8: From Successful Paralegal to Blossoming Therapist (Laura Reagan)


Hi! Welcome to Session 8 of the Selling the Couch Podcast.  

My guest today is Laura Reagan, LCSW-C.  

Laura’s a paralegal turned clinical social worker who launched a private pay practice in May 2013.  

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Laura’s tips on how to overcome voices of naysayers who say that it’s not possible to build a private pay practice.
  • How to create animated introductory videos for your website. 
  • Laura’s best tip for someone who’s just getting started in private practice. 
  • How Laura balances private practice with blogging.  


Laura’s Main Website 

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I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Laura Reagan on her private practice journey! 

I would be grateful if you could share it using the social media buttons on this page. 

Finally, please Subscribe and leave a honest Rating and Review for the Selling the Couch podcast on iTunes.  It takes just a few minutes.

My dream is that this podcast reaches every new, current, and aspiring mental health private practitioner, and subscriptions and 5 star ratings and positive reviews help to make that dream a reality. 

Laura, thank you again for joining me.  I’m so glad that we were able to connect.  Keep doing what you’re doing because I know you’re going to help many! 

Until next time.


Intro: Welcome to the Selling the Couch podcast where our goal is to help you achieve your counseling private practice dreams, and now the man who teared up, just a little bit when Mufasa died in the Lion King, psychologist, and podcaster Melvin Varghese.

Melvin: Hey, what’s up everyone, welcome to session eight of the Selling the Couch Podcast. I am looking outside my window and the sun is out and spring is here and Melvin is so happy. I am so not a winter person. My guest today is Laura Reagan; Laura is a licensed clinical social worker. Now to better understand Laura let’s rewind a little bit to sometime around 1999. 

Laura was working as a paralegal, she loved her work, but as she puts it, “I felt like something was missing.” So Laura went back to school to get her bachelors degree in sociology while being a wife, a mom to two young kids and still working full time. While in school Laura began to volunteer at a local sexual assault crisis center, and it was here that her passion to help those who had experienced trauma was born. 

Laura decided to open her own private practice focusing on helping trauma survivors. In today’s session of Selling the Couch, Laura shares her private practice journey, how she built the private pay private practice, how she overcame the voices of naysayers who said that it wasn’t possible to build a practice outside of insurance in this day and age. 

We also discuss how Laura created a video for her website especially because she was so scared to put herself in front of the camera, as well the scheduling software that Laura uses so clients can book sessions at whatever time of the day and on their smart phones or on their computers, and how Laura balances being in private practice with her love for blogging. Here is my conversation with Laura Reagan. Laura welcome to Selling the Couch.

Laura: All right, thank you so much for having me.

Melvin: Yeah, I’m pretty excited about our conversation, you know we met online and so I’ve just been you know, looked through your website and we’ve been able to connect and I just feel like you have such a neat story and I’m excited that you are going to be sharing it today.

Laura: Thank you.

Melvin: Laura, you know when I have a therapist on, I like to ask them either a quote or a mantra that’s guided them in their professional journey. So if you can think about that, what would be that quote for you and then also how would someone that’s just starting out in a practice, how could they use that quote?

Laura: Well, my favorite quote is the Gandhi quote, you must be the change you wish to see in the world, and it applies to myself and how I practice, the work I do with clients and how I feel that– I try to embody the changes that I want to help them make whatever that maybe, but also I think new practitioners can apply that and when they are creating a private practice if that’s what they are doing, or in the work they do in general with clients. 

It’s important to be open to making changes, if you are asking other people to make changes you know, you don’t want to come to your clients where I’m  the expert, I’m fine how I am, but you need to make all this changes. It’s best to be open and flexible to making changes yourself. There is many layers to that quote and that’s why I love it so much, but that’s a basic explanation I guess

Melvin: Yeah, I know, that’s a– it’s a great quote. As you were thinking about starting your own private practice and you were in that real earthy state, how do you think that idea of being flexible to change and that quote? How did it apply to you?

Laura: Wow! Good question, in a lot of ways actually because for one thing when I thought about starting a practice I had heard from other people, basically there is one way to do it. You get on panels and trans-panels and you get on all the panels, put your name out there and you will start getting referrals, and then you just take everyone who comes through the door and do the work.

Melvin: Yeah, you take everybody because now you don’t have that option to like limit.

Laura: Right and so you know, trying to be a generalist and I have a specialty that I love working with which is helping people who’ve experienced trauma particularly childhood abuse, whether it’s children or adults. And so that is the group that I love working with the most, that when I do that work I feel fulfilled, and if I was just working with every other type of issue that people could present with, it would limit me from helping the people that I know how to help the best. 

So I had to be flexible in taking in the information that was– the advice and recommendations that were given to me by other people, but also thinking for myself and saying, does that resonate with me and it really didn’t. So I didn’t start out accepting insurance and now I’m fully private pay, but I am focusing on trauma and there I know I can make the change that I want to see in the world, so all  kind of fits together.

Melvin: Yeah, I mean it’s– you are bringing up such an interesting point which I feel like every guest that’s been on this podcast so far, the initial tendency when they start their private practice is to want to accept everyone, right? And there was some mental thing that you did it sounds like– and it was– it sounds like a lot of intention to it by which you said, okay, that’s what I feel in that moment, but I know this is where my specialty is and I know my passion is in helping, in healing folks that have struggled with childhood trauma. How did you actually make that mental shift?

Laura: It was a slow process. I started my practice almost two years ago in May 2013, and I was reading everything I could find, so I used a lot of the Facebook groups that particularly one that I initially found where the woman who runs the site was espousing that idea that you should do the work that you are best at with the people that you love working with, and then you can have a great practice and do your very best work with everyone instead of kind of doing, okay but not feeling that real true sense of fulfillment yourself ,so you are not putting out that energy that you do when you feel so great about knowing I know this, I know how to help this person.

The person is coming to me because they are in pain and they think that it’s hopeless and I know that’s it’s going to be okay and I can, I know that I can help them feel better and you know, it’s so rewarding to do that that way. Whereas, you know if it’s an area that’s not really your specialty but you have some experience with it, it’s ethical for you to work with them, but it’s not your passion.

Melvin: Yeah, there is something much deeper, I fully agree.

Laura: Yeah, it doesn’t connect that way and so it’s not as, I think you know, it’s like going from blow to wow!

Melvin: It’s that moment, right?

Laura: Yeah.

Melvin: So I’m like really curious what I think I know who this is, but what is the Facebook group that you are involved in?

Laura: Well, the first one that I found and I love her is Julie Henke, the private practice tool box on Facebook. She really gets the word out there about how to market your practice to your ideal clients, and since then I have joined a lot of other groups and found so many wonderful coaches and other therapists online in those Facebook communities. I never would have ever dreamed that it could be so helpful just to be on groups and Facebook with people that I haven’t met in real life.

Melvin: Yeah, I know. I was thinking the same thing like, even like what I’ve been really active probably for nine months, right? It’s amazing how many therapy private practice groups there are on Facebook now.

Laura: Yeah, and it really can create a real community because here we are talking, we never would have met and it was someone from another Facebook group who put us in touch, so and I love her too, so I’ll give her a shout out too, that’s Kerry Nola.

Melvin: Awesome, yeah Kerry was just on the– was just on the podcast. You know one of the things that I had– just had some questions for you with regard to your website because I think you’ve just– you are doing some really-really neat things and I can tell like you have been very intentional with your website. And one of the things that I wanted to ask you was about was, you know that video that you have, your introductory video that’s right there on your website. It’s a little bit different than the, you know, the typical hi, I am so and so and this is what I do.

Laura: Yeah, it was kind of funny; I mean again it started with Julie Henke [ph] group. Somebody posted that– probably her that putting videos on your site can be very helpful and I was way too shy to put up a video of myself. So I had been in a different discussion group on I think the psychology today discussion boards, and someone introduced the PowToon software program that I use, it’s a free software, free website to make that video. 

You know they were like what some great technology tools, I love PowToon and I thought oh, I looked at it and it was so easy to make the video and I thought well, you know, I don’t want to put my own cell phone video, I’m too afraid of that, so I’ll just do this and but still share the information that I want to get out to people that, I know it’s scary to find a therapist, but it’s so helpful to get therapy and you know I’m such a big believer that sometimes when problems are too big to manage on your own, therapy is such a rewarding fun, exciting journey, sometimes challenging and painful, but the outcome at the end is so worth it.

Melvin: Yeah, I like what you did for a couple of reasons. One I think it alleviates a lot of fears that potential clients have and in that video you do that, right? Like you talk about– you normalize therapy; you talk about what it’s like. I really like– by the way that name PowToon is awesome, but I like that it’s in an animated format, right? Like that’s so different than what you would think of just as a video, right?

Laura: Yeah, it was fun and I didn’t spend more than two hours making that and it was so easy and it was fun and it was also kind of, you know, inadvertently it was a creative outlet too.

Melvin: Yeah, absolutely, what did you learn about yourself like just in making that video?

Laura: Well, I was surprised that I was able to do it so easily and that the message I wanted to get out was pretty clear even though I didn’t– honestly when I sat down to do that I was like, what should I say? I don’t know and you know, when I put it out I was like well this is pretty good. And I’m amazed how many compliments I’ve gotten on it, I mean if nothing else it will give people a laugh, because it’s just kind of silly, but it’s you know it has some real information too, so you know. I’d feel like it a resource, it makes me feel good that I could do something relatively easily; you know put some information out there that could be useful to anyone even if they are not going to be my client.

Melvin: Well, and the other thing that I feel you did was, you stepped out of your comfort zone around like with the video and with, you know, even try to create something animated like that, that’s neat.

Laura: It was, I really didn’t know how people would take it and that’s kind of the thing that goes with flexibility that we talked about and also just you know, being willing to take a chance, be vulnerable and say, “I don’t know if people are going to like but I want to do it and I’ll give it a try.”

Melvin: Yeah, what’s– just of hand what’s been the reaction of potential clients? Have they ever mentioned that or the video?

Laura: No, I don’t think any clients have mentioned it actually, but other therapists talk about it all the time.

Melvin: Yeah, I mean but regardless whether there is a client or a therapist, like if whoever has looked at the video and is curious about it, like you stand out.

Laura: Yeah, and it’s going to make– it’s supposed to be the help see SEO too.

Melvin: Just for those who have no idea what that word means, what is that SEO?

Laura: Yeah, search engine optimization so that Google can find your website, and that was my motivation.

Melvin: Okay. So you created that video as sort of another avenue or another door by which people could find you?

Laura: Yeah, so it was, the motivation was to increase traffic to the website and provide a resource that people would find useful once they got there.

Melvin: And when– and not like putting on the spot what like [Inaudible] [00:12:48] or something, but have you noticed like, have you noticed like that seems to be a big source of traffic like just the video or at least a sizeable?

Laura: I can’t really say for sure, it’s- I mean it’s on my home page and so I don’t– I have seen a couple times in the matrix on my website that people have come from YouTube, but I just got a new website in January and before I couldn’t get as much information about how people found my site. So you know, but one funny thing, I mean this is weird, but I was in one of those Facebook groups and somebody put a bunch of some new websites, please check it out, and so I looked at their website and they have put my video on their website.

Melvin: Wow.

Laura: Yeah, I was like wow! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. What are you going to do? I tried to tell the person, but I ended up just letting it go, I don’t know if it’s still on there or not but…

Melvin: You brought up an interesting point earlier which is that you not only have the video on the website, but you also connected it to YouTube and I think that’s extremely smart really like this YouTube is what, the second largest search engine after Google?

Laura: Right and it’s owned by Google, right?

Melvin: Right, so essentially you have the– you have the video both on your website and through YouTube?

Laura: Right.

Melvin: Like if people were to search for, I don’t know, therapy helper, what is therapy or something like that?

Laura: Yeah.

Melvin: One of the other areas that I saw on your website was you have this tab, almost like a button where you can schedule an appointment, right?

Laura: Yeah.

Melvin: Like a potential client, how has that benefited both you and how has that benefited your clients?

Laura: I can’t say for sure about the tab or the button per say, but allowing people to schedule online has been very helpful. For one, I think a lot of people are looking for therapy in the middle of the night or on the weekends at times when I’m not answering my phone, and being able to go online, see what– you know because when, if you– imagine put yourself in the client shoes, you are like, I have a problem, I need to find a therapist, I’m so discouraged, I don’t even know how soon I can get in, and they can look and see, oh, she has like one o’clock available tomorrow, maybe I could get in to see her. 

And so I’ve had you know, not a huge number but I’d say a good percentage, probably about 40% or more of my new clients have initially contacted me through scheduling online, putting in all the information to my software program and you know, doing all that before I spoke with them, and then I call them and follow up.

Melvin: That’s amazing; I mean 40%, that’s a really high number. What software program do you use by chance?

Laura: It is therapyappointment.com.

Melvin: And I’ll link all these on the show notes as well so-

Laura: Okay and I think it benefits clients because they can see the availability in making appointment kind of have that feeling of okay, I know I have got an appointment with her, I’ll talk to her, like there is relief in sight.

Melvin: Right, so does that program, does it send reminders or things like that?

Laura: Yeah, it does, it does a lot of great things, I love how it helps my practice. It helps me too because if they do that, then I don’t have to spend the initial time on the phone with them where they are just going down a list of people looking for a therapist even though I enjoy doing that, it is time consuming. And so if they find me, they see they that they want to schedule with me, they see what I have available and make an appointment and then we talk, they are already invested by the time we talk.

Melvin: Yeah, it’s in a way I think they are doing as much of the work.

Laura: Yeah, and in a way they may feel more in control of it too instead of like, helplessly not sure, being at the mercy of the other person telling you what their schedule is.

Melvin: Yeah, and I actually see a really good benefit to this, the population that you are working with.

Laura: Yeah.

Melvin: Do you cut off like that appointment schedule, so for example like someone wouldn’t be able to make and appointment within 24 hours.

Laura: Yeah, so and that’s just the thing. If they see that I have and appointment available tomorrow at one they wont be able to schedule it, so there is no chance that they could catch me by surprise and I don’t realize they are going to be showing up, but they can call me and they’ll say, I wasn’t able to schedule but I see you have one o’clock available tomorrow so is that still available and I will say, yeah come, and they come in.

Melvin: Oh, okay, so it’s more of a conversation starter?

Laura: Yeah, but if it’s two days later they can go ahead and schedule it.

Melvin: Okay, so you do like a 48 hour window then?

Laura: Yeah.

Melvin: So you know one of the other big areas that I wanted to talk to you is, you are quite a blogger, so you have some great articles and I know I’ve like re-tweeted you a couple of times.

Laura: Oh, thanks.

Melvin: What made you get into blogging and decide to put a blog on your website?

Laura: Well, once again recommendations by wise, wise sources who’ve gone before me, Julie Henke said, you know, blogging was important and also I have done coaching with Miranda and Kelly from Zynnyme and they encourage blogging. I think through the coaching with them I’ve really understood that it’s important to blog regularly, and it’s kind of come to the point where I’ve now figured out a way to be able to put out a blog once a week where, you know, I was trying to do it once a month before and it seemed like such a chore, but I’ve gotten into a flow where it comes easily now and it’s enjoyable. 

It’s another creative outlet and plus I feel like I’m able to share information with people that again whether they are my clients or not it will be helpful, but sometimes I think about a particular thing that’s come up with a client who you know, I think oh, if they knew about this that would be so helpful, and it’s more than you can say in a therapy session.

Melvin: Right, so you use– a lot of times you use your therapy session as sort of motivation or inspiration for your blog post? Because I’m really curious, what routines do you have around like your blogging?

Laura: Well, I blog once a week, if not more and I’ve began to realize that one thing you can do is get quotes from other people to put out a post kind of easily. So I’ll post in one of those Facebook groups,  I’m doing a blog about such and such, would you like to give a quote, and then immediately 15 different people come back with a great quote and then I– that post will be just their quotes and you know how long does it take me to write an introductory paragraph about that and just, you know kind of curate what they wrote, put a couple of graphics in and you are done and the ones with the quotes you link to each persons website, it helps their SEO. They re-tweet them, they share them all over Facebook, you are sharing them, and so it’s like exponential effect and exposure.

Melvin: To your blog?

Laura: Yeah. Because they are re-tweeting the blog and reposting and sharing and putting it on Pintrest, you know, instead of me just doing it, it’s like me and 15 other people are doing it.

Melvin: Yeah, I mean it’s like the power of community, right? Like we were talking about earlier.

Laura: Exactly and so that is one thing and then another thing I’ve started doing is having- I just realized that I wanted to touch on a couple of topics, but I needed to do more than just one post. So I decided to create series for each one, and so I’ve got one series going on that is holistic and alternative practices that compliment typical talk therapy and then the other one is on self care practices. And so, I mean I feel like I could go with both of those once a week for a year easily. So I might end up doing twice a week or more because I’m so interested in sharing the information and I’m learning too as I do it.

Melvin: Yeah, that’s really neat. So when you are writing these articles it sounds like you are thinking sort of about your ideal client, and the client that you want to work with?

Laura: Exactly. And what they are interested in and what they would want to know about what sets me apart from other therapists.

Melvin: Right, and indirectly then through these articles it’s establishing a sense of rapport.

Laura: Yeah,  I think so too and that’s what the coaches always talk about is that you are letting your clients know who you are, so they get more of a feeling of, is this someone that I would feel comfortable sitting in a room with and talking once a week?

Melvin: Yeah, absolutely, I think- I forget where I saw this, but like it takes between what, seven and 12 interactions before someone sort of feels comfortable with you, and I feel like a blog post, you know, it’s just like one of those interactions.

Laura: Exactly.

Melvin: What has been the most fun article that you’ve written?

Laura: Well, I think the series on the alternative practices has been the most fun because I found out about all these things that I didn’t know about. I have connected with other people and it’s just- it’s fun because it’s broadened my horizons about what’s out there and how it works to help complement talk therapy, how each different thing helps, and also just I’m inspired more and more as I learn more about each of those methods, I’m like oh, I want to try that, oh, that’s so cool and you know I just love– it’s exciting to me because it just really connects with the way I understand the mind, body, spirit connection in therapy.

Melvin: Yeah, absolutely, and it’s amazing now what we can do online too, like to be able to learn and pick up all this these things.

Laura: I know, so cool.

Melvin: Laura, so we are just about wrapping up and it is your favorite time, the one you’ve been looking forward to. It is the hot couch round and I will– getting better at this phrasing and I will try to say without laughing, so it’s not working.

Laura: Okay, sorry.

Melvin: What’s a daily habit that you believe contributes to your success?

Laura: Daily practice of mindfulness.

Melvin: And is that something like you like a daily morning routine or [Inaudible] [00:23:05].

Laura: Yeah, I try to be mindful throughout the day and as much as possible I’m trying to have a morning routine of meditation, I’m not totally there yet, but I’m working hard.

Melvin: What’s an online resource that that’s been invaluable to your private practice?

Laura: Well, I’d have to say my practice management software program has a calendar, does the book keeping and all of my clinical notes. I could not get by without the therapyappointment.com.

Melvin: And then what’s your favorite business related book?

Laura: The first business related book I read was Twelve months to your ideal private practice by Lynn Grodzki, and that really was a great frame work for me to get started.

Melvin: What’s one tip that you would give to someone who’s thinking about starting a private practice?

Laura: Take your time, do your home work, get all your docs in a row before you get started. Don’t just jump out there and think it’s going to all fall into place.

Melvin: Imagine that you were starting all your private practice all over again; you have $500 and your laptop, what’s the first step that you would take towards building your practice?

Laura: Create a website, get an online profile, so get yourself online and then go into these Facebook groups and read the blogs where other people share their experiences to help you think about things that you never would have thought of.

Melvin: And Laura you are off the hot couch.

Laura: Okay.

Melvin: If folks want to learn more about you and more about the website, what is the best way to reach you?

Laura: My website is www.Laurareaganlcswc.com.

Melvin: And I will put that in the show notes as well, Laura thank you so much for coming on, I really enjoyed our conversation.

Laura: Thank you Melvin, me too, I appreciate it.

Melvin: Hey, everyone, hope you enjoyed that conversation with Laura Reagan. So there were two things that I was really starting to think about and something that I want you to also think about. The first is that you don’t necessarily have to be on a video if you want to produce a video right? 

so what Laura does like creating this sort of animated video, it’s something that you can definitely do and the other piece of that is any different types of content that you have on your website, whether it’s a blog article or a video, those are all different ways that people can see your website. And I would definitely take that advice that Laura is saying when you put a video on there also have it on YouTube channel because that will also help people find you if they happen to be on YouTube, and I forget what the exact stats were, but it’s like crazy the amount of people that are on YouTube every day. So it’s just a great way to get the word out about your services.

The other thing is really think about the software that Laura was talking about, you know there is lots of different options and Laura mentions the one that she uses, but it’s a great way to think about and to not have to be fully present all the time to be able to accept clients. And so this is just kind of a way that one, you are likely to get a higher quality client because they have actually committed to booking a time with you, and so you are also not, you are also able to free up some more time to focus on other things, whether that’s training or blogging or researching, whatever it is, or just or hanging out and spending time with your family.

I’ve got all of the resources that Laura mentioned on the show notes page of the Selling the Couch blog and you can find show notes for this specific episode at sellingthecouch.com/sesssion8. Have a great-great week everyone and take great care. Bye.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the Selling the Coach Podcast, for more great content and to stay up to date visit www.sellingthecouch.com.

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