Telemental Health Practice: The Next Business Opportunity

Telemental Health Practice

An advanced degree in any of the mental health disciplines can cost from $50K (we’re guessing) to $500k (we’re guessing again). Most mental health professionals dedicate not only a small fortune but also years of their lives to obtain education, training, and licensure for practice. While most training programs prepare mental heath professionals to be competent treatment providers, very few programs teach the business management skills needed to sustain a private practice. The growing telemental health industry offers an increasing number of opportunities for mental health professionals to develop successful private practices, even while working from a home office. This opportunity underscores the necessity for mental health professionals to understand the basics of small business management.

Entrepreneurs as the Wave of the Future

Steven Walfish, Ph.D., president of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Division 42 (The Community for Psychologists in Independent Practice) encourages psychologists to embrace the roles of small business owner and entrepreneurs. Does this imply that mental health professionals need to return to school and obtain a business degree before embarking upon private practice? Of course not. Now that the Internet is here, training for new business ventures online is at our fingertips. Many options already exist. For example, this past month, the TeleMental Health Institute has been offering a Master Teleworkshop for more than 30 eager participants who are focused on passive income generation. They are learning the basics of entrepreneurialism with psycho-educational, self-help product development and marketing.

Business Plans?

Even the young, starry-eyed mental health professional soon realizes that proficiency as a clinician does not ensure small business success. While the nuts and bolts of a business plan has historically led to indigestion for mental health professionals, taking the time to plan the development of one’s practice on paper helps even the most savvy clinician. A few of the most essential topics to be considered planning for success in any type of profitable practice include:

  • defining a profitable business structure;
  • predicting the flow of income/expense;
  • managing risk;
  • credentialing with third payors;
  • billing and collecting for services rendered; and
  • maintaining health records.

As the telehealth industry in general grows, the telemental health industry is already opening new practice doors for mental health professionals with an entrepreneurial spirit and vision to develop thriving practices. Now is the time to develop both clinical and small business skills and private practice success, particularly for professionals interested in working in the rapidly evolving and fascinating field of telemental health.

*Referenced from: Walfish, S. (Winter, 2013). Overcoming Resistance to Entrepreneurship: A Motivational Interviewing Perspective. Independent Practioner. Volume 33 Number 1. p. 5

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Shawna Wright, Ph.D.

Dr. Wright is a licensed psychologist in Kansas and Nebraska who works in private practice as a telepsychologist. She obtained her graduate training in clinical psychology from Texas Tech University specializing in child and family treatment. She worked for nearly a decade in community mental health in southeastern Kansas as outpatient therapist. She is currently an operations manager for two community mental health center offices. Through her experience in community mental health, Dr. Wright is acutely aware of the impact of the shortage of mental health providers in underserved, rural areas, and she sees the promise of utilizing telehealth as a medium for providing mental health services to this population.

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