Is Your Inner Eeyore Getting in the Way? Steps Toward Thriving in Private Practice

Over the past year or so, there have been times when I felt overwhelmed by all of the changes to the practice of psychology that we are experiencing with our evolving health care system.  Frankly, occasionally I can find myself dropping into what I call “an Eeyore frame of mind.” Remember Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh?  He was the doomsday donkey who could turn any joyful moment into something about which to feel sad or gloomy.  So, when I first learned that psychologists, like other health care professionals, were going to be required to use electronic health records, I did not see this as something that was making me leap for joy.  When I learned that Medicare was going to be incentivizing my work only if I began to report PQRS measures to somehow prove that my work was effective, I balked.  And, when I learned that there was a monumental shift on the horizon toward population-based, value-driven payment models, I could hear my inner Eeyore groan!

I have been in private practice since the beginning of my professional life as a psychologist.  With few exceptions, I have been my own boss, owning a small business like the vast majority of members of the Minnesota Psychological Association.  So to look toward the future of private practice as the Affordable Care Act and HIPAA rules seemed to be taking over, and to hear Eeyore’s voice saying, “Oh, well, I guess it’s all for naught,” was not a joyful moment for me.  And then, thankfully, my inner Tigger kicked in:  “Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb but how well you bounce,” I heard him say!  I want to share with you one of the books that has helped me to discover the “bounce” I needed to feel hopeful and joyful about the future of private practice and about the future of the business of psychology.

Dave Verhaagen and Frank Gaskill, two doctoral-level psychologists living, working and thriving professionally in North Carolina, founded a psychology practice that is riding the waves of disruptive innovation in remarkable ways.  Disruptive innovation is a term that is used to describe what happens when traditional ways of doing things in an industry become obsolete because of technological advances.  Think cell phones replacing land lines, iPods and mp3 players replacing record albums, or the Kindle replacing hardcover books.  The health care industry is experiencing an explosion of potentially disruptive new technologies, and traditional models of private practice are likely to experience this as well.  Are you ready?  Is your inner Tigger bouncing?  If your answer to these questions is “No!” then I strongly encourage you to read Verhaagen’s and Gaskill’s book, How We Built Our Dream Practice: Innovative Ideas for Building Yours (2014).  If your answer is “Yes!” also read the book and be inspired and excited.

Drawing on creative, innovative and sound business principles, Verhaagen and Gaskill capture their reader’s attention from the start by describing the innovative practice they built together.  Imagine a psychology practice where every psychologist takes on a superhero persona, where video games are available to play in the waiting room, where coffee is served while you browse the onsite bookstore for a good read, and where you can scan YouTube to find the latest video short filmed in their onsite production studio.  This is the dream practice where Fun, Innovation, Relationship and Excellence (the core values of their FIRE acronym) are at the foundation of every venture, and where almost 40 clinicians practice with full caseloads without joining any insurance panels.  In this book, the authors describe their journey of building a profitable psychology business venture, not so that their practice can be emulated, but so that YOUR dream practice can be realized.  In an engaging and conversational style, they will inspire you to ask important questions about your current practice or the future practice you are yet to build.  And, they will give you example after example that will get you thinking outside of the box of traditional practice models in ways you are yet to imagine.

This is not your typical nuts-and-bolts kind of private practice book.  For that I recommend you read, Getting Better at Private Practice (Stout, 2012), a thorough collection of how-to essays on just about any topic related to the business of psychology.  Better yet, put a SAVE THE DATE memo on your calendar to attend MPA’s first continuing education event dedicated solely to Starting and Building a 21st Century Private Practice – September 18, 2015, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.!  Minnesota’s most experienced psychologists who are thriving in private practice will share their wisdom and experience with all of the nuts and bolts of psychology practices.

And, as you plan for starting or changing your psychology practice, give yourself time to envision your DREAM practice planfully by reading Verhaagen’s and Gaskill’s book.  If you want to be inspired, if you want to think big, and if you want to find the courage to act boldly to follow YOUR dreams of practicing psychology in the world today and into the future, read this book!   You will find yourself imagining the possibilities of positioning your psychology practice for future success.  You will feel challenged to take risks, to step outside of your comfort zone with confidence.  How We Built Our Dream Practice is the idea book that silences your inner Eeyore so that you will flourish in spite of or because of disruptive health care innovations.  Who knows, perhaps you will bounce right into the next disruptive psychology innovation with a business model that flourishes because of your DREAM practice.

Robin McLeod, Ph.D., L.P., is the 2015 MPA President-Elect. She founded and owns a small private practice behavioral health specialty clinic with two locations: Woodbury & St. Paul.  You may email her at [email protected]  Her websites are: and  She thankfully received a free copy of How We Built Our Dream Practice in exchange for reviewing it in a public forum.  She is ever thankful for the opportunity to read the book, and would gladly have paid a hundred-fold for the inspiration she received from reading it!  Her inner Eeyore says, “Oh well, at least the book was free for me…” while her inner Tigger says, “I’m so happy after reading that book, I feel like bouncing!”


Stout, C.E. (2012). Getting Better at Private Practice. Hoboken, NY US: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Verhaagen, D. & Gaskill, F. (2014).  How We Built Our Dream Practice:  Innovative Ideas for Building Yours.  Camp Hill, PA: The Practice Institute, LLC.

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