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Episode 210 | Building a Thriving Network with Samantha Silverman

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WITH Samantha Silverman

  • Episode 210 | Building a Thriving Network with Samantha Silverman 00:00


Hey Group Practice Listeners! Are you feeling the heat of competition? That can often spark a passion for success, and building a network is one way to make it happen. Group practices are meant to help clients but also other group practices to grow!

We are gratefully accompanied by Samantha Silverman, the owner of Silver Linings Counseling located in Denver, Colorado. She has this passion for camaraderie among practices that let building a network from scratch and turn it into a thriving group. She will shine upon us the story of how she was guided and now paying it forward to others!


Episode Highlights: 

  • What is the difference between competitive marketing and friendly social work?
  • When is competition healthy for group practice owners?
  • Why should you think of unique features of your practice thinking there are no two practices alike?
  • What is the essence of reciprocal feedback from therapists starting solo?
  • How building a network from the ground up shows that you are determined to nurture risk and creativity?


To connect with Ms.Samantha Silverman:


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

Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Group Practice Exchange Podcast. Today I have another group practice owner, Samantha Silverman. She owns the Silver Linings Counseling Practice in Colorado, and we’re gonna be talking about overcoming feelings of competition with colleagues, whether it’s other group practice owners or clinicians who leave our practices to start their own solo practices.

And really being able to replace that with collaboration and support. So, hi Samantha. Thanks. Hi for the meeting. Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I’m so glad that your practice found my practice. Yeah. Um, so for those who might not know you in my audience, do you wanna tell ’em a little bit about you? Sure.

Absolutely. So I started Silver Linings counseling in 2017 as a sole practitioner, and we have since grown to 11 therapists. We specialize in working with older adults, those with disabilities, but also work with the general Colorado population and. After Covid, or since Covid I should say, we’ve become an entirely virtual practice.

So we are able to provide virtual counseling to all members of Colorado, and we accept most major insurances including Medicare and Medicaid. Also, one of our subspecialties is post-traumatic growth. Oh, awesome. So I know our topic is on. Sort of shedding those feelings of competitiveness within our field.

And I just wanted to start with your kind of why this topic was something that is important to you and maybe a little bit of background on this topic specific to you. And we can kind of go from there. Sure. Absolutely. So before I started Silver Lightnings counseling, I had worked in the marketing and even finance world briefly, and I just felt like the environment was very competitive in the business world.

And then when I came over to social work, I really easily made friends who were my colleagues. And colleagues and friendships just went hand in hand. When I started my own practice, I actually started my practice because I had a close friend from grad school put me in touch with one of her close friends who was doing private practice and she was specializing in older adults, and her name is Nicole.

Nicole actually was kind enough to train me. And even gave me my first client and really helped me lay the foundation and groundwork for Silver Linings counseling I’m so indebted to her and in order to pay it forward, I have since tried helping out some of my other friends and colleagues who have made the transition to private practice.

And I really believe that in order for us to succeed, we all need to succeed. And it is just so important to help each other. . Yeah. I don’t know how to say the quote, but it was, it a, a rising tide lifts all boats, I think is sort of this quote that I might not be saying perfectly, but it’s this idea that if we really help each other out, those of us who are in the same industry, who are maybe seeing the same types of clients when we help each other out, it really.

Benefits our industry as a whole, and it also helps reduce this feeling of aloneness and isolation that we as business owners can feel for whatever reason, and I know its competitiveness is not unique to our industry, but this feeling of, you know, that if we. See another practice, a group practice who’s, you know, in the same building as us, or a clinician who worked in our practice, who starts their own solo practice, who’s, you know, near us, that it, that there’s this sense of competition, judgment, feeling like it’s gonna somehow negatively impact your own business, is really common in our group practice, entrepreneurial space.

And I think something that really hinders just our own leadership. Definitely. Yes, I would agree with that. And I think that when you look at competition and jealousy, competition is actually a healthy feeling as long as you are dialed into what that competition is about. I feel like jealousy, on the other hand, is a really negative emotion.

Because jealousy is usually targeted at a distinct individual. Mm-hmm. . However, competition isn’t necessarily targeted at an individual, but it’s more about recognizing something that somebody has that you want to obtain. Yeah. And I think as private practice owners or even entrepreneurs when you are able to separate the individual from what it is that you.

You can then strategize for yourself to obtain the same thing and even seek that support from somebody else. I also feel like in a lot of ways, this healthy, as you say, this healthy amount of competition, I don’t know, there’s another word I would use for it, but it, this idea, it can help us not be stag.

If we see growth and thriving with other people within our industry, it can be almost an inspiration. And also, yes, a little like fire under our butts too. Make sure that we’re not becoming complacent in our own work because as Covid has shown us, we need to just as business owners, be aware and be willing to pivot and make changes within our business.

And you know what we build. I’ve had Micropractice for 11 years. What I built and how I was working 11 years ago wouldn’t work right now. And so sometimes looking out and seeing how other people are doing things, I like to look at it more from a space of inspiration versus competitiveness. But this idea is like looking at what other people are doing and being sort of.

In awe or inspired or maybe, you know, brings in a little bit of this internal competition, like, I need to, to be my own game. Uh, has nothing to do with the other person or the other competition. Exactly. Yeah. Exactly. And I think that’s what a lot of people in general fail to understand. It has nothing to do with that other person, but it has more to do with what you are.

What are your goals? What do you want out of your life? And I love what you said a minute ago about tuning into that inspiration because I feel like there’s inspiration all around us, and if we can join with our colleagues who are growing and succeeding and find a way to support and help one another, I think that.

There are so many ways to tap into that inspiration, and I believe in all industries, and obviously we’re seeing this, particularly within ours in the mental health world, but in all industries, there’s always enough to go around and no two businesses that are in the same field are similar, you know? And that also kind of brushes up on the another.

Of if there are these feelings that come up as a group practice owner when someone leaves and starts their own, where you feel like the resentment or Right. Um, anger affords that person starting their own practice being able to see what differentiates you from them because your two practices will never be the same.

And there’s going be reasons why some clients are gonna come to you and some are gonna come. Your clinician who’s left and started their own solo practice because no two practices are alike and it’s really recognizing what is different about the practice that can help you feel good and okay about the fact that there might be other thriving practices just within arm’s reach of you.

Exactly, and there are so many thriving practices, especially in Colorado, within arm’s reach of our practice. Uh, but I love what you said also a minute ago about overabundance. I feel like the counseling world is at a point that is just so unprecedented, you know, with the surgeons of Covid and being isolated.

So many people are seeking out counseling and there are not enough therapists to keep up with the demand of clients who are seeking therapy. So when you said that there is an overabundance, there are an overabundance of the general population needing counseling services and a lack of counseling providers.

Exactly. Um, so in a sense, we are very fortunate that at this time we can band together and create our own internal referral streams. I know that you have a Facebook group. That is awesome. By the way. I went on it this weekend and one of my friends and colleagues actually encouraged me to join Facebook groups for counselors and other therapists.

Mm-hmm. . And it’s really interesting how. There is such a thriving referral network on these Facebook groups, and as you said, everybody specializes in a different niche in a different market, and no two practices are exactly alike. Mm-hmm. . So it’s really nice to form those connections with other group owners where you can collaborate and pass, you know, clients or refer clients back and.

how, what are your thoughts on your own experience? I don’t know if you’ve had this yet, but of clinicians in your practice who have left and gone on to do their own solo practice, how do you Sure. Either a combat, any sort of initial feelings that come up, or are there no initial negative feelings that come up altogether, and if so, how did you work on it?

Yeah, that’s a really great question. So as long as I’ve been in practice, we’ve had one of our exemplary therapists leave to start her own practice. And yes, it was really hard at first. I think there were some tears involved. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And, uh, she was actually the first therapist that I ever, uh, brought on to join the practice, and I think it was 2000.

Teen. So it was really, really difficult initially, but after the initial shock, you know, kind of wore off. You know, I tried to give her as much encouragement and assistance as I could, obviously, you know, with retaining my own boundaries. Right. But yeah, I think that, there is such a, you know, a difference in being a part of a group practice and then going out and establishing your own practice that it depends on what you want as a therapist.

Do you want to be a part of a larger group where you can communicate with other therapists? Like with our group practice, we cover malpractice insurance. We cover. The software and the intakes, the billing, and the credentialing. However, I think to go out on your own and to start an individual solo practice, you have to be willing to take a lot of those facets on, and you have to have that responsibility, that drive in that motivation.

But you know, there’s also a. Possibility to, you know, potentially, you know, make more money if you have different revenue streams coming in. So, you know, I think it’s just a, you know, the difference in goals. But yeah, it was initially really difficult, but it definitely, the feeling eased over time and graduated to more of an understanding type of feeling.

And I think that’s probably the most common. A healthy experience that we can have as group practice owners is being okay with the fact that we’re probably gonna have some sort of feeling about it and that it might not always be, I’m so happy initially, but, and that, that doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with that, but that, that we can acknowledge that all of us have, especially the first few times that people believe some sort of hurt feeling probable.

we may view them leaving as it means that we maybe haven’t done something right or that we’re not a good business owner. It could be the feeling of resentment that we’ve built their caseload and, and they don’t have to do like the hard work or That’s, I remember, that’s what I used to think way back in the beginning, cuz I started my solo practice and I had to build my caseload from the ground up.

Um, right. And anyone who leaves my practice has a full caseload and we don’t have non-competes so they can just take those clients. And I remember initially feeling like you don’t have to do all the hard work I had to do to write it and build them, like get clients to see you. You just have this fully laid out, bold practice right from the beginning.

You know? How unfair of you? Very unhealthy. Like you have to struggle Cause I struggled mentality, but I think the. More aware you are of those feelings coming up and accepting that it’s okay. I’m recognizing that that’s coming up for me. Being curious about why those feelings are coming up., acknowledging it, allowing them to be there.

That with time, the more experience you have with that, the less painful it feels and the more quickly you can get to that acceptance space of yes. You know, even I left, uh, nonprofit and hospital world to start my own practice because I was meant to, and that those that leave my practice to start their own.

They are meant to do that. And I don’t wanna be a hindrance to that. Right. So that’s the other side of the point. Exactly. Yeah. And that’s a really great point to not internalize and take it personally. And I just think that takes practice. I, I don’t know many people, especially in our industry, Who started group practice, have that experience and then immediately have this very positive, like, this is totally okay with me and I have no hurt feelings about it, and I don’t take that information of you leaving.

Meaning that I must be a bad boss or I’m not, uh, good enough employer. Most of us have some version of those experiences and feelings in the beginning. . And for those that are listening, if that is an experience that you’re having, that’s totally okay. Allow yourself to feel it. Cause I think us trying to brush those feelings away or push them down, box them up, is what’s gonna keep those feelings coming up every time someone leaves.

but also knowing that if we allow those feelings to come up and we observe and get curious with them, that eventually the more times we have this happen, it, the goal shouldn’t be to never have employees leave. You know, on, on the flip side of that is if everyone stays and no one ever leaves, right?

They’re creating this like dependence, like this business of dependence where people don’t have autonomy or, uh, the ability to get creative or to, you know, Sort of make their own decisions. Cause I think when that happens within a business, yes. That also breeds like this. Hmm. I maybe wanna try this out myself.

And if no one ever leaves, like what does that say? It says it could be on one side of the coin, you could say, I have this great workplace environment that everyone loves and everyone wants to leave. But on the flip side, it’s also like, Am I building a business of employees, who don’t feel comfortable taking risks or who don’t feel comfortable being creative, who are maybe really dependent on me and I haven’t created the space to allow them to be autonomous and sort of these thinkers who can go beyond the scope of what they’re doing in my business.

So that’s how I like, no, and that. . Yeah, that’s a really good point, Maureen. I think that any great leader wants to promote autonomy and motivation and you know, create. An environment in which, you know, encourages people to have creativity and to be motivated. And I think that you know, attrition, employee attrition is normal.

And you know, for any field, any field that you’re in, not just owning a group practice, but employee attrition, people move on mm-hmm. and decide to make different lifestyle or career choices, which is completely normal. I actually, to that point, I’m seeing a lot, you know, we had this in us, this the Great Recession, or.

No, the great resign, that’s not the great resign. Yes, the great resign fully, and I remember a lot of group practice owners freaking out because a lot of their key staff and supervisors or employees were leaving in droves and it wasn’t what business owners were used to. And I think pre covid there was this assumption, um, whether it was kind of the front of the brain or just way in the back of the brain, uh, the assumption that the goal was to hire people who would stay as long as possible.

What am I doing wrong if I can’t keep people staying 5, 6, 7, you know, 10-plus years? And I really think that came from, you know, if we look at business owners that are our age, our parents were in their generation, were much more likely to be lifers at a job. Like they found their place and they worked their 30, 40, 50 years.

That obviously got passed down to us. And I remember when I was in college and in my early twenties, that resumes were really important, that there weren’t gaps and that you were looking at places. . Like if you only worked at a place for a year that was looked at as negatively, like, well, why were you only there a year?

Like, that must mean that you’re very, you know, that you’re not reliable. And now I think the tech industry really changed that a lot because in the tech industry, they sort of set the standard that if you’re at a place too long, they view that as a lack of creativity, a lack of motivation. Stagnant, you’re not trying to climb and grow yourself.

And that they actually look for people that do job jump if there’s like a purpose to it. Interesting. Like, see that there’s a growth, like they’re jumping, right? A better position is that they’re likely people that take more risks, that are more, uh, creative thinkers and they look at that as a positive. I think with Covid, what we saw was.

Well, I guess a mix with Covid and just the younger generation getting into the workforce now is that they don’t sit at a job they don’t like. Right. In my, when I was younger, you just kinda like, you just stayed to like be loyal. Right. It’s not happening anymore. And you don’t have to, you don’t have to stay to be loyal.

But I think a lot of us are looking at this as group practice owners. Upset when we see that employees leave after a year or two and we think that there’s something wrong with it. And I wanna flip that script. And I think that the way our culture has shifted is that uhhuh, that’s not necessarily a negative.

It can be, it’s always important to reflect is there something that our business is doing or we’re doing that is. Playing a role in that? Or is it that we’re providing this really great space for them to really expand their horizons and we’re creating this safe space for them to be able to grow and then move on?

Hmm. And so I encourage people right now if if that’s the sort of thinking that you have to reevaluate that and ask yourself what is really a realistic amount of time to expect employees to stay? For me, I’ve said if employees stay two years, anything beyond that to me is a success. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot to a lot of people, but given our environment and, and the way the workforce is, to me, that feels realistic.

And I can say anything after that like. is a really good thing if people are leaving prior to two years. That is where I reflect to think of, is there anything around my hiring process. Is there anything around just our workplace structure or, you know, is there anything that we can change to make that, you know, statistic a little bit better?

Um, yeah, and so that’s important to look at. I think that’s a really great parameter to set. The other thing. I try to do it, and we have employees leave, is to do an exit interview. Yep. And to ask, you know, is there anything that I could have done better as a leader, as a boss? Mm-hmm. , um, is there anything that I could improve upon?

And I think it’s really important to have that reciprocal feedback as well. Yeah, exactly. And if you have this, like for me, if I have this expectation that as long as they’re staying two. , I’m feeling good. I would obviously love for people to stay a million years the whole time. Correct. Right. , so that’s not realistic.

I’m setting the tone for my practice based on what, uh, I’m seeing in our workforce environment right now. And I’m saying two years. To me, if they’re staying at least that long, I feel like that’s a success. Um, right. Then it reduces mine. Resentment is when at two and a half years someone leaves. I’m not upset if they start their own practice or feel like they’re, uh, not, you know, haven’t earned it or like it’s unfair that they’re taking the clients that they didn’t have to market for.

I can tie, I feel okay because they’ve stayed the amount of time that to me, I said was my minimum appropriate amount of time to feel good about. So anything that happens after that, that’s fine with me. You know, and that’s really, I love that hope that, uh, stave away any sort of anger or resentment or negative thoughts, right?

Employee leaves and starts his own practice. Right. Do you know that you did the best job that you did and that you’ve equipped them with the tools and the assets for them to go out on their own? Yeah. Do you have, as we kind of round out to the end of the episode, any tips as a, a group practice owner as well, who’s, you know, has, uh, a dozen or more employees that, uh, works for you when it comes to dating off?

Any amount of negative competitive resentment sort of feelings when it comes to other practices around you or other therapists or even your own that might leave. Yeah, no, I think that you know, going back to what we were talking about a few minutes ago, that coordination and that camaraderie with other practice owners, I mean that, I feel like that’s my livelihood.

Like, um, I think we were talking about at the beginning of the episode, it can be very lonely and isolating out there if you’re by yourself, if you don’t network with other group practice owners. Think the importance of keeping abreast of, you know, changes in the field, keeping abreast of what other group practices are doing, even, you know, sharing your forms, sharing your standard operating procedures and your, you know, clinical initiatives.

I think being, you know, open and honest about your procedures and what you’re doing, and, you know, sharing as much as possible with your colleagues rather than trying to keep everything. You know, tightly bound to yourself. Um, I think that’s, you know, a really healthy and important thing that we continue to do in this field to promote each other, help each other even in terms of recognizing our mistakes and sharing with each other things that we did wrong and going forward, what can we do differently to better ourselves?

I think it’s important that we share and recognize. You know, our imperfections. Yeah. So we can encourage our colleagues, you know, not to make those same mistakes. I think, you know, just that reciprocal communication, unfiltered, open, honest dialogue, I think is just paramount. Yeah. To, you know, continuing to help and support one another.

Well, I think when we are connected to. I think of, um, all the group practice owners and solo practice owners that I know in the Chicago area, right? That’s where I’m from. It would be really hard for me to feel any sense of negativity around their success. because I know them personally because have a connection with them.

And so it, that is a really good point to make, that if you make an effort to connect with people, other business owners, practice owners, it is almost one antidote, two negative. Feelings of jealousy or competitiveness with them because you now know them personally and care about them. Yes, yes. That’s so true.

Yeah. Yes. And as therapists, we are all compassionate and empathic and yes, you have that desire to want them to grow and succeed. And I think, you know, in this day and age with all of the virtual modalities, it is really so, To connect and to foster those connections. Even if you don’t meet in person. Yeah.

Even if you do a lunch and learn over Zoom. Yeah. Or join a consulting group or are a contributor on a Facebook group. There are so many modalities for that interconnectedness right now that I think it’s just so integral for our profession to continue to do. I agree. Well, I totally appreciate you coming on and chatting with me about this topic.

It’s just something that I feel like is, what’s the phrase I’m for? I’m not thinking of the phrase, but like you just have to walk. Like this is an experience that all this have to go through is learning how to manage our emotions when it comes to, uh, competitiveness, judgment. Resentment towards other group practice owners.

So I appreciate you coming on and chatting with me about that from your experience and, and just having this open sort of dialogue about it. Oh, thank you for having me, Maureen. It’s been a pleasure. All right. Well, you have a good one. Mm-hmm. . Thank you. You too. Thanks for listening to the Group Practice Exchange podcast.

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Thanks For Listening

Thanks for listening to the group practice exchange podcast. Like what you heard? Give us five stars on whatever platform you’re listening from. Need extra suppor? Join The Exchange, a membership community just for group practice owners with monthly office hours, live webinars, and a library of trainings ready for you to dive into visit www dot members dot the group practice exchange dot com forward slash exchange. See you next week.


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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:


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