Book review: Financial Management for Your Mental Health Practice: Key Concepts Made Simple, by Jeffrey Zimmerman, Ph.D. and Diane Libby, CPA. (2015) TPI Press, softcover, 88 pp., $24.99.

This book packs a lot of helpful information into 88 pages.  The information that this book provides is valuable – maybe even crucial – for mental health professionals (MHPs), whether they are early in their career or have an established practice.  It also provides information that is crucial for those in independent practice, but even if you are employed the information will still be helpful.

The authors begin by acknowledging that many of the concepts that they will need to cover are from the business world, and the terminology and principals involved are unfamiliar, or even alien to, most MHPs. They have organized the book to make it remarkably easy to adequately understand these concepts.  The book is organized into seven chapters covering the most important financial concept, and each chapter hits a sort of Goldilocks sweet spot- “not too much information” (which would probably be overwhelming to the average MHP), and “not too little information” (which would not do justice to the important concepts involved). Also, each chapter ends with a summary, called “How It All Fits Together” that provides a helpful bit of repetition and a summary of how this information should be used to improve your own financial management.

The authors also help us with a basic primer about why we need to make an effort to get up to speed on these concepts. They balance some empathy – most clinical training programs do not include a proper curriculum about the business of mental health practice, it is challenging for most MHPs to learn and master the concepts of financial management -with some tough love –  these concepts are not so complex and arcane that they cannot be mastered, and mastering and implementing these concepts will help you maximize your income and reduce your stress.

The information in this book will help you understand basic accounting concepts, set up a financial oversight program, negotiate with landlords and billing agencies, manage staff, and more.  If you are an employed MPH, you still should be familiar with this information in order to best negotiate for yourself with your employer and to look out for our own interests.

After reading this book I was left with the impression that if I had received proper financial management training years ago I would have had a LOT less stress, and probably would be further along on my plan for retirement.  I was like a lot of MHPs – I focused on enhancing my clinical skills, but neglected the business side of my practice.  The authors provide ample support for the need for us to have both good clinicians and financial management skills.

If we are distracted by financial worries, or are not making enough to keep our practice going, we are not going to do our best for the people who consult us.  Taking care of our finances is an important part of taking good care of ourselves, and being financially competent is really part of a competent mental health practice.  Paying $25 for an 88-page book may seem like an unwise expense, but buying this book is an excellent financial decision.

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