Spotlight Interview with Amy Geller, LCSW

Written by Natasha Merchant on February 1, 2017

Meet Amy Geller. She’s a SimplePractice customer that believes in the power of networking as a way to grow ones knowledge and client base. She also has some great advice for clinicians that struggle with compassion fatigue.

Let’s talk about time management!

I think a lot of people who have solo private practices where they’re the only employee, end up doing everything. Prior to using SimplePractice, I did all of my billing and scheduling by hand. It was manageable in the beginning, but five years later, when my practice had doubled in size, it was a different story. I’m finally leveling off which is manageable and good but I was not prepared to grow so quickly and then have to do all of my other administrative tasks by myself.

So at what point would you say you made more of an effort to get a handle on this?

It hit me when I would have to sit and fill out- yes, with pen and paper- all of my statements at the end of the month. I was at a point where I was seeing 20 people a week, and it would take me a few hours to fill out all of the paperwork- time I would have rather spent in session with my clients. There was also more room for error.  

Now I hit a button and SimplePractice emails my clients everything they need!

That’s awesome. How did you get started with SimplePractice?

I’m in a consultation group with other therapists and we spent one of our sessions helping each other get completely set up with SimplePractice! I think generally psychotherapists are not numbers-oriented so it’s great to have this capability to help us out.

We share clinical knowledge in addition to the resources that we’re using that help manage our practices better. One of my colleagues was already using SimplePractice and loved it. She was the one who encouraged the rest of us to use it.

The thing is when I tell people “You have to do this”, they respond by feeling very overwhelmed and immediately think it’s going to be too complicated. This is the usual reaction to trying something like SimplePractice since it’s our own business and we want to keep our overhead low while also making sure that we’re protecting the clinical data of our patients. We’re used to doing everything ourselves and I think private practitioners feel that getting set up with SimplePractice is going to be really overwhelming, but I found it very easy!  

One of the coolest things, in my opinion, is that new incoming patients can essentially set up their own charts. It saves me time in the consultation room with new people because I don’t have to spend the first hour of their session getting all of that information or having them fill out paperwork in person.

That’s really great to hear, one of our main goals is to help streamline your practice.

Whenever I have a client come in, I’m prepared and familiar with their information. Whether it’s their basic information, their billing information… I really love the fact that I can access all of it from the SimplePractice app on my phone.

My favorite feature is definitely the calendar and scheduling. I use the SimplePractice calendar as my main calendar since I have the ability to add events outside from my sessions- it’s really helpful! I use the at-a-glance page religiously. Also, having the ability to remind people with emails or texts has greatly decreased my last minute cancellations and that’s a big deal for me.

On a Sunday night, I’ll go in and look at what I have scheduled for the week. I make sure to add my three to four workouts in so that they’re set in stone. I like that the things I do outside of work become part of my work calendar because again, when you have your own practice and when people want to come and see you, it’s easy to put yourself last.

SimplePractice has made me more efficient with my work so that I don’t have to do all this extra stuff when I get home at the end of the day. I’m no longer going home and spending an hour or two catching up on charting or hand writing notes. It really encourages me to get everything done in my work day so that when I’m done with my day, I’m actually done with my day.

Why is it that therapists and social workers regularly put themselves last?

I think it’s just the nature of being a caregiver. On the compassion side, we want to help people who need help. On the business side, I think there’s always that fear of a dry spell and because of that, it’s really hard to turn business away.

I think it’s important to balance your career with your wellness. It’s really easy to work around the clock without realizing that you’re depleting your energy. That’s what causes compassion fatigue.

I’ve heard that phrase a few times when speaking to SimplePractice customers. What’s your definition of “compassion fatigue”?

Compassion fatigue is equivalent to running on low fumes. Do you have an iPhone?

Yes.

You know when your iPhone’s battery is extremely low? Say you see that red battery and you don’t know when you’ll be able to charge it next and that brings about a feeling of anxiety. Compassion fatigue is when you’re feeling like you’ve given a lot of yourself, and you haven’t taken the time to recharge.

Therapists tend to be, unlike physicians and other healthcare providers, the one and only source of care for their clients. Meaning that they can’t easily have another person cover for them, like a primary care physician could. Our relationship with our patients is really a one-on-one type of thing. To be completely honest, it’s hard to check out and take a vacation!

I think a good therapist knows how to anticipate taking some time off by making sure that their patients have what they need for the time being. It’s also really important to have a colleague cover for emergencies. That way you can commit to being on vacation without worrying. Another part of this has to do with unplugging. To disconnect… and yes, log out of SimplePractice!

I agree, disconnecting takes a certain type of dedication!

Yes! I think we’re all somewhat addicted to being connected via handheld devices. It’s important to take a day of the week, maybe a Sunday, to go on a cellphone diet. It sounds really simple but it’s very hard for most people.

How do you make time for self-care with your busy schedule?

For me, it’s about making time to exercise and making time to have face-to-face interactions with friends and colleagues and again, I use the app to schedule those into my week. I make my personal time an equal priority to my work. Psychotherapists can’t multi-task. When we are in session for 50 minutes, we are not doing anything but giving undivided attention to our patients… so nothing else gets done!

Let’s go back to your roots. Where did you start and how did you get to this point?

I graduated from Social Work school in ‘92 and went right into hospital social work. I discovered hospice care, which was an essential part of discharge planning for terminally ill patients. I referred some of my family members to hospice, and they would come back to me and tell me how life changing it had been, and how thankful they were that they were able to provide care to their loved ones.  At that point, I decided that hospice care is where I needed to be.

I ended up getting experience in a clinical setting while working in hospice and that’s what got me thinking about starting my own private practice. So I cut my hours at the hospice and opened my own practice! Thankfully it grew really quickly, so I was able to make it my full-time job. I networked like crazy, put the word out there that I was practicing, and I think the fact that I was willing to put myself out there is what really helped with my client load.

That’s great. I know a lot of clinicians that shy away from networking and spreading the word about themselves because they’re just starting out.

Yeah, the truth is, we work in isolation but we have so much to learn from other people. I’ve always believed that if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room. Surround yourself with people who are more knowledgeable and more experienced than you and learn from them. 

I’m in this great group with other therapists, all of whom have much more experience than me, and we are all able to say, “I don’t know the answer to that” or “Teach me” and it’s really powerful to be able to reach out to each other. I think we all have a tendency to want to have the answer and show everyone that we know what we’re doing but you don’t necessarily learn that way.

If you were to meet someone who just started their private practice, what words of wisdom would you give them?

I think the most important thing is to really believe that you are capable of achieving success. Also, network and learn from as many people as possible! Get a mentor! There are a lot of experienced people in the field who are very willing to give you guidance. It’s really important to ask a lot of questions. The thing I love about social work is that you’re encouraged to teach others and to always continue learning. Because of that mentality, many people in the field have a supervisor or are part of a consultation group,  and many will take on students so that it really keeps them on their toes. As someone who has supervised others, I find that it just reaffirms how much I love what I do.

Interested in learning more about Amy? Check out the following links:

 

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About the Author

Natasha is the Community Manager at SimplePractice. She adds avocado to everything and enjoys spending her free time outdoors, in the sun.

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