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Episode 118 | Virtually Training Staff with Christine Barker

Episode 118 |  Virtually Training Staff with Christine Barker


  • Episode 118 | Virtually Training Staff with Christine Barker 00:00


Hi Group Practice Listeners! In this episode, I’m talking with Christine Barker all about how to virtually train staff.

In this episode we cover:

  • Methods of training virtually
  • How long to spend on training
  • Where to host virtual trainings
  • Intra office sites

This episode is sponsored by TherapyNotes. TherapyNotes is an EHR software that helps behavioral health professionals manage their practice with confidence and efficiency. I use TherapyNotes in my own group practice and love its amazing support team, billing features, and scheduling capabilities. It serves us well as a large group practice owner.

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Maureen Werrbach

Welcome to another episode of the Group Practice Exchange Podcast! Today I have Christine Barker on. She was on a few weeks ago it might be now like a month, month and a half ago and she came is coming back on today because she had a really important topic that she had brought up in her previous episode, which is virtually training your staff. I feel like obviously it’s really relevant right now because most of us are working remotely. But I also think it’s a really great topic for practices that want to incorporate training their staff virtually in combination with in person. So, Christine, thanks for coming on. And thanks for bringing up a really important topic. You were telling me that you’re in the process right now of hiring a therapist, right?

Christine Barker 

An admin!

Maureen Werrbach 

An admin, I’m sorry, an admin. And so your questions are around–because you guys are still working from home? I’m assuming? How to appropriately train an admin person, when you’re not able to actually see them physically in person and how you can do that virtually. Right.

Christine Barker 

Yes, absolutely. I think that could apply to therapists too, if that was the case. Yeah.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah. So tell me tell me where you are in the process and kind of what what things you’re thinking about.

Christine Barker 

So we put out an ad on Indeed, a week ago, or a couple weeks ago now and narrowed it down to people, like we did a bunch of phone interviews last week, and this week, we’re doing in person, social distance interviewing, weather permitting. And so then we’re looking to start the training process probably shortly after.

Maureen Werrbach 

And what kind of admin person is this going to be? Someone who’s doing phones or billing or a combination?

Christine Barker 

Yeah, kind of somebody who can do everything. Definitely billing, doing taking new clients and appropriately assigning them and taking their insurance verifying benefits, that kind of thing. Those are the big ones.

Maureen Werrbach 

What are you thinking about with regards to virtually training them? Do you have any thoughts about what you’re wanting to do? Or are you kind of like Ground Zero with it?

Christine Barker 

Well, I just thinking about it. You know, I was thinking well do I train them on zoom? But I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to really show them everything I wanted to show them. And then I thought maybe like a, like a video training where I, I do it where I film myself and film the screens and kind of walk them through it. So I’m not really sure which way to go with it. But that was where my thoughts were.

Maureen Werrbach 

One of the things that I find too, so as you know, and other listeners likely know, is we use a combination of in person and virtual training. It’s something we’ve done for a long time, and obviously now have had to shift it to solely virtual training while we’re working remotely. And so, I’ve always found a benefit to having a virtual space for therapists and admin to be able to absorb information and take in information just isn’t timesaver and a lot of ways but it’s also a way for them to like autonomously be able to go back and find information versus potentially having to check in with you or whoever’s sort of training that person.

So I love virtually training as a part of training new hires, whether we’re working remotely or not.

One of the things that I learned though, is that it’s really good to have multiple ways for that person to get information or learn the information. And so I know you were bringing up you know, do I do it through zoom and do it live with them? Do I record them and have like a series of videos that they can watch where I’m really going deep into each part of their job? And I want to say that all of those things are actually really good.

So how we have it set up one I find from reading Mike Michalowicz, his book Clockwork, where he talks about this kind of where I got the idea of doing everything virtually or setting up a whole training system that is virtual. A few years ago, and was because he he had mentioned, you know, have your people who are in the positions that, like every position, the person who’s currently in that position should do video trainings and just walk through their day at work, and record it, whether it’s taking your phone and recording yourself walking through the office and turning on the lights and putting the music on and all that, whether it’s screen share screen recording, like what you’re doing in the office, or in on your computer, whatever it is that you do.

And I remember having this aha moment one because it’s actually really smart to have the person who’s currently doing it sort of. They’re sort of high school. Like training the person that might replace them later on, right? But you’re the ones doing it, it’s how smart is it to have these recordings ready so that your time as the owner, whoever’s leading, doesn’t have to, you know, spend an inordinate amount of time training that person. And so that is what got me started where my onboarding coordinator, started putting a video together little short videos, because most of us can’t sit through like an hour of just listening to things requiring videos.

And so this is where I think is a good place to start. Because it’s going to be something that can be usable. You know, for however many admins you have in whether they rotate out, that training is going to be available to the next person to the next person. So it’s really a time saver to have it always virtually available.

So a training where it walks through the various parts of whatever they’re like actual procedures are the things that they’re gonna have to do. We even have videos that walk through the employee manual and the operations manual. There’s a lot of times people don’t like to read it. So if they prefer to listen to it, then they have just another way to absorb the information.

On that note, I also find that having some kind of checklist or I guess, checklist is the best way to say we have a we have a checklist but some sort of flow for the person to know, week by week, during their first I always use 90 days as my baseline. I always think after 90 days a person should really have been settled into their position.

So whenever I look at how to train them, I like to look at 90 days and what what is happening week by week in those 90 days.

So that I know that I’m not you know, most people go all in the first week or so true. And then they kind of put it off, and then assume that the person they hired kind of knows it all. And then they stop, really, you know, supporting week 2,3,4 and on.

So I have a sort of checklist on, you know what things they’re expected to learn each through each week. And then also where I’m going to be supporting them through each week. And it includes you know, which videos that they should be watching what hours I’m going to be available, sitting with them during, you know, each of those specific weeks, and it really helps them see you know, that I’m going to be there for them during those first 90 days.

Christine Barker 

That’s a great idea. I love that.

Maureen Werrbach 

And also just, the more that you’re doing, or the longer that you do the work, the more a lot of the basic things feel so basic that you forget to train them on it because it’s so second nature for you. So making checklists for me was really good starting point to see like how many things they actually need to be trained in.

I mean, things as simple as how to use different programs. Like how to actually use our all call technology phone system, you know, things that normally, it would be like an aside for me to train them on that, because it’s so second nature. I’m having that checklist that goes through those first 90 days of different areas that I’m going to work with them on helped really. My checklist is pretty long, but it gives every single piece of working in in my group practice, and then it helps kind of guide the videos. So I use the checklist to then guide what little mini videos I was going to put together. We use a Google Sites. You know what that is?

Christine Barker 

No, it’s Google Sites?

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah. So do you have them G Suite for your email? So G Suite has like Google Drive and Google Slides, all those things they have, as part of it. It’s called Google Sites, which is like a website. But it’s it’s hidden to anyone else. And it’s only available if you like, it’s not, you can’t find it on the internet, you have to give the link to your staff. But your staff is only able to get into it to see it. If they use their work email, because it’s a G Suite email.

So we built the site, it’s very easy. It’s kind of like, drag and drop, you know, oh, good stuff in there.

But we have our whole training site is is inside of our group practices. We call it the intra office website.

So we have like a page where it’s, you know, news and things that are happening and in our practice, and we highlight, you know, different therapists and things that they’re doing and birthdays and all that fun stuff. And then you have like a page where it’s just different documents and ebooks and things that that we have for people to pull information from. And then we have our training page for new hires, but then our established people, and we have it split by clinical and administrative, but then if they ever need to go back, which is kind of the beauty of training virtually, and having some sort of video series is that they can then go back to it and it kind of holds them accountable to finding that information and not always coming to you. And so that’s where we have that.

Christine Barker 

That is a great idea. I’d like that. Is that only available through Google? Do you know and any other?

Maureen Werrbach 

I know some people we did this before before Google Sites. I think Google Sites is probably something that’s been around for maybe a couple of years, so it’s newer, but we used a password protected page on our actual website. So we have you know a WordPress site and You can make it pretty simply password protected, where, you know, for us it was urban wellness, com forward slash training, I think, at the time and then if anyone was to go to that page, it would it was just a box that said, Please enter the password and my staff knew the password. And then when they typed it in, it opened up that actual page, and it had our training stuff on there.

So you can do that with a regular site, I would just check into the security of your website as a whole and what kind of information you’re putting onto the training site.

If you’re going to be showing any client facing information, I don’t know if you’re logging into your EHR client stuff shows up. Or if you can set up a dummy account. I would just with that, make sure that you’re either checking with whatever platform you’re using to make sure that it’s HIPAA compliant or, or that your training materials, whatever it is that you’re recording is, is through like dummy accounts, so that you’re not showing anything client facing stuff, like even just names or anything like that.

So I mentioned, I liked the idea of having small video clips that walk through very specific things. We have, you know, a two minute video clip on how to add a new client in therapy notes. Then right afterwards, we have a video clip on how to schedule an appointment for that new client and therapy notes we set we separate it all into bite sized things so that people can go exactly to what part they need to get that information versus like how to use therapy notes and then have an hour long, you know, talk about all the different parts of it. Yeah, I think it’s really important.

And then the checklist, you know, in terms of for me, like I said, I use 90 days as the kind of my timeframe for knowing that I’ve supported them and that by the 90 day mark, they should be really good to go completely independently.

So those are those are my two, you know, first areas that I started that I started with when I started doing virtual trainings. But then there’s a piece that I feel like a lot of people under use, or and I think they assume that they’ve spent enough time I forget what book it was. It was one of the first leadership books I read. So it’s been so long.

But it essentially said that for every 20 minutes of a job, like for every 20 minutes, it takes you to do a part of your job, that you should be training for two hours. And it was a really eye opening because I realized that if you add up those 20 minutes and 20 minutes and 20 minutes, it is a lot of hours of training that we should be doing to really help them do their job. And it kind of highlighted this fact that most people who are leading are who are business owners, whoever’s doing the training for new hires, that the overwhelming majority of people under train.

And so I think one of the sort of dangerous pieces to virtually training is he is supporting them even less, because you have all these materials and videos available to them.

So you might become less personally available. So I think that’s something to think about is like, how what role are you going to play? What is your availability going to look like? And how can you prioritize that over the course of, let’s say, the 90 days, again, your timeframe might look different. I always find 90 days to be a good amount of time, but really thinking about how can you make sure that you’re available, whether it’s, you know, for me, I don’t do trainings anymore, but when I did, and up until, like, maybe two years ago, I was the person that did all the training for admin.

Whenever a new admin was hired, I literally took the week off of everything bigger practice, exchange. Everything, anything that I was doing in my actual practice, and I was with that person the whole time, just first doing the work for the first two days and having them observed, then, you know, then watching them do the work, but I didn’t leave my spot. Obviously, this is for in person. So we’ll have to talk about how we can translate that over to virtual. But it I know, for a lot of people, it felt like that’s a drastic shift to like, literally not do your job at all, and just be there for that person. But I found that when I started doing that it made such a, such a big difference in how quickly they learned.

And then on week two, I cut my time in half.

So let’s say if I was working 40 hours a week, I allocated or if the person was working 40 hours a week and I was working 40 hours a week, I would allocate them by week, 220 hours of their 40 hours of me being there observing, fixing things that you know that they were doing that they did. didn’t realize I was wrong, that kind of stuff. And then by week three, they were pretty much on their own with me just doing check ins.

So things important, you know, a long winded sort of discussion here of how can you be intentional about actually supporting beyond videos beyond walking through and having trainings and checklists so that they know, you know, kind of the flow of what they’re going to be learning.

But for you specifically, what is what, what feels good to you when it comes to being available. And so I get what virtual it might mean that you’re sort of co-working.

This is something that’s happens a lot now in the virtual spaces is having a long period of time in the day, you know, three, four hours where you’re in zoom together virtually, and it’s just in the background, right in the background, you might be working and doing your own thing, but you’re both available to each other as if you’re kind of sitting next to each other and you can observe and hear her answering phone calls or, you know, calling to insurance companies while you’re still doing your work on your own computer.

So that’s something that happens, you know, kind of quite often as a way to hold each other accountable. A lot of people do that as just a way to, you know, book writing clubs and things like that. So, I think that’s a great leadership, virtual space and actually being physically present when you can’t physically be present.

Christine Barker 

I love that. That’s because I was what I was wondering about that. I’m like, how am I going to know like, what she’s absorbing or what they are absorbing, you know?

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, it’s so I do this with a few friends of mine, therapists who practice owner friends of mine, specifically, one is Amber Collie. We both are kind of trying to write books. And so our thing is to hold each other accountable every Friday, we meet for like three hours, and we see each other like zoom, and I’m writing my book stuff, she’s reading her book stuff. And we’re not necessarily talking to each other, but we know that the other person is there, and I can just, you know, pull my Google Doc slide down if I want to and see her, you know, on her screen typing away at her stuff.

So I think it’s a really powerful way to be present with someone. But again, then also requires you to have some level of accountability for yourself, because it’s really easy as a practice owner to be bogged down by the work that we have to do as owners, and not really be present for them.

And so it’s just I would think about how, you know, what is your ability to be present at what does that look like?

You know, is it a zoom video meeting where you just sit and go through your own work after obviously after a week or so because she needs to have like actual training by you and the president, it can be vice versa. So in the beginning She might be sitting on zoom, and observing, you know, you guys will be talking through the videos and talking about, you know what’s going on in the practice and, you know, q&a a little bit and then when the phone rings and you start answering it, or when you start to call an insurance company to check a benefit, she can watch you doing it. And then vice versa.

Christine Barker 

Oh, that’s wonderful.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah. It feels kind of funny initially, just because it’s like, someone’s just weirdly spying on you through the screen. Actually, it quickly becomes second nature at this point, I can, I can do work knowing that, you know, my, my camera is watching me and there’s someone on the other end of the camera that might be working or might be you know, you know, watching what I’m doing and it’s just, it’s part of it. It’s similar to telehealth for a lot of people. When we made the shift who weren’t normally doing telehealth, it felt like this weird and not comfortable thing to do with all of your clients and I’m sure 90% of therapists by this point now are, you know, they may not love it, some of them but they’re used to it and comfortable with it. And that’s the same with with this sort of virtual co working type of thing.

Christine Barker 

And that is something that you can do on the Google sites as well?

Maureen Werrbach 

So you would use something like zoom or Google meet you can do for the coworker, so that you can see each other and hear each other. But then you can screen share, and so they can see you while seeing your screen. So if you’re like, on the phone with blue cross or an insurance company and doing a benefit check, but then inputting whatever information you’re getting into your EHR, you can have it screen sharing, so that she sees you you know, on the phone talking to the person but then also sees what you’re seeing so she can hear the conversation you’re having, and then she can see what you’re doing with that information, like in real time as you’re typing into the EHR.

Christine Barker 

Oh, perfect, good, good.

Maureen Werrbach 

So you know, when she gets to a point where she starts to take over maybe a phone call or does a benefit check herself, she can screenshare on her end so you can watch what she’s doing. And you can say, actually go to the top left corner, you know, go here, do this thing, you’ll be able to do all that.

Wonderful I love about it too, is that you know, for me specifically, and I know that’s not something that’s necessarily important to all good practice owners. But workplace culture and feeling like a part of a team, or part of a work family is really important to me.

And shifting to a strictly virtual space over the past four months or so was something that I wasn’t in love with because I feel like one of the biggest benefits to my group practice is the culture and the family feel that we have.

And so it’s been really interesting to see how because we’ve hired maybe six or so people since March, who we’ve had to train virtually, I mean, do interviews only virtually train all and so it’s been an interesting journey to see, you know how we can ensure that the workplace culture can continue the way it is, even with new hires. Because we know that new hires, they get they fit into the culture. Once they fit into the culture because we ensure that during the training process or during the interviewing process, but then they really become a part of it when they’re in it. And it’s obviously hard to be a part of it when you’re not seeing all of the therapists walking around the office.

So something else to think about is how if workplace culture is important to you, you know, how are you executing that in a virtual sort of way.

And that’s why I think this co working space thing can be really a powerful tool.

And if you have other admin, even having them in on a zoom meeting where they can do their own work, they can mute themselves when they need to. You can unmute yourself, when you have a question, the other person will hear you and they can unmute unmute themselves as well. But you guys can all be straight. Sort of, you know, almost working with each other doing your own administrative jobs, but have know that the other person is just on the back end of the screen and is available to you if you ever need them. It feels as connecting as it can be.

Christine Barker 

Yes, very supportive. Yeah, like that.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah. So those are like my top starting points. How do we have workplace culture? How is that important to you? And how can you facilitate that in a virtual space, having some sort of checklist that can keep you know, with you your eye on the prize and make sure that you don’t miss any important training pieces, since that person is virtual, and you’re not going to necessarily always see or what they’re doing right or wrong.

And then setting up some short training videos, and we were I mean, even now, we still every couple of months, a new our onboarding coordinator adds a new training video because she realizes, oh, someone asked this question now that I hadn’t thought of it.

Training them on, like just a random question. That’s a very, you know, second nature sort of thing that we do that she realizes, oh, that was a question was asked, I never thought of training them on that one, you know, simple piece. So the videos get added every couple of months, I see a new one that she’s, you know, been asked and was like, great idea for me. Let me do a video on it. So our library is pretty robust. But because we do them in bite sized chunks, it’s easy for people to kind of stop, start and stop and that feel like they have to, you know, drone on through hours of trainings.

And then lastly, the coworking space.

I think that’s a great way to be there with them in real time, where they won’t feel like they’re bugging you if they have questions because, you know, obviously if you’re not together and it’s a new person who’s not used to you and maybe hasn’t seen you, there’s this underlying feeling of not wanting to bother the practice owner or the leader. But if you’re there in the background on a zoom meeting, both working, it feels less you scary as a new person to say, you know, hey, Christine, I have a quick question. I’m, you know, checking a benefit right now and so and so, versus, you know, maybe sending you an email and then waiting or giving you a call and feeling bad that you might be busy. Mm hmm. Yeah.

Christine Barker 

No, that’s a good tip. I love that.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah. Anything else that you can think of that I haven’t covered that you have a question on?

Christine Barker 

I had a question about the checklist. So since since we are gonna have so many things on this checklist is there you know, and I don’t want to overwhelm someone right away and be like, oh, here’s a bunch of billing that you don’t know how to do like, but I and watch these videos, is there like a good place to start to sort of ease someone in.

Maureen Werrbach 

So if you’re looking like resource wise, a good place to look is with Uriah Guilford, the Productive Therapist. He’s a group practice owner and has a another business called the productive therapist where he helps. He has like a VA team, but he also has trainings, online trainings that help group practice owners train their in house staff. And so he might be a good resource.

But my other thought is, with regards to specifically your question around overwhelm, is my the way I have my checklist set up, is it each page is a week.

So week one, they’re only need to look at week one, it doesn’t matter that there’s, you know, 12 pages, because for us, they’re really looking at what some of it is, like, our checklist is not just educational stuff or training stuff. Some of it is like in week one, I mean, I want you to send me a temporary photo of you so we can add because we add our admin to our website. So some of it is like things that they can do, which I think is you know, it makes the checklist a little bit longer because we’re adding not only things that we want to train them that week, but things that they can do, but it also, so it feels longer.

But for me, I think it kind of hits the point that you made, which is I don’t want to overwhelm them with all these things they don’t yet know, there’s going to be things in there that they are offering you. So like in my week one for therapists, I have, you know, provide a copy of your license to me, so that we can put it into Gusto. It has like, give us your caqH number or apply for that. And that’s something that our therapists can do on their own. It has, like, you know, give us your birthday because we have like a little calendar for my clinical director and I have our own calendar that has everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries, so we can highlight that.

So we have some things in there that they can feel really good about checking off without really having any experience yet.

So it gives like a sense of I can do something I can offer something. So that’s how our checklist is we have a little bit of this is what we’re going to be learning and also a little bit of like, this is what I need from you for this week? Like I said, we separate it by page so that they’re not looking at, you know, 150 checkboxes that they’re going to have to go through. They’re looking just at one week’s worth of checkboxes.

Christine Barker 

Okay, that’s helpful, because I didn’t know how much to do how soon.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, my my week one and week two, actually have less on it than week three and week four, even though in week one, and two, they’re watching all the training videos. It’s week, three and on where they’re really kind of taking a lot of ownership until we actually have more in in the later weeks, which feels good to us because kind of to your point, they’re not feeling overwhelmed by you know, the level of autonomy that they are being given early on in the first week. If that makes sense.

Christine Barker 

Yeah. Oh, that’s very helpful. Thank you.

Maureen Werrbach 

So when are you planning to hire? You said you’re doing one more round of interviews this week? Is it a yes, next couple of weeks?

Christine Barker 

Well, that thinking about all this, I might need some weeks to get these videos together.

Maureen Werrbach 

I think it’s actually you know, how we did it was we used one of the, it was during a time when we were hiring a person, and we use that time to actually do the training videos. So it doesn’t necessarily it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to wait until you have all these videos completed. And it would be a good experience to potentially be doing this without all of the videos so that you can see and really keep your own checklist of what are the things that I trained this person on what order felt right because they I think there is something a little natural about how we train.

Sometimes when we put a checklist together before we’re actually doing it, the checklist order doesn’t end up, jiving with the order that we go through when we actually are doing the training. So it might be nice to go through this process and add the checklist items, you know, as you’re doing them, because one way is going to feel natural, and the other way is going to feel more mechanical, if that makes sense.

Christine Barker 

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I was kind of overwhelmed. I’m like, oh, my goodness, put all these videos together. Oh, but yeah, maybe doing it like as we go as sort of the next thing. You know, this is where we should start. I like the kind of the easy stuff like employee contract and, you know, the photo bio stuff. getting familiar with the EHR would probably be our first step. Also because that’s the key to getting all the information.

Maureen Werrbach 

So, as I say, when we could do it when we didn’t have our videos for our EHR, our EHR I don’t know if yours does, but our EHR has a YouTube channel. And when we first started with us, we were having them spend in their first like, couple of days as they were getting, you know, themselves ready. They spent time on YouTube watching the therapy notes, trainings, you know, they have their own ones, I’m sure you know, whatever EHR you use might have it too. So, yes, they do.

Christine Barker 

Yeah, so that’s a good, that’s a good starting point.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah. And we have that kind of woven into that that first week. And we have different things like we want them to take a HIPAA training. So in that first week, they’re taking the HIPAA training. So there’s a few blocks of hours where they can kind of work independently, getting themselves really set up in your business. And in that time, you can be used using to, you know, kind of organize the way you want to provide them information.

Christine Barker 

Oh, this is that’s great. good ideas. I like to have the training in the beginning too.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, it’s for I, I think it’s smart to have it be done before they start, you know, getting to work. But also, it’s a great kind of buffer for when you might need a couple of hours to get something of your own kind of work done. They can really work autonomously through that.

Christine Barker 

Yeah, and it gives them a good framework to if they don’t have a concept of HIPAA or kind of the rules that we need to apply abide by. So that’s great. This is awesome. Thank you so much, Maureen.

Thanks For Listening

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* I am an affiliate for some of the businesses I recommend. These are companies that I use in my own group practice, and make recommendations based off of my experience with them. When you use some of these companies through my links, I receive compensation, which helps me continue to offer great free information on my podcast, blog, Facebook group, and website.

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Meet your host


Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here:


The show

The podcast is structured so that you get practice building tips in small doses, where an episode can be listened to (and a group practice building lesson can be learned) in a single car ride.

Episodes are structured into categories: coaching sessions where I coach a group practice owner on a specific topic, tips of the day by yours truly, real talk where you get to be a fly on the wall while an established group practice owner and I talk about the highs and lows of ownership, and trainings done by experts in the field.

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* 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.

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