A mental health practitioner—whether in a private practice, a group, or an agency—is a businessperson (and, in many ways, an entrepreneur). They are a businessperson who will experience many rewards and who also has many responsibilities.
To all of you therapists, this means you. It’s your business, built around your profession, and a distinction must be made between the “front office” and the “back office” of your business.
The front office of your business is client-facing. It is the “face” of your business. It includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the waiting area, office, the experience of therapy, interactions with clients, intake paperwork, ethical concerns, the clinical approach, and modalities and skills.
The back office of your business—also called the “back end”—includes everything that happens behind the scenes. It includes, but again is not necessarily limited to, documentation, scheduling, record-keeping, accounting, training, administrative tasks, systems, and operations.
The front office often generates more enthusiasm and excitement from therapists. After all, it includes therapy and client interactions—the stuff we do best! It also includes the “fun” responsibilities like decorating our space, outreach to potential clients, and defining and communicating “who we are.” What’s not to like about that?
The back office? Well... While that can occasionally spark some excitement, for many therapists, this part of our practice is often not quite as engaging. In fact, sometimes it even brings about disinterest or even a sense of dread. And dread’s dreaded first-cousin-once-removed: procrastination.
I’d like to challenge you to think about the back office a bit differently.
To embrace the back office.
To reframe how you think about the back office of your business.
What if every aspect of the back office part of your business bolstered, propelled, and fueled the front office?
What if purposeful culture development for the back office part of your practice translated into a better experience for your clients, your potential clients, and a better experience for even you?
What if the back of your business—the systems, operations, EHRs, paperwork, licensing, documentation, accounting, routines, rituals, and feedback loops—had everything to do with the front office of your business, just without the same degree of visibility?
What if you started thinking about creating the culture for your back office?
What if you started leveraging back office branding?
Consider taking these six steps for developing your back-office brand, which will lead to a more meaningful culture for your back office...and engage you more fully and more successfully in your entire practice:
- Start now. Today is the day to start building sustainable culture for the back office of your practice. Time is going to pass either way. Your practice of next year will be impacted by what you choose to do, or not to do, in this moment.
- List the components of your practice. Take a look at all aspects of running your business and break them down into categories of tasks and activities.
- Pick a theme to anchor and guide you. As you look at all that makes up your business, what sense do you have? What would you like to do better? What are your goals for the rest of this year? Do a brain dump of “all the things” that come to mind. Then choose the theme that is especially meaningful…the one that that resonates with you most deeply.
- Write it down. Color it. Bullet journal it. Frame it. Write it a hundred times. Etch it in your mind.
- Share it with your community. Speak it. Talk about it. Discuss it. Be energized through your sharing. Whether it be virtual, in person, by telephone, or via a social media group like The Organized Therapist Facebook group, sharing your theme with repetition will make it a part of you and help build the culture of your practice.
- Celebrate your successes. Build in rituals that recognize the achievements that are being made, no matter how big or small. Remember stickers and gold stars? Take inventory of what will reinforce your accomplishments, and celebrate what you are doing for the future of you and your business.
It’s always a good time to start organizing the back office of your practice. Your front office will thank you. So will your clients—and your future self.* The content of this post is intended to serve as general advice and information. It is not to be taken as legal advice and may not account for all rules and regulations in every jurisdiction. For legal advice, please contact an attorney.