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5 Areas Where Therapists Need Systems

Therapists need systems (and I am not talking about systems theories that guide our clinical work)!  Creating and consistently implementing systems that work well are essential to a therapy practice running smoothly.   There are many areas where therapists can implement systems in their practices, no matter the size of the practice.  This post outlines 5 areas where therapists need systems, but this is just a starting point.

As I started thinking about and experimenting with the areas of my practice where I was using (and not using) systems, I found new ways to approach my work and I noticed that my administrative tasks seemed to be flowing more comfortably and naturally.  And my stress level dropped dramatically!

Systems are specific procedures and strategies that we follow in approaching our work.

  • Systems address the who, what, when, where and how of the work that we do as therapists. When I think about systems in a therapy practice, I tend to focus on the administrative or behind the scenes work that is not face-to-face client contact.
  • Clearly defined systems help us get our work done in the most efficient way possible; especially the administrative tasks that most therapists dread.
  • Effective systems help therapists avoid wasting time and feeling frustrated and overhwlemed because we no longer find ourselves lost in trying to figure out what we should be doing along with when and how we should be doing it instead of actually getting things done.

All therapists need systems, but the specific systems that we use will vary across our practices.   The questions that I have outlined throughout this post will help you think through the systems you already have in place and identify gaps that may need to be filled in order to help your practice run more smoothly and efficiently.

5 Areas Where Therapists Need Systems

Welcoming New Therapy Clients

This area covers everything from the client’s initial contact with the therapy practice through the first few sessions when the client gets acquainted with the therapist and the process of therapy.   This is a key part of the client experience and having a smooth system that works well for the client and therapist can make a big impact.  I encourage you to try to walk through this process as both a client and as the therapist in order to envision all the steps that are taken when a client begins therapy services.   Therapists need systems for welcoming new clients to their practices because there are many steps in this process and without a system something can easily get missed.

Considerations:

  • How do clients learn about the practice and schedule their first appointments?
  • When and how to the client’s receive initial paperwork?
  • When and how is payment discussed? When and how is insurance verified?
  • What questions do clients tend to ask during this process?
  • What documentation does the therapist need to complete about the client after the initial session? When does this documentation need to be completed?
  • If electronic medical records are utilized, when and how are records uploaded?
  • Where do things get confused, lost or stuck during this process?

Communications:  Email, Phone Calls & More

Who are all the people you have communicated with (outside of session) this week in the process of running your business?  Clients, potential clients, referral sources, colleagues, insurance companies, collaborative partners and the list could go on.   When I first started juggling my part time practice and being home with my children, this was the area that overwhelmed me the most.  I struggled to figure out a consistent and place to return phone calls without children in the background.  Therapists need systems for addressing all communications, so nothing gets missed and the therapist doesn’t have to worry about when, where and how they will return calls, emails or other forms of communication.

Considerations:

  • What are the ways in which your practice communicates with others?
  • How do you keep track of communications requiring a response or follow up?
  • When and where to you find time to return calls, emails, etc?
  • What templates could you utilize to make communications go smoother?
  • Where do things get confused, lost or stuck during this process?

If you are ready to focus on eliminating your email backlog and creating a system to manage your email inbox on a regular basis, please join us for a complimentary webinar on 2/1/18.   Click here to learn more and sign up.

Documentation

Paperwork…dreaded by many therapists!   At times, I feel slightly embarrassed to admit that this is not an area of struggle for me because I know it is for many of you.    I honestly think that the reason this isn’t an area of struggle for me is because I unknowingly created a system for managing my paperwork in the very first days of my practicum experience and have continued to use the same systems more than a decade later.

Considerations:

  • What is your mindset around documentation? How does it help or hinder your ability to get your documentation completed?
  • What type of ongoing documentation is required for each client in your practice?
  • How do you track outstanding documentation?
  • When and where do you complete your paperwork?
  • When do you feel most productive in tackling your documentation?
  • What templates or tools can be utilized to help you become more efficient in completing your documentation?
  • Where do things get confused, lost or stuck during this process?

Scheduling

Obviously, we can’t see our clients if they don’t get on our schedules.   Oftentimes, we miss opportunities to see our clients because the system we are using for scheduling has gaps.   As therapists, we want to take a look at whether or not the way in which we schedule our appointments is confusing, inconvenient or unclear for clients.   Many practices have moved to online scheduling systems to eliminate barriers to scheduling.   I continue to schedule each of my clients personally instead of using a scheduling system because I have a system that works really well for me and my clients.

Considerations:

  • How do clients schedule appointments?
  • What procedures does a client follow when they need to cancel or reschedule an appointment?
  • What procedures does a therapist follow when they need to cancel or reschedule an appointment?
  • Are clients given appointment reminders? If so, when and how are the reminders given?
  • How are client’s notified of cancellation policies?  How is payment collected for late cancellations?
  • Does the therapist follow up with clients who cancel or do not show up for sessions without rescheduling? If so, when and how do they do so?
  • How are all of these procedures communicated to clients?

Marketing…Including Social Media

Marketing can be a huge time and energy suck for me because it is not my area of expertise.   I have also struggled in the past to be consistent with marketing for these same reasons.   Social media is only one element of marketing, but it can be especially distracting because there is so much other content to dive into on these platforms.  I have found that it is important to have consistency (a schedule of sorts) and clarity about our purpose in approaching various marketing activities including use of social media for business.  When I am clear about my goal in approaching marketing tasks, I find that I am more focused I am in my work (and thus less distracted).

Considerations:

  • What marketing strategies are you focusing on this week? (month? year?)
  • Where are you focusing your marketing efforts and why?
  • When and how do you schedule time work on marketing your practice?
  • Are there marketing tasks that you have (or should) outsourced to others and how do you schedule and follow up on these tasks?

Creating and consistently implementing systems that work well are essential to a therapy practice running smoothly.   This post outlined 5 areas where therapists need systems, but this is just a starting point.  I have also implemented systems in other areas of my practice beyond what is described here.   Any aspect of your work where you find yourself feeling stuck or wasting time is a good place to examine more closely and see if a system could help you.

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed about where to start with creating and implementing systems for your practice, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Claim a complimentary 20 minute Vibrant Therapist Clarity Call and we can brainstorm some strategies to help you get going.

Enjoy creating systems for your practice!

Take Care,
Sarah

 

 

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