Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Testing Psychologist podcast, the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach.
This episode is brought to you by PAR. PAR has recently released the Feifer Assessment of Childhood Trauma, or the FACT, the first and only comprehensive instrument measuring how stress and trauma can impact children in a school-based setting. You can learn more or purchase the FACT teacher form by visiting parinc.com\fact_teacher.
Hey, everyone. Welcome back to another Holiday Hopes episode. If you haven’t caught the previous Holiday Hopes episodes, this is a seven-part series that is meant to carry you through the holidays. The idea is that if you take a suggestion from each of the episodes and put them into practice for 2022, then you can make some pretty big changes in your business.
The Holiday Hopes series got stretched out a little bit because frankly, I went out of town and forgot the hard drive that had a bunch of podcast episodes on it. And so, I couldn’t get them to my assistant in time. And here we are with Holiday Hopes number six coming out a few weeks after number five. I apologize for that, but we should be back on track with episode releases. And I hope that you are staying tuned.
Let’s see. Before we get to the conversation about support staff or assistance, I want to invite any of you who are at the beginner or advanced stage of practice to reach out if you would like a group coaching experience where you’ll get some accountability, support, and guidance in building your practice. I’ve got cohorts of the Beginner Practice Mastermind and Advanced Practice Mastermind starting in mid-January and February. And there are, I think 1 or 2 spots left in each of those. If you’d like more information, you can go to thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting and schedule a pre-group call. And we’ll figure out if it’s a good fit or not.
All right, let’s talk about getting some assistance in your practice.
Okay, y’all. I am back to talk about support staff and how they might help you in your practice. Again, these Holiday Hopes episodes are not meant to be super extensive, just little bites, 5, 10, maybe 15 minutes to get you thinking about some principles and ideas and your practice. Today, we’re talking about support staff like I said. I’m going to touch on a few points in considering support staff.
The first is just when to know if you’re ready for support staff. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for any amount of time, you can probably answer that question without me having to make it explicit, but just in case that’s not the case, my answer is you’re ready for support staff the moment that you open your private practice, the reason being, we are luckily, fortunately, one of the highest compensated professions out there in the United States. And to let yourself engage in administrative tasks means that you are effectively losing the amount of money that you make per hour for every hour that you work on these administrative tasks, which effectively means that you are paying a psychologist’s hourly rate for an administrative role. And that just does not make economic sense.
It also doesn’t make emotional sense because when I’m consulting with folks, one of the biggest points of burnout is falling behind with administrative tasks and not having enough time to do the work that we’re actually trained and paid to do, which is conduct assessments and write good reports.
So I think you’re ready for support staff the moment that you open your doors. The earlier that you can start delegating and offloading tasks, the better. Just to plant that seed, if you’ve already started your practice, that’s totally okay. I personally did not hire support staff until, at least 3 or 4 years in. And I reaped the… what’s the opposite of benefit? …I reaped the consequences of not having support staff for those years. So it’s never too late, but I would say, get started earlier rather than later.
If you’re thinking to yourself, well, I don’t have the money to pay support staff, or I don’t know what I would have them do, again, I would just encourage you to think about the math involved. So, for every hour that you spend doing support tasks, let’s say your rate is $200 an hour, then for every hour that you spend, you can get at least 10 hours of administrative support, so you can afford it. That’s the short story.
Most of the time, especially when we start out, we don’t need that much support. So 10 hours, even 10 hours a month would go a long way. So, think about that as you’re doing the math and figuring out what you can afford or not. I might say that cannot not afford to get support staff because then any hour that’s freed up of your own, you can spend that doing clinical work. You can not do clinical work. You can spend it visioning and brainstorming for your business. There are any number of better activities for you to do than support activities.
And if you’re thinking, I don’t know what a support person might do for me. Well, I would encourage you to basically start from zero. So take your clinical tasks and envision anything, literally anything else that you’re doing outside of clinical work, and make a big list of all of those items. And that’s a great place to start with support staff.
Okay. So let’s say you’ve decided to investigate the possibility of a support person. Where would you look for these individuals? Well, it depends. If you want to go the route of a virtual assistant, which many practices do, there are several companies out there that specialize in virtual assistants for mental health practices.
So what is a virtual assistant? A virtual assistant is just an assistant that does not work in your physical office. That person could be local, but most of the time that person is employed by a virtual assistant company that trains and assigns virtual assistants to mental health practices as a business.
Virtual assistants are typically going to cost more than a local assistant or an in-office assistant simply because you are paying for the virtual assistant company to employ those individuals, train them, take care of any payroll or employment matters that might come up. They often have a group of virtual assistants so folks can step in if your assistant is out. So you’re paying for the luxury of all those things. The rates are going to vary depending on which company you go with. So I’d invite you to look around, but I would ballpark somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 to $45 an hour for a virtual assistant.
There are plenty of companies that specialize in virtual assistants for mental health practices. The Productive Therapist is one. Move Forward Mental Health is one. And there are many others that we will link in the show notes. In fact, the Productive Therapist has a great resource list of many virtual assistant companies if they’re not the right fit for you. So you can look for that in the show notes.
Let’s take a quick break to hear from our featured partner.
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All right, let’s get back to the podcast
Where should you look for a local assistant? So let’s say you want to hire someone local who might spend some time in your office, but they also might work from home a little bit. Typically, that person’s wage is going to be less than a virtual assistant.
Some of the benefits of having a local assistant include: being able to interact with that person a little bit more closely, especially if they’re in your office, and paying a little bit less for their services. You can also employ them, which will give you presumably more control over the training and development of that individual.
So, if you want to look locally, Indeed has been very helpful for us. You can also post in your local mental health Facebook group or listservs, look in universities, and of course, ask around for any friends of friends, because word of mouth can be very helpful in vetting individuals who you might employ in your practice. So plenty of options.
The last point that I want to cover is training support staff. Folks tend to get overwhelmed with training their incoming support staff, which is understandable. We have so much information on our minds and oftentimes it’s really hard to envision pulling all that information from our brains and communicating it to someone else.
So there are many ways to go about this, but generally speaking, I coach my consulting clients to one, go really slow. So only give your new assistant 1 or 2 tasks per week to prevent them from getting overwhelmed. Two, ballpark plenty of time for training virtual assistants.
My rule of thumb, which I got from Jaime Jay from Bottleneck Distant Assistants, is taking the amount of time that it actually takes to do the task and multiplying that by 4. So 4X the task time, and that’ll give you a ballpark for how long you should spend training and individual to do that task. That’s a mistake that a lot of practice owners make trying to throw someone in and not spending the time to adequately train them.
A great way to actually create training materials is to video yourself doing as much as possible. There are a number of different software options to help you do that. You can use something like Loom. You can use the screen recording feature in QuickTime if you have Mac. So there are lots of options, but just make video recordings, do screen recordings of you performing these important tasks and you can save those to a folder on Google Drive or my One Drive or whatever you use, or even to a hard drive, your desktop. And you’ll have a steadily growing training library for when that person comes on board.
Now, there’s a lot to say about training individuals, of course, and training your support staff, but those are just a few tips to consider. So as we start to wrap up, just think about, if you have some tasks in your practice that you continue to do that you really shouldn’t be doing which again is anything outside of clinical work, I would highly consider finding some support staff to help you out.
And if you aren’t willing to take that leap, then you can certainly spend some time digging into software solutions that might be able to automate some of those tasks for you. So baby steps toward delegating, whether it happens. Whether you’re delegating to a machine or to a person, be thinking about how to get some support in your practice so you are only doing the work that you should be doing.
I hope that was helpful. If you have any questions or would like to talk further about support staff, like I said, I consult with folks all the time around efficiency in their practices and polishing up the business side of things. And of course, there are the two mastermind cohorts that are starting early in 2022. There’s a beginner practice cohort and an advanced practice cohort. So if either of those sounds interesting, you can get more information at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting and schedule a pre-group.
Okay, I’m going to leave you with that for now. Next time, we’re going to be wrapping up Holiday Hopes with the series episode number 7 talking about celebrations and making sure to take time to treat yourself when you can. Till then, take care. I will talk to you later.
The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.