Welcome back to my Top 10 Tips! I started this as a single-part blogpost but realized that I simply had too many tips for graduate students in psychology to squeeze into one post. So if you’re wondering why the tips start at #6 below, it’s because the first five tips are in Part 1 of this post. If you’re a future therapist in private practice who wants to lay the groundwork for success today, I hope you enjoy the tips below!
- Spiff up your LinkedIn profile. If you don't have one, create one immediately! LinkedIn is the modern-day equivalent of an online business card, and your future clients will likely google you to view your linkedin profile as they evaluate potential therapists. Invite all of your contacts to join you on LinkedIn (everyone-- professors, fellow students, the receptionist at the clinic where you're seeing clients through your program, your plumber, your hairstylist-- anyone with whom you have a decent relationship who is also on linkedin. Obviously, you wouldn't invite any clients you've treated during your training; but otherwise almost anyone is fair game. LinkedIn tells visitors how many contacts you have till you reach a count of 500, then it just says 500+. Your goal is to get to 500+. This will help you appear like a well established person who has relationships with a broad network of people, which is usually a desirable quality for clients seeking a therapist to help them navigate challenging social or professional interactions. Building your network on LinkedIn will also give you a great platform to announce your practice when the time comes.
Ask certain contacts who know you well to recommend you on LinkedIn (this is one of their features, you'll see when you start developing your profile). A few good recommendations from student colleagues, supervisors, and anyone else who can put in a good word for you in a public format like LinkedIn go a long way towards helping you establish credibility with potential clients who are browsing the internet googling potential private practice therapists. No, they likely won't find you on LinkedIn (they'll probably find you through your PsychologyToday listing) but once they see you on PT they very well may google you to "check you out" before deciding to open up their mind and wallet-- it's just part of their due diligence as they review potential therapists. Make sure your profile shows you are a likeable person who has plenty of good relationships.
- Start a newsletter. Even though you aren't in practice yet, there's no reason you can't have a newsletter to start building up a mailing list for when your practice announcement is ready to be sent. I recommend once per month, but even a quarterly newsletter is fine when you're in graduate school. Simply providing a basic greeting that tells people a few things you've been doing or learning, maybe a couple of thoughts on mental health, and links to some of your graduate school papers could be helpful. You'd want to include a disclaimer in every issue fully acknowledging that you're a graduate student and this newsletter is not to be taken as psychological advice or counseling; but that doesn't mean you can't share a few of your own personal pointers.
For example, you might share that you recently went through some grueling interviews for internships and you found a few particular anxiety management tips to be helpful. Or in May, you might write that as Mother's Day arrives, you wanted to share a few interesting points about the maternal relationship you've learned in graduate school. The idea is just that you're getting yourself and your contacts in the habit of some sort of regular contact from you. You can also use your newsletters to stimulate readers to link up with you on social media, including LinkedIn, by providing links to your accounts. Conversely, you can also post a link to your newsletter on all of your social media accounts (including LInkedIn!) so that all of your contacts on those platforms will be aware of your latest newsletter.
- Start social media accounts for your future practice. Just like the available domain names are getting depleted as every new person signs up, the social media handles are as well. Ideally, your practice will have one "handle" that is the same for every single social media platform. Even if you don't imagine you'll use a particular platform, I still encourage you to reserve your handle so it's there if you need it. There is a lot of "busywork" involved in setting up social media accounts. I like doing tasks like this on the proverbial rainy day, or over drinks at a bar with my laptop... but you do whatever is best for you!
- Start a "Dream Practice" file. It can be on paper, online, or a combination that suits you-- but start keeping or noting anything that stands out to you as desirable for your future practice. Whether it's a page in a magazine that shows the perfect "cozy but professional" office or an idea list of things like "spare notebooks and pens in the waiting room for clients to journal before or after sessions", keep track of all the dreams and ideas you are having now so that you'll have a ready-made idea file when the time comes! This will help you channel your ideas into action and keep you connected to the exciting truth that your practice will one day become a reality.
- Find a community. There are many other graduate students who are eager to have a private practice when the time comes. Seek them out. Talk together, and support one another. I recently returned from the American Psychological Association annual convention and I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the number of graduate students who told me their dream was to have a private practice. Many of them seemed shy about this, as if they were afraid it seemed pompous to even discuss this at their stage of training. I'm here to tell you it is not pompous, it is wonderfully enthusiastic and demonstrative of a strategic, goal-oriented mindset.
If you know of online communities where students like yourself tend to hub, please do let me know-- I'd love to reach out! In a similar sense, I'm considering a course for graduate students who want to work through these steps together to enjoy a sense of support and community. If you're interested in that, please click here to get notified when that happens! Thanks for reading and cheers to your future practice:)