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Helping Your Private Practice Thrive Through Challenging Times

Adapted from workshop with Lili Gray 

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a new and unique challenge for many therapists and their clients. While we as therapists have to transition to virtual therapy in a short amount of time, so do our clients. During the transition, many of us may have lost some clients and are struggling to build new referrals. If you’re a therapist experiencing decreasing caseload, you are not alone. At Chicago Minds, our mission is to build a supportive community for mental health professionals, and that includes helping you navigate through challenging times like this.

On May 7, our special guest, Lili Gray, facilitated a lively and fruitful discussion on managing your private practice in the age of tele-health. Members of the group left with insightful and concrete tips on how to develop and expand referral streams in order to maintain and even grow their private practice. In this blog, we summarize highlights of the workshop

Self-Care: Where is Your Nesting Doll? 

Photo by Blake Weyland on Unsplash

Photo by Blake Weyland on Unsplash

As mental health professionals, we provide the mental and emotional support for our clients, much like a nesting doll that holds and contains a smaller doll inside. In order to be a pillar of support, the person with whom the client can be vulnerable, we need to first regulate our internal state.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique context, in which we are collectively living through a crisis and experiencing the same vulnerabilities that our clients may be feeling. How does that impact our ability to be the support in our clinical work? How is our practice of self-care doing so far? How can we find our own nesting doll, so that we can continue to show up for our clients?

Self-care is a way of being and living. Self-care is not a one-time event or a checklist. It takes honest conversation and curious exploration with yourself in order to find what works for you and what brings you joy and peace. Movement, connection, healthy eating and meaningful work are among some examples of self-care pillars. You are welcome to  check out our blog post, Self-care in a Time of Crisis, if you would like to personalize your own self-care pillars.

Planting Referral Seeds

Running a private practice can be isolating and demanding. In addition to clinical competency, a lot of extra work is needed in order to grow your practice. Planting seeds for referrals is one of the most important steps to maintain a thriving private practice. It is important to keep in mind that this is about developing and fostering relationships. The effect is not always immediate. However, it will pay off down the road.

Thanks to the dynamic nature of identity, we may find ourselves affiliated with different communities. These communities encompass diverse interests, cultures, purposes and relationships. They can be professional, personal, social, recreational, or spiritual. It is very possible that members across your various communities can benefit from your services or know someone who needs your services. In order to help people to find the support they need, it is important to be clear and specific about what you offer. That means you will need to first decide on the scope of your practice. Considerations of the scope include but are not limited to age groups, cultural backgrounds, clinical presentation, insurance,  modalities, languages and clinical orientation/approach. Once you know what to offer, you need to spend time outreaching to communities where your practice could fit.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Here are some tips on how to engage with your different communities:



  • Collaborate with local businesses that share your mission and value. For example, you can offer some free wellness workshops at your local yoga studios, gyms or dance studios. You can also reach out to local tutoring centers if your main target population is children. There are many creative ways to collaborate with local businesses and offer your expertise.

  • Collaborate with public sectors. For example, you can reach out to the local libraries or YMCA curating events related to mental health. You can host workshops, Q&A or groups for your community. Once people know what you can help them with, they will come to you when they or their loved ones need help.

  • Collaborate with your local radio stations and podcasts. There are many programs related to mental health and they are always open to collaborate with therapists.

  • Collaborate with doctors and lawyers/courts. Making some connections with doctors and lawyers whose clients fit with your practice scope.


  • If you are affiliated with any religious community, it may be helpful to let your local spiritual leaders learn about your work and what you can contribute to the wellbeing of the community.


We live in an age of content. Our attention is often directed by the content we come across. If you are someone who enjoys creating content, that itself can be the best advertisement for your work. Here are some ideas for you:

  • Publish articles, blogs and opinions online. Chicago Minds offers a platform for you to publish your thought leadership pieces on our blog.

  • Host workshops and groups on topics of your expertise. These events can happen in your local communities, and also online. If you are interested in hosting a virtual event, please contact Chicago Minds to let us help you.

We understand the struggles and challenges you experience in your quest to grow a successful private practice, and hope to be your pillar of support. We hope you have found some useful information here. If you have any questions, please contact our team at



Lili Gray, LCSW has over 20 years of experience as a psychotherapist specializing in early childhood trauma. She is endorsed national trainer for evidence based practice Child Parent Psychotherapy and professional consultant in mental health and early childhood settings. Lili is an adjunct faculty instructor at Erikson Institute and also serves as a board member at Illinois Association for Infant Mental Health.


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