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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the United States Department of Health & Human Services, predicts a nationwide shortage of 10,000 to nearly 50,000 mental health professionals by 2025 if the current trends continue. The predicted shortage includes marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists. The rumors are true: good help really can be tough to find.

Like many other behavioral health professionals across the country, you may be struggling with the question of how to hire qualified staff and colleagues to grow your private practice. In this blog post, Valant discusses several steps to hire an employee who makes the best fit for your practice and your clients:

1. Assess Need

2. Promote the Position

3. Determine Which Applicant Is the Right Fit

4. Develop a Competitive Job Offer

5. Onboard

We’ll go over each step in detail in the following sections.

Assess Need: When to Hire a New Employee for Your Private Practice

Before you figure out how to hire employees for mental health practice, we recommend starting the process by determining the outcomes you expect from hiring mental health counselors. For example, are you looking to improve client satisfaction rates? Increase revenue? Be seen as a behavioral health leader in your local area? Offer a new type of treatment modality or service? Your goal helps to determine future hiring for mental health practice.

Once you know the outcomes your behavioral health practice hopes to achieve, start looking for signs that your organization is ready to deploy provider recruitment strategies. Some common indications include:

  • Your practice is turning down new patients because you do not have the staff to serve them.
  • Your current patients have expressed frustration with limited availability, such as inflexible session scheduling, or not enough opportunity to contact a therapist when needed.
  • Your current staff does not have the time they need to complete clinical notes and/or daily financials throughout the day.
  • You and your staff have been unable to schedule a vacation because it would be too difficult for the remaining staff to keep the practice running smoothly while shorthanded.
  • You have an adequate amount of funds available in the clinic’s budget to hire new staff but have not yet initiated the process.

Especially for small and/or new practices, it’s important to ensure you’ve taken steps to simplify and streamline your operations before taking on the cost of a new employee. EHR softwares for behavioral health, like Valant, ensure you and your staff are using time efficiently, and gives you, as the employer, a more accurate read on how much help you really need. If you’re not already using a behavioral health EHR, it might be helpful to see a demonstration to understand how much extra time each of your providers might gain if using the right software.

If you do determine you have the need and resources available to grow your team, however, the next step is to develop an accurate job description and promote it effectively.


Promote the Position: Best Recruitment Strategies for Your Private Practice

Keep in mind that the quality of candidates you attract from your job postings depends on how well you communicate what your practice needs and what it has to offer a prospective employee. You also need to make the ad unique enough to stand above the competition. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Describe a typical day in the position by using video whenever possible.
  • Add quotes from your current staff describing what they like about their position and the mental health practice.
  • Discuss any perks of accepting the position that people with the required credentials would not find elsewhere.
  • Describe the impact of the role on the clients your practice serves.

The best promotion strategy ultimately depends on the position. When you need to find one or more new psychiatrists or therapists with specific credentials, it is important to advertise the open positions to a targeted market. Newspaper ads and general job posting websites like Craigslist or are unlikely to provide you with the quality candidate leads you need. One of the best tips for hiring good employees that we can offer is to post your help wanted ad on more niche websites, such as HealthcareSource.

Many behavioral health practices also already maintain a presence on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Depending on how active you are on social media, publishing and promoting your job listings on social media can be a good opportunity to reach a targeted user base. When you publish the post, be sure to ask your followers to forward the information to anyone they know who would make a good fit for the open position. You may even want to offer them a small incentive to do so.

If you are open to hiring new graduates, placing employment ads with local colleges and universities is a good move. Passing the job information on to members of your professional network and asking your current employees if they have any referrals can both be excellent sources as well. Lastly, consider working with a recruitment agency or a third-party recruitment platform such as Indeed, LinkedIn, or ZipRecruiter.


Determine If They’re the Right Fit: Tips for Hiring Good Employees

It is impossible to overstate the importance of hiring the right person, especially in the behavioral health field. One effective way to determine which candidate is the best fit for the position is to conduct a behavioral interview. This interview style helps to uncover motivations and personality traits that are just as important as technical skills. A common example of a question from a behavioral interview is “Describe a time you had an unexpected challenge at work and how you handled it.”

The size of your mental health practice also matters. In our experience, mental health providers and other clinic staff tend to gravitate towards smaller practices when they desire flexibility, competitive pay, and for supervisors to evaluate their job performance based on individual merit. Those who prefer to work in larger practices often want to affiliate with an organization with a specific mission. They also prefer working for an employer with a reputation for stability, affiliation with large mental health organizations, and greater opportunity for advancement. 


Develop a Competitive Job Offer

You are ready to develop a job offer now that you understand how to hire staff for private practice and have found the right candidate. While you can make a verbal offer by phone, be sure to follow up with a written offer mailed or emailed to the candidate. The letter should include the following information:

  • Job title
  • Name of supervisor
  • Salary and benefits
  • Other terms of employment such as passing a background check and producing proof of licensure

For multiple reasons, it is important to develop a competitive job offer based on the candidate experience. Look to similar job positions from other private practices for inspiration on appropriate compensation and benefits, and consider what you would value as an employee. 

One reason it’s important is the fact that candidates may receive counter-offers from other employers; your job offer must reflect the quality of employee you’d like to attract and maintain. Remember that the position remains unfilled until you have a signed offer letter in hand.


Onboarding: What Forms do New Employees Need to Fill Out?

All new employees need to complete an I-9 form to confirm their eligibility to work in the United States and a W-4 form to establish their tax withholdings. The person onboarding the new employee will need to see photo identification and a social security card at a minimum. You might also consider asking the new employee to complete an emergency contact form, benefits enrollment, direct deposit information, and acknowledgment of receipt of an employee handbook.


Hiring Employees for Your Private Practice – Conclusion

As the need for mental health care increases, providers at private practices must consider the growth and recruitment strategies that work best for them. It’s important to evaluate your practice’s operational efficiencies and consider whether hiring a new employee is necessary; there could be other, more cost-effective solutions to improve performance, such as implementing an EHR. 

If you’ve determined hiring a new employee for your private practice is the best next step, we hope you’ve found this step-by-step guide helpful. Best of luck in your employee search!