Q: It appears that the economy is not going to pull out of this downturn anytime in the near future. What impact will a poor economy have on professional counselors in private practice?

A: Just like trying to predict the stock market, no one knows for certain what will happen. There is no crystal ball to determine when things are going to improve, and it could get worse before it gets better. However, professional counselors in private practice may not feel the impact as much as other professionals. Our personal practices have seen little or no significant downturn in the past 12 months.

The December issue of Psychotherapy Finances reported that of 74 respondents to a questionnaire about the effect of the economy, 43 percent indicated that “their income was trending lower.” However, 62 percent indicated that they were seeing the same number of clients or more. There was little or no increase in self-pay clients. That is one of the reasons we have long advocated in this column to partner with insurance and managed care companies to increase your payer mix.

So, it would appear that the majority of professional counselors in private practice are indeed riding the storm out rather than heading for the exits. While now may be the time to closely investigate office expenses, it may also be the time to increase marketing. (This is similar to the advice you sometimes hear about investing in the stock market: When stocks are down, it may represent a prime buying opportunity!)

Possible ideas for expanding your marketing efforts include giving speeches and workshops, creating a newsletter, getting or updating a website, forming a Listserv, networking with colleagues, sending letters and brochures to referral sources, hiring a part-time office manager, reviewing all print material, joining division and state professional organizations, joining web-based counseling referral sites, personally visiting present and prospective referral sources, applying for paneling to additional insurance and managed health care companies, getting on the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare (through AETNA) or forming a support group. Sometimes we need to head toward the roar.


Q: You previously listed Impact Publishers as a place to get prepared presentations and seminar materials. However, when I go to the website, it seems that they exclusively publish books. In addition, you listed American Guidance Services. The information I have found on them is for addressing school problems with children. Can you provide any more direction in finding the materials you referenced?

A: One of the best ways to build your practice, get your name into the community and market your counseling specialty is to use public speaking. A great way to start is by presenting seminars or workshops. Counselors can develop presentations fitted to their particular niche. These presentations can be of almost any length, from one-hour seminars provided to community groups to classes for schools, churches or even doctors offices that run for several weeks.

There are also many excellent prepared programs such as the six-week S.T.E.P. (Systematic Training in Effective Parenting) or T.I.M.E. (Training in Marriage Enrichment) programs. Following is a list of seminars, books and programs that can be helpful in building your practice. Because you can offer these seminars or programs for free or very little cost, they are also a service to your community. We’ve found that many attendees will want to follow up with private counseling, so have your appointment book at the ready to schedule them. “The 8-Step Method for Starting or Expanding a Private Practice” is available on the “Private Practice Pointers” section of the American Counseling Association website at counseling.org (see “Starting a Private Practice”) and in The Complete Guide to Private Practice for Licensed Mental Health Professionals (counseling-privatepractice.com/).

  • The Parent’s Handbook (impactpublishers.com/books/tph.html)
  • Training in Marriage Enrichment Kit (cmtipress.com/time.htm)
  • Calming the Family Storm (impactpublishers.com/books/Calming_the_Family_Storm.html)
  • Parent Group Handbook for Calming the Family Storm (impactpublishers.com/books/Parent_Group_Handbook-CFS.html)
  • Anger Management Video Program (impactpublishers.com/books/Anger_Management_DVD.html)
  • Loving Choices Workbook (impactpublishers.com/books/lcw.html)
  • “Rebuilding” Divorce Seminars (rebuilding.org/rebuilding-locations.htm)
  • A Manual for Assertiveness Training (impactpublishers.com/books/mat.html)
  • Master Your Panic and Take Back Your Life (impactpublishers.com/books/myp3.html)
  • Sex, Drugs, Gambling and Chocolate: A Workbook for Overcoming Addictions (impactpublishers.com/books/sdgc2.html)
  • The Stress Owner’s Manual (impactpublishers.com/books/som2.html)
  • Cool Cats, Calm Kids: Relaxation and Stress Management for Young People (impactpublishers.com/books/cc.html)
  • Materials from the William Glasser Institute (wglasser.com/index.php?option=com_jbook&Itemid=90&catid=28)
  • John Gray (Mars and Venus) materials (marsvenus.com/xcart/product.php?productid=155)

Find the important new ACA bulletin “Transfer Plan — Counselor Incapacitation or Termination of Practice” in the “Private Practice Pointers” section of the ACA website.

We will be presenting “Advanced Private Practice Toolbox: Nuts and Bolts Ideas for Increasing Referrals, Working With Managed Care and Other Tools” at the ACA Annual Conference & Exposition, cosponsored by the North Carolina Counseling Association, on March 20. We will also be presenting a 60-minute Education Session titled “Considering Starting a Private Practice? For Licensed Counselors in Agencies, Schools and Counselor Educators.”

We will once again be in the exhibit hall at the Walsh and Dasenbrook Consulting booth with copies of our book, The Complete Guide to Private Practice for Licensed Mental Health Professionals.

For the first time at the ACA Conference, we will be offering free practice consultations. Contact Rebecca Daniel-Burke of ACA at RDanielBurke@counseling.org for more information. Stop by and say hi!

A valuable new resource is now available: The Professional Counselor’s Desk Reference (Springer Publishing), edited by Irmo Marini and Mark Stebnicki. The book features chapters by 95 leading experts in professional counseling, including many ACA leaders and members. Be sure to check out Chapters 5 and 8, coauthored by yours truly.

ACA members can e-mail their questions to Robert J. Walsh and Norman C. Dasenbrook at walshgasp@aol.com and access a series of “Private Practice Pointers” on the ACA website at counseling.org.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org