Episode Fifteen | Season Three

The Power of Knowing Your Mission

On this Episode of PsychBiz, Howard and I discuss the importance of having a mission statement for your private practice.

We share insights on:

  • What a mission statement is
  • How to turn your story and “why” (see episode 14) into a mission statement for your private practice
  • The importance of a concise and targeted mission statement
  • Examples of great mission statements
  • And more!

Download your copy of Howard’s Private Practice Business Plan for FREE here: https://howardbaumgarten.com/resources/

This is the third episode in our mini-series for therapists based on the graduate counseling program curriculum Howard taught for 12 years at the University of Colorado, and can also act as a side-template for his book, Private Practice Essentials.

We hope you find this episode insightful and inspiring. If you do, please consider subscribing, leaving a review or a comment.

Episode 15 Transcript:

Howard: We’re talking about mission statements today in our private practice business plan, and I am very excited to talk about how to transition from that aspiration — who are we, why are we doing what we’re doing — that whole story that you wrote to the assignment I gave you last time we met. And really transitioned that into a condensed version of a mission statement that is going to be going on your website in your social media, and really sort of define who you are.

Sarah, you do such a great job of integrating that mission statement into the web designs, right? 

Sarah: Yeah and I think that it also is just really important because it helps give you a sense of direction and knowing where you wanted to grow your practice, and the things that matter to you and helping you keep your practice growth in line with the things that are really going to make you feel excited, inspired, keep you going. So having that mission statement really clear in your mind, and then having it fully integrated into the different places where you show up for your clients is really important and also really helpful to you. And it makes your practice growth and kind of gives you a really firm foundation.

Howard: I totally agree. And I think what might be helpful for starters is if we sort of define what a mission statement is, because for some people they might not really understand, you might not understand, like, what are we really talking about here because it can mean a lot of different things and I’d like to maybe condense it down and then if you want to add anything to it, I’d really like to hear your thoughts about it.

Sarah: Great. 

Howard: The way I like to think about mission statements is, a mission statement is a one or two liner, okay, not too much. You don’t want to get too wordy with it, right. That basically describes the story you wrote about in your why, alright. There’s a second part to a mission statement that I think is really important and you kind of already hinted on it and that is it sort of targets populations that you’re looking for in your own practice and so your mission statement, you might read through your story, for example, I’m going to recommend that you do you reread through your why, and you may want to pick out one or two key features. If you don’t pick out those key features and you end up picking on picking something that might not matter as ancillary in the story, you’re going to miss your mark, you’re not going to be able to attract the people that you want. So you really want to focus on the one, two or three key components of your story. And that’s why we start with a longer story. And then condense it down and you may want to just jot some ideas down that are within that story — you just want to make it one to two lines that really captures the essence of what you do and who you’re targeting.

Would you agree? 

Sarah: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think it’s important to keep it concise, both because it’s going to be more impactful because things that are shorter are always going to be  more likely to have an effect on us. And also because you want your goals to be very focused, like super focused so that you can really be putting your energy towards those things that are most meaningful and most important.

Howard: Right. So it’s condensed, it’s targeted and it’s targeted in a specific way that attracts the people that you want in your practice. I’m going to give an example that I used to give in my trainings. So, an example of a general clinical practice mission statement, and this would be for a mental health practitioner that might be a generalist, right? This is an older name to my practice. I abandoned it and changed it, which we can talk all about branding change and stuff in another episode. But the name of my practice at one point was called build, change, grow. I’m kind of a person who likes threes and I think if you’re struggling with how many concepts do I put in my mission statement, I like to recommend no more than three key concepts. And so that’s where I really developed my original practice name called build, change, grow. And so my mission statement then became as follows: helping people build and practice new skills in order to change that, which is painful, damaging, or otherwise intrusive to living in order to mindfully grow.

And I emphasized in bold the words build change and grow. 

Sarah: That’s really great. 

Howard: Yeah, that was my original mission statement. And what’s interesting is — because you developed my new website — those concepts can change over time and morph. And you still use some of that in my website, but now you helped me with this amazing website last year to about a year and a half ago and we created four separate subsections with four sub mission statements, didn’t we? 

Sarah: Right, because you have different parts, like you help different people who are very different audience, right? So consultations, that’s a completely different audience from your therapy client base.

Howard: Right.

Sarah: And so, there are definitely going to be people listening who have a similar situation, where they have different people, different groups of people who they help in substantially different ways, right. You need to reflect that you need to talk to the different groups differently. 

Howard: Right. So for you, the listener, you might have three specialties. And you may have three separate pages on your website, each identifying one specialty, and you can actually have a mission statement or what we might call a sub-mission statement for each specialty. So you could have an overarching statement on your home page, and then you can have specific statements that really introduce who you are and what you do in that particular area. That’s okay, too. We want you to be flexible about this and still stay targeted and focused. 

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. And another thing that I wanted to talk about that’s important with the mission statement is that it’s important for everyone, but it’s especially important if you have a group practice and one of the reasons for this is that when you have a group practice, it’s really important to not have it feel like you just got a bunch of random people sharing an office together, right? You want to create a unified cohesive whole that there’s something unique about. The people in your practice, you came together for a reason and you have something that you share in common that you’re all working towards it together.

And that kind of shared mission is really crucial because you need people to come to your practice, right, to your group practice. And you can’t just have it be like, this is a bunch of individuals sharing an office space. You really want it to be defined as like, this is what we do, this is who we help.

And we are all together doing something as a team, you know? 

Howard: I’m so glad you mentioned that because here’s  something that came up for me. It reminds me of Dr. Dan Siegel’s concept of integration, right. Integration, he says, is part linkage, which is what you’re really talking about, there has to be some good linking and part differentiation, meaning that each individual practitioner might have their own page or their own bio, where they talk about who they are. And a bio is different from a mission statement, a bio is more of an individualized thing. The mission statement does the linking part. And that’s really what you’re saying. You’re saying in a group practice mission statement. Take those differentiated clinicians and tie them together into a common concept.

And I think that’s a really important and valuable point you made, Sarah. 

Sarah: Thanks, yeah.

Howard: Can I share what my mission statement is for my business consultation, as an example as well? 

Sarah: I think that’s a great idea. 

Howard: So I gave listeners the general clinical practice mission statement as a sample and then because I do business consultation and I’ve written a book about practice development and I do this podcast, I have something called — I founded an organization called Smart Practice Central, it’s still alive. I just transitioned the website into my main website. I still live by this mission statement, I’m gonna read it now. It goes like this: to raise the standard of how we do business as practitioners, creating systems of success that are transparent to clients, colleagues, and community while encompassing the values of smart business decisions, strong ethical behavior, and clinically mindful treatment. 

Sarah: Oh, I love that.

Howard: And so you can hear the emphasis on things like, what are my values? My values are making good, solid business decisions that include smart ethics and mindfulness and, being clinically mindful, that’s kind of where my lens is. People know, wow, that’s something about Howard that I really want to know right away. Can I trust him? Can I trust him to be my consultant? And if I know that this is what he values and I have similar values and most good clinicians do, in my opinion, then I’ll feel comfortable working with him.

That’s how I target my consulting clients. 

Sarah: Yeah. And I also love how specific you are, because you’re not just talking about who you help, but you’re also talking about how you help them, and I think that that is really crucial too. And so for a lot of people who are listening, part of your mission statement would probably be, at some point, talking about the type of therapy you provide or the philosophy behind the therapy you provide, something that is kind of fundamental to the way that you provide care that defines the type of care that you’re providing.

Howard: And speaking of that, if you do three or four different things, this is where you can create some specific mission statements that, again, tie together your overarching, who you are, where you might have a top tier mission statement on your homepage.

And then you might like, if you’re a relationship therapist, as part of what you offer your mission statement might sound like this: establishing a greater relational foundation while repairing conflict and avoidance through building communication, intimacy and trust. So, that’s for relationship counseling.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. 

Howard: So one of the things I recommend you, the listener, do is take your why, start jotting down ideas from your why that are central to who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing. And then, have fun with this, play around with different statements, right?

If you have a structure built in your practice where there’s three or four solid things you do, write three or four different mission statements for each one of these and then pick your favorite. So, you might end up when you’re doing this exercise, you might end up, if you do 3 or 4 different things, you might have 12 or 13 different statements, 3 or 4 in each category, and then picking your favorite and definitely share it with other people. To get feedback from people, ask for feedback from other counseling professionals, family members, friends, people in and out of the field can really get a sense of what other people might think about your statement and about you regarding your statement.

Sarah: Yeah. And another great activity to kind of help you get going is to brainstorm action words. So when you have your mission statement, right, part of the goal is that you should be talking about how you’re going to act. Like what you’re going to do. And so think about making a list of words. So, a lot of people start with helping, but that might not necessarily be the word that best describes what you do.

So think about empowering. You know, think about supporting, think about listening, think about — like, there are so many different words that you can use, that might better describe the relationship that you want to have with your patients or your clients. And like, by just brainstorming those kinds of words, think about coming up with action words that are powerful and that explain and kind of encompass the relationship you have with your clients in the most kind of transparent and honest way.

Howard: What I heard most in that statement was powerful action words. 

Sarah: Yeah. 

Howard: You really want to empower the process of therapy and actually, really what you’re talking about could even mean this is more of a question for you, condensing, what kinds of interventions you use. Like how do you do what you do, but not getting too clinical and professional about it, kind of keeping it mainstream lay person kind of language, right? 

Sarah: Right, absolutely. And that’s not just because you’re going to be communicating it to. Other people who need to be able to understand what you’re saying, but it’s also because the core mission of your practice should be something that is kind of fundamental and so you shouldn’t be getting too technical with it.

Howard: Right. The technical piece can be in the meat of it. Folks want to read more about what you do. Let’s say you, you do acceptance commitment therapy, or emotionally focused therapy, you can state those kinds of things further in the website and define what that is a little bit, but that’s not where mission statements fit — it wouldn’t fit with a mission statement. 

Keep it really simple. And it’s really about catching their eye and really about defining what you do and how you do it in a very short sentence, right? 

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. And then that mission statement kind of becomes a base, and then you use that to build other things. Like, in our next episode, we’re going to talk about creating your tagline, which is different from your mission statement and should be used differently. And it also can kind of just be infused into whatever, any place you were talking about your practice, whether it’s when you’re talking face-to-face with someone, when someone calls you on the phone to talk to you about whether or not you’re the right fit, if you have other materials like — it’s going to kind of become that backbone to understanding what your practice does and how you are interacting with your community. 

Howard: Well, and I think that also the mission statement becomes in many ways, your calling card and your ability to really quickly tell people what you do. So a lot of folks in the business world, call this your elevator speech that if you’re standing in an elevator with somebody and they ask, what do you do? You’ve only got about 30 seconds to two minutes on an elevator, depending on how tall the building is, where you’re going, right. But you know, how much information can you give that person, in an elevator ride from the bottom floor to wherever you’re going, and one of you gets off.

And so the reality is that experience becomes really impactful when you already have a mission statement written down and practiced and rehearsed. So it’s a calling card, it’s specific, it’s targeted. It will take you quite a bit more work than you might imagine, because it’s hard to condense an entire passionate narrative and story into one thing.

So if you struggle with it, don’t be dismayed by that, it’s pretty normal. And as always, if you need extra help with that or any other, these kinds of areas that we’re talking about, you can reach out, you can email me, we can talk about it. I’m happy to give you some pointers and support. I know Sarah, when you work with your clients on the website, these are the very kinds of things that you work with them on directly.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s not easy to articulate something that is so important in a way that’s so brief. So, it’s hard, but it’s definitely worth the effort. 

Howard: Wonderful. Well, we’ll include a lot of this in our notes and — all the whole thing will be in our notes obviously, and next week, but next session, we’ll talk about taglines.

You're on a mission to make a difference.

We're on a mission to help you reach your goals. . . without burning out.

Howard Baumgarten

Licensed professional counselor, author of PRIVATE PRACTICE ESSENTIALS, international speaker and small business consultant. Learn more at Howard’s website.



Sarah Gershone

Web designer and digital marketer specializing in therapist private practice growth. Owner of Strong Roots Web Design.