Featured Therapist: Dr. Kelly Mothner

As a new therapist it can sometimes be hard to believe that it is possible to find success in private practice, and that is certainly the message that is translated in graduate schools. I thought it would be helpful if, each week, we featured a different therapist who is proving that success is possible in private practice. The intention with this series is to provide inspiration, hope, and diversity so you can see that not only is this possible, but also that there is no one right way to do it! This week, I would like to introduce you to Dr. Kelly Mothner:

Practice Details:

Kelly Mothner, Ph.D.

Hermosa Beach, CA



How long have you been in private practice (this can include pre-licensure)?

I started as a psych assistant in 2011 and have been working in private practice as a licensed psychologist since 2013. I can't believe it's already been 5 years!

How many clients do you see per week?

On average, I see about 25 clients per week. It took me a little while to figure out what my ideal number of clients is, but I have found that seeing about 25 clients is satisfying without making me feel burnt out or exhausted by the end of the week.

What is your full fee?

My full fee is $200/hour. 

Do you have a specialty?

While I would describe my overall practice as being composed of a very diverse client base, one area of specialty is working with trauma. After finishing my post-doc, I decided to pursue an intensive 3-year certification program in Somatic Experiencing (SE). SE is a specific approach to working with trauma that relies on the body’s instinctive capacity to heal as the means to resolving the physical and emotional challenges tied to trauma. While I certainly consider SE to be a "specialty", I have found that incorporating the body-based approach of SE with my foundation in psychodynamic theory to be useful in working with all of my clients, regardless of whether we are specifically dealing with trauma or not.  

What is your favorite aspect of private practice?

Despite having very positive experiences throughout graduate school in community mental health and group practice settings, I knew from day one that I ultimately wanted to have my own private practice. I find it incredibly rewarding to know that I am creating my own brand of therapy and it is completely up to me to make it a success. With this comes immense responsibility and accountability, but there is a profound sense of accomplishment as you grow your practice and realize that you are actually running your own successful business! 

What is your least favorite?

I think one of the hardest aspects about private practice is that you are your business - which means that there is no such thing as paid time off, vacation days, sick days, or maternity leave. So, if you decide that you want to take a 2 week vacation you just have to go for it and accept the fact that for two weeks you won't be bringing in any income. I know it's scary to do this at first, but I have learned just how important it is to give yourself those breaks when you need them. The other aspect about this that can be nerve-racking is the fear that if you don't see clients for a period of time, you may lose all of them. The good thing is that this doesn't seem to happen. Once you come back, normally they will too!

How much time per week do you put into marketing?

Initially, when I was first trying to grow my practice I put an immense amount of time into marketing. I aimed to do at least 2 hours everyday, which meant on average about 10 hours a week! Now that I have a more solid foundation of clients and fewer slots to fill, more of my time is dedicated to direct client hours. However, I still actively set aside time to write bi-monthly blogs for my website, post articles on my professional Facebook page, and I will still jump on any opportunity to meet up with colleagues or potential referral sources. 

What are your favorite marketing activities?

I really enjoy marketing activities that involve interacting and engaging with people in person. I have pursued several opportunities that have allowed me to give presentations to a specific client population that I am trying to attract. For example, I knew that I wanted to work more with teens and adolescents so I reached out to the local high school and met with the school counselors about doing a series of workshops for the students during mid-terms and finals about how to deal effectively with stress. It was not only a great way to practice public speaking, but it also ended up resulting in a few clients. The other great part about this type of marketing opportunity is that it opened up the door for being invited to do other talks/workshops for teens - parents who heard about the workshop at Mira Costa then asked me to come speak at a variety of other teen groups and organizations. 

Have you tried any marketing activities that you felt were not helpful?

I'm not able to identify a particular activity that was completely unhelpful, but one very important lesson I have learned about any marketing activities is that most of the time the payoff will not be immediate. I have frequently found that any clients that result directly from some sort of marketing I have done emerge one, two or even three months down the road! The key is to be patient and just keep on getting out there. 

What are your next step goals for your practice?

Over the past year, I decided to expand my practice by taking on two MFT interns, and will most likely be taking on one more. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being a supervisor, both in terms of the meaningfulness of helping another therapist launch their practice and the personal growth involved in taking on this role. I have also collaborated with a colleague of mine, Dr. Vanessa Isetta, to launch the SELF Series (selfseriessouthbay.com). We were both interested in starting a series of workshops for women focusing on the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of the self. We have already hosted two workshops and hope to plan more in the future. Lastly, now that I have completed the certification in SE, I am excited to pursue additional training in another area I am passionate about - couples therapy!