Throughout the month of October, we’ll be exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected healthcare practices around the U.S. through interviews with real practice owners and managers. This interview is with Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Courtney Kirkpatrick.
Courtney Kirkpatrick is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) located in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania with 22 years experience in the healthcare industry. She has worked with a diverse population in both inpatient and outpatient settings and is skilled in Trauma, Crisis Intervention, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Substance use and Co-occurring disorders.
Courtney is currently full time in private practice with her niche being trauma. She also offers supervision for new counselors gaining licensure.
Courtney and her business partner also have a FB page called the Counseling Geeks where they discuss all types of mental health topics and provide education and resources for others. (https://www.facebook.com/TheCounselingGeeks).
Q: How has the Coronavirus impacted your practice financially?
A: Initially there were not many referrals coming through for therapy. Many people were just trying to figure out this new way of life and while mental health may have still been an issue, people were more concerned with managing children who were now home from school, working from home and balancing these tasks that were now suddenly on their plate.
After a few months, the calls to set up therapy came flooding in.
Given that there was no end in sight to the pandemic, many who were struggling with mental health now realized the need to care for themselves.
Since about mid June referrals have been steadily increasing. At one point I had a small waitlist given the number of calls asking for therapy.
Q: Did your practice take advantage of any government stimulus programs?
A: We did not take advantage of any stimulus programs. When the pandemic started, I was still only part time into private practice and was working for a drug and alcohol agency. I was fortunate to be able to work consistently at both jobs and therefore didn’t need to utilize any programs.
I have had colleagues who did utilize these programs since private practice was their sole income and the reduction of referrals significantly impacted them financially.
Q: Will you make any changes to the way you handle your practice finances going forward?
A: Absolutely. The pandemic has caused a change in thinking about being more proactive with finances and setting aside more funding for emergencies such as little to no referral calls.
In private practice there is certainly an ebb and flow to the number of calls you receive and how large your caseload is, however, ensuring that I have not only put aside money for the lean months but also being more proactive about paying expenses and getting ahead when possible on rent, overhead costs, etc. will also be implemented moving forward.
Q: In what ways do you think your industry will change going forward, even after the pandemic is over?
A: Long after this pandemic is over we will no doubt be dealing with the consequences of how this impacted our mental health and well-being.
My hope is moving forward there will be a priority on mental health and organizations will provide greater access to services for their employees.
I also believe telehealth will be more readily used and available after this pandemic is over.
Q: Have you experienced a “silver lining” either personally or professionally due to the pandemic?
A: For me personally, I was on the fence about virtual sessions. Covid-19 forced me to turn to technology and utilize telehealth as a way to assist clients. As a result, I absolutely love this platform and intend on sticking with telehealth as long as possible.
I will continue to have an office for face to face visits but plan to have more of a hybrid model with both virtual and face to face sessions. The flexibility and convenience has been a great asset to both myself and my clients.
This pandemic has also caused a significant increase in depression, anxiety and trauma symptoms and while this is not a ‘silver lining’ by any stretch, it has given me an opportunity to reach out to more programs in my area to offer my services or assist more clients in my state and not just the region where I am located. So clients throughout PA who may not have been able to access a therapist due to transportation, childcare or work issues can now take advantage of telehealth.
Q: Finally, this isn’t related to the pandemic, but the majority of our education base is young healthcare professionals. Do you have any financial advice for someone just getting started in your field?
A: Yes! If thinking about private practice remember first and foremost this is a business. To be successful, make sure you are familiar with the tax laws pertaining to your state and invest in a good CPA to navigate your business.
You can set up payments with the IRS quarterly to pay taxes instead of doing this all at the end of the year which will be incredibly helpful. Utilize Quickbooks or another software program to keep track and manage your expenses.
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