Meet Deanna Richards, LMHC. In this spotlight interview, we cover her path from teaching (and starting a school!) to private practice, and also how she uses SimplePractice to save time so that she can focus on other important aspects of her business.
Tell us about your journey!
The only sure thing about my journey is that I’m still on it. When I exited the classroom as an English teacher over 20 years ago, I knew that I had begun a new path of self-discovery and career exploration.
I went from working for educational non-profits to working in suicide prevention at a well-known university to working in disaster mental health when Superstorm Sandy hit us here on the East Coast. I was a teacher for a while and I helped start a school in my third year of teaching, called the Urban Assembly School for Performing Arts.
I have worn many hats in several different environments and through each experience I have learned more and more about what drives me as a person and what motivates me as a clinician.
I think it’s a blessing to have taken on lots of different roles at non-profits and start-ups. There’s a lot of improvisation, a lot of flexibility required, a lot of patience necessary when trying to figure out what you don’t know and who to bring on to help. I think all of those experiences for me- having to always play a dual role- led me to have a little bit better balance than I’ve heard some other clinicians have had. Luckily, I had a relatively smooth transition into my role as a private practitioner in terms of being able to manage a business where I’m the person running the business, while also being the person who offers the services (i.e. being the clinician).
The private practice that I have created is a reflection of those experiences (and the office environment is crafted from art and objects from global experiences). I’m excited each day to find out more about where this path will take me.
What’s your favorite part of being in private practice?
FREEDOM. The freedom to make choices about how my work week looks; the freedom to create the environment that works for me and works for my clients; the freedom to offer services to clients that fit my professional and ethical code. These freedoms have been invaluable.
Top 3 tips for getting sh*t done:
Tip #1 – Do not reinvent the wheel. There’s no need! Figure out what you want to do and then find out who has done it well. It saves a lot of time and allows you to focus on being creative and unique in other areas of your practice.
Tip #2 – Outsource. This is piggybacking on Tip #1 but finding professionals to handle some of the other business aspects of your practice is crucial. Sure, you could become a tax expert, bookkeeping whiz, and insurance credentialing maven while also being a stellar clinician….but why?! Find out which experts you need to bring onboard to manage areas of the business and let them have at it.
Tip #3 – Task Managing Apps. There’s no shortage of apps available that help you keep track of what needs to be done and when. Find one that works for you and use it. I use an app called Proud that helps me organize my tasks and reminds me when I need to complete tasks that are key to running a successful practice and living an enriched life. I use Evernote to keep track of people I meet during conferences, books I want to read, inspirational moments, and blog posts to write. Between these two apps and a strong habit of creating blocks on Google Calendar to DO all the things, I know I’ve got all my bases covered.
How do you use SimplePractice in your day to day & how has it helped your practice overall?
It might be quicker to describe how I do not use SP every day! The answer is never. SimplePractice has been instrumental to running my private practice and making life easy. My clients LOVE using the Portal and it has cut down on my need to respond to individual scheduling requests which has given me more time to focus on the work of therapy.
There’s so much more that I appreciate – from the one-click create and submit claims feature to billing insights that help me plan financially for ups and downs of the month, the list goes on and on. So much about SP and the interface has transformed the way I see the “administration” part of my practice.
What SimplePractice feature can you not live without?
The feature that actually won me over was the ability for my clients to select Gender and Relationship Status choices that actually make sense for their lives! My specialty is working with clients who identify as transgender and genderqueer and clients who are in non-traditionally structured relationships. It helps that even before they step foot into my office, they feel affirmed by language on an intake that lets them know they WILL be heard and respected.
I also love the new AutoPay feature. It has changed my nighttime routine from charging cards and toggling back and forth to figure out who still needs to pay, to having a cup of tea while quickly reading through SP’s Evening Summary. AutoPay saves me 30 minutes to an hour a day and has given me the time to work on other parts of my business. It’s like having a part-time administrative assistant. It’s pure peace of mind!
Do you have any words of wisdom for people aiming for success in private practice?
Remember the time you had to do something totally new and a bit uncomfortable (think: play an instrument, learn a dance, speak a new language)? Running a private practice is like that but on a larger scale.
There’s so much about running a business that graduate school courses simply do not teach.There’s a lot of new things that we will learn, bumps in the road, mistakes, and losses; but, there are also a lot of wins, successes, and laughs to be had along the way. Similar to learning any other new skill, approaching this process with curiosity and humor, and knowing how to recognize accomplishments is key to keeping it together when learning the ins and outs of managing a practice.
To close, what’s your vision for your practice?
One of my favorite quotes is by Irvin Yalom. He writes, “What a treat it is to watch them open doors to rooms never before entered, discover new wings of their house containing parts in exile – wise, beautiful, and creative pieces of identity.” My vision for my practice is to create a safe and affirming environment in which people can find the strength, the willingness, and the tools to open those doors and to allow all parts of themselves to be seen.
Working with minority populations and being a member of multiple minority populations, this quote by Brene Brown completes my vision of the practice. She writes, “Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.” We are! And, I hope that my practice in both physical space and in action, allows people to experience worthiness each day.
Click here to learn more about Deanna.