Coronavirus and Online Counseling: Special Report with Clay Cockrell

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Coronavirus and Online Counseling: Special Report with Clay Cockrell

How are you able to run your private practice in a time where people are afraid to leave their house because of Coronavirus? Are you looking for a safe way to connect with your clients with a global pandemic on our doorstep? How can online counseling help you expand your practice and service your clients during a time they need it the most?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks to Clay Cockrell about online counseling and how you can continue serving your clients by moving your counseling online during these uncertain times brought on by the Coronavirus and beyond.

Meet Clay Cockrel

Clay Cockrell, LCSW is the founder of – a listing directory with the mission of helping clients all over the world to find the therapist or life coach that will best meet their needs.  The site also works through their educational resources and podcasts to help counselors work online in an ethical, responsible and legal manner.  This is a site for online therapists developed by an online therapist.  Originally from Kentucky, Clay moved to New York City with his wife in 1997 and started the concept of Walk and Talk Therapy – he walks with his clients in Central Park instead of meeting in an office.  He has been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS’s The Doctors.  He has also been profiled in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio.

Find out more about Clay on his website and LinkedIn.

In This Podcast


  • Getting started with online counseling
  • Things to remember when getting set up
  • Why online counseling is important
  • Things to do during a slump
  • Online counseling resources to look into

Getting started with online counseling

Therapy is hard enough, it’s just challenging, it’s hard. Going to therapy should not be.

You can get started with online counseling by:

  • Setting up a video chat program (not Skype or Facetime) that is HIPAA compliant: (no download required), Vsee (download required) Zoom (Zoom needs to sign a BAA with you first) and iTherapy.
  • If you have an existing client who has completed all your traditional paperwork you would also want them to sign a Release of Information Consent Form which states that you will be meeting online. Find paperwork support here.
  • Set up a digital signature on Adobe.
  • Have a secure payment method set up.

Get listed at for free by clicking here (note that if you choose the free option you will need to have a certified badge on your website).

Things to remember when getting set up

  • Make sure that you do not have a window in your background, instead make sure you have lighting positioned towards your face.
  • Ensure that the area behind you is professional and not untidy.
  • Use wired earphones as it helps with connection and sound.
  • When you are meeting with your client suggest to them that they close all other browser windows (same applies to you) so that you can have a great connection.
  • Ideally use a wired connection instead of your wifi to ensure that your connection is steady.

Why online counseling is important

People are in need of your services, they are afraid, they are panicking. They need to talk to their therapist, you need to have an income, so this is a viable alternative for face-to-face in office counseling.

  • Therapeutically it is more effective because of the comfort level where clients are sitting in their own space and their defenses are down.
  • With the shortage of mental health professionals in the world you are able to work with clients internationally instead of only just working with clients in the state you are registered.

Things to do during a slump

  • Create a blog
  • Add a welcome video to your website
  • Start a YouTube channel
  • Work on a podcast
  • Join BNI

Online counseling resources to look into

Useful Links:

Meet Joe Sanok

private practice consultant

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[JOE]: This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok Coronavirus edition. Clay, how are you doing?
[CLAY]: I don’t have a fever and I’m not coughing too bad, so I guess I’m okay.
[JOE]: Yeah, you’re in New York City.
[CLAY]: Actually, no. I’m in Fort Lauderdale.
[JOE].: Oh, so you’re out of the big city, out of town? Flew away from the Corona or what happened?
[CLAY]: No, you know, a few years ago I promised Sandy my wife that she would not have to endure another New York winter. And having an online practice means I can go anywhere. So, we rent an Airbnb starting February 1st and we’re down in Fort Lauderdale until the middle of March. And so, coming up and just a few days I’m going to be getting in my car and driving North if I don’t talk myself out of it and just stay down here.
[JOE]: Right. Well, I’ve had a cough since like December and so it is pre-all this stuff, but every time I cough, I’m just like, “I know everyone’s looking at me.” So, luckily, I’m in my office by myself. My cleaning lady heard me cough a little bit earlier. Well I wanted to just dive right into our chit chat because I figured that would be just as entertaining and it already has been. But today I’m talking with Clay Cockrell who has, is from New York, but can’t give us the lowdown on what’s happening in New York any more than maybe I could. But I just texted Clay, I texted you yesterday and said there are so many fears and worries and you know, even opportunities around online counseling happening right now. I thought if we could just record this and we’re going to, I texted my sound engineer and he knows that I’m going to be done by two o’clock so he can start editing this and then he’s going to text me the link and I’m not even going to have my team like do show notes so we can get this out there. So, talk, you said, in your text to me that is just blowing up right now. Is it just people that don’t want to leave their house or talk a little bit about that?
[CLAY]: Yeah, of course. We’ve got Google Analytics on the directory, right? And so, —
[JOE]: So yeah, talk about, so, it’s a directory for therapists that do online counseling and then also people that are searching for online counselors?
[CLAY]: Absolutely. So, think Psychology Today. There’s a directory and just about any therapist worth their salt is going to pay their 29 bucks a month and get listed on Psychology Today. We created a directory for therapists who are working online doing video chat counseling. And so, we’ve got therapists all over the world. And of course, I monitor how many people come to the site through Google Analytics, and about a month ago, really Google did a big update. And so instead of ranking, I think we were at number seven for most of our keywords on Google’s first page, we then bumped up to five, and then four, and this morning we were number three beating out Talkspace.
[JOE]: Wow.
[CLAY]: Which is like, you know, a big granddaddy out there. So, yeah, it was like, you know, a really good day was 180, maybe 200 visitors to the site and now we’re getting close to 600 per day of people looking for an online therapy. I don’t know if it’s because you know, you don’t know if it’s people looking for an online therapist or a lot of therapists going, “Hey, I need,” you know, people are going to school virtually now because of the Corona virus. “I need to figure out how to see my clients.” They the find me and we’ve got all sorts of education and recommendation in which platforms are HIPAA-compliant. We’ve got all that on there. So, it seems like a lot of people are going to that part of the website and the podcast that I have on how to do it legally and ethically. So, I think that there are a lot of therapists who have poo-pooed this or reluctant to go online. You know, so many people say therapy is not effective when you’re doing it online and now, they’re being forced to and they’re finding us as hopefully a guide to do it well. That’s kind of a long-winded answer.
[JOE]: Oh, it’s a podcast. We can go as long as we want. We just upgraded our hosting. I can do like, I think it’s like 50 hours of podcasts a month if I wanted to. I don’t think I’m going to go to that extent, but we’ll see, like Joe Rogan with a three-hour podcast. Oh, that’s because he smokes pot on the podcast and then time just stands still for him and he just keeps talking. Anyways, so like for someone who has a traditional practice and maybe their clients want to stay home or for whatever reason, I don’t want to hype up the pandemic worry and all that, but there’s some real things that are happening in our world right now. So, what are some ways that a therapist can position themselves through online counseling? Just take us through the signup process, take us through like some of the best practices. If someone doesn’t have any video chat capabilities, what would they want to do? Like Skype or Zoom or are there other options? So walk us through kind of some of those basics for people that just now are saying, “Oh I probably should have had this setup before now, but I want to be able to see my clients when they’re staying home to avoid any sort of contact with other people.”
[CLAY]: Absolutely. And I will comment on that because, I’ve always said that a therapist gets into doing online counseling. Generally, it’s client-pushed. It’s the client who is saying, “Look, I’m traveling. Is there any way, these sessions are valuable to me? Is there any way we can meet online? This is too complicated for me to get off work in the middle of the day. Can we create it?” Because most people, most, I don’t know, most people that I’ve worked with, I guess are working online in some capacity. They’re having virtual meetings with offices around the world. It’s becoming the norm. And so, clients are coming to the therapist and going, “Hey, why aren’t you doing this?” And so, then it’s the therapist who says, “Oh, I need to go research this and find this out.” So, if this is just, if you’re new to this and you’re not behind the curve, this is the natural progression. It is, I imagine happening to you with clients coming to you, they’re afraid to come into your office because of the pandemic and they’re just, there’s a lot of fear out there. And this is a safe way to connect, not just for now as this, hopefully eventually will pass but to expand your practice and to make therapy more convenient, Therapy is hard enough. It’s just challenging. It’s hard. Going to therapy should not be. So that’s my little tagline.
[JOE]: Now, I love that, that, you know, going to therapy should not be hard. Yeah, I mean, I even think about, you know, recently we had a snow day and, the kids are home and if I still had my practice, I sold it last June, but all those clients, you know, are probably home with their kids and they still want to have those sessions and to just have that as a backup is so important. What are things that someone who maybe this week is just like, “I need to put my listing on Online Counseling and I have clients that want to see me,” and they’re starting from zero. What are just some of the first three to five steps that they need to consider to do this? Well, like is there liability, is there extra paperwork they need to have written? Like what are those basic steps in getting set up?
[CLAY]: Okay, so, let’s talk about just the very, very basics. You want to have a video chat program like Skype or FaceTime but not Skype or FaceTime because —
[JOE]: Like, but not.
[CLAY]: Like, but not. You want to be able to look at your computer screen and you see and hear your client and they can see and hear you. Basic, right? Now there’s some really easy things out there that are going to enable you to do that. One is and I’ll spell that out. It’s D like dog O, X Y. Dot. M like, Mary E like echo. It’s free, it’s HIPAA-compliant, and you can have the virtual encrypted room online on the internet and you can have a session. You send your client a link, say, “Click this at two o’clock for our session,” and boom you see each other. Don’t have to download anything. There are other programs out there like VSee, which is, I’ll spell it, V like Victor S like Sam E E like ( That’s one where you’re going to have to download like a little program. It’s easy and then your client downloads that and then you again have a HIPAA-compliant way to talk. It’s encrypted, it’s safe. Another one, has a whole suite of services with billing and scheduling and then they have their HIPAA-compliant platform. I think I read that Simple Practice has that too?
[JOE]: Yeah. Okay. So, have it, and what about Zoom? I’ve heard people talk about Zoom. Is that HIPAA-compliant?
[CLAY]: Yes-ish.
[JOE]: Yes-ish?
[CLAY]: Yes, it is. Absolutely, but it’s not free. You could use Zoom.
[JOE]: But what about their free 45-minute? Like can, isn’t that one, is that not HIPAA-compliant? The free one, the free version?
[CLAY]: No.
[JOE]: Okay, here’s —
[CLAY]: And this is my Roy Huggins coming out, God bless him. To be HIPAA-compliant, a platform isn’t compliant. It just offers you the ability to have a statement that you are HIPAA-compliant. And my mind just went blank up what this statement is. Oh my God.
[JOE]: Business Associates Agreement?
[CLAY]: Yes, thank you. A BAA, Business Associate Agreement and Zoom, in order to get them to sign a BAA with you, you need to enter into their premier, gold, platinum plan or whatever, which is like $200 a month.
[JOE]: Oh wow. Okay.
[CLAY]: Yeah. Which is not bad. I mean, I tell people I pay $2,000 a month for my office in Manhattan to have an office online for 200 bucks.
[JOE]: That’s pretty good.
[CLAY]: Sure. But when you could do it for free with or VSee, people are somewhat reluctant. But the thing is, is Zoom is becoming, you know, everybody knows Zoom, most people have it downloaded, most people are working through Zoom. So, people are more familiar with it. So, if you’ve got a lot of clients that are saying, “Hey, I’m on Zoom,” you might want to consider going with that plan. It’s not that expensive. It’s going to pay for itself.
[JOE]: Now, what if a client says, “Can we just FaceTime?” And you then tell them, “Here, this is not considered HIPAA-compliant. Your information is not secure, the Russians might be listening,” whatever it is that you’re saying to them. Is that okay if the client is aware or is it still really bad to do that?
[CLAY]: It’s still really bad to do that.
[JOE]: Okay.
[CLAY]: I mean, you as the educated professional have to make the choice and inform them and educate them that, you know, to just protect your license and to protect their confidentiality, you’re not going to do that.
[JOE]: Gotcha.
[CLAY]: But then give them a really easy alternative. “Just use this. It’ll be simple.” And after one, you know, that first session is going to be a little wonky. That’s okay just at the beginning. Be patient and have a plan B. What I mean with a plan B is that sometimes, because I guess you know, we’re all going to be going online pretty soon, maybe the internet connection is not well, maybe they’re not having a connection. So have a plan B. Sometimes I will turn the camera off because all that video going through the channel takes up a lot of information and just have audio, like a phone session. Or, sometimes I will, the audio is not working but the video is working. So, I say, “Let’s turn off the audio on this program and just call each other.” And so, we can hear each other through the telephone and see each other in the lips. Might not always be matching up, but you know, it’s better than nothing. So, have like a work around if you have some glitches. It makes you look more professional and they’re going to be more confident in the process
[JOE]: And for say, texting and communicating with someone, would you recommend an app like signal that’s end-to-end encrypted or any recommendations there?
[CLAY]: Yes.
[JOE]: Okay.
[CLAY]: And, I’m not big on all of that to be honest. I’m not as paranoid as some people out there are. One thing I will say is that, you know how long Skype and FaceTime has been around. We’re coming up on what, 10 years? There’s not been one case against a therapist using a non-HIPPA approved or crossing state lines or anything like that. There was one case in Pennsylvania by a guy in Israel who wasn’t licensed and nobody’s gotten into it. It doesn’t mean nobody will but the other thing is we’re kind of in a crisis right now. And, I think people are going to understand if you don’t get it completely right. People are in need of your services. They are afraid, they are panicking, they need to talk to their therapist, you need to have an income. So, this is a viable alternative for face to face in office counseling.
[JOE]: And I think there’s people that maybe have never even considered therapy that in the midst of this, I mean, I’m just for myself even just, okay, I have type one diabetes, I had cancer diagnosis in the past, and you know, so when it comes to just when I look at the stats on just people with diabetes, you know, it’s worse for people with diabetes. And so that anxiety plus, you know, my kids are asking about it, plus global warming plus, I mean, there’s so many things to worry about right now that I’m sure that a lot of folks are just like, “I need to vent to somebody.” They have maybe never even considered that.
[CLAY]: Yeah, absolutely. And we saw this during the 2016 campaign when, you know, it’s hard to remember back that far, but you know, it was a whole year leading up with a lot of chaos and therapists’ phones were ringing off the hook, especially after the election. We were just fatigued and scared, and the same thing is happening now on a magnified level. And I think that that is, you see that in my private practice numbers are huge, the phone calls I’m getting, the numbers coming into the directory. The other thing with my directory; if you are interested in signing up, we can list you for free and we used to charge you.
[JOE]: That’s awesome.
[CLAY]: Yeah, we used to charge, $49 and 95 cents a month and you can still pay that if you want, but if you want it for free and it’s the same benefits, same search results as the person paying it, we just ask that you put our little badge on your site saying that you are a certified member and the badge acts as a link back to the directory, and Google likes that. So, we got more people coming to the directory and it helps everybody.
[JOE]: And do they need a special code for that or is that right on
[CLAY]: It’s right on it. It’s a click on list my practice and you have a choice of signing up and paying like 50 bucks a month or you can sign up and pay nothing and just you email us and show us where you put the badge on your personal website. And it’s easy to sign up. You list all your specialties, you are able to upload a picture, like a headshot and we do something like, Facebook has a banner photo. We’ve got a banner photo on your profile so that you can put a picture of your office or rainbows or whatever. Just kind of personalize your profile a little bit more than what, like Good Therapy or Psychology Today so that if somebody is looking for a female therapist that specializes in post-menopausal depression, you list all those as your specialties and your profile and your face is going to come up.
[JOE]: Wow. So, you get your kind of HIPAA-compliant way to talk to people, get your listing on Online Counseling. What sort of paperwork or liability in addition to the traditional kind of practice things does someone need to have when they start doing online counseling?
[CLAY]: If this is an existing client, you’ve probably gotten all of your paperwork set. You may want to consider adding in a release of information, consent form saying that you know, we are going to also be meeting online and you can get that too with, what’s her name. Was it, I’ll text you this later, but she does a Q-prep?
[JOE]: Oh yeah.
[CLAY]: She’s got wonderful, really, most of them free, any kind of forms that you may need to get them to sign and maybe even have them sign electronically since you’re not going to be seeing them face to face for a little while. So, she’s a wonderful resource. I think it’s, right?
[JOE]: Yeah. Now if somebody doesn’t already have an electronic health records and they just want to have someone sign that paperwork, are there any resources you recommend for digital signatures?
[CLAY]: Adobe has a good one.
[JOE]: Okay, cool. So, you get the paperwork, what else should people know if they’re, you know, kind of just jumping into online counseling during this time?
[CLAY]: Ah, okay. So, here’s my little tips and tricks.
[JOE]: All right.
[CLAY]: You’re going to set up your computer, right? But don’t forget your background. Don’t have a window behind you because the lighting’s going to screw things up and you’re just going to look like a shadow. So have the lighting be toward your face. And whatever is behind you needs to be professional, not an unmade bed or a closet or toys or what.
[JOE]: Or laundry.
[CLAY]: Yes. I interviewed a therapist who wants to work for my online practice and she came to the interview and there was an unmade bed behind her and I’m going, “Really?” So, yeah. Make it a little professional, as much as you can. Don’t go crazy. Put a blanket. Don’t overthink any of this. This is just, Joe, that’s my number one tip. It’s don’t overthink this, but you know, be careful of your lighting. I have found that when you do wired earbuds, it helps with the connection and then make the suggestion to your client that when they log in, make sure that they’ve got those wired earphones plugged into their computer. It helps on with confidentiality if anybody’s near, but also it helps with the connection and the sound and you know everybody’s got those laying around somewhere in a drawer.
[JOE]: Yeah, I mean that idea of lighting alone, the amount of times that I’m in an online meeting with someone and they have a window behind them and they’re just a shadow. I mean just to have a light that’s kind of pointed at your face just makes you look so much better online, whether it’s a Facebook Live or online counseling.
[CLAY]: Yeah, absolutely. If you want to get really fancy, they sell on Amazon for really cheap. Those ring lights.
[JOE]: They are so bright. I feel like they burn my retina.
[CLAY]: Yes.
[JOE]: I just have a little desk lamp that I put on my face.
[CLAY]: Yeah, that is more than enough. So, let’s see, okay, most people have a camera built into their computer these days, and that camera is at the very top of the actual screen. Therapy is all about eye contact. It’s hearing and seeing. So, if you put your window, your Zoom window down at the bottom, they’re going to be looking at your forehead. Just drag that window, shrink it down pretty small, drag it up to the very top of your screen, right near that camera, and it’s going to look like you’re making wonderful eye contact with them.
[JOE]: Love it. Yeah, I’m so, even though we’re not doing video right now, I’m so used to looking at that little dot. Even after, like right now, I’m looking at that little dot, even though you can’t see my eyes but I’m making eye contact even though the video is now on.
[CLAY]: Absolutely. I’m doing the same thing.
[JOE]: You just get used it. That’s where you look.
[CLAY]: Yeah. So, you know, making sure your audio is good, making sure your connection, I always recommend that you, and then tell your client this. So, you know, you want to present yourself as an authority, you do this all the time, so not a big deal. So, you suggest to them to close out any of their browser windows. If they’ve got Firefox or they’ve got iTunes opened, all that is sucking up some of your broadband connection. So close everything out and just have one thing dedicated to whatever platform you’re using and then have them do the same. You’re going to have a great connection. Yeah, that’s a big one. And also, it helps sometime to not be on Wi-Fi, but to have a wired connection right into your router that can give you that little extra bump that you need. And sometimes you’re just like, there’s a bad connection. There’s nothing you can do. Restart everything. That solves most problems in life. It’s just, “Give me a minute, I’m going to shut down. I’m going to be right back.”
[JOE]: It is amazing how many times that just restarting, just makes it work.
[CLAY]: Absolutely. So, I think that when I started this many years ago, it took about two or three sessions and I just felt normal. I just felt like, “What’s the big deal? Yeah, it’s easy.”
[JOE]: Yeah. So, I would say those of you that are listening, that haven’t considered online counseling, at least give it a whirl. You know, get things set up so that if your clients ask and, you may find some new clients through you know, to just have it set up to be prepared in that way. You know, I’m an Eagle scout, so to be prepared, that’s deep in my blood.
[CLAY]: You’re an Eagle scout?
[JOE]: I am.
[CLAY]: Wow. I’m even more impressed with you, Joe.
[JOE]: Yeah, Eagle scout with one Palm, not to just brag a little bit, but it’s not beyond Eagle scout.
[CLAY]: Wow. That’s remarkable.
[JOE]: Well, thank you, Clay. My daughter actually, she, now that they let girls in the boy Scouts of America, she’s joined and so I’m helping with her den. She’s now working on her bear badge and, so she said she wants to go on to try to become an Eagle. So, we’ll see if they don’t go bankrupt first. It’s a whole different podcast [crosstalk]. Well, so big picture. Why would you say online counseling is important? Because, I mean, you’re really the authority on online counseling. And for you, why is this important? Just to consider online counseling or to have it be available as a modality?
[CLAY]: So many reasons. Let me just start talking and you shut me up when you’ve had enough.
[JOE]: Sounds good.
[CLAY]: Let’s see. One is that, you know, I was, when I started my practice, I was just really shocked at how behind the field was in technology. It was embarrassing when every other field out there has websites and email. I was amazed at how many therapists don’t have a website. How can you run a business like that? So, it’s almost like you, we, people are looking at us as an industry and when we look behind the times, how are they going to trust us with some of their inner problems. So, I think that it is important for us as professionals to live in the time in which we are born. And this is the reality of our world. We are all online, this is just normal, especially these millennials and gen Z. This is not new to them. They were born with it. So, embrace this technology. Everybody else is, there is nothing wrong with it.
New Speaker: And, then let’s look at the benefits of it. One therapeutically. I mean I’ve heard therapists say, well it can’t possibly be as beneficial as an office, face to face, in the same room therapy. And I think it’s more effective, primarily comfort level. And I talk to clients and they are sitting on their couch at home in their own space. Their defenses are down, they haven’t had to commute and find parking and get into my office and now they’re in the doctor’s office and it’s this boring and then ask them to be vulnerable? No sitting on their own couch, in their own office, making therapy convenient. It makes it more effective. The other thing is that you know, we have a shortage of mental health professionals in the world, not just in your state, in the world. We have a shortage. There are people in pain. You went to school as a therapist, you trained, you are very good at what you do, you have education experience and training to alleviate these problems, and then you’re going to say, “Well, the client doesn’t show up the way I want them to.”
New Speaker: You’re going to keep your light under a bushel? You’re going to keep your skill and talent away from people who need it? That’s not helpful. There are people out there who are desperate for you and what you bring to the table. Don’t let your preconceived notions get in the way of that. Embrace it. And when you begin to think, not just, you know, most people know, and this is changing by the way, but most people know that you need to do counseling with people who are in your state, the states, maybe plural states that you’re licensed in. You can work with them. But outside the United States, that concept does not exist. So, you can work with people in the UK, ex-pats living in Dubai, you can work with anyone and they’re really having mental health professional shortage.
[JOE]: Yeah, that’s an opportunity that when you and I started working together, just, I think it was India, you had shown me how many people wanted mental health clinicians and didn’t have them. And just, you know, being able to attract an international audience, I mean that’s something I don’t hear very many people talking about even still and you’ve been talking about it for years to just figure out how to get more of an international clientele.
[CLAY]: Absolutely. And that’s why when we created, I was cognizant that the word counseling outside the United States is spelled with two L’s. It’s like, in the UK they call an elevator a lift. It’s just small little nuances between different English-speaking worlds. And so, we got the single L domain name, we got the double L domain name. We market heavily outside the United States. There are some issues sometimes with time zones, but you just kind of figure that out and you can have your European clients at one time a day and your US-based clients at another. But there are people who are having to live outside, the Americans who have to live outside the United States, it’s what we call an ex-pat, and they are in need of psychotherapy and then they’re English speaking or maybe you listening to this, you speak multiple languages and you can market. And I think that when we are successful in our business and we are making an income, I think it makes us more effective and we need to be effective and we need to make money at this. And so, when you widen your target audience, it’s good for everybody.
[JOE]: Yeah, absolutely. Hey, one question I forgot to ask you was how does payment work? Do you have specific platforms you recommend? A credit card on file, not a credit card on file? Like what would you recommend for payment?
[CLAY]: I’ve got multiple. I do PayPal and, I don’t do Venmo just because that’s very, very public. They’re kind of a social media so that, you know, they can say, “Paid Clay for therapy today,” and then all their friends know that Clay got paid.
[JOE]: Yeah. And even though you can turn that off, you never know when there’s going to be a glitch where it turns on. Now, do you have to have a Business Associate’s Agreement with PayPal or how does that work?
[CLAY]: That’s a good question. I probably should look into it.
[JOE]: That’s okay.
[CLAY]: You too are maybe an expert in this and I’m like, “Ah, I don’t know.” If somebody—
[JOE]: But I think that’s so true of experts that we’re all learning. Even in Next Level Practice, which is our membership community, I frequently say I don’t have the corner on the information. We’re smarter as a group and you know, people are going to ask questions where you’re like, “Oh my gosh. Yeah, I guess I haven’t thought of that.” But, I mean, even like with Square, like, you know, they could do HSA stuff but, I don’t remember them ever signing a BBA. I mean, because even, I mean, this is more of a Roy Huggins question, more theoretical. It’s like, do you have to have every credit card you take have a Business Associate’s Agreement with them as well? I mean, that’s just, it could just get so sticky. But yeah, luckily this isn’t about HIPAA. It’s about online counseling.
New Speaker: But I think your point in a crisis if we’re doing our best if we’re trying to follow our code of ethics to the best of our ability, and our intent is to help people, you know, say that someone contacts you know from Idaho and you aren’t licensed there and you do your best to connect them, and it’s just like, you’re going to do your best to try to help somebody get the services they need. And there are times that the law or the ethics haven’t kept up with the reality of what we’re experiencing as clinicians. And so, I think if people are grounded in, my intent is this. I’m documenting what I did and why and here’s what I’m choosing to do. Like I think about a time when, I had a client that was in an Asian country and he was from Michigan, but traveling and was going to be there for a couple of months and we did weekly counseling. The platform we were using just wasn’t downloading right and finally, I just said, “Listen, I want you to do counseling and that’s more important. Here are the risks of Skype. I know that it’s not perfect.” And he was like, “I want to do my counseling session.”
New Speaker: And it’s like, yeah. So that wasn’t HIPAA-compliant. I broke the rule but what’s worse. You know, to say to someone, “You can’t do counseling because of this ethics or the ethical obligation to the client.” And so, there are times that I think it’s really important to think through the client experience in addition to kind of the HIPAA and all the rules side of it.
[CLAY]: Absolutely. It’s so much more important.
[JOE]: Who knew that PayPal question would get me off on that?
[JOE]: Yeah. It just, and again, I just tell people, don’t overthink it, don’t make this more complicated, this is, I don’t know why our field and our industry, we just go way too deep with this. Stop it. Just, you’re here to help people. And I want to put a plug out there for Amber Lydda who has a Facebook group and she’s got thousands of people in this Facebook group. It’s called Online Therapists, something, something. Just put that into Facebook and you’ll find her. She’s got all sorts of resources out there. I’m sure she’s going to even have forms in her or documents on the group and then wonderful, lively discussions there. So, yeah, shout out to, I’ve gotten to know her and she’s just a great person and she’s got a lot of information on Facebook and her group.
[CLAY]: That’s so awesome.
[JOE]: Well, you know, I think the one thing I want to kind of close with is that when there are economic downturns, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too, Clay. Yes. It’s tough for a lot of people. Yes, it’s tough for us. but also, there’s an immense opportunity too, during that time. And so, I think about how I started Mental Wellness Counseling here in Traverse City in 2009. Just as you know, kind of the whole stock market crash was going on and you’re there doing the first-time homebuyer tax credit and trying to reignite the economy. There was a lot of practices that were just going out of business. And so, because I was young and had energy and wanted to bootstrap it, it was easier for me to find clients because I wasn’t worried about a lot of the things some of the bigger practices were worrying about.
New Speaker: And so, you know, whether it’s the, you know, you’ve viewed the stock market as being on sales, you’re going to put more money into your IRA or 401k or it’s, you know, that you’ll, maybe there’s not going to be as much marketing money and so you’re going to be able to get twice as much marketing for the same price. Or, this is the reason why I suggest people take home only half of their net. Because whenever there are opportunities, you want to be able to jump on those because you’ve been smart, you’ve been saving up three to six months of your expenses as a family, but also three to six months of your expenses as a business. So if you’re not sweating overpaying your rent over the next six months and you’re really being smart about how you’re running your business throughout, then in a time like this you can take advantage of these opportunities and potentially come out on the other side stronger and you know, have shed a lot of just that unnecessary weight of your business. Clay, what do you think about those statements? Are they things you agree with, disagree with, that you’d add to?
[CLAY]: I completely agree with everything you said. I think that we’re kind of in a recession-proof industry that people are struggling right now, they’re scared, they have anxiety, they have depression. Sounds like to me that’s a target audience, which is just reality. People might think that that’s cold or whatever, but no, this is what we do. And it’s like, I’ve been training for this my whole life.
[JOE]: This is my time, online counseling superhero.
[CLAY]: This is definitely it. So, to embrace that this is a wonderful time to start a practice, to grow a practice, because, you know, we’ve got a lot of people out there that are needing our services and we have to be smart about business and I love that taking home half your pay. That’s brilliant.
[JOE]: Yeah. I mean, I want to, when especially like if there’s magazines or different things that say, “Hey, we want to do advertising,” and you can tell that they’re just trying to sell those final ads and they’re courting you to get you to buy something, to be able to really negotiate and try to get bigger ads or be able to spend more and get way more. I mean, you just never know the opportunities. And so, especially with just today we’re recording this on Thursday, yesterday we officially entered what they call a bear market, even though bear markets usually have to last at least two months, but it’s dropped more than 20% since its height a couple of months ago. That’s scary to a lot of investors, but I mean, the people I follow are the kind of buy it and just like hold it kind of folks. You’re not kind of day-trading and you know, typically I think it’s within, 300 days most bear markets get back to where they were at. And so, if you pull a whole bunch of money out, you just have lost that 20%.
[CLAY]: Absolutely.
[JOE].: But I need to have some financial advisors talk about all that stuff.
[CLAY]: But, I think that you know, if you do find yourself in a lull and you know, you’ve got time in the day that you used to have clients, that’s the time to sit down and blog, to create a YouTube channel, to work on a podcast, to record a video and put a welcome video on your website, join BNI, which is a huge advocate for Business Networking International. It’s the chance to go and meet other professionals in your community. It’s, you know, now’s the time to work on your business, not necessarily in your business if things are a little slow.
[JOE]: So awesome, Clay. So, the last question I always ask people is, if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
[CLAY]: Well, what I want them to know? I would want them to know that they are valued and that their particular skill set is valuable, we don’t give it away, we are professionals and we need to treat our business as a business. And that’s okay that we should not overthink this and that this is a learning curve. Embrace the curve. You’re not going to get it right. You’re going to screw up. It’s going to be okay. We’ve all screwed up. That’s just that
[JOE]: I love it. And if you want to get that free profile, head on over to, take advantage of that free profile. Go get it, serve your clients. I also want to give some shout outs to our team because when we do a podcast last minute like this, it takes a lot to pull it all together. So, Mitchell, our sound engineer, I want to give you a big shout out, Jess, I know that you’ve been helping so much with getting everything else set up with these last-minute things. Also, our team in South Africa, Kirsty, Sam, and Sam, thank you so much for all that you’re doing to keep this podcast going. All of you listeners, thanks so much for letting Clay and me into your ears and into your brain. Have an awesome week. We’ll talk to you soon.
[CLAY]: Bye.
[JOE]: Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. And this podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It’s given with the understanding that neither the hosts, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.