1: Lessons from 15 Years in Private Practice (Cory Bank)

1: Lessons from 15 Years in Private Practice Featuring Dr. Cory Bank



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Welcome to the 1st session of the Selling the Couch Podcast!  Today’s episode is with Dr. Cory Bank.  

Cory’s a sports psychologist in private practice who now consults with athletes all over the country as well as a professor and business coach.  

Cory shares openly about his private practice journey that started 15 years ago, the things that he’s learned about getting started, mistakes that he’s made, and his best advice for new therapists in private practice.  

Lots of golden nuggets in this one so check it out!   

In this episode, you’ll learn about:

  • A quote that inspires Cory on a daily basis.
  • How Cory worked through the fears and insecurities of starting his private practice.
  • The one mistake that Cory made that set him back financially with his private practice.
  • What Cory tells his graduate students and coaching clients about how much to charge.
  • A daily habit that Cory believes contributes to his success.
  • The book that Cory recently finished that has him thinking about his business in a different light.


Cory's created an awesome resource called The Wealthy Therapist Academy, which includes the steps to build your dream private practice and create passive income for us as clinicians. Be sure to check it out! 


What's the biggest thing you learned from Cory?  Please let me know in the comments section below!

If you enjoyed this episode or think our colleagues can benefit from it, please Share it using the social media buttons on this page so our colleagues can learn about it. 

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

Your comments and reviews are a tremendous encouragement for me and push me to become a better podcaster.

Until next time!


Melvin: You're listening to session one of The Selling the Couch Podcast.

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 throws with his left and writes with his right, psychologist, and podcaster Melvin Varghese.

Melvin: Yeah, I have no idea how I ended about being able to throw with my left hand and then write with my right hand, there's even times where I have to think about which hand to use depending on which task I am doing. Hello everyone and welcome to the very first episode of The Selling the Couch Podcast. I am super excited for this episode, this is the first time that we have a guest on the podcast and I am so excited about this podcast, I am excited that you're joining me, thank you so much for all the support and all the emails.

I just love our community of mental professionals and it's just– I so need to see us encouraging one another, so I'm really looking forward to this whole entire podcast as I said, and just all the different guests that are coming on both seasoned private practitioners as well as all sorts of business experts, and just getting to have these amazing conversations with them to help you build and grow your own private practice. 

My first guest today is a sports psychologist, his name is Cory Bank, and Cory is actually based here in Philadelphia. We connected through one of the Facebook communities, and then he happened to be actually a friend of a friend, which was so random and we only realized that later. And as you'll see in this first interview, this is actually a live interview so I just thought– normally I do these interviews over Skype, and guess I thought I'd go big or go home even though I am starting with this podcast for the first time. 

Cory actually came over to the house and we recorded this and we had a really good time, and one of the things that I just immediately picked up meeting Cory for the first time is just how much he cares about the mental health profession, and wanting to give back. He's got somewhere around 15 years of experience as both a psychologist, and currently he's also a professor where he teaches undergraduates, and then he also does some coaching where he helps mental health providers become better private practitioners. 

One of the things that you'll pick up from this interview is just Cory shares a lot about his own journey in starting his private practice, some of those fears that he had initially and some of the things that he did over and over again to remind himself that to keep pushing forward, and I think you're going to take a lot from this interview. So here is my interview with Dr. Cory Bank. Cory welcome to the show. 

Cory: Thank you so much for having me here, it’s a pleasure.

Melvin: Cory is going to be talking a little bit about how he's built kind of this very a typical private practice, so he sees clients but then he is also got some things where he's creating passive income on the side, and I think it's just a cool way that you can start to think about your private practice.

Cory: Well, there's a lot of things that I get to do, it’s a privilege to help other people, I guess the more traditional aspect is that I am a sports psychologist and that’s where I will see clients in my office. But actually now it's more via by Skype and by phone, since my athletes are now all over the country, but in addition to that, I am a firm believer in utilizing the skills that we were all trained in. 

So I have the privilege of teaching both undergraduate and graduate students in person and part-time, and I have also over the last decade kind of have created multiple streams of income utilizing skills to help other people and also to provide financial security, so I have digital membership sites, digital products, and programs. That also allows me to keep learning, and to keep growing and that way each venture gets to help all the other different aspects of my field as well.

Melvin: Yeah, that’s so awesome and I think it's just such a cool way that our field is trending and some of the things that you're doing. Cory one of the things I wanted to start this show off with was just talking about a quote or a phrase that really does inspire you and that’s inspired you on this journey so far, and how our colleagues who especially are starting private practices how they can use that on their own private practice journey.

Cory: Well, when I was starting my private practice a couple of months before it launched, I was working probably three part-time jobs including working for one group practice, and I was always getting stuck in traffic. I was driving everywhere from one to the other and maybe some of that resonates with you, and when I started my private practice, I was really scared because what do you do? How do you do it? They didn’t train us for this in graduate school and I started in 2002, so there was no internet groups like we have today or things to learn from. 

When I was sitting in traffic one day and figuring out how to launch my private practice, I basically thought, “It's okay to be stuck in traffic, as long as you're on the road to success.” And a decade, a dozen years later, that still is a major theme everyday especially on the challenging days that we're all going to have.

Melvin: Yeah, I love that quote because I think road blocks and stumbling blocks– they're just a natural part of growing, and I feel like especially launching this podcast now, I feel like I have hit so many roadblocks, but it’s a great thing and I am really– because I am really pushing myself out of my comfort zone and I think that’s what we have to do when you're starting your private practice. 

Cory for this next session what I really wanted to focus on was kind of three themes. One is let's spend time some time talking about really take us into that moment where you were about to start your private practice and some of the fears that you had, and practical steps that you took to overcome some of those fears.

Cory: Well, when I started out– for many of you who are starting out it's with an array of emotions and certainly some of the ones that I was more nervous about; will I get a client- a client? How am I going to pay my rent? How can I compete with people who have been in the field doing what I have been doing for a quarter century longer? I think it's part of what we did during graduate school when we started out, you know you have a two year program or in my case it was a doctoral program and it was seven years, and if you try to look at it as one big entity, it's overwhelming. 

Basically I just said, “Am I better off now than I was a week ago, or a month ago or after the first year, a year ago and how can I help people? How can I connect with people? How can I help them solve their problems?”And that’s what I focused on versus how many clients am I going to see? Will the books balance out? And for me, what worked for me, and what worked for hundreds of therapists that I have coached around the country, if you focus on the process that’s going to be the best case scenario for maximum results and also for the most professional enjoyment. 

The other thing is that I kept working in my other part time jobs as my practice build up, so you work a little bit more as you build your practice up. But you also still have the financial security from the other jobs that you have. So I am not recommending at all to give up the part time job or the safe job that pays the benefits as you start your practice at night or on the weekends, but allow yourself the room to grow, celebrate the small successes. Taking small powerful steps overtime will yield big results over the long-term.

Melvin: Yeah, absolutely, one of the things that you said earlier was you focused kind of right on the immediate moment, right? Like what I am doing to better myself like this week? I think for a lot of private practitioners that sounds amazing, but I think a lot of times they feel so overwhelmed because of these very questions that you're asking, like how am I going to pay my rent, and how am I going to get my first client? How did you actually manage to kind of hold all of those overwhelming emotions, and kind of focus in on that present moment?

Cory: Well, when I started my practice it was in 2002 was my first year and the internet was still sort of the wild wild west, and we didn’t have podcasts like the one you're listening to right now that Melvin is putting out that’s wonderful, and Facebook wasn’t out yet so it wasn’t the Facebook groups. But the internet was out, and any blogs that I could read on private practices.

I spent a lot of time in the library reading about marketing and about business and getting over the fear that, “Hey, you know what this were in the helping business, but it's still a business.” Anything that you run, if you are a dentist you're not a dentist you run a dental practice but you're the dentist. For us it's running a practice, it’s a business, and once I got over that and I started studying marketing and business and I got a webpage up you know this is in 2002, a lot of other people in my field did not have WebPages up. So people found me quicker, starting to blog, creating an email list in 2004 and 2005 which started out with three people– they were my relatives, but today it's over 5000 people and I don’t know 4000 of them.

Taking those small steps, learning about how can I be better at my craft, what issues can I help future patients and clients with that aren't being solved right now? How can I make myself more visible out there without having to pay thousands of dollars a month for a PR person, or for a billboard, or for you know a $250 newspaper ad? So I spent a lot of time in the library reading books and then over the last few years learning a lot more on the web, and listening to people who were successful on the field, and now it's easy, now it's just hook up anywhere and you can do it.

Melvin: What I hear in that is you stayed ahead of the curve and you knew what the trend was and I think that’s true. I think that you educate yourself, I think the more likely you are able to figure out what some of those trends are and for you in private practice I think it's going to be a lot easier to anticipate those and actually start to do some of those before some of our colleagues.

Cory: I think one more thing and I told this to my graduate students in their last semester– they are in a Masters of counselling program. And many of them want to have their private practice and they don’t understand what's really going to happen. And basically if you want to have a private practice and you don’t want to work with the insurance companies, and you want to get to paid a respectable hourly rate, it basically follows Pareto's law which basically is that it's 80, 20 rule. 

80% of the private pay clients are only going to be seen by 20% of the people in our field and you want to be the outlier, you want to be in that 20%. So having the webpage, blogging, having an email list, providing value, have a free educational webinar, not therapy but an educational webinar on your topic. It's free, it's shows that you care, it shows that you give first. 

Put yourself in that 20% and my guess now with the insurance reimbursements going down, it will probably be more than 90, 10 split. So be in the top 10% because people will pay for your expertise and if you show that you're passionate and knowledgeable, and visible you can do very-very well not just financially but it's very-very emotionally rewarding also.

Melvin: I think one of the things that I was also thinking about, I think all of us, right, when we're jumping into our private practice, we tend to make some common mistakes. So what have you noticed, even just based on your own experience? What was a mistake that you made when you were first starting out in private practice, and what should a new private practitioner do instead?

Cory: Just one mistake? You want it chronologically, alphabetically? I think one thing to realize is that we are all going to make mistakes and it's okay to make mistakes as long as you only make the same mistake once. I've been 12 years, 13 years into this and I'm still going to make mistakes. I think the biggest one starting out and I know this goes against the grain is that I charged too little. And I think now the easiest thing to do to figure out what to charge– if you're a new practitioner, yeah you can charge a little bit less than your competition if you want especially if you go through the private route.

So I tell my graduate students today, and what I tell the people I coach around the country, go to Psychologytoday.com. Type in the zip code of where you practice, find out what the other people are charging and if you're going to have a private practice go 5 to 10% less, that’s it. So the average rate is $50 an hour, charge $45. I started out and I was really lost– I was probably about 40% under what everyone else around me was charging, whether they were new, whether they were more experienced. Even though it says, “Oh well, he's less expensive, let's go see him.” If you are that much less expensive people will actually think, “What's wrong with that person?” 

So I have a friend who was in personal training and he was charging like next to nothing, and the other people in the gym were getting hired ahead of him and they were charging three times as much because people were thinking something has to be wrong if it's this lower price. So one of the biggest mistakes I made is that I devalued my talents, and I didn’t respect my ability and I didn’t get as many clients as when I actually upped my rates. The other thing with that is that numerically, if you’re charging 20 bucks an hour, you need to see three clients as opposed to just seeing one client for $60 an hour. And now that I'm niched in sports psychological for one hour with me working in person is $200. 

I don’t have people that ever complain about the price compared to when I was doing it for $20 an hour people would ham and ha. So there are a lot of lessons to be learned about that and there are a lot of resources out there that talk about getting over the fear of that, but if I was going back in time and I can tell myself that, maybe go 5% under the comparative rate and that’s it if at all.

Melvin: That advice right there goes counter to everything we feel emotionally, right? Like that sense of wanting to get that first client and how do I get somebody in the door, maybe I can just get something a little lower and I love that. So if there is just one thing I'm taking away is never charge less than 5% of what the going rate is in your area. Cory, one of the final questions that I had before we go into kind of our lightening round is, what advice would you give someone that’s just trying to get their first private practice client? How do they go about that and that kind of process?

Cory: Well I think today, in 2015 it's really easy. The first thing is you must– if you're going to be in private practice you must have a webpage. My guess is that the other guests on this podcast are going to say the same thing. You need to be blogging, you need to have videos, you need to create an email list or an opt-in so people can get on your emails and get to learn, like and trust you. Your list is going to be your armies of ambassadors. So if you’re just starting out don’t worry about your first client. Get your webpage up, get on social media, get LinkedIn, get a YouTube channel. Google owns YouTube, so you might as well get a YouTube channel because you going to come up with the search rankings. Get your army of ambassadors; let them be your referral base. 

Don’t focus as much on, I need to get a client, I need to get a client. It's not going to do anything. Wake up each morning, how many people can I reach with this blog post? How many people can I help with this problem that they have in my niche? So if you're specializing in Seasonal Affective Disorder, what are the three top ways to battle Seasonal Affective Disorder in the arctic of winter? That’s going to grab your audience; those are people that are going to want to see you. So I would create tremendous amount of out of value, and it's free. You're not charging people to read your blog post, but they are getting to know, like and trust you and then they share that, you know, now your list goes from 100 to 1000 potential people that could read that. 

So focus on that, focus on the networking, you could do seminars if you want and that way it will start to hit. And then it will build slowly and then it will build quickly and then it will urban flow, but you'll keep building up over time. So the one year benchmark, the two year benchmark, the three year benchmark you'll look back, “Wow! My gosh, I'm reaching all these people,” and that's very, very powerful. Create value versus trying to figure out, how do I get a client? By creating value you'll get the clients and the patients that you want.

Melvin: You know one of the podcasts I listen to Pat Flynn– he talks a lot about this idea of being everywhere because I think that’s what in this day and age what you have to do as a therapist. Whether you have– whether you are blogging, whether you are on YouTube, whether you have a social media channel, a newsletter, you have to do a little bit of everything. And because clients and potential clients or even people that are going to refer clients to you are going to be coming in all through these different doors. So Cory are you ready for the hot couch round?

Cory: Absolutely ready if I can survive the hot couch around my wife, I can survive this.

Melvin: Cory what do you think is a daily habit that contributes to your success?

Cory: For me both personally and professionally it's exercising. So for me since I have a wife and two small children I’m usually up at 5:30 am. I have a gym in my basement or when it’s nice I'll go outside. In terms of the physical and the emotional reserves, it is probably the most consistent positive thing that I can do for myself that allows me to have the energy to reach other people and to help them you know solve their problems and their challenges.

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

Cory: You know I have a lot of different ones that I look at. I think for the purposes of this podcast for new clinicians I would look at Pyschologytoday.com. I would look at the people in your area you know what do their profile say? What are they doing well? What’s the pricing we already talked about that? How do their links to their web pages look? Do they have the opt-in? It’s okay if someone is doing something better than you in terms of their web presence. How can you make that part of yours? And how can you learn from others? So that’s a good resource especially if you are starting out.

Melvin: And what’s your favourite psychology related book that you could recommend to our audience?

Cory: Well for me I think it’s anything written by Aaron T. Beck. I think in terms of both personal and professional growth especially with some of the current distortions that we might play on ourselves with building our practice, and Melvin alluded to that before you know how do I charge enough money you know I don’t feel right doing that. I think anything by Beck is you know very good. He is still going strong at 93 years old. So if you get a chance to see him by all means do that as well in person.

Melvin: And what about your favourite business related book that you could recommend?

Cory: It keeps changing because I read different business related book. I tried to do it every two months. The most recent one that I read that resonated with me was something called The Education of Millionaires, and that really talks about I think what Melvin is doing with his podcast. It’s learning from people who are being successful in the field. So for instance I didn’t learn anything in graduate school and most people don’t about how to run a practice. But the millionaires got educated by learning in real world experience. 

So that book talks about you know finding people with real world experience and learning from them. So like this podcast could be a tutorial of that. That was the most recent book I read, The Education of Millionaires which might be worth a look for many of the people listening to hear. 

Melvin: And your last question is what’s one tip that you would give to someone who is thinking about starting a private practice?

Cory: I would make sure that your expectations are reasonable and don’t overestimate what you are going to accomplish in the short term. However, don’t underestimate what you can accomplish in a long term.

Melvin: Awesome, Cory you are off the hot couch.

Cory: Thanks a lot. It was actually kind of nice in the depths of winter.

Melvin: Cory, thank you so much for coming on the show. This was just so enjoyable. I feel like I learned a lot and I’m hoping that each of you learned a lot as well. Cory what is the best way that we can reach you and I know that you wanted to give out a resource as well?

Cory: I have a lot of different things going on, but I did create a free resource for all mental health professionals, but it’s especially useful for those starting out. It’s called Thewealthytherapistblueprint.com. You just put in your email address; I’ll send you our seven top strategies for developing your practice without having to work with the insurance companies, pretty much everything I’ve learned in the last 15 years. It’s a free resource, check out Thewealthytherapistblueprint.com. Get your free copy and to your success and thanks again Melvin for having me on, it was a pleasure.

Melvin: Cory thank you so much and I will link to everything that we mentioned and talked about on this show in the show notes– until next time. 

Okay everyone hope you enjoyed that interview with Cory Bank. That was such a fun interview having Cory here and just being able to talk about some things related to private practice. I feel like it was almost like I was hanging on every word. It was just anytime that you have somebody that has that much experience especially someone that came into private practice that was kind of right when the internet was getting started. And now is kind of right at you know right at the edge of it with websites and social media and he is doing all of these different things. 

And I think the big takeaway is you know Cory is 15 years into this thing. And so I don’t want you to feel like you need to have 10,000,000 things going on. If anything what I would say is just build one thing at a time. Start your private practice website and start you know putting a couple of blog comments on there. Start putting perhaps some video, build it piece by piece you know otherwise it will just become too overwhelming, and then you won’t enjoy it. 

So if you are interested in show notes and some other resources that Cory mentioned as well as I mentioned, you can go to Sellingthecouch.com/session and the number one. And finally if this podcast is brand new and if you could subscribe to it on ITunes and leave an honest rating and review I would really-really appreciate it. And my goal is really that this podcast gets known to every new private practitioner out there or someone who ever dreams of being in private practice one day. Thanks again for listening and have a great week.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the selling the couch podcast, for more great content and to stay up to date visit www.sellingthecouch.com.

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