Marketing: Writing Your Private Psychotherapy Practice Bio – An Exercise in Brevity & Specifics

This week I was asked if I could help with developing a bio for a new psychotherapy practice and deciding where to spend energy developing referral sources.  

This post is about the first half of the question: Your professional bio. After you’ve completed this exercise, then, where to spend energy (and time) developing referral sources will become more clear. The second half depends on your bio and your ideal client. I’ll post on possible places to spend energy developing referral sources another time.

Here’s the marketing exercise:

Write a letter of introduction. This is an exercise in brevity and specifics.  After you have a written your letter, then you can modify it according to the audience (the agency or person you are sending it to) and use it as the foundation for online therapist directory sites like Psychology Today.

It will also help you when you talk to people about your practice (they don’t want the long story – just the bullet list i.e., the elevator pitch).

Keep in mind your “ideal” client. For example, mine is an older adult on Medicare dealing with issues of aging. There is a multitude of issues older people are dealing with making this is a broad enough net, but specific enough that it helps guide where I market myself (and how I screen out clients I don’t resonate with).

The following is a suggested basic structure (use letterhead). You can modify however makes sense to you, but keep it succinct. Your reader will skim and you may only have their attention for about 9 seconds. No joke, but probably you already know how short our attention spans are.

Dear (so and so), 

I am writing to introduce myself and my new private psychotherapy practice in (location). 

I provide treatment via (HIPAA Secure online video conferencing and telephone, in-office, assisted living, home) to (adults, minors).

I offer (individual, group, couples, family sessions,…).

My special interests are (eating disorders, issues in aging, LGBTQ, attachment disorders in kids, domestic violence, relationships, caregiver stress,…). (If you use the word ‘trauma’ be specific because it is too broad and you probably don’t love to work with ALL types of trauma)

My experience includes (relevant types of places you’ve worked – but keep it brief e.g. county mental health, trauma medical center, residential substance abuse treatment – OR you can use names of agencies,…).

I have special training in (EMDR, hypnosis, CB,…).  (Remember that special training is great and looks good on paper, however, it is not the key to success in treatment or growing your referral base – the relationship is the most important part, so essentially you are selling your unique style, not that you have mastered a specific treatment.)

I accept (list insurance panels you are on, Medicare/Medicaid, cash pay, etc.). (I handle the billing so the client can get the help they need without the stress of reimbursement issues.)

(something that makes you stand out, if it is relevant – when you were licensed, grad school you attended, years of experience doing psychotherapy, insurance panels you are pending a contract with)

I am looking forward to connecting with you about any questions or referrals you have.

  • Respectfully,
  • Name
  • Phone number
  • email
  • website
  • (include a number of business cards according to how you see them distributed by the referral source – don’t send too many. Include a few flyers if you have one, but, again, don’t send too many and don’t worry if you don’t have one.)

While I don’t consider myself a marketing expert, I do know what worked for me and many of my colleagues who have full practices.

Writing this letter will help clarify things in your own mind. It will help with every piece of marketing you do.

I hope this helps as you figure things out. Follow my blog by Email so you don’t miss the next post.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

Common Private Psychotherapy Practice Forms

One of the challenges of starting a private practice is developing your practice policies and the forms that go with them. There are tons of forms… just figuring out what you need can be daunting. Be patient as you work through the process and keep in mind you will need to edit them as your practice evolves (hint: don’t print too many copies at once).

I started my practice in fall of 2014. I am still modifying forms and policies, as things change and new informed consents and policies are added to the ridiculously long list of forms private practice requires.

The ridiculously long list is one reason I switched to electronic health records (EHR) and chose Simple Practice. Charting and editing forms are so much easier than with paper forms. The seemingly endless forms are required whether you are using paper or using an EHR with e-sign for a “paperless” chart.

You will need to develop and/or review and understand most of these forms, depending on your practice model:

  • Registration/Intake Form
  • Diagnostic Evaluation / Biopsychosocial Assessment
  • Client Payment Record / Appointment & Activity Log
  • Informed Consent for Psychotherapy
  • Introductory Letter for marketing
  • Practice Policies
  • Confidential Psychotherapy Notes
  • Receipt for Payment / Superbill
  • Sliding Scale Payment Agreement
  • Treatment Plan
  • Sublet Rental Agreement (if you sublet your office)
  • Group Therapy Note
  • Group Therapy Informed Consent
  • Progress Note
  • Progress Note with Treatment Plan
  • CMS1500 Claim Form
  • Telehealth Informed Consent
  • HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP)
  • Receipt and Acknowledgment of HIPAA NPP
  • Consent for Release of Information (SUD requires a different consent)
  • Consent to Charge Credit Card
  • Informed Consent for Reminder Messages
  • EAP: Assessment, Referral, Progress Notes & Informed Consent
  • Social Media Policy
  • Diagnostic and Objective Measurement tools like the PHQ9, GAD7, and PCL5
  • Informed Consent for In-office Appointments for Vaccinated
  • Informed Consent for In-office Appointments for Unvaccinated Clients
  • Good Faith Estimate (added into law as of January 1st, 2022!)
  • Private Medicare Beneficiary Contract

This list is not an all-inclusive list of the forms you could possibly need, but these are common. Several of these forms you can find online for free, such as the HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices, Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9), and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7 (GAD-7).

For a Social Media Policy, I recommend checking out Dr. Keely Kolmes at This is her free version that you can modify. She has an updated version for a fee.

For additional forms, I recommended doing an online search plus, looking at the list of forms provided in The Paper Office. The Paper Office includes access to all the forms in an editable format with tons of great information every clinician needs.

If you are considering your forms, then congratulations are well on your way! You are deep in the process of starting your private practice!

This part of the process can feel overwhelming. Like the old adage, one day at a time, think of this process as One Form at a Time.

Consider an EHR with e-signature so that modifying forms is easier. And above all, don’t give up. It is totally doable, I promise.

Here’s my book about starting your private practice. Step Fourteen is all about creating your forms.

Featured Image by Lorraine Mays from Pixabay

Psychotherapy: To Home Visit or Not to Home Visit

Welcome to Bonnie’s Navigator News blog!

From time to time, I’ll post information relevant to private psychotherapy practice. When I learn new stuff related to private practice, I like to share it with colleagues! I hope this proves helpful to you. I promise not to spam your inbox. Rest assured, I don’t have time for that ;-).

In this post you will find an excerpt from the Home Visiting chapter in The 14 Concrete (but not so hard!) Steps to Private Practice (some information in the book has been edited since the writing of this post):
  • Pros and cons of home visiting
  • Considering your previous home-visiting experience
  • Things to think about: environment, safety, complexity, time management, confidentiality, client ability to meaningfully participate in psychotherapy
  • Definition of “homebound”
  • Medicare and home visits
  • Policies and Procedures to consider
  • Case scenario
Consider the Pros and Cons of Home Visits  

Home visits in the role of a case manager, such as with an agency like hospice, home health, or a chronic care coordination program are great experiences.  If you’ve had this opportunity, think about those visits for a moment.  

  • What type of clients did you visit?  
  • What were their needs?  
  • What type of environments did your clients live in?

When you are visiting for the purposes of psychotherapy you’ll need to consider several issues. There are pros for sure:  

  • Observing and interacting with a client in their home environment can provide oodles of valuable clinical information. 
  • Home visits can provide services to a population that otherwise may not have the opportunity for psychotherapy services.
  • When you have limited office sublet time, you can do home visits to keep money flowing while you build up your in-office clientele.
  • When the word gets out that you do home visits, you might fill your practice sooner than you expect!
More Things to Think About in Terms of Home Visits
  • Assess your tolerance for environments: If you have a health condition with certain triggers, like animal dander, cigarette or marijuana odor, dust, mold, animal urine or feces, litter box odors, etc then you will need to be more selective about home visits. If you have back problems, trouble with stairs, or a need for a controlled environment in some way, then home visits may not work well for you.
  • Time Management: If you decide to do home visits then you’ll need to plan for extra assessment time over the phone, then again during your first visit, before the person becomes your client. Plan for the possibility that you may spend more time in consultation with other providers involved in the case or searching for additional resources than with the average client. Think about the perimeter of your service area.   Determine time and distance factors from your office and home.  Obviously, home visits require more time, gas, and mileage on your vehicle.
  • Assessing for safety: Suicidality, dogs, guns, and other home environmental issues.
  • Assessing for confidentiality: Who is likely to be in the home during your visits? Spouse/family/caregivers?  Is the person living in an Assisted Living or Independent Senior Living complex? Confidentiality is bound to be blown eventually as other residents and staff notice your presence. Are you required to sign in to the facility?
  • Assessing for the appropriateness of psychotherapy. Can the person participate meaningfully? Are the needs more of a case management situation? Who was the referral from and what is the referral source hoping for from your involvement? If the case management type needs are met would they then be appropriate for psychotherapy?

Offering home visits can be a real boost to your practice because so few therapists offer them. Medicare pays the same amount for a home visit to a “homebound” client as it does for an office visit (in my experience).

Policies & Procedures to Consider for Home Visits

Should you decide to offer home visits, you will need to develop additional policies and procedures for

  • Assessment – how much will you conduct on the phone before the first visit? Keep reporting requirements and informed consent about your reporting responsibilities in mind.
  • Region and clientele served
  • Safety
  • Informed consent specific to the issues of safety, confidentiality, and the therapist’s determination of the appropriateness of home visits for psychotherapy
  • Smoking
  • Releases of information
  • Maintaining confidentiality
  • Determining homebound status
  • Where in the home psychotherapy will take place

Regarding Releases of Information: You should consider a policy that requests the client sign Release(s) of Information to the referral source, primary physician, primary caregiver, and other involved agencies or the facility where they live, when appropriate.

Being part of a multidisciplinary team is a helpful approach with complex cases. If the client refuses for certain people, a thorough understanding of why is important. Of course, you would not be planning to discuss certain things with a primary caregiver, but you may need to discuss scheduling or other issues related to caregiving during your presence.

Regarding homebound status: You should also consider a policy that includes consultation with their medical provider regarding their homebound status (if homebound).

Regarding smoking: Will you sit with a client on their porch while they smoke? Are you willing to visit a house where people smoke inside?

Regarding where in the home psychotherapy will take place: Consider your policy regarding the location in the house where therapy will occur. Many clients who are homebound are not physically bedbound, but they’ve “taken themselves to bed” and conduct nearly all of their life stuff from bed. Are you willing to conduct therapy at the bedside?

Medicare’s Definition of “Homebound” 

Medicare considers you homebound if:

  • You need the help of another person or medical equipment such as crutches, a walker, or a wheelchair to leave your home, or your doctor believes that your health or illness could get worse if you leave your home
  • And, it is difficult for you to leave your home and you typically cannot do so.

Your doctor should decide if you are homebound based on their evaluation of your condition. If you qualify for Medicare’s home health benefit, your plan of care will also certify that you are homebound. 


This is an excerpt (book chapter has been updated) from a chapter in The 14 Concrete (but not so hard!) Steps to Private Practice If you are still considering offering home visits for psychotherapy, there are more things to know such as rules around Place of Service on claims, hospice status, skilled nursing facilities, and Medicare Advantage Plans.

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

Should You Become a Network Provider? Plus Resource Review: Navigating the Insurance Maze

Welcome to Bonnie’s Navigator News blog! From time to time, I’ll post information relevant to private psychotherapy practice. When I learn new stuff related to private practice, I like to share it with colleagues! I hope this proves helpful to you. I promise not to spam your inbox. Rest assured, I don’t have time for that ;-).

In this post you will find:

Insurance Reimbursement is a Big Topic in Private Practice (and hard to address briefly)

As a newbie (and as a continuing option) in private practice, one of the most important questions you will be confronted with is: Should I become a network provider on insurance panels or only accept Private Pay?

The Truth

Dealing with insurance companies can be intimidating and frustrating. Even after five years of private practice, I still get kinda irritable and nervous when things go haywire on the insurance end of things – thankfully that doesn’t happen very often.

The process of becoming a provider on insurance panels is daunting. Applying is a multi-step process. It takes attention to detail, time, and uber patience.

Learning how to submit claims and deal with payments is another learning curve. You have choices about how to handle this part. You can do it all yourself (with or without paid services) or pay for billing services so you don’t have to deal with the claim submission process.

Dealing with certain technicalities, e.g. finding the address to submit claims, authorizations, and denials can be annoying and time-consuming. Learning the basics from the start will help you be efficient and reduce denials. Again thankfully, I rarely get a denial. Some things are out of our control, for example, when an insurance company pays the claim incorrectly. Knowing what to do is easy to learn. Maintaining patience through the process might be the hardest part.

I am on a number of insurance panels. For me, the payoff has been totally worth the time and effort to get on those panels and deal with the occasional complications that have arisen. While the details are confusing, none of it is rocket science. Really. You too can learn this stuff.

I decided from the start to become a network provider on several commercial insurance panels, Medicare, and Medi-Cal (California Medicaid).  The benefits have paid off:  

  • I get referrals regularly from several insurance companies – in fact, my practice has been full for a long time. As soon as there is an opening, the space gets filled up quickly.
  • I feel good offering a service the client is/has paid for through their insurance plan
  • I feel good about serving lower-income clients who are on a Managed Care Medi-Cal (Medicaid) Plan or have Medicare/Medi-Cal.
  • I don’t have to “sell” myself in terms of payment. The only payment the client is responsible for under commercial insurance and Medicare are the Deductibles, Copays, and Coinsurance portions.
  • My clients don’t usually quit due to the cost of therapy (there have been exceptions like when they have a large copay or haven’t met their deductible and it’s still all out of pocket)
  • The unexpected benefit of receiving news, clinical guidelines, and general information from insurance company newsletters. Some offer free trainings.

“But, Bonnie,” you ask, “If I am going to be a Private Pay Only therapist, do I still have to learn insurance mumbo-jumbo? Can’t I just skip all that head-spinning stuff?” The short answers: YES, you do need to learn a few things about insurance anyway, and NO, you really shouldn’t skip it – you could commit insurance fraud, risk your license, and not even know it.

The long reply to the “Yes” answer above – 

If you decide to accept Private Pay only, at the very least you will need to have a clear understanding of:

  • how to prepare your Private Pay Agreement
  • what CPT codes are and how to use them on your Superbill/Invoice
  • how to answer questions when clients ask you about reimbursement from their insurance company
  • how to prepare a Superbill/Invoice so the client can submit for possible partial reimbursement from their insurance company
  • your status (or non-status) as a “Medicare-eligible provider” (clinical social workers and clinical psychologists with the correct licensing in their state)
    • your choices regarding Participation, Non-participation, and Opting Out of Medicare and how it affects the client and your fees. If you have the correct licensing for your state, you are already considered a “non-participating provider” by virtue of your licensing, even if you don’t “Opt-Out.”
    • I highly recommend you read the following if you ever plan to accept a client with Medicare: Medicare Part B 101 Manual: Assignment of Benefits   Assignment means you must accept the assigned amount as payment in full and you cannot balance bill the client for any difference between your fee and the assigned amount.

Here’s an excerpt:                                                                                        

“Mandatory AssignmentIn certain situations, a provider, regardless of his/her participating status, must submit an assigned claim to Medicare. The following are instances when an assigned claim is mandatory.

  • The patient is eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.

Submit the claim to Medicare. Medicare will automatically forward payment information directly to Medicaid if the claim has been properly completed.

  • Participating physician/supplier (this would be you if you “enroll” to become a “participating provider”)
  • Services provided by the following non-physician practitioners:” Clinical social workers and clinical psychologists are listed amongst Mandatory Assignment providers (see the link above for the full list and the rest of the information)

Deciding if you should or shouldn’t apply to become a paneled provider on commercial insurance panels, EAPs, Medicare, and Medicaid is an important decision, and possibly one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in private practice.

Another thing to Consider When Deciding Whether or Not to Become a Network Provider

Many people cannot afford to pay out of pocket upfront, then wait for reimbursement after the hassle of submitting a Superbill or after waiting for the non-paneled therapist to submit claims to the insurance as a courtesy.  When someone is in need of therapy, dealing with Superbills and waiting for possible insurance partial reimbursement can be too much of a strain and a barrier to getting help.

Some people are, however, willing and able to pay upfront. If you decide to go this route- Private Pay only-you’ll be spending more time and possibly more money marketing and advertising.

If you decide to get on a few panels, you can still leave room in your practice for clients on panels you are not on. They can pay you upfront and you can offer them a Superbill for reimbursement. That way you could get your full fee for a few clients rather than the contracted amount you’d otherwise receive if you were on that panel.

A Bit More on Medicare

Being an LCSW gave me the option of enrolling in Medicare as a participating provider OR Opting-out and charging my full fee to Medicare clients and not billing Medicare (nor could the client receive reimbursement from Medicare).

I chose to enroll.  The reimbursement rate is decent, as far as I am concerned and better than commercial contracted rates.  Medicare pays in two weeks from the time I submit claims and has generally been a straightforward process.

The majority of my clients are Medicare age (65 and older) or on Medicare due to disability. There are more people on Medicare in need of therapy than there are therapists able to serve them in some areas. As the boomer population continues to age, the gap between need and available providers may continue to grow.

Insurance Resource Review – ***** for this one!

I recently discovered Barbara Griswold, LMFT.  She has a website full of information, offers insurance coaching and webinars, and has published a great book full of insurance information every private practice therapist should have.

Whether you’ve decided on the insurance question or not, I highly recommend you visit Barbara’s website and consider getting her detailed book Navigating the Insurance Maze: The Therapist’s Complete Guide to Working with Insurance – And Whether You Should.  

I wish I had this book when I started out five years ago. This 154 page, 19 chapter book is chock-full of information that appears spot on from what I’ve learned these past five years. Here are some of the topics covered:

  • helping you decide if becoming paneled on insurance plans is a good idea for your practice or not
  • how to complete and submit the cms1500 (the insurance claim form)
  • a sample Private Pay Agreement
  • terminology such as copays, coinsurance, managed care, etc
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
  • getting paid and understanding the Explanation of Benefits (EOB)
  • appealing denials
  • what it’s like to be a network provider
  • and one section I am excited to dig into and put into action called: Getting A Raise (from insurance panels)
  • and more!

The book is nicely organized, concise, and the information is often presented in a Question & Answer format. As a new private practice therapist, this book will give you much of the language and understanding you need to get started.

This book is focused on commercial insurance.

What you won’t find in this book (the version I reviewed may be updated by now) are references to or details about Medicare, Medicaid/Medi-Cal, VA & Military benefits, or Crime Victim programs. As a Medicare and Tricare West (military/veteran) provider, it was a little disappointing not to see at least an overview but, I do understand why these are not included. These programs are a different breed and could be the focus of another book.

Overall, Navigating the Insurance Maze is a wise investment for the new therapist and as well as the one who’s been around a while ;-).

An added bonus about this book: California LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, and LEPs can earn 7 CEUs by purchasing the CEU quiz for the book.

That’s it for now! Lemme know if you’ve found this information helpful and any suggestions for future blog posts you’d like to see.

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