Understand your client’s problems so you have the opportunity to design a suite of services. This is a topic that doesn’t get a lot of attention in the practice building space, but I believe that understanding your client’s problems is the key that unlocks the opportunity to serve them in all kinds of ways. When you understand your client’s problems, you’re able to create courses, groups, and other offers that address those problems. You’re also able to create offers at different price points, so your clients can receive the right kind of help and it allows you to leverage your time and energy better, engage your creative side, make more money, and create the financial freedom you were seeking when you opened your doors.
As a part of our interview series with prominent medical professionals called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Private Practice” I had the pleasure of interviewing Alyssa Adams.
Dr. Alyssa Adams is a clinical psychologist turned intuitive business coach. She helps trailblazing entrepreneurs like therapists, coaches, and wellness practitioners to build a practice as unique as they are by integrating holistic healing with traditional tools. Together, we cultivate the confidence to earn more money, find more freedom, and make a bigger impact than they ever thought possible.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are?
Like many of your readers, I started my journey as a clinical psychologist doing therapy in a traditional setting. I worked primarily in medical centers for the majority of my clinical career. Eventually, I transitioned into a leadership position where I directed an integrative health outpatient clinic at a medical center. Although I loved the work, I was very quickly burning out. So, I transitioned into an administrative job that did not have a clinical focus. It was not for me! I realized that managing spreadsheets all day just wasn’t right for me. I found myself at an impasse. I realized that offering traditional psychotherapy all day was extremely draining for me and I didn’t like administrative roles either, so I felt like my career hit a big roadblock. I had to do a lot of soul searching to really figure out how to leverage my background in psychology and turn it into a new career path. After a lot of exploring and thinking, I went back to school and trained to become a professional coach.
I really enjoyed coaching and decided to start a coaching practice! Similar to so many practice owners, I thought if I was just a really good coach, clients would find me. I realized very quickly this was not the case! So, I started learning everything I could about sales, marketing, messaging, and how to find clients. It was fascinating! I realized it was the same psychology that I loved and studied my entire career just applied in a new way.
I started helping other therapists, coaches, and wellness entrepreneurs to grow their practices by sharing everything I was learning. It worked, and it felt so energizing and fun to me.
I also started to notice that there was a unique blend of fears and doubts that impacted business building for the clinician entrepreneurs. These fears, doubts, and areas of resistance were often influenced by the messages that we received during our clinical training that were now interfering with building a private practice.
This kicked off my interest in the deeper side of entrepreneurship, especially for the healer entrepreneur. With every step along the journey of business building, we’re confronted with new challenges that require us to address our belief systems, our identities, and the roles and norms of our field. My role often involves helping clinician entrepreneurs to see the limitless possibility and opportunity that is available to them. This has led me to create my own out-of-the box practice where I offer a holistic approach to business building that blends intuition, psychology, and strategy. Currently, I coach pioneering, service-based entrepreneurs and leaders from all over the world.
I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?
I completely agree with the importance of mentorship! I’ve been lucky enough to have several mentors along my journey. The most impactful experience involved working with a business coach during the early phases of practice building. She was an amazing support! Not only did she teach me the basics of business building but she also taught me to trust myself, which was an unexpected gift. The most valuable lesson from our work together involved cultivating the ability to tap into my inner knowing and to trust the perspective I had, to trust the ideas that I wanted to share, and to trust that what I wanted to say was worth sharing. So, it helped me to stop second guessing myself around every turn. It was an invaluable experience and we’re still colleagues and friends who support each other’s business journey!
What made you want to start your own practice? Can you tell us the story of how you started it?
There was always a part of me that knew I wanted to work for myself. But, like many therapists, I followed the path that was the most available to me, which involved working for a large organization. One of my biggest motivators for starting a private practice was fueled by the growing realization that I had something different to offer and a traditional healthcare setting was not going to provide the right context for my unique perspective, innovative approach, and desire to challenge the status quo. In addition to being a psychologist, I’m also a nutritionist, reiki master, and meditation instructor. I wanted the freedom to help clients in a way that made sense to me and aligned with how I believe growth and healing happens. I took another step outside of tradition when I transitioned into the coaching field. Currently, I offer individual business and leadership coaching, therapy to a small caseload of clients, online courses for business building, group coaching, and monthly networking events. I intentionally designed a practice that was unique to me and integrated all of my different interests and passions.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
One of the most interesting and most inspiring experiences involved starting a podcast. I was starting to feel a bit lonely and like I was out on a limb by myself since I transitioned into coaching and carved a nontraditional professional path. I wanted a place to share the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, especially as a healer entrepreneur, and to explore the experience of creating a nontraditional practice by leveraging my background in psychology but doing work that was new, different, and unconventional. Other therapists started reaching out to me and shared that they also felt called to transition their work into an adjacent field. They also shared their struggle with burning out in a traditional model. It was amazing! I was hopeful there were other therapists out there who felt like I did, and it was inspiring to actually connect with them, encourage them to build a practice that was unique to them, and build community together.
Because it is a “helping profession”, some healthcare providers struggle with the idea of “monetization.” How do you address the business aspect of running a medical practice? Can you share a story or example?
This is such a big topic! There is a lot to say about this, but the approach that I most commonly take with clients involves exploring the messages they received about money during their training. This is usually where we start this conversation. We also explore what they would like to do with the money that they earn, and how their income helps them, their family, and causes that they care about. We work to bring a lot of flexibility to the conversation and explore different options for the design of their practice, such as offering a suite of services, so they have courses, programs, and individual services that are all at different price points. We discuss a private pay model with time for volunteering or pro bono spaces. We discuss the incredible value and importance of the work they’re doing, and we compare and contrast the messages that we receive about earning money in our training vs. the messages that other professions learn about money. Also, from a very tactical lens, we get into the weeds of business ownership and talk about their expenses. When we see all of the expenses involved in running a successful practice, the money conversation naturally shifts. An exhausted provider who is undercharging and overextending is on a fast path to burnout, so we talk about how to recalibrate your business, so that they can do the work they love for the long haul.
Managing being a provider and a business owner is a constant balancing act. How do you manage both roles?
Like many service-based business owners, there is a never ending balance between serving clients, learning to sharpen your clinical skills, and handling all of the tasks of the solo entrepreneur. It’s a lot! It can easily start to overwhelm you unless you develop a system that works for you. I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all model, and I think it’s important to explore and try different approaches for managing all the elements of your business. For me, I like to batch tasks and block time. For example, I will schedule several clients back to back, so that I can be in the mode of serving clients. Another day, I won’t schedule any clients and I’ll batch content for a month of social media posts or write two podcast episodes. It allows me to focus better vs. trying to switch between tasks throughout the day. When I first started my business, I had client appointments that were scattered throughout the day and I was trying to send emails, write blogs, create social media posts in between appointments and it just wasn’t working. I couldn’t fully focus on anything and struggled with endless distractions. The approach of batching tasks and blocking time for similar work was a game changer for me!
From completing your degree to opening a practice and becoming a business owner, your path was most likely challenging. Can you share a story about one of your greatest struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it?
During various points in my training, work life, and transition to entrepreneurship, I struggled with health issues. This meant that I did not have an endless supply of energy and vitality to fuel my work. I had to get creative and strategic in order to focus on the activities that would really move the needle to grow my business and to let go of the rest. I also realized that it was unhelpful to compare myself to others, who were at different points in their business building journey and had different circumstances in their lives. I needed to stay on my own path and celebrate every win no matter how small! I worked to focus simultaneously on my personal healing and my business and professional growth. This required a lot of planning and forward thinking! I’ve always liked planning but juggling health issues and business building required a different level of planning ahead! I would batch cook healthy meals, set aside time for rest that I wouldn’t schedule over, and maximized my time in the morning when I felt the most alert and creative. It was tough but worth it. My health and business are flourishing now but both need consistent attention.
Ok, thank you. Here is the main question of our interview. What are the 5 things you need to know to create a thriving practice, and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Create a business around your expertise. This is where I start with every business coaching client! Building a business around their expertise involves reconceptualizing how they think about their business. Sometimes we think about our practice as treatment focused, and what I mean by that is that we think about our practice as a therapy practice or a coaching practice as if it’s only centered on the service that you deliver. But, I work with my clients so they can shift into building a business around their expertise, so they allow their expertise to be the centerpiece of their business and the services, offers, and products are elements of their business that stem from their expertise. This involves embracing and owning the fact that their expertise extends beyond the treatment room. When we build a business based on their expertise, we shift the framework for their business. Their expertise and platform of unique ideas forms the overarching foundation for their business. Next, their services and various streams of income will all extend from and be informed by the foundation of their business, which is based on their unique ideas and expertise.
- Create a strong niche and messaging that draws in clients you love. It can be exhausting and ineffective to try and serve everyone who struggles with anything. In order to accelerate your practice growth, it’s important to create a niche that allows you to work with clients who you love and focus on a particular group with a particular problem. When a potential client is choosing a therapist, they are looking for emotional resonance in your message and they’re looking for someone who they feel like they understands and can help them. When we dilute our messaging to convey that we help everyone with everything, the people who need us can’t find us in the sea of other helpers who are using the same messaging. But, anchoring into your zone of genius and your expertise allows you to create clear messaging that allows the clients to feel heard and understood and allows the clinician to work with clients that they are the best at helping. Also, when you infuse your messaging with your personality and authentically share your perspective, you naturally stand out by being yourself.
- Take an entrepreneurial, active approach to business growth. Often, for those of us trained as mental health providers, we’re taught that you get the right paperwork in place, post your business on one or two directories, and, boom, you’ve created a private practice. However, this is a passive approach to business building. It puts the client flow, and, as a result, your flow of income entirely in the hands of a few directories that are crowded with other providers. Instead, I work with clients to intentionally shift into an entrepreneurial approach where they are creating their own opportunities by collaborating with other providers, designing opportunities for potential clients and referral partners to get to know them, and actively sharing their ideas and offers with potential clients. This might involve offering a free monthly webinar on a topic that they care about and that would be relevant for their ideal clients. Or they might write about topics that are relevant for clients in an online publication. It puts the clinician entrepreneur back in the driver’s seat of their business, so they can actively and intentionally draw in clients.
- Build a supportive network. It is essential for successful business owners to have support. Not only are other providers great sources for client referrals, they are also friends and supportive colleagues through the ups and downs of business building. One of the most powerful changes that any new entrepreneur can make is to start creating a strong network of other business owners that they can go to with questions, for support, and to just talk with someone who “gets it.” It’s not easy building a business, especially a service based business, so it is essential to cultivate an ecosystem of supportive entrepreneurial colleagues who serve clients in all kinds of different ways. When we build collaborative relationships, it’s important to have relationships with fellow business owners who do similar work and business owners who do very different work to offer a diversity of opinion and support.
- Understand your client’s problems so you have the opportunity to design a suite of services. This is a topic that doesn’t get a lot of attention in the practice building space, but I believe that understanding your client’s problems is the key that unlocks the opportunity to serve them in all kinds of ways. When you understand your client’s problems, you’re able to create courses, groups, and other offers that address those problems. You’re also able to create offers at different price points, so your clients can receive the right kind of help and it allows you to leverage your time and energy better, engage your creative side, make more money, and create the financial freedom you were seeking when you opened your doors.
As a business owner you spend most of your time working IN your practice, seeing patients. When and how do you shift to working ON your practice? (Marketing, upgrading systems, growing your practice, etc.) How much time do you spend on the business elements?
I spend a lot of time on marketing, developing my business, and creating automated systems. I love marketing and creating ease in my business by increasing my use of systems that can automate tasks. Also, as a business coach to other therapists, coaches, and wellness practitioners, I’m sharing what I’m learning and using my own experience as a tool to help them. Recently, I’ve been looking for a virtual assistant to help with the elements of my business that I don’t need to manage myself, which will free up more time to support my current clients and engage in marketing to grow the business. I also like to batch my time, so there might be an entire day during the week that I work on marketing, systems, and sharing ideas and other days where I focus only on client sessions. I also believe that taking consistent action to market your practice can lead to big results. Often, clients think they only need to market when they need more clients, but marketing your practice consistently will help to create a sustainable business with less feast and famine cycles.
I understand that the healthcare industry has unique stresses and hazards that other industries don’t have. What specific practices would you recommend to other healthcare leaders to improve their physical or mental wellness? Can you share a story or example?
One of the most important practices I can recommend is to honor your own limits and resist the urge to design a business based on what others are doing. For example, I have therapist colleagues who schedule anywhere between 8–10 clients back to back during the day. I could never do this. I would need a full day to recover from this level of intense client work. But, they thrive with this schedule. We are all different and have different needs in our life and our business, so it’s important for the service based business owner to consider what they need to be at their best. Get very clear on your limits related to how many clients you can see in a day or a week, lean into what you love doing so the work feels lighter, and spend time on your own healing, health, and growth. It is essential to block time each week to recharge and give space to whatever you need to do for your own growth. As clinician entrepreneurs, we are the tool in our business that helps to create change for others, so it is absolutely necessary to take really good care of ourselves.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?
“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés
This is one of my favorite life and business quotes! It resonates with the struggle of so many clinician entrepreneurs, like me, who would prefer being in the background and helping others quietly. I struggled for a long time with being seen and sharing my ideas openly. I worried about being judged by colleagues, friends, extended family — you name it, I was worried about what they would think about me. I started to reconnect with my purpose and I realized that my ideas were there for a reason and it started to feel more and more important to share them. Now, I love encouraging other therapists to share their soul, their wisdom, and their perspective in an authentic way, so they can connect with clients who need them and ease the struggle of the human experience on a larger scale.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Follow me on Instagram: @dralyssaadams
Listen to my podcast, The Uncommon Couch, which you can find anywhere you listen to podcasts!
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success and good health!