- Kelly O’Sullivan McKenna started her own virtual therapy practice in February 2021.
- Last year, he set aside $250,000 in income for working 30 hours a week.
- McKenna shares how therapists can diversify their sources of income and grow their businesses.
Kelly O’Sullivan McKenna knew something was missing from her work in 2020.
She worked in nonprofit business administration, but the position lacked the client relationships she had fostered seven years earlier while earning her master’s degree in social work. He started a part-time job as a therapist in March to fill that gap, and two weeks later, he transitioned from face-to-face work to telehealth.
Your desire to connect with the customer and your experience with
led McKenna to launch a virtual therapy practice in February 2021 called Sit With Kelly. Today, McKenna meets with 20 clients a week and teaches other therapists how to start their own virtual practices. Additionally, she set aside $250,000 in income in 2021, more than double what she was earning at her previous job, which Insider verified with documentation.
The telehealth industry grew in popularity during the pandemic and Virtual therapy and mental health services saw substantial increases. As of February 2021, 50% of psychiatry appointments and 30% of substance use treatment were done virtually, found a study by the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Additionally, 38% of patients said they have continued to use telehealth services this year, according to a survey by healthcare media company mHealth Intelligence.
There has never been a better time to start a virtual practice, McKenna said. Her Instagram account, which had 19,700 followers at the time of writing, attracted most of her clients.
McKenna shared his tips for finding clients, developing multiple revenue streams, and finding a foothold in the telehealth industry.
The interview with McKenna has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Take advantage of a virtual world to connect with customers
Two weeks after I started private practice as a therapist, COVID-19 sent the world into lockdown and moved our clients online. That made the idea of starting my own business much more feasible. With telehealth, I saw a new opportunity.
I went from working 60+ hours per week, including non-profit work and night private practice hours, to about 30 hours per week when I started my own business.
But when switching from insurance-based pay to private pay, therapists need to be well known in the community or have a strong online presence to generate referrals. Whether it’s through Instagram or a blog, clients need a reason to make the switch from “I’m looking for a therapist who takes my insurance” to “This therapist understands my issues. I want to work with her.”
Expand commercial offers authentically
Many of my Instagram followers are therapists who want to start their own business, so I’ve launched an online course to help them. The course comes in three levels, which focus on specific aspects of running a virtual business. That way, I can connect with people at all stages of their business launch journey.
Brand partnerships on social media are another arm of my business. But I keep my “influence” posts separate from my therapy business.
In an industry as focused on ethics as it is on therapy, I make sure to only work with the brands I use and love. Creators need to be careful about brand associations. You don’t want to lose the trust of your audience. I always make sure it’s something that makes sense for my brand, like CBD gummies or weighted blankets, and that I actually use and believe in.
The future of therapy is digital, but not all platforms are created equal
Virtual therapy is a great opportunity for therapists, but we must be aware of the way we carry out our services. As a virtual-only practice, I do not accept high-risk clients or those who need in-person meetings, where the therapist may have to physically see the patient to assess her progress.
My biggest piece of advice for first-time therapists is to build a network of other mental health professionals who specialize in services you don’t. If I am not the best fit for a client, I will refer them to other psychiatrists or doctors I know.
Another recent change that mental health professionals should be aware of is the arrival of new companies in the virtual therapy space. These can be affordable options for clients, but they often don’t pay therapists nearly what they’re worth.
That is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about business coaching. Teaching therapists how to do it themselves, market themselves and create their own practice is important to me and to the future of the therapy space.