In this episode, Gordon talks with Samara Stone, LCSW about having a pro-insurance private practice. Samara is a person you need to know in the private practice realm. Samara teaches so much about work-life balance and is an innovative and inspiring leader in the field of behavioral health. Gordon and Samara share their journeys into private practice and how they came to the decision to be on insurance panels instead of being strictly private pay. Samara’s approach is inspirational and encouraging to those of us in this field.
Meet Samara Stone
Samara is a sunny California native with a bright infectious smile. Her natural ability to connect with people and her strong entrepreneurial spirit led her to start her first business during her college days at Hampton University and has carried over to her unique career in social work.
After graduating from the School Social Work at the University of Maryland in 1998, Samara went on to found a behavioral health firm, The Stone Foundation in Towson, Maryland in 2005. There her diverse staff offer services to the community and serves as a partner with local and state organizations on innovative behavioral health projects.
Samara is also the force behind, Perfected Practice, a nationwide mentoring program established in 2013 that supports mental health entrepreneurs in building business savvy, pro-insurance private practices that make money and make a difference. Known for her wealth of knowledge and dynamic presentation style, she naturally inspires others towards a personal and professional achievement.
Why choose to be pro-insurance?
One area that many people struggle with in private practice is deciding if they are going to accept insurance or be strictly private pay. The good news is that there is no “right answer” to that question.
Samara and Gordon talked about how much of their decision to be pro-insurance was to around their personal convictions and knowing the demographics of their area. For Samara (and Gordon) offering services to people who are struggling financially was a big determinant for their decisions to go on insurance panels.
“People who are struggling financially depend on their insurance in order to receive services…”
Both Samara and Gordon serve in areas that have lower socioeconomic demographics. In order to get the volume of clients they need to stay in business, they needed to accept insurance so those people and families could get the services they need.
But the truth of the matter is that it is a “win-win” proposition. They are able to serve the people who are their ideal clients along with being available to people who need the most help. They also get the volume they need to make it profitable.
Insurance practices are some of the most successful
One point that Samara makes, is that by accepting insurance and offering that to potential clients ensures consistency and profitability. If a person that is coming to therapy gets into a financial bind they will stop coming. But if they know that their insurance is covering their sessions, they will continue to come. It’s a “win” clinically for the client and also a “win” for the therapist in getting paid.
In essence, accepting insurance creates a steady flow of clients and money for the clinician.
Myths About Taking Insurance
There are a lot of “myths” around taking insurance in private practice. Some people think it is too hard or complicated to take insurance. Or think they have to struggle to get paid for their services from insurance companies.
The truth of the matter is that it is really not that complicated. In many ways, it’s easier to get clients and get paid more consistently when you are on insurance panels.
It is true there are some steps you need to take on the front end in order to be credentialed with insurance companies. But once you do get those things in place and get the right systems in place, accepting insurance is not really any more work.
Another “myth” is that you can never make any money by taking insurance; the rates are too low. When you look at the numbers, for most clinicians, what they receive per session is really not that much less than what they would normally charge for a session. The offset though is that by accepting insurance you will most likely have a higher volume of clients and people wanting to make appointments with you.
Knowing the Business Side of Private Practice
Samara and Gordon also talked about the importance of knowing the business side of private practice. Both said they have learned a lot “the hard way” when it comes to running a private practice.
Samara and Gordon both went into private practice consulting out of a desire to share what they have learned with other therapists and counselors. None of us really learned much about being in private practice in our training as therapists. We were taught about the clinical side of things, but learning the ins and outs about being in business was never taught. And for many clinicians the idea of being in business or being an entrepreneur is intimidating.
“It is exciting to see clinicians thrive and grow in their practices through mentoring and coaching”
It does take some business savvy and an entrepreneurial spirit to truly grow and be successful in private practice. Samara and Gordon love teaching those things. Samara has in fact branched out into consulting and training people outside the counseling and therapy fields. Her knowledge of people and relationships is an invaluable asset in the business world.
Overall, the decision to accept or not accept insurance is a personal one for the clinician in private practice. Either way of doing it, insurance or private pay, can be successful. Insurance based practices do need to be structured differently and do take a little more work on the front end. But once the systems are in place and things are set up, it can be just a profitable (and maybe even more so) as a private pay practice.
Learning from mistakes
Ultimately, being in private practice does involve some taking some risks. It means that you have to be willing to learn from some failures and mistakes. Samara and Gordon talk about how this has been so true in their practices and how they have learned a lot of things “the hard way”.
Here’s the video from Steve Harvey that Gordon mentioned in the podcast
www.perfectedpractice.com a resource for growing a pro-insurance private practice.
http://jumpstart.perfectedpractice.com/training a FREE video series on how to JumpStart Your Private Practice
www.perfectedpractice/celebrate to join our 2018 Celebration in honor of Social Work Month where we are highlighting #socialworkentrepreneurs all over the world.
G-Suite for Therapists – An E-Course for using the tools of Google G-Suite to manage your practice. https://practiceoftherapy.com/g-suite-for-therapists/
Meet Gordon Brewer, MEd, LMFT
Gordon is the person behind The Practice of Therapy Podcast & Blog.He is also President and Founder of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC. He is a therapist, consultant, business mentor, trainer and writer. PLEASE Subscribe to The Practice of Therapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play. Follow us on Twitter @therapistlearn and Pinterest “Like” us on Facebook.