How I Built a Private Practice with an 8 Week Wait List

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Hello everyone.  I just returned from the American Counseling Association(ACA) conference in Pittsburgh, PA where I had an opportunity to give a talk and promote my new book, Marketing for the Mental Health Professional.  It was a great conference and a fantastic experience!

There was one problem however.  Where would I find the time to write my weekly post?  Luckily a trusted colleague, Susan Giurleo PhD, was kind enough to contribute this week’s blog post.  Susan is doing some amazing things, and has taken the time to share some of her wisdom right here.  Enjoy and I’ll be back next week with a new post of my own!


How I Built a Private Practice with an 8 Week Wait List

Six years ago I started my private practice. I sublet a small office for 2 days a week, printed up some business cards with my personal cell phone on them and set out to learn how to fill my 10 client hours each week.  I felt overwhelmed, scared and determined because I was sick and tired of giving all my hard earned money away to a group practice!

Over a year of intense self study in the realm of business development, trial and error and hard work, I moved into my own, bigger office and had a full practice with an 8 week wait list. Yes, if someone called in January for an initial appointment, I had to book them in 2 months later, in March!  This was great, but also a problem because I wasn’t able to accommodate everyone who needed my services. But it was a very good problem to have and since I have taken steps to minimize the wait, but that is a subject for a different blog post.

How did I grow a small part-time practice to one with an 8 week wait list?  Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the steps involved.

Step 1: I developed  a practice specialty.  In my case it was working with children with ADHD and autism. The specialty allowed me to network and market very strategically.

Step 2: I made some wonderful connections with referral sources.  For me these were neuropsychologists and neurologists who are often the first to diagnose developmental disorders.  Specifically, I networked with 3 other doctors on a regular basis mostly via letters and email.  Their consistent referrals were a big reason for my success.

Step 3: I had a website and a blog.  Investing in a website and blog was the BEST business decision I made.  It allowed people to find me on their time, read about my services and easily find my contact information.  The blog give me a forum to showcase my expertise and share valuable information with the public at large. If you want to see it live, here is the url:

Step 4:  I offered a free report and email newsletter.  My online marketing consisted of offering a free report on my website and a bi-monthly email newsletter I sent to current clients, as well as those simply interested in parenting kids with ADHD and autism.  These outreach marketing strategies allowed me to be consistently communicating with my target clientele, so when they felt they needed help, I was the first person they called.

Step 5: Awesome, consistent customer service! I make it a business priority to follow up with every phone call into my office within 24 hours (during weekdays).  My assistant was well trained and had excellent phone skills.  My waiting room and office are attractive, comfortable with up to date resource materials.  I take EVERY appointment on time.  I offer a 20 minute complimentary consult to every new client inquiry, which allowed me to convert about 90% of those callers into regular clients.

Step 6:  Systems, systems, systems.  I have administrative systems for my scheduling, billing, and marketing. These are not complex, but keep me on track and my business running smoothly.

Step 7: Outsourcing.  I make my money by conducting therapy with clients. The more clients I see, the more money I make. I do not make money answering my own phone, billing, writing letters, scheduling or doing my own bookkeeping. I outsource most tasks that do not require my direct expertise, which allows me to do the work I love, help more people AND make more money!

At first glance, I know these look like a lot of steps.  Keep in mind, I started out small and the business just grew and grew and grew.  At first I did all of my own administrative work—the scheduling, billing, bookkeeping. But once I had a 4 week wait list I added one support person (because I couldn’t keep up) and by the time the wait was 8 weeks I had 3 part-time assistants!

If you are just starting out, I highly recommend Step 1 above: choose a practice specialty.  It is from that position that you can then network and market. Without a focus for your practice, you are not unique and blend in with every other therapist out there.  I attribute 100% of my success to having a clear specialty.

If you have a small practice, but are looking to grow, I highly suggest you pay special attention to Steps 5, 6, and 7. If you have poor customer service or are trying to do all of your own administrative tasks you practice won’t grow.  I get new clients every week who tell me they left previous providers because the therapist never returned phone calls or were consistently late for appointments.  Your clients are your customers (whether you like to think of them that way or not) and they DO pay attention to how they are treated.

Final Thoughts: I have no business degree, my parents were not business-minded, and goodness knows my grad school didn’t teach me anything about the business of practice.  But I managed to pull together a successful practice using the 7 steps above. It requires work, dedication and a desire to learn new skills but if I can do this, anyone can!

Susan Giurleo, PhD, is the founder of, a blog where she shares practice building  tips and strategies with therapists and other helping professionals.  Visit her blog for free business of practice articles and to download her audio: 8 Steps to Developing a Practice that Allows You to Help More People, Make More Money and Enjoy Your Life.



  1. Ana M. Sierra, Ph.D.  April 3, 2010

    I enjoyed your article. I couldn’t find your web site, however. It just didn’t come up. Could you please provide a hyperlink? Thank you!

  2. David Diana  April 4, 2010

    Hello Ana. I’ll contact Susan and let her know that page is no longer functional on her site. Then I’ll have her connect with you.


  3. Lee Horton  April 4, 2010

    Much good advice. I’d like to underline being timely with appointments. This shows consideration for the client’s time, but it also gives you control over your day. If the client’s issues control time, then you are not in control. I find I’m much more tired when I get behind in my schedule:)

  4. Leena  September 24, 2010

    The URL doesn’t come up, but I think there’s a typo. Try

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