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Why I Created Kiku


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Kiku: The new counselling directory and practice management platform is here to make the business of therapy easier for you and your clients.

“I built Kiku to support you to run and grow your own successful counselling service. You can benefit from my experience without having to do so much of the trial and error...”

There are so many wonderful things about running your own private practice. When we’re our own boss, we can be truly free. Free to work in the way we want; from the hours that we choose to the way we do therapy.

Free to create a beautiful, safe space for our clients and to manage our service in line with our own values. There is such scope for creative expression and fulfilment. Setting up and establishing a successful counselling business, however, is also hugely challenging and at times it can be really, really stressful. We trained as therapists not businesspeople and so, many of us have to learn the majority of the business lessons the hard way.

This was certainly my experience when in 2011 I set up The Clearing here in Newcastle. I was fresh out of the Counselling Psychology doctorate training programme, full of enthusiasm and really keen to create a space where both myself and other therapists could offer client-centred, open-ended depth therapy. Having spent much of my training placements in box rooms, often squeezed in next to a sink, I was excited to style my own consulting room to offer clients a 360 degree healing experience from the moment they entered the building.

In terms of the therapeutic work and the environment I wanted to work in, I felt pretty confident that I knew what I was doing (I had really good supervision!). How to best administer the business, where and how to advertise my services and how to handle the industry specific challenge of combining compassion with business, especially around issues of attendance and payment, were all unchartered territory.

There are so many wonderful things about running your own private practice. When we’re our own boss, we can be truly free. Free to work in the way we want; from the hours that we choose to the way we do therapy.

Over the past 9 years I have learned a great deal about how to successfully run and grow a private therapy practice. The Clearing is now a team of 14 therapists and has established itself as one of the leading services in the area. I’ve often drawn on this experience to support other therapists to successfully transition into private practice and it’s this, that has inspired me to create Kiku.

I believe strongly in the value of what we do and throughout my career I’ve sought to help therapists to be the best they can be. First through creating a therapy centre where therapists are empowered to work in line with their own instincts and encouraging this in clinical supervision, and now through the practice management support offered by Kiku.

My hope is it will allow you to benefit from my experience, so you don’t have to do as much of the trial and error that I did. I want to support you to run and grow your own successful counselling service, so you can stay focused on doing the important work that you were trained to do, while Kiku handles the rest.

Before designing this platform, I spoke at length with my peers about our shared experiences of running and growing private practices. In these conversations the key challenges were identified and tackling these issues formed the main building blocks of Kiku’s functionality. Here’s what we came up with…

Challenge #1

The Administrative Load Can Become Overwhelming

At the start, the admin side of therapy can be pretty straightforward. Your caseload is still building so you have the time and availability to be picking up calls and emails fairly quickly. Provided you have put in place clear boundaries with your current clients regarding contact between sessions, you can protect yourself well from fatigue. Once your diary starts to fill however, and you have less time for the admin side, your working day can start to get really, really long.

We therefore wanted to create a platform that would streamline as much of the administrative processes as possible. One key example of this, is that Kiku allows you to automate communications regarding new bookings, cancellations and rearrangements. This means you can ensure that both you and your client are always kept up to date, without you having to manually compose messages, every time there’s a change to your diary.

When new clients book in with you, we’ll automatically issue your confirmation message. They’ll have all of the information they need for their appointment, without you having to do a thing. We’ll also immediately create a client record in your database, so you have their contact information to hand. You’ll be able to add their GP and emergency contact details and your session notes to their record as therapy progresses.

With Kiku you can also auto-generate invoices, receipts, accounting reports and letter templates at the touch of a button. It makes everything so easy.

Streamlining your administration processes not only takes stress off your shoulders, it also helps clients to feel “held” by your service. In therapy we talk a lot about the importance of therapeutic holding – that sense of safety, rhythm and solidity required for clients to truly be able to engage in the process. In my experience this holding goes way beyond what happens in the clinical hour. How you administer your business is an important part of the holding and so has a significant impact on whether clients are going to stick with you.

Therefore, implementing an efficient, client centred administration system that allows your clients quick and easy access to your availability and to readily manage their therapy sessions, could play a significant role in ensuring the success of your business.

Challenge # 2

Late Cancellations and DNAs

We all know the main way clients will act out during therapy is through attendance and payment. Whilst discussions about this can prove incredibly fruitful to the therapeutic process, it is important that we don’t lose sight of our own needs along the way. Although it can feel awkward to discuss and implement in the beginning, we must protect our income by putting in place a clear cancellation policy. Even when we have a policy in place, enforcing it can still be difficult and in my experience, it is pretty rare for a client who has disengaged from therapy to pay a late cancellation or DNA fee.

To tackle this at The Clearing, we started taking payment for sessions at the point of booking. This proved to be hugely beneficial to the business, by almost entirely wiping out the losses from non-attendance, improving attendance overall and ensuring that new clients were actually committed to the process. We are still flexible about enforcing our cancellation policy; having compassion is just as important as having boundaries and the business of therapy is a constant balancing act between these two forces; but taking payment up front means that waiving the rule is at our discretion, rather than the discretion of the client.

Kiku has been designed to protect your income by taking payment at the point of booking, clearly communicating and enforcing your cancellation policy for you and making payment easier for your clients.

We believe that transparency is also really important if clients are going to feel well held in the therapeutic process. For this reason, your cancellation policy is clearly stated on your Kiku profile and clients are made aware of the rules and are asked to agree to your terms at the point of booking. They are also reminded of your policy prior to confirming any changes to arrangements that will incur a fee. We aim to make it as clear as possible to ensure that there is no room for confusion or misunderstanding.

Payment is made easy with access to an online card payment facility (without requiring a terminal or rental contract) and once your client has created their free Kiku account, they can pay via Kiku simply using their phone. No wallet, no problem.

Challenge #3

Missing Referrals

The decision to start therapy can be incredibly daunting and as it’s often triggered by some kind of peak event, more often than not clients just want to get booked in as soon as possible. There have been many occasions where I’ve missed a call while I’ve been in session and on calling back, less than 30 minutes later, have found that they’ve booked in somewhere else. This may not always be an issue for you, but if you’re worried about the health of your caseload, it can be frustrating.

Kiku has been designed to make the process of arranging therapy quick and easy for both you and your clients. Clients search by availability to find therapists in their area, who have a session free that fits with their diary and then can book in online straight away. This, as well as the greater precision of our search process, means that when you meet a prospective client’s search criteria, your profile will always be seen. Clients can then book their first session in with you there and then - whether you’re in session, taking a day off, or sound asleep – you don’t have to do a thing.

Challenge #4

Keeping Track

As your caseload and business grows, it can be harder and harder to keep track of the miscellaneous stuff. Did you send that invoice? Has it been paid yet? Did that client pay for their last session or do they owe double this time? Has this client cancelled last minute before? Although all of this is important, your mind starts to get so full with the therapy that you’re doing and the work you’re doing to promote the business, that these threads begin to get lost.

Kiku is here to help with this. All of these miscellaneous threads are collected and stored in the client database, creating a clear picture of each client’s complete therapeutic journey. On opening up your client entry, you’ll be able to view their attendance history, check if a session has been paid for and view the invoices you’ve created and saved there. Here you can also add general notes for yourself to jog your memory about non-therapeutic issues, so you can keep yourself right.

Kiku also makes it super easy to keep track of your finances with downloadable accounting reports for your records or end of year HMRC submission.

Challenge #5

The Time-Consuming Request

Once you’ve been around for a while, you may find that previous clients will get in touch to request things like a list of their session dates for their insurers, confirmation of attendance, a collated receipt for the treatment they had 3 years ago etc. Whilst of course you’re happy to help, this usually means digging out their archived file and manually going through your notes to get the session dates, before then creating the requested document. This takes a fair bit of time and adds to your to do list, which was already long.

Kiku has been designed to take this off your shoulders. All clients who have signed up for their free Kiku account will simply be able to log in to access this information. In their dashboard they can view their attendance history, print your branded session receipts for their records and download billing history reports. If they didn’t sign up for an account, you’ll be able to create these documents for them at a touch of a button from the client database. It really couldn’t be simpler.

Taking these challenges out of the equation means that you can channel your energy into your therapeutic work and self-care strategies to be the best therapist you can be.

You do the therapy, we’ll do the rest.

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