How to Be a Rebel Therapist with Annie Schuessler | GP 112

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A photo of Annie Schuessler is captured. She is a business coach and the host of the podcast Rebel Therapist® Podcast. Annie is featured on Grow A Group Practice, a therapist podcast.

Do you want to expand your business beyond the therapy room? How do consultants help therapists grow their business in new ways? Do you want to rebel a little within the standard business model?

In this episode, Alison Pidgeon speaks about how to be a rebel therapist with Annie Schuessler.

Podcast Sponsor: Therapy Notes

An image of Therapy Notes is captured as the sponsor on the Practice of the Practice Podcast, a therapist podcast. Therapy Notes is the most trusted EHR for Behavioral Health.

Is managing your practice stressing you out? Try TherapyNotes! It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and telehealth a whole lot easier.

Check it out and you will quickly see why TherapyNotes is the highest-rated EHR on TrustPilot with over 1000 verified customer reviews and an average customer rating of 4.9/5 stars.

You’ll notice the difference from the first day you sign up for a trial. They offer live phone support 7 days a week, so when you have questions, you can quickly reach someone who can help, and you are never wasting your time looking for answers.

If you are coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy. TherapyNotes will import your clients’ demographic data free of charge during your trial so you can get going right away.

Use promo code ‘JOE’ to get three free months to try out TherapyNotes, no strings attached, and remember, telehealth is included with every subscription free. Make 2022 the best year yet with TherapyNotes.

Meet Annie Schuessler

A photo of Annie Schuessler is captured. She is a business coach and the host of the podcast Rebel Therapist® Podcast. Annie is featured on Grow A Group Practice, a therapist podcast.Annie Schuessler is a business coach and the host of the Rebel Therapist® Podcast.

When Annie started out in private practice, she struggled with her mindset around money, and with not knowing how to build a private practice. At times she believed the discouraging things she had heard from others about private practice.

However, she pushed through and created a business way beyond what she used to imagine. Now Annie wants to share her lessons with others. With her Rebel Therapist®Programs, she helps therapists, healers, and coaches make an impact beyond traditional private practice.

Visit the Rebel Therapist website and listen to Annie’s podcast. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

FREEBIE: Take Annie’s Free Mini-E-Course for therapists and other healers looking to create a successful pilot program.

In This Podcast

  • How Annie helps therapists in their businesses
  • Going beyond the therapy room in your practice
  • Annie’s advice to therapists

How Annie helps therapists in their businesses

I like to look at what [you] want your work-life to look like. What do you want to be spending your time on in your work-life? [Look] at the things you’re doing now, [which] are the ones that drain you? And what are the activities that really feed you? (Annie Schuessler)

Annie consults with therapists and helps them to reorganize their work-life so that they can approach it in the way that feels the most authentic to them and their lives.

She helps them go through each of their activities, find the ones that truly make them happy, and then to make decisions that incorporate those activities into their daily routine to optimize fulfillment and success.

Allow yourself to experiment so that you are not making a permanent decision. You’re not married to your next business model, but you are giving yourself a chance to try it out. (Annie Schuessler)

Going beyond the therapy room in your practice

  • Have a (basic) structure: you do not have to have everything planned out, but do spend time creating a program that you can follow to help you track your progress from point A to B in your exploration of the new idea.
  • Create the (basic) structure of your pilot program: is it going to be an eight-week group? A one-on-one coaching program?
  • Work on the messaging and marketing plan: this is where you advertise your product or service for the beta test.

I love that you said there’s a structure to it because … many people just need to know what the steps are, and once they figure [that] out they can hit the ground running, but without a framework, you can definitely get lost and not make much progress. (Alison Pidgeon)

Annie’s advice to therapists

If you want to grow your practice into a group practice, or you want to create a new service to provide to your clients, experiment.

Be curious and be willing to experiment with your new idea first before you launch the final product.

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

Check out these additional resources:

Meet Alison Pidgeon, Group Practice Owner

An image of Alison Pidgeon is displayed. She is a successful group practice owner and offers private practice consultation for private practice owners to assist in how to grow a group practice. She is the host of Grow A Group Practice Podcast and one of the founders of Group Practice Boss.Alison Pidgeon, LPC is the owner of Move Forward Counseling, a group practice in Lancaster, PA and she runs a virtual assistant company, Move Forward Virtual Assistants.

Alison has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016.  She has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, through mastermind groups and individual consulting.

Transformation From A Private Practice To Group Practice

In addition, she is a private practice consultant for Practice of the Practice. Allison’s private practice ‘grew up.’ What started out as a solo private practice in early 2015 quickly grew into a group practice and has been expanding ever since.

Visit Alison’s website, listen to her podcast, or consult with Alison. Email Alison at alison@practiceofthepractice.com

Thanks For Listening!

Podcast Transcription

[ALISON PIDGEON]
You are listening to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. Whether you were thinking about starting a group practice or in the beginning stages, or want to learn how to scale up your already existing group practice, you are in the right place. I’m Alison Pidgeon, your host, a serial entrepreneur with four businesses, one of which is a large group practice that I started in 2015. Each week, I feature a guest or topic that is relevant to group practice owners. Let’s get started.

Welcome to the podcast. I’m so glad you decided to join me today. I have a great interview with Annie Schuessler to share with you. She is a business coach and the host of the podcast Rebel Therapist, which I love that name. She also has a program called Rebel Therapist and she helps therapists, healers, and coaches make an impact beyond a traditional private practice. She is herself, a veteran therapist. She ran a successful private practice for 20 years. She has mentored other therapists and their businesses for the past 10 years through her Rebel Therapist programs and she’s doing awesome innovative things, helping therapists figure out how to use their skills in new and different ways. So I hope you enjoy my interview with Annie Schuessler. Hi, Annie. Welcome to the podcast.
[ANNIE SCHUESSLER]
Thank you so much. I’ve been so excited to get to connect with you.
[ALISON]
Yes, it’s been great, getting to know you a little bit. Let’s have you introduce yourself so the audience knows who you are too.
[ANNIE]
Okay. I’m Annie Schuessler. I’m the host of Rebel Therapist podcast and my business is called Rebel Therapist and I help therapists who want to expand beyond private practice and create their own programs. I live in San Francisco in a duplex upstairs from my sister’s family. So that’s just a little about me personally, which has been such a lifeline, especially over the last two years. Yes, I’ve got two kids, one of whom just got through COVID quite well, I got to say. And yes, we’re doing okay over here.
[ALISON]
Good. I know you have been in the mental health field for a long time. You had your own solo practice, you had a group practice. Can you kind of give us some of those highlights as well?
[ANNIE]
Absolutely. Yes, I was a therapist for about 20 years and I just closed my therapy practice almost two years ago now, which I can’t believe. It feels like that just happened yesterday. I think partly because I had timed it inadvertently to close right around the beginning of the pandemic but for about 10 years there, I was doing both. I had a private practice and I also had my business coaching and then the scales just kept tipping more and more toward business coaching over those last 10 years.

I also had a group practice for a time called the Bay Area Relationship Center. What I discovered was that that was not for me. I’ve worked with a lot of people who love running group practices, but I discovered that in my one wild and precious life, it wasn’t the right fit for me. I’m so grateful that it is the right fit for some people though. So in my business coaching, I used to help people build private practices and now I help people just with the work beyond private practice and creating their own programs and then I leave all the practice building to all the other amazing business coaches who specialize in that.
[ALISON]
That’s amazing. So you’ve done quite a few different things and I’m curious to have you elaborate a little bit more on how long did you run the group practice before you realized it wasn’t for you and was there like this one moment where it just sort of hit you, like I can’t do this anymore, or do you feel like that happened like gradually over a period of time? Or what was that like for you?
[ANNIE]
Yes. I should have looked this up before I started talking to you, ow long did I have the group practice? I want to say it was a few years and what was weird, it was definitely a gradual process of realizing this isn’t for me. It was all about that kind of opportunity cost, where there was nothing wrong with the group practice. I liked it. I loved the people I was working with. I loved the other therapists in the practice, but I was noticing that I was more excited by business coaching than building the group practice or managing the folks in the group practice. I really love having a very streamlined business where I’m focusing in on one or two things. So it was really this okay, with this amount of time that I have, what do I most want to focus on? It wasn’t the group practice.

I tried a few different things over time to see like, can I just sort of optimize it so that it is the right thing for me? Can I try this or try that, keep it really small, maybe grow it. What’s the solution? Then I realized this isn’t something that I feel drawn to growing and it really deserves to grow. Like it really deserves to be nurtured and there are people who, this is their gift. So I ended up handing it to an amazing clinician who was working within the group practice and she was the perfect person to take it over and nurture it.
[ALISON]
Yes, that’s amazing. We were talking about that a little bit before we started recording how you didn’t, typically people will sell their practice to somebody else and you just handed it over to her.
[ANNIE]
I did, which —
[ALISON]
I think that is incredible.
[ANNIE]
I realized that there were a couple reasons for that. One was, I really wanted it to be in good hands and there was kind of, there was like a kernel of something really special there that I wanted to have continue if it could continue. I knew she was the person to do that. Then I also was looking at the opportunity cost even in like getting it ready to sell. I thought, okay, I could take that energy and put it into the sales process, or I could take that energy and put it into my business coaching. So I decided to go that way. Now, what would I have done if she hadn’t wanted the practice? I’m not quite sure because I never had to figure that out.
[ALISON]
I think that’s so smart that we often just think about the financial side, but we sometimes forget about the time and energy cost and that is so important. I found that my time is much more precious to me than a lot of other things at this point in my life. So I can see how that would’ve been a deciding factor for you.
[ANNIE]
Yes, that’s really true. I’m 50 now. I just turned 50 a little less than a month ago. So that’s one thing that’s making me think about this a whole bunch, like that, how time is our non-renewable resource, one of our non-renewable resources. Then also for me personally, I know this happens for people who don’t have kids, but for me having my two kiddos is another thing that always has me thinking about trade offs in terms of time, like what is the thing I want to spend my days on, my hours on knowing with every hour in my week, I got to make one choice of where it’s going to go.
[ALISON]
Yes. I feel like that’s such a huge thing as a parent that you think about and you realize how quickly they grow up. My son just turned 10 and I’m like, oh my gosh, it’s not going to be too long before he’s in high school and then he’s going to be leaving home and all these things you imagine doing as a parent with your kids and you’re like, we got to get on that.
[ANNIE]
Yes, one of my kids is 18, almost 19. He’s home right now because of the pandemic, he’s home from college right now and learning remotely. It’s kind of like this extra gift of time with him, but yet it goes, I know it’s like what people always say, but it does go so fast, which is okay. That’s how it goes. But that does motivate me to want to make really conscious choices.
[ALISON]
Yes, for sure. Well I’m curious to ask you a little bit more about how you help people figure out what is the right next step for them because I know obviously for a lot of people they think, oh, well the next, I’m in solo practice. The next step for me is to sort a group practice, but that’s not the best fit for everybody. As you explained it wasn’t the best fit for you. So how do you help people figure out if a group practice is right for them or if something else is a better fit.
[ANNIE]
I like to look at what do you want your work life to look like? What do you want to be spending your time on in your work life and looking at in the things that you’re doing now, what are the ones that drain you? What are the ones, what are the activities that really feed you and feel like, okay, these are in my realm of superpowers. I should be spending more time on these things, less time on these other things and see if that makes your decision obvious. For some of us, it does not make it obvious.

So with the group practice, I’m actually glad I ran that experiment and so I do encourage people to run small experiments, whether it’s experiment with bringing on one clinician into your practice thoughtfully, but experiment with starting very small with that and see how that feels or experiment with creating and running a program beyond private practice and allow yourself to experiment so that you’re not making a permanent decision. You’re not getting married to what your next business model is going to be, but you give yourself a chance to try it out.

What I have noticed with. So I’ve got a lot of clients who have both a group practice and then they’ve decided to also create their own program beyond private practice. It seems like for people who love running a group practice, there is some, and I would be so curious, Alison, because you’re more of an expert on this, what you think of this, but it seems like there is some love of managing and mentoring and nurturing other clinicians in that. If you love that, then that might be something you want to experiment with. For me personally, it was a little more confusing because I do love nurturing clinicians, but the way that I love doing it is more as a business coach where they’re creating their own playgrounds and not working within mine.

So I think it’s a really nuanced discovery practice, but of such an important discovery practice because sometimes it can feel like, all right, I built this therapy practice it’s full. I don’t want anymore clients. I can’t take anymore clients. So what’s my next step and to not take that step just by default, but to allow yourself to explore, what’s going to be the best fit? Because it can feel like, all right, by default, I should grow a group practice maybe, but like take it slow, explore and then run an experiment.
[ALISON]
Yes, I would agree with all of that. I think that you have to really enjoy being the boss to run a group practice if you really love it. I also like what you were saying about experimentation because that just, you’re taking out kind of that risk factor. When I started my virtual assistant business, how we did it was I just hired out the assistant I already had working in my practice because I just wanted to see is this going to work? How is this going to work? Are people actually going to want to like pay for this? We tried it and it worked. So then I felt confident enough to actually start a whole separate business, but it definitely was very much a small scale experiment to begin with.
[ANNIE]
Yes. Then you’re kind of noticing, what do I love about this? What do I not love about this? If I’m going to move in the direction of what feels warmer and what feels more like the life I want to create, what is that?
[ALISON]
Yes. I love the name of your, your podcast and your coaching business, the Rebel Therapist. Where did that come from?
[ANNIE]
Thank you. As I was pivoting from helping people build their private practices into helping them move beyond private practice. I was looking at who is this for? As I was, I’m so into experimenting, I had run a beta program for people who were moving beyond private practice and had a great time with them and they built some amazing programs. Then I looked at, okay, who is this for? Who are these people who I’ve led through this process? What kind of sets them apart? I was thinking, well, they’re rebel. I was talking to one of my best friends who has just a brilliant business mind, Karen Smiley and we were just going back and forth and I was saying, okay, they’re rebellious, they’re entrepreneurs.

I believe if I remember correctly that she said the name back to me and I was like, that’s it. Am I allowed to use that? She’s like, yes, of course you can use that. So I think it just came out of observing the people who were doing really well in my programs and then thinking about what does this mean to me? How would I describe these folks in a way that might resonate with them? Then I remember when I brought it up with some of my ongoing clients, some of them loved it and some of them were like, “I don’t know if I would’ve hired you in the first place with that name, but I took the risk anyway. I’m glad I did.”
[ALISON]
Do you think people now are attracted to your coaching program because of that, because of the name?
[ANNIE]
I think some people are, I tend to draw a lot of clear folks, a lot of progressive folks, a lot of feminists, people who are in some way wanting to rebel against what’s been handed to them around business in the past or around being a therapist in the past. So I think it does kind of draw that, people who have some kind of rebellious streak, whether it’s hidden or whether it’s right out there. Then I think one really nice thing about this, if anyone’s thinking about how to name their business, which you know is a fun thing to think about, it gives me a lot of permission. The fact that that’s in the name, it gives me a lot of permission to kind of think outside the box with people to be innovative. It doesn’t surprise people when I want to help them innovate.
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[ALISON PIDGEON]
Yes, that’s amazing. That’s great. That’s such a perfect name for, it sounds like for you and for your clients. So I was curious, too, about your specific coaching that you do now is really focused on helping people figure out what to do beyond the therapy room. So can you kind of give us some examples of things that people have started or created through your coaching?
[ANNIE]
Absolutely. One amazing program that a participant has created is from Sonya Brewer. She’s created a program for really really high functioning, I’m going to say it the way that I’m thinking of it. I may get some of this wrong, but ambitious trauma survivors, people who have accomplished everything and they’ve done a ton of healing around their trauma and in their lives, they’re just like killing it. There’s this other layer of living their lives to the fullest that they’re still looking for and they can do that with Sonya as a guide and then also in a group with other people who are struggling with the same things and also living these really full lives. So I think that’s just a beautiful example of something that even though Sonya is a trained therapist has done amazing work that this is an opportunity to work with people differently. That is an opportunity outside of the therapy room.
[ALISON]
Is that more of a coaching model?
[ANNIE]
Yes, yes.
[ALISON]
Okay. Very cool. So when you work with someone and they’re trying to figure out what to do, is there a typical kind of process you lead them through to help them figure it out or is there, is it just sort of organic depending on the individual person or do you have some sort of template of how you help people figure out how to start another type of business?
[ANNIE]
Absolutely. It started out way more kind of loose and organic but what I’ve discovered is that even though people need a lot of freedom to experiment and dream and create the people I work with really benefit from having a structure to do that within. If they don’t have a structure, a lot of us can get lost in the dreaming stage or in the preparing stage, in the figuring out stage. So I walk people through a fairly fast process. So over just a couple of months, I have people walk through niching, so figuring out I’m going to run one beta pilot program. This is the niche. These are the people that’s going to be for, this is the problem that’s going to solve.

Then we come up with what’s the structure of that pilot? Like, is it going to be an eight week group? Is it going to be a one on one coaching program that’s structured a particular way? Is it going to be a retreat? So we look at what’s the best fit for this first round of this program for this particular group of people and then we work on the messaging and the marketing plan for that beta group. Then before we say goodbye, people actually begin to launch their programs; so announce them to their communities, let people know why they’ve created this, who it’s for and why it’s the best thing since sliced bread.
[ALISON]
I love that you said there’s a structure to it because I feel like for so many people, they just need to know what the steps are and then once they figure out the steps, they can just sort of hit the ground running, but without a framework, yes, you can definitely get lost and not make much progress.
[ANNIE]
I know I have. I know that I needed this structure that I didn’t have, so getting my business, coaching business off the ground took way longer than it needed to. Because I did get stuck in the planning and perfecting and dreaming and that sometimes we need to move a bit faster so that we can maybe even make some mistakes and learn some things and figure out what works, what doesn’t work. But I’m a real introvert. I know a lot of people I work with are introverts, are highly sensitive people. We can tend to kind of over plan behind the scenes instead of getting out there and taking some risks.
[ALISON]
I have noticed that as well. Speaking of from being a recovering perfectionist, myself, many therapists are perfectionists and they can get stuck in the, it has to be perfect before I actually put it out into the world and that either takes forever or never happens.
[ANNIE]
It’s so true. It can feel like, but that’s excellent. Like we want everything that we do to be excellent. That’s good. But for something to be truly excellent, we’ve got to have a lot of experience with it. So to create a really great program beyond private practice, just like anything else we need to start fast so that we have the time to make it excellent during our career.
[ALISON]
Right. That’s what I found to be true is that you really can’t perfect it until you actually start doing it. For sure. So what do you love about helping therapists with this process? What’s your favorite part? about it?
[ANNIE]
I love these moments when people realize, oh, I could do this differently, where they are kind of realizing places where they have themselves fenced in and believing that like even a program beyond private practice, that, that has to look a certain way, that it has to look like a course they’ve taken in the past or something that they’ve seen, maybe one of their “competitors” doing. Then just these kind of aha moments of, oh, like I could take my superpowers. I could really create what I see my folks needing and I can do it differently. I could do it the way that really works for me. So these little aha moments of maybe they happen, because they get inspired by someone else, maybe they happen because of the questions they’re being asked about their participant, their future participants, the way that they work best. But there are a lot of these little moments of freedom of like discovering some freedom of how they’re going to run their programs.
[ALISON]
I think there’s so many amazing opportunities with the skill set that therapists have to translate their knowledge and their experience and their training into other ways to help people. It’s just so cool. I’m sure you see this firsthand all the time to see the sort of different ideas people are coming out with and out of the box thinkers and because traditional outpatient therapy with the medical model just doesn’t work for everybody. I think we’re applying a lot of the technology that we have to be able to figure out how to reach more people and maybe help them in different ways. So I think that’s all amazing and it probably feels exciting to be a part of that and be helping therapists do that every day.
[ANNIE]
Yes. I love it. I love the way that, like one of the things that we get to do in something like a coaching program is work with people from everywhere. So like another person, Samantha Fox runs a program for women coming out later in life or like as she talks about it, women who are late to lesbian and it’s really cool that now she’s working with them in this coaching program where they get access to each other. That’s so different. The way she’s doing it is so different than she would, if it were a therapy group and she’s working with folks from all over the place and they’re getting access to this expert with all of these tools, but they’re also getting access to each other and that’s hugely valuable.
[ALISON]
Yes, I think that has been our experience as well with the consulting that we do, the power of bringing together a bunch of people who have similar goals or maybe they’re all trying to start a group practice at the same time or whatever the case may be and just like how much they appreciate that they’re in a community with other people.
[ANNIE]
Yes, and I bet they have moments of hearing someone else name something like maybe a struggle that they’re having or a fear that they’re having that the other people in their life might not understand, but those people in that group completely get it. That can be so healing.
[ALISON]
Yes, for sure. Very cool. Any last ideas or words you want to impart about you rebel Therapist group?
[ANNIE]
Yes, I would say if you’re thinking that maybe you want to create something beyond private practice or maybe you want to create a group practice or maybe you want to do both that, I think that exploration and experimentation are really under underrated and give yourself full permission to run some experiments and see what’s going to really work for you instead of making decisions by default.
[ALISON]
That’s such good advice. You mentioned that you have a giveaway for the audience, right?
[ANNIE]
Yes. So a great way to start in figuring out if you want to have a program beyond private practice is to grab my free mini course. You can find that at rebeltherapist.me/mini, M-I-N-I. We start off with just, is this for you or is this not for you and looking at some ways to figure that out and then we walk through the next steps in the process.
[ALISON]
Awesome. Thank you. If folks want to learn more about your program or if they want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
[ANNIE]
I would definitely say grab that mini course, because then you’ll be on my email list. If you want to hear some stories from people who have created businesses beyond private practice, head over to my podcast, which is called Rebel Therapist.
[ALISON]
Yes. We didn’t talk about your podcast. Is that the basis of the podcast, is that you’re just interviewing people about other types of businesses they started outside of therapy?
[ANNIE]
Yes. Some of them are therapists. Some of them are people who can inspire therapists with what they’ve created. Then every other episode lately is me answering a question from a participant or a listener.
[ALISON]
Awesome. So they can listen to that anywhere they typically listen to podcasts?
[ANNIE]
Yes.
[ALISON]
Okay, excellent.
[ANNIE]
Probably where you’re listening to this.
[ALISON]
Yes, yes. Great. Well, thank you so much, Annie. It’s been great talking with you and hearing your story and all the cool things that you’re doing.
[ANNIE]
It was so fun to talk to you, Alison. Thank you so much.
[ALISON]
Well, I wanted to say thank you to Therapy Notes for being a sponsor of this podcast. We know your EHR is awesome and we are happy to tell other people about it. So if you want to get Therapy Notes for free for three months, use promo code [JOE], J-O-E, no strings attached, and you can check it out and see if you’re ready to make the switch.

Thanks so much for listening today. I hope you enjoyed that interview. If you want to find Annie’s free mini course you can find it at rebelherapist.me/mini.

I will talk to you all next time.

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