We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Brandy Engler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. Brandy, what do you attribute your success to?
Can you remember the last time you experienced amazing customer service in healthcare? In training, I ask my intake team to personally answer this question. Most healthcare visits are rushed and perfunctory. In mental health, patients often reach out to therapists only to get an answering machine and no call back. We are in the business of selling relationships; specifically, relationships that heal. From the first phone call, our intake team is instructed to slow down and take time with potential clients, to listen to their stories, provide empathy and warmth. Silver Lake Psychology has a large volume of word of mouth referrals from current customers, a sign of a healthy business. I believe the cornerstone of our success is our full-service relationship building. In a world where customer service is becoming automated and ‘self-serve’, I still believe in old-fashioned customer service. In fact, I heavily invest in it. Our clients know the names and faces us of our intake team. Each day they help people navigate the complexity of their insurance benefits or offer empathy to a tearful, grieving stranger on the other end of the line. Occasionally, they speak to someone who is suicidal and remain with them until they are safe. I remind the team that they are on the front lines of the mental health crises in our community—and that’s not a job to be taken lightly. At Silver Lake Psychology, we want to empower our client’s voices in their healthcare treatment. We invite clients to share their expectations and preferences for their therapy experience—including what is not working. After a couple of sessions, the intake coordinators check in and ask how the therapy is going. As a result, we retain clients that might have quietly terminated treatment. Clients that may have been too polite to express their dissatisfaction with their treatment are invited to speak up and get what they want. The therapeutic relationship can be a learning space for negotiating for what clients want out of any relationship; romantic, family or the workplace. Many of us haven’t experienced a safe space to assert ourselves, to practice vulnerability or to gracefully express uncomfortable feelings like disappointment, anger, and fear. Therapists are trained to help clients practice authentic, empowered communication styles—but we have instituted this idea at an organizational level. All team members from intake coordinators to management, actively empower client communication. Another reason for our success is based on community partnerships. On a regular basis, we reach out to other local businesses, universities, and hospitals to develop relationships. We consistently meet with local doctors, inpatient centers, and many other organizations to exchange services. Big tech companies have entered the mental health space in the last few years hoping to ‘disrupt’ our industry with their automated platforms and therapy by text message. They’re spending large sums of money to engage the same potential client and labor pools– and that has been a challenge for local therapy businesses like mine. Despite the presence of Big Tech Therapy, Silver Lake Psychology is rapidly growing. I don’t believe that groups of out-of-town investors can threaten our deeply engrained community connections or the power of authentic intimacy.
What should our readers know about your business?
The biggest challenge has been transitioning from full-time clinician to CEO. A business owner must learn skills from multiple domains including analyzing financial data, negotiating with contractors and vendors, finding the right technologies, compliance with laws and managing people to name a few. With no educational training in business, I read many books, got coaching and took classes. Learning to lead is a humbling experience. I made many mistakes along the way, but I incorporated them into my learning process. I miss the intimacy of being a therapist. With so much work today being online, therapists work in a field that involves sitting face to face with other humans connecting in meaningful ways. However, I’m proud to create this kind of healing platform for my colleagues and I’m enjoying my newfound competencies in business.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Salsa summer nights at the Autry museum.–it’s dancing under the stars to a live band with hundreds of happy dancers. Cicla-via—biking the streets of L.A. to live music gives you a perspective of our city that we never get in cars. Driving up the 2 freeway into the mountains–it’s just outside the city but deep into nature. The famous Switzer Falls hike is gorgeous. Eating in Korea-Town–lots of places offer multiple courses of foods with exciting and exotic flavors. The atmosphere is usually vibrant, loud and fun.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
How do we know if therapy really works? The research shows that up to 50% of patients drop out pre-maturely. We do better than that.–thanks to our mental health care coordinators. They advocate, guide, listen and conduct research to make sure that people get better. People seek therapy for a broad range of reasons; some want symptom-relief, some want to make a major life decision, some want support and validation, while others are looking for personal growth. We’ve thought hard about the question of ‘what makes for good therapy? Research indicates that a good outcome in therapy is not solely based on the interventions used; it is about the relationship itself. The therapist—client relationship must be a fit. The relationship itself has the power to heal—and if the match isn’t right, many clients leave after the first session never to return to therapy. They disengage from the entire mental health system. Our goal is to keep clients engaged in their pursuit of personal growth. Amongst therapists, there is incredible diversity in personality, background, education, and specialized trainings. Finding the right therapist is imperative for success. We don’t want to be a patient-mill. We don’t simply schedule patients with the next available therapist. The intake team is incredibly mindful in their approach. We’ve created a sophisticated system for matching therapist and client. Based on the intake team’s meticulous research with thousands of clients, they’ve developed systems for improving the patient experience. The intake team are therapists-in training, and they want to know what works. They facilitate discussions with clients and hand-pick the right therapist. The information is also sent to therapist to set her up for success. For example, some clients want to be challenged and directed; however, many therapists believe that clients should take the lead and be their own expert. This is a common recipe for failure in the field of mental health. With their mindful matching process, the intake coordinators can get ahead of these kinds of discrepancies in expectation about what happens in the therapy room—thus improving healthcare outcomes.
For pic of Brandy: Amelia Burns the other pics are of the intake team and we took those ourselves