A Strengths-based Approach (SGOT) to Growing Your Private Practice
When I started my psychotherapy private practice as a small business, I planned to follow the traditional course of action: a SWOT analysis. Why? It was the respected go-to guide for creating a business strategy.
The SWOT framework – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats – is credited to Albert Humphrey, an American business and management consultant at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960s-1970s. I wondered how his long-ago approach could still apply to businesses in today’s faster-moving, cyber-connected world with complex business challenges and an exponentially growing demand for mental health services.
So, my business owner brain sounded an alarm: “Why would I want to focus on weaknesses in a framework that’s more than a half-century old?” Tapping into my own clinician mindset, I challenged the norm and updated the business strategy analysis process. Out with the negative, In with the positive. And that was the birth of my SGOT Strengths-based Approach for mental health professionals.
I am Soribel Martinez, LCSW, MBA, a skilled psychotherapist, enthusiastic CEO, committed non-profit founder, best-selling author and blogger, high-energy public speaker, and passionate business coach. I use my SGOT analysis to help entrepreneurs work from a place of their own strength. Focusing on our strengths instead of weaknesses empowers each of us to make swift, informed business decisions and remain flexible in our dynamic world of constant change.
In this article, I will cover:
- Strengths-based: From Where You Are to Where You’re Going in Your Group Practice
- A Strengths-based Approach Can Make All The Difference in Your Group Therapy Practice
- Using SGOT to Expand Your Group Therapy Business
- Attracting “Ideal” Clients for Your Group Therapy Practice
- Next Steps for Growing Your Group Therapy Practice
Strengths-based: From Where You Are to Where You’re Going in Your Group Practice
I have two reality check questions for you to ponder:
- Where are you today with your psychotherapy private practice business goals?
- Where do you want to go with your business?
I asked myself these same tough questions when starting my business.
To focus on my strengths and eliminate negativity, I developed the SGOT analysis template. Based on the SGOT proven track record in guiding me to new levels of success, I am excited to make it available to mental health professionals like you, whether you are an established or in-progress private practice owner, to help you focus your attention on your goals and desires.
Let’s break it down:
SGOT stands for Strengths, Growth Areas, Opportunities, and Threats. I’ve added my reality-check comments to explain further…
- Strengths are all the things you and your healthcare specialization business are doing well right now, today. Don’t overlook or minimize what you do well. You might discover you have more strengths than you realize. Your strengths are already moving you toward creating the business you desire.
- Growth Areas are where your private practice organization could improve. Do not confuse these with “weaknesses.” Put your ego aside and consider these with eyes open and a clear head. Everyone has growth areas and recognizing them can help you make the best possible decisions about where to focus your energy and where to engage help. What could you do better, even just a little?
- Opportunities combine growth areas with market research to determine the best next move in your psychotherapy private practice business. Once you know the areas you need to grow in, you can look at the resources available and find opportunities for growing in those areas—books, a coach, masterminds, conferences, and online courses.
- Threats are problems that may pop up [as we know they often do] that, if you properly prepare, can turn into opportunities for learning and growth that nourish the other SGOT areas. These potential roadblocks, or crises, could be related to your time, money, health, mindset, mental health, or relationships. If you can identify them, you can identify supports and strategies for dealing with them. “Be prepared,” the Girl Scout motto that dates back to 1912, clearly still applies today for us mental health professionals.
And there’s more…
A Strengths-based Approach Can Make All The Difference in Your Group Therapy Practice
SGOT is a guide to help you develop and grow your established or start-up solo counseling practice into a thriving group practice – and to exponentially expand your current group practice.
Why is this important?
My research discovered a scholarly paper on how the neuroscience basis of the human-oriented strengths-based approach enhances the personal experience and the professional milieu of a woman entrepreneur. Here are a few takeaways:
- Women entrepreneurs still constitute a minority in the business world, mainly due to various barriers that arise from their feminine gender.
- One promising and dynamic approach for any woman entrepreneur or wannabe entrepreneur relies on her efforts to identify, understand, and make proper use of her existing inner strengths in her business endeavors.
- A strength is delineated in three elements—performance, energy, and use—all of which must be present in order for strengths to underpin and sustain optimal performance.
- Research indicates that when individuals use their strengths, they feel happier, more confident, and proud of themselves and more engaged at work, and they perform better while experiencing a sense of resilience for achieving their goals.
My SGOT analysis offers a decision-making framework to help you evaluate your life and your business before you make any changes.
- Considering moving to a new home or office? Use an SGOT to determine if you should take the leap.
- Wondering if you should add staff therapists to expand your business? An SGOT analysis will help you decide Yes or No based on where you are right now and your long-term goals.
As you use an SGOT for your business growth, you’ll discover many more helpful strength-based applications.
And there’s more.
Using SGOT to Expand Your Group Therapy Business
SGOT can help guide you to expand your solo in-person practice and virtual counseling into a thriving group practice.
At first, you may need to write out each SGOT analysis section using the downloadable guide I provide. As you continue to use SGOT, you’ll develop the ability to complete an analysis mentally as part of your planning and decision-making process.
Here is a starting list of marketing tools and strategies you can input to an SGOT analysis to determine how they can help grow your business:
- First, develop your professional brand, using the “What’s in a name” SGOT exercise we did in the previous section. What message do your bio, your business card, your website, your business directory listings, send to all the markets in which your business wants to grow?
- Identify online therapy directories and list your practice on the relevant sites.
- Keep current with professional healthcare industry trends in Psychology Today and other respected publications.
- Encourage friends, family, and colleagues to recommend your practice with sincere word-of-mouth referrals and, for this to become a valuable resource, make sure you are easy to find and contact.
- Develop and follow a well-articulated digital marketing strategy. See details in the next section
Next, we’ll expand these tools.
Attracting “Ideal” Clients for Your Group Therapy Practice
SGOT will guide you to develop and grow your counseling practice into a group practice and attract your “ideal” clients for in-person and virtual counseling.
How? Here are the digital marketing strategies that helped me—as one-offs or in combination—to find my ideal clients.
Use your SGOT to analyze each element and determine how it can become a stepping stone on your path to success:
- Messaging: Define your “ideal client” using an SGOT. Write a profile for their Strengths, Growth Areas, Opportunities for improvement and Threats to their progress. Include age, family and education, work history, relationships, communication style, psychological issues, and more. If that profile was a real person, what would you tell them about how your practice could help them?
- Website: Develop and maintain a professionally designed website that clearly conveys your brand and invest in SEO [search engine optimization).
- Research: Identify and study your competitors’ online presence using properly key-worded Google search.
- Content: Create helpful, engaging content to showcase your services and expertise, connect with potential clients, and rank higher than your competitors.
- Social Platforms: Post content regularly on the right social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, to spotlight your practice, share helpful resources, join relevant groups, and connect with potential “ideal” clients, but never hard-sell them.
- Blog: Design and write an engaging and informative blog of 750–2000 words for your group practice, and post fresh content at least every week.
- Email Marketing: Using a regularly curated email list, send brief, thoughtfully crafted, informative, non-spammy emails with an opt-out link.
- Ad Campaigns: Create highly targeted Google Ads and Facebook Ad campaigns to attract people who are actively seeking the types of mental health services your practice offers.
- Webinars: Host and participate in webinars to showcase your expertise and gain exposure to new online audiences, promote the sessions on your social media platforms, follow up with participants who ask questions or request information.