your site to help your SEO or search engine optimization.
3. Increases client trust
If a client seeking treatment for PTSD , for example, goes to a website and sees PTSD on a very lengthy list of other specialties would they feel confident that the clinician is the top in their field? Probably not. They are wanting reassurance the practice or clinician knows what they are doing with PTSD. If they go to a page and see information regarding PTSD, explanations of different treatment options, along with some testimonials, they're probably going to feel pretty confident in who they should schedule with. You want this to be your page and have them pick up the phone and call you!
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