play therapy training

Private Practice: Is It Financially Sound to Attend a Training?

You go to your mailbox, get a postcard about an upcoming play therapy training, and get really excited about the learning objectives.

Or, you are on social media and see a post about a training that offers a certification that has been on your bucket list for a while.

You scan the details and see that it is 2 days of training, or maybe 5 days of training and you look at the cost for registration. $250? $500? $1500?

Hmm.. It sounds amazing.  And I really do want to learn, "all the things,".

But, if you are in private practice, you quickly remember that attending a live training means that you have to close your doors and reschedule all of your clients. (Eeek!)

Which means that you have two choices:

1). Work overtime that week (or the next few weeks) to make up for the clients that you rescheduled...which means that you are exhausted for the entire month.

OR

2) Lose the income that you would have earned by seeing those clients for that week.

So, now, that 4 day training is either 2 weeks of overtime or it will cost you an extra $1000 or maybe even $3000 in expenses.

Is it really worth it???

This is such a tough question to answer and one that I face on a regular basis. 

Many of the clinicians that I talk to consider themselves lifelong learners.  They want to dive deep into the information and use it to help their clients. 

This means that they would attend all of the training that they can get their hands on. These are not people who are just checking the boxes to get their renewal hours for the licensure.

There is an intrinsic reward to all that training.  

Is it worth it?  

Well, if I learned something new, then I am inclined to say YES!

But, from a business perspective, is it worth it? 

Does the training that you receive actually get you more clients? Does it help your clients get better faster? Or does it help you serve a different type of client?

I hope the answer is yes. That's the goal. 

Having the Registered Play Therapist credential has certainly paid off in terms of getting referrals and providing a higher quality service (compared to my previous self)!  The EMDR training created a huge shift in the way I worked with all of my clients.  I notice the return in word of mouth referrals. 

But, do you raise your fees every time you attend a training or get a new certification?

Probably not.  And if you're billing insurance, you're locked into the contracted rate, so definitely not. 

That makes it hard to calculate the return on your training investment dollars. 

Some of the ways that attending training pays off:

  1. Networking:  This seemingly obvious one is important. Attending training gives you a chance to meet new people and engage with colleagues in a relaxed environment.  By making authentic relationships with colleagues, you learn who you can refer your clients to (and they learn what types of referrals to send to you).  
  2. Random Bits of Information: In every training, you pick up these random bits of information.  One time, it was an app that proved to be very useful for my clients.  Another time, it was about pending legislation that I was unaware that would impact my practice.  Another time it was a helpful hint about managing malpractice risk.  Those side conversations make you more valuable as an expert resource to your clients AND often save you time and money or protect you from future liability. 
  3. Self care: Stepping away from your clients can help you see things with a fresh perspective.  The time that you spend away recharging your brain and literally doing something outside of your normal routine can help you find new solutions or ideas when you return.
  4. New tools and resources: This is one of the reasons that you attend training- to obtain new tools and resources.  These effective strategies help build good word of mouth referrals about your level of competency and ability to take on the really challenging cases. 

BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET!

The problem with wanting to know all the things is that you can be attracted to each training that comes your way.  You may have a hard time deciding what to prioritize and end up spending a ton of money without actually building any new specific expertise.

TRY THIS:

Take out a sheet of paper and divide it into three columns: One is your BUCKET LIST training (the expensive one that you really, really want to do). The second is your required training (anything that your state licensure board or any specialized credentials require).  The third is for UNEXPECTED TRAINING (for things outside of your current knowledge base that might pop up). 

Now, set a realistic budget for your training for the year for each category. If you like spreadsheets, I've created a free one for you here.  (Just be sure to SAVE AS A COPY before filling it in). 

Include the time away from your office and  missed income in your budget. 

Include anticipated travel costs.

Include books that you might need, or want, to buy.  

Since it's tax season, I created a column for your to estimate your last year's expenditures on training. When you finish your taxes, put the correct amount in and see how close you were.  Then make more realistic projections and plans for this year. 

You can then use this same spreadsheet to keep track of your hour this year. (And I even made a column for books so you can track how many books you read each year!). 

  • Budget for your required training that is very specific for your state first.  In Florida, we have to take this course called Medical Errors.  There is no play therapy training (or any other training anywhere) that is going to meet that criteria. It just has to be done.   
  • Last year, my required list included play therapy supervision training that I need to renew my RPT-S.  I could have gotten this a lot of ways, but I was able to cross off that required training AND a bucket list item by getting it at the National APT conference.  You can read about my experience here.  You need to have a specific list of how many hours you need to renew your  license as well as any certifications or credentials (I made it super-easy for you on the spreadsheet). 
  • For the unexpected training column, leave room (and money) for something cool that happens to come to your area.  Or an online training in an area that is new to you.  Or something outside of your typical comfort zone. I recommend you try something new and novel at least once a year.  Last year, I intentionally went outside my typical play therapy niche to get the Gottman Couples Therapy Training.  I understand that Gottman Method itself doesn't qualify as "new and novel" but it was for me because I had no formal training in marriage therapy.  
  • I remember Dr. Angela Cavett told me during the 2017 Play Therapy Summit that she tries to get "breadth and depth" each year.  Go deep in one specific area, but also cast a wide net to get exposure to new things.    Unexpected training budgets cover the breadth...bucket list training covers the depth. 
  • Now, your bucket list training will likely give you some of the credits you need to renew your license.  But, it might not.  And that's okay, because you have already budgeted for that (and can get creative with free training that is often available to supplement).

BUCKET LIST TRAINING IDEAS

Some of the more expensive, intense or in-depth trainings that clinicians often talk with me about include:

These trainings, to me, are considered WAY OF LIFE trainings.  They are going to add a totally new type of theoretical application to your practice.   They are the ones that people are always talking about, but don't often go to because they are expensive! 

Also included on your bucket list might be any of the play therapy certifications (Child Centered Play Therapy, Experiential Play Therapy, Gestalt Play Therapy, Synergetic Play Therapy, AutPlay, FirstPlay, and so on). 

For some, finishing the requirements for your RPT (Registered Play Therapist) is a bucket list item!  Budget for it! Remember Dr. Cavett's strategy for breadth and depth: study something play therapy related in depth, but supplement with a variety of theoretical orientations. 

Also, you don't need bucket list training every year.  Sometimes, you need to budget for a couple of years to cover the costs of an intensive training and supervision program.  But, it's still a budget and it's still on this list. 

BUCKET LIST TRAINING EXPERIENCES

Another type of bucket list training includes experiences!  

This includes training that involves a DESTINATION that is a side benefit of your desired learning.

For me, I have South Africa on my training bucket list. I have been researching offerings like this that include training and volunteer work.  
Remember when Tammi van Hollander was in India doing awesome play therapy work? That was not for APT credit.  It wasn't for licensure renewal.  But it was awesome and I have been wanting to do something like that myself.   

It's probably not going to happen this year, but it's on my vision board and I'm squirreling away money for the opportunity when it arises. That is bucket list training and I can't just do it on a whim.  It requires a plan. 

The Hawaii Play Therapy Retreat is a bucket list experience.  I specifically created this training so that you had the best of both worlds.  Awesome presenters (Lisa Dion and Clair Mellenthin) teaching in the same room for the first time ever!  AND, exposure to the beautiful culture and rich experiences that Oahu has to offer.  

Will this training pay off for you financially? Is it worth the money in registration, travel and time away to have this type of training?

I think it is.

Not because you will go back home and raise your rates. But because you will go back home transformed by an experience of learning, connection, culture, and self-care!

So, is that training worth it?

Yes, but don't just go willy-nilly with your training plans.  

Your bucket list training isn't out of reach.  You can have amazing and expensive experiences if you create a budget and a plan.

And you can leave a little wiggle room for the unexpected trainings that catch your eye as well. 

Tell me what is on your training bucket list?  What are you doing to budget and plan for it so that it can happen!

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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