Going from “sparkly new” private practice to a “money in your pocket” private practice is easier said than done. It can be a long walk from starting out to becoming successful, even with determination and skill, but the key is learning how to introduce your practice to your ideal clients.
Introducing June’s brilliant Brighter Spotlight, Ciara Braun. As someone who falls into a narrow niche of therapy, Ciara’s practice marketing is extra important to get her name out to the right kinds of clients. And yet, even after a friend told her that it would probably take up to a year and a half to fill up her practice with clients, Ciara beat the odds and got it done in six months flat.
Join us for our chat with Ciara to learn about her successful niche practice and the real-life tools and techniques that helped her build it!
Q: Tell us a little bit about you and your practice! (What do you specialize in, where is your practice, how often do you see clients, why did you become a therapist, etc.)
A: Sure! My name is Ciara Braun and I’m a licensed professional counselor and sex therapist with two offices in Metro Detroit. I specialize in infidelity and sex therapy for couples, dealing with concerns like low sexual desire or desire discrepancies, difficulty achieving sexual pleasure, communication, guilt, or shame about sex. My training with infidelity is based on the work of Esther Perel and the Gottmans, as well as my affiliation with Beyond Affairs Network.
Ciara (left) with Esther Perel (right)
I approach recovery from infidelity with an emphasis on attachment AND cognitive behavioral understanding: making sense of the meaning of the affair (and thoughts associated with it before, during, and after) as well as the origins of each person’s sexual and relationship history, which has proven to be the most effective tool for my clients and couple’s recovery. I also host a weekly infidelity support group for the betrayed spouse at my office in Birmingham, MI. I’m developing a podcast on the subject of infidelity and sex, I am enrolled full-time in the post-graduate Sex Therapy and Education program at the University of Michigan, and I enjoy blogging as well as attending lots of conferences across the US!
Q: What is one reason you’re glad you became a therapist?
A: Honestly, getting paid to talk about sex and infidelity is probably the most interesting and rewarding job I could ever have! I enjoy learning from others and after spending 7+ years on the research side of psychology, providing clients with interventions they can use and seeing the benefit of that work is a breath of fresh air for me.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time when you’re not working?
A: I’m a transplant from Georgia so if I’m not working, I’m exploring the Midwest. Michigan has so much natural beauty from the beaches “up north,” to the lake life, to the skiing, to the foodie scene… Detroit gets a bad reputation, but in the six years I’ve lived here, the city has truly undergone a “renaissance.” It has become so much safer and a melting pot for new restaurants, cocktail bars, and things to do. I wish I had invested in real estate downtown before the prices skyrocketed!
Ciara and her husband exploring north Michigan
Q: When did you become a Brighter Vision client, and why?
A: I started shopping for my website in September and my site went live in December. In those three months, I interviewed multiple website design services, contemplated doing it myself, and vamped and revamped my design ideas. Brighter Vision had an amazing reputation and was recommended to me over and over but I wasn’t sold until I spoke with Perry Rosenbloom, the CEO, who personally invested in making my vision for my website a reality. He and my designer took photos of my office as inspiration and customized my home page to fit my style and my specialty. I’ve been so impressed with Brighter Vision and their customer support for my website.
Ciara’s Brighter Vision website for Affinity Counseling Group
Q: What methods were you using to attract clients before you had a Brighter Vision website?
A: In the beginning I relied primarily on word-of-mouth and networking with other professionals to attract clients. As someone who specializes in infidelity, family law and divorce attorneys were interested in my work so I focused on providing resources for them, including brochures or presentations on couples, trauma, and infidelity recovery. Similarly, my approach to sex therapy is biopsychosocial which means working with physicians, as well as occupational and physical therapists on things like hormone testing, pelvic floor training, monitoring prescriptions, diet and physical health interventions for more satisfying sex.
Q: How did your process of attaining and attracting clients change after your Brighter Vision website from how it was before?
A: Developing my website inspired me to start blogging and focusing more time on writing articles on sex and infidelity. There are thousands of articles online about relationship concerns, but how many clinical articles do you see about fetishes or runaway husbands or pornography? And blogs are so easy to publish and maintain. Many clients contact me because they read an article on my website or saw a presentation I did on that subject.
Q: What is one of your favorite parts of your website? How does that represent you and your private practice?
A: It sounds silly but I love the “airy” color scheme of my website. I decorated both my offices in soft, neutral colors based on the philosophy that I wanted it to feel open and welcoming with lots of natural light. If clients are going to talk about sex, they need to feel comfortable! I have floor to ceiling windows overlooking the park and it keeps me grounded when I have 9 appointments back to back. Light blues, cream and grey tones remind me of the beach which is my “zen place.”
Ciara’s office in Birmingham, MI
Q: What is something you know now about marketing your private practice or making a private practice website that you have learned from your experience with Brighter Vision?
A: Don’t settle. Building a practice is a labor of love and it’s easy to get discouraged. I learned to recognize the areas I can’t change (forcing a client to pick up the phone or show up for an appointment) and the areas I COULD change – how I was standing out in my market with my niche, my website, my training, and my connections.
Q: How do you keep organized and scheduled in your day-to-day life?
A: I’ll go ahead and plug the electronic medical record (EMR) system that I use which is Simple Practice. All my appointments, billing information, progress notes, treatment plans, and payments happen through there. It is hugely helpful in keeping me organized because it is both synced to my Google Calendar and it has an app that allows me to modify appointments on the go. It also sends out intake paperwork and reminder texts to clients to keep them organized and accountable for appointments. I also have a digital assistant who takes all my calls, confirms benefits and verifies reimbursements for me so the logistical stuff is all done… I just show up!
Q: How do you make time for self-care with your busy schedule?
A: I work three long days and see 25-30 clients a week. I am pretty strict about maintaining that schedule. Having a day off during the week gives me time for self-care whether that means getting a massage, running errands, spending time with family or catching up on some reading. Fridays I reserve for reading books and journal articles in the field or finalizing case notes.
Q: What other tools or services do you use to help boost your private practice?
A: Psychology Today is a must. I get so many referrals from there, as well as my affiliations with other groups like AASECT and niche-specific trainings like Gottman or EFT. I also recommend the many Facebook groups out there for advice/support on starting your own private practice. “Abundance Practice Builders” is my personal favorite.
Ciara with John and Julie Gottman
Q: What have you found to be the most important piece of advice someone has given you about being a private practice owner?
A: A colleague in private practice told me not to expect to be “full” with clients until 18 months after opening my doors (and to find ways to be productive until that time). The timeline shocked me but gave me a sense of perspective when I was impatient to hit the ground running…especially when you start your PP in the summer months. Thankfully I reached a full caseload in a third of that time, but it took some of the pressure off me in those early months and I focused on developing myself and my skills through trainings, reading, and self-care.
Q: Do you have any pieces of advice for someone just starting their own private practice journey?
A: My top three tips for new PP owners:
• Develop your niche.
About 90% of my caseload is infidelity, sexual health concerns, or relationship related difficulties. It is easy to get lost in the sea of therapists who specialize in anxiety or depression or just claim to do “everything.” Most prospective clients are shopping for a specific issue—and don’t know the credentials or jargon to differentiate us—so make sure your introductory statements spell it out for them. I specialize in x and y. Then get really good at knowing those areas.
My digital assistant saves me dozens of hours answering calls, verifying benefits, and confirming payments. She also helped to get me paneled while I focused my attention on building my practice. Brighter Vision saved me hours of time building and maintaining my website, and Simple Practice saves me hours of time on billing. As therapists, sometimes we forget our time is more valuable than a monthly maintenance fee and we have to choose where we want to invest our energy. I choose to really hone in on the areas I love and know that I’m good at—my specialty in infidelity and sex therapy, my clinical skills, and therapeutic knowledge, and I outsource everything else.
• Read, read, read!
Just because our formal education stops doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Attend as many conferences as you can (it’s the best opportunity to rub elbows with the leaders in our field) and buy books to reinforce your understanding of your specialty-area. If you don’t have your niche yet, buy a few books on a few specific subjects and see which speaks to you then pursue those advanced trainings. I cannot emphasize it enough—the difference between being consistently full and just surviving in PP is your specialty and how you market it.
Want to follow in Ciara’s footsteps? Give your practice the very best and try out the world’s leading therapist website service, Brighter Vision.
Reach out to our customer happiness team today and learn how one of our custom-built websites can help you grow the practice of your dreams.