How To (Really) Be Your Own Boss

Today we’re excited to bring you a new SimplePractice Customer Spotlight, all the way from Bozeman, MT! Say hello to our friend and longtime SimplePractice user, Evan Center, MS, LCPC, of The Center Institute.

Hi Evan! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
In 2009 I opened my private practice while working at a community health center, and in 2011 I left the community health center and went into private practice full time. I was sort of miserable at the business end of it, and didn’t really make enough money to pay myself. I made the decision to hire a business coach and began to figure out how to actually run my practice as a business.

At this point I have what I would call a successful private practice! I’m really happy doing the work that I do, primarily with adolescents and young adults, and then the parents of that age group. I work with what I call a programmatic model, and once I tapped into that programmatic model of running a business that’s what really transformed my practice. I started teaching other therapists how to start running a programmatic model.

That’s basically what I’m doing with Center Institute– I coach other therapists around how to either take their already established private practice to a place of more consistency or higher revenue, or I work with therapists who are newer to private practice and I help them set up their practice from the ground up. So I do that and then on top of all that I’m actually opening an independent high school! So um… I’m pretty busy.Evan Center Quote

Tell us more about your programmatic model.
Part of it came out of my personal experience. I was working with teenagers, I didn’t always have total buy-in from their parents to be involved in the process. It’s my belief that teenagers don’t live in a bubble. They’re part of families, they go to school, and in order to really help them to the greatest extent that I’m capable, I needed to have commitment from the parents that they were willing to do some work as well. I needed to be able to interface with the school as needed, whether it was for a 504 meeting or just to meet with their school counselor.

The other thing I needed was a commitment of time – I’ve seen teenagers who would be struggling from quite a while with anxiety, with family conflict, with depression, with cutting behaviors, under achievement in school, being overly stressed out. I’m working on finding a magic wand but I haven’t found one that works! I’m fairly psychodynamic so I know that I can’t change a kid’s outlook on life. We know this from neuroscience, too: we know that brain structures don’t change overnight, that it takes time, it takes repetition. So I needed a time commitment from parents that they were committed to doing work for a period of 6 plus months which I have found works for creating lasting change for my patients.

Those are some of the things that I thought about when creating this model. I thought about what exactly I needed to create optimal change and optimal improvement in my patients. And then I put those things together and that is the program that I offer.


How have you helped other therapists apply that same model to their own patients?
I have found over the years is that this model works for lots of different therapists. I end up working with many therapists who also work with kids and teens, but I’ve also worked with a lot of couple’s therapists as well. It is really about helping the therapist hone in on what I call their “innate expertise”, in simple words it’s their specialty area. I help therapists who are kind of confused about what that might be and that’s really what we use to get started. We look at their practice as a whole from a therapeutic perspective and also a business perspective.

Here at SimplePractice we’re constantly talking about how therapists need to look at their practice’s as a business, because that’s what it is… a business!
Yes, I always say that marketing is critical. If you don’t market effectively, it is a huge disservice to your clientele because the people who need your help most don’t know that you exist. When I can get therapists to shift their mindset around that, they look for ways to not toot their own horn while looking for ways to relay with a message that feels aligned with their mission.


Tell us about Center Institute! Do you have a general framework that you follow to help therapists? Or does it depend on the individual?
There are two different ways I work with therapists. One, I work with newer therapists in a group intensive and that’s a 6-month process where I give them two modules of content each month. Then there are Q&A calls, and then they get a lot of individual calls with me and email support from me. For those newer therapists, it’s longer term, lots of hand-holding, lots of walking through step by step.

I also work with more established therapists, I call it a solo-intensive. It’s a rapid download of my brain because we meet for 5 hours on a single day. We take a break in the middle, but it is a marathon session of really zoning in on what they need. A lot of therapists are interested in planning a programmatic model into their practices that are already established. They may be making a good amount of money but they want to be taking more vacations, they want to be able to see good clients more consistently over time, they want to shift what they’re doing so that they end up doing work that’s feels more aligned with their approach, and so we zero in specifically on what they need during that intensive day, then they get 2 months of support and some follow up calls with me as well.

What’s your favorite part of being in private practice?
I think there are two things. I love getting to do the work in the way I feel best. When I worked in agency settings, I had to follow the outlines of the bureaucratic structure so limited sessions, had to see 8 people in a day, had to cycle people through. I like being able to dictate how my work goes. In my private practice, I get to use this tool which I think is very powerful.

The other thing I love about it is that I am my own boss! I don’t have to ask anyone if I can take a vacation, I’m not pinned to my desk during the day. Yesterday I had a two-hour gap during the day so I grabbed lunch with a friend who was visiting from out of town and then went home and hung out with my boyfriend and we geeked out on Houzz for a little bit and then took a nice long walk! I love the flexibility that I have.

I read one of your articles about self-care the other day and it really resonated. That’s one of the things I love about SimplePractice, that you guys look at & think of therapists in a holistic way!

So speaking of SimplePractice, what’s one feature that you cannot live without?
I love how easy it is to process payments! Since I have a few clients who see me on an hourly basis I’m really excited about setting AutoPay up in my account. The other thing I love about SimplePractice is how sleek and intuitive it is. The overall look and feel of it that I really really like.

How has it helped you in your day to day?
Because of how SimplePractice’s notes are done, where there’s an open field for me to write, I can have my laptop open during a session and type while looking at my client since I happen to be a great typist. I love how easy and efficient that is. I also love how the note icon in the top right corner of the appointment disappears at the end of a session one my notes are done, and my schedule visually looks clean and completed and I can see that I’ve done all of those notes and sessions by the end of the day.

Do you have any words of wisdom for therapists aiming for success?
I think the #1 thing therapists shy away from – but is something that they have to do in order to be successful – is charging what they should. We transform people’s lives and so many therapists are afraid to charge money for that. One of the ways to become more comfortable with setting the right fees is by being very clear about who you help best and how you go about doing that. This way you understand the value of what you’re offering and so that your clients understand it as well.

Once you start making the money you want to be making, you have more room to focus on self-care! For me, self-care is going on vacation, traveling, and guess what – traveling is expensive! Everything costs money, but if this is part of your self-care, to be able to get away, recharge, renew your perspective. You’re gonna have to make money to do that!

What’s your vision for your practice, your business, and all the other great things you’re doing?
My vision for my private practice is to bring on another therapist soon, there are more kids in need than I can help right now, so I’d love to bring on another person that can help, and that I can also train to adopt the same programmatic model.

I have big visions, and I don’t exactly know how they’re gonna unfold. I’m trying my best to help people heal and grow and be the best versions of themselves that they can be. I’m in the same boat as many therapists out there, trying to figure out how we’re going to help as many people as possible, in broader ways.

You can learn more about Evan & The Center Institute by clicking here.

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