How to Manage Your Practice as a Traveling Therapist: An Interview with Kym Tolson, LCSW
Curt and Katie interview Kym Tolson, the traveling therapist. We look at how a modern therapist can be a digital nomad, including what business logistics to consider as well as how to travel well.
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
An Interview with Kym Tolson, LCSW
I’m Kym Tolson, I’m an LCSW and CSAC licensed in the state of Virginia. I have an online insurance-based therapy practice. I lived in Florida until 2/2/22 when we (my BF and I) became digital nomads. Now, we will live in Air BnB’s and travel the world. During the COVID lockdowns, I had a lot of time to work on my “side-hustles”. I still saw my clients, but I also continued to perfect my course, “DIY Insurance Billing for Private Practice”. Over 950 clinicians have taken my course and I’m humbled to be able to guide so many therapists on a path of empowerment and knowledge in their practices. I truly believe it’s imperative to have at least a basic understanding of insurance billing if you are going to accept it in your practice. In addition to my course, I created a supportive community, Bill Like A Boss, for therapists who are billing insurance in their private practices. Since that time, I’ve created 8 income streams to support my traveling obsession. Luckily, coaching other therapists through my courses, consultations, and membership has given me space to see fewer clients and make a higher income. I’ve been able to scale up and serve more people at the same time instead of being stuck in the 1:1 therapy model. Now I have the space and finances to be a digital nomad and actually enjoy the places I’m traveling to! Most recently, I started a Podcast!! The Traveling Therapist to share my journey as well as the stories of other traveling therapists. Please feel free to reach out to email@example.com, http://www.thetravelingtherapist.com, and privatepracticeinsurancebilling.com if you would like to learn more.
In this podcast episode, we talk about working as a therapist when traveling
We reached out to our friend Kym Tolson who lives and works as a digital nomad.
“It’s kind of like being on vacation every day.” – Kym Tolson, LCSW
What are the most important considerations when working as a digital nomad?
- Checking the Wi-Fi before booking your accommodations
- How long to stay in each place (Kym says about 2.5 weeks)
- Finding a schedule that works and only takes small tweaks when you change time zones
- Planning around the seasons and ideal locations
What are the business considerations for traveling therapists?
- Consult with tax attorney and accountant, where to register your business
- Reach out to boards for the state you are traveling to (to determine if you can practice within the state)
- Paying attention to state of licensure and state where you are working
- Considerations for business write offs and expenses
- Tracking business expenses, income, and the location these things happen
Managing work-life balance as a digital nomad
- Finding the right times for work
- Setting a schedule
- Compartmentalize fun and work separately
What have been the biggest surprises in becoming a digital nomad?
- The number of possibilities for each day
- How hard it was initially in letting go of stuff and how easy it seems like it is to let go of stuff now
- The feelings about not having a homebase
What are the necessities when traveling as a digital nomad?
“We definitely need multiple Wi Fi options… So we have two different hotspot carriers because if mine’s not working, his might be and vice versa. We can use each other’s spots. We also have another portable mobile hotspot that we can turn on and off as we need. It connects to any cell service that’s local to where that hotspot is. So that’s another alternative. So we definitely have that taken care of everywhere we go, because we both need the Internet to be able to work.” – Kym Tolson, LCSW
- Specific creature comforts or life necessities (for Kym it’s pots/pans to manage Celiac disease)
- Numerous Wi-Fi options (different carriers for cell-phone coverage and portable mobile hotspot)
- Airbnbs have everything
- Being organized
- Understanding of the impacts of mode of travel and type of accommodations
How do clients react to therapists who are on the road?
- Decide on the level of transparency on traveling or location
- Virtual background for continuity
- Clients are usually pretty flexible with traveling therapist
What are the biggest challenges when thinking about the traveling lifestyle?
- Leaving family and home
- Costs and money mindset
- Loneliness if you are doing it on your own
- Organization and planning
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Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:
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The Expert’s Guide to Becoming a Traveling Therapist Course coupon code for 25% off is MODERNTHERAPIST
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Who we are:
Curt Widhalm, LMFT
Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at: http://www.curtwidhalm.com
Katie Vernoy, LMFT
Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at: http://www.katievernoy.com
A Quick Note:
Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.
Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.
Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:
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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:
Voice Over by DW McCann https://www.facebook.com/McCannDW/
Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano https://groomsymusic.com/
Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):
Curt Widhalm 0:00https://mtsgpodcast.libsyn.com/how-to-manage-your-practice-as-a-traveling-therapist-an-interview-with-kym-tolson-lcsw
This episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide is brought to you by Thrizer.
Katie Vernoy 0:03
Thrizer is a modern billing platform for private pay therapists. Their platform automatically gets clients reimbursed by their insurance after every session. Just by billing your clients through Thrizer you can potentially save them hundreds every month with no extra work on your end. The best part is you don’t have to give up your rates they charge a standard 3% processing fee.
Curt Widhalm 0:23
Listen at the end of the episode for more information on a special offer from Thrizer.
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide where therapists live, breathe and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy.
Curt Widhalm 0:44
Welcome back modern therapists. This is the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm, Katie Vernoy. And this is podcast for therapists about the things that we do with our businesses, the ways that we live our lives. And since the pandemic times, we’ve been hearing more and more discussion of, oh, we can just have virtual offices anywhere. We don’t need to be planted into a physical office. And we are joined today by Kym Tolson, LCSW, and the traveling therapist who not only goes everywhere, but seemingly has just kind of no permanent base. So Kym is here to share all of her wonderful tips and describe how to build a practice where you can be a nomadic therapist. Thank you very much for joining us.
Kym Tolson 1:32
Thank you so much for having me Curt and Katie. I’m so happy to be here to tell you guys about this. I like to share my lifestyle to kind of give like hope to anybody out there that wants to travel and live this lifestyle. So I’m really excited to be here. Thanks for asking me to come.
Katie Vernoy 1:48
Oh, we’re so excited to have you. It’s always fun to have a friend of the show on the show. So the first question we ask everyone is who are you and what are you putting out into the world?
Kym Tolson 1:59
So I’m Kym Tolson, I’m an LCSW. I’m also like a serial entrepreneur. So on top of seeing clients, while on the road, I also have a ton of different income streams where I’m just, you know, putting products out and seeing clients and then just traveling the world as a digital nomad, really. That’s really who I am. I’m just like obsessed with traveling. So I figured out a way to do that. And I’m now putting that out into the world as the traveling therapist trying to encourage other therapists to live this lifestyle if that’s what they want to do.
Curt Widhalm 2:31
So how does this work? What’s the lifestyle like?
Kym Tolson 2:33
Ah, my typical day, it’s, it’s kind of like being on vacation every day. Really. Honestly.
Katie Vernoy 2:40
Oh, that is so cool.
Kym Tolson 2:42
Yeah, I mean, it really is every couple of weeks, we’re in a different place. Right now we’re staying in a condo on the oceanfront. We woke up this morning, we had coffee on the porch, watching these guys catch fish in the ocean. And then there’s tennis courts here, so we went and played tennis. And then we hopped in the pool. And then I, you know, came in here to have this podcast interview with you guys. It every day is pretty much like that, except for when I’m like fitting clients in and doing some work on the side hustles.
Katie Vernoy 3:09
So the question that we usually put towards the beginning of the episode is a learning lesson. Something that helps folks to not make the mistakes that other folks make? And so what do therapists get wrong when they’re trying to work while traveling?
Kym Tolson 3:26
Oh, so much. Not checking the internet. Not like really making sure you have reliable internet because pretty much if you have that you’re fine. You know, you can find a place to work. I was telling you guys, before we hit record, I set up an office in the blocking closet of this Airbnb that we’re at right now. So as long as I have a place to connect, and reliable internet, I’m pretty good. A lot of people just kind of go and they don’t think about that. And then they get super frustrated because they can’t see their clients and, you know, it becomes really stressful for them. So that’s, that’s one thing. You know, I think if you want to be like full on like nomadic, like me, a lot of people in the beginning make the mistake of you know, okay, we’re just going to every week, we’re just going to go to a different place, we’re going to zip around here and there, we’re gonna see everything there is to see in each place, and it’s gonna be amazing. But you quickly learn that that’s super exhausting. It just, you just can’t maintain it. So we started out with that same idea, like, okay, every week, we’re just gonna like go to a new place. But we’ve sort of found our sweet spot is around like two and a half weeks in each place. So you can just kind of get there you get settled, you can like figure out where the grocery store is. We have decided to live in these places instead of just like pop in and pop out who’s just too hard to do. So I think a lot of people do that. They tried to fit it all in too quick. And they get exhausted and burned out with it.
Curt Widhalm 4:46
How do you navigate scheduling? I’ve seen you in different parts of the country, like actually physically we’ve crossed paths a couple of times. And you know, you’re I’m imagining managing time zones has to be a very thoughtful part of the process as well.
Kym Tolson 5:02
It really is. So I’ve sort of worked out a system where I only see clients on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday mornings. I only have like five or six clients now that I see. So usually I started around like 10, 11, 12, something like that. So even if I’m on the West Coast, I can adjust. You know, I just get up earlier and see clients earlier, because I’ve just got a few. So I work it out that way. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for like coaching, consulting stuff, recording, like, informational webinars, or anything that I’m doing for my side hustles. And then I really leave the afternoons open to go explore whatever place we’re in. So if it’s a hike, or just going into town and walking around, or just going to hanging out on the beach, we try to do that in the afternoons. So that’s how I managed it. My boyfriend is, his job is based on the east coast, so when we’re like out on the West Coast, we’re usually up at like, 5am. So he can, you know, adjust to the East Coast schedule that he’s got to stick to.
Katie Vernoy 6:02
It seems like there’s some structure there that you’ve put in place that allows you to enjoy each location. And it sounds like you’re, I mean, two and a half weeks in a place seems both long and short.
Kym Tolson 6:15
Exactly. You know, it really depends on the place too. You’d be surprised, you know, some places you think you want to be there for two and a half weeks, you get there. And it’s like, okay, well, we’ve already seen everything there is to see and we’re ready to go to the next place, you know, so you do you do kind of run into that a little bit. And then there’s some places like Gosh, I wish we booked a month here, but we’ve already got an Airbnb somewhere else. We’ll have to remember to come back here.
Katie Vernoy 6:40
How do you set all this up? Because it seems like there’s a lot to consider when you’re actually moving from place to place or even just relocating and seeing clients in a different timezone at a different place. It seems like there’s so much to consider. There’s insurance, which one of your side hustles is about insurance. There’s taxes, there’s licensing. I mean, it seems like there’s a lot of practicalities to consider when you’re doing this. How do you handle that stuff?
Kym Tolson 7:06
I’m kind of like just do it and figure it out along the way. So that’s what I’ve done. That’s always been, you know, my, my style.I just kind of like hop on and do it and figure it out. You know, and I have professionals that helped me like an accountant that helps me figure out the tax stuff. The planning is really, there is no system to it. It’s just total madness, really. We’re like, Okay, we know for the winter, we hate the cold weather. So that’s like our baseline. So where do we want to go for the winter, that’s not going to get colder than like 70 degrees. And for us, that’s Florida, you know, so for October, November, December, we’ve booked Airbnbs for a month long. This is the first time we’ve done a whole month in different places. So every month we’re moving to to a new place. And that’s how we’re doing the winter in Florida. And that’s totally different than how we’ve been doing it. So it’s like a total adjustment constantly. We know we want to do like Washington state and Oregon and all that and Montana, like in the spring, in the summer. So we’re kind of roughly starting to look at Airbnbs. We keep a list, like a wish list for each place. And then when we like finally are like, okay, at about three weeks, it looks like we’re gonna need to start heading towards Texas, you know, we’ll pick an Airbnb that’s on our wish list. And that’s kind of how we manage the whole thing. Really.
Katie Vernoy 8:24
What about the business side, though, as far as you know, making sure you can see clients, making sure that you’ve got your taxes taken care of like, what does that look like?
Kym Tolson 8:33
Yeah, so with the traveling therapist, I have put a lot of thought into resources because I do want other traveling therapists to be able to do the same thing. So I actually researched this a lot. I asked every single state, if I can practice in their state as an LCSW. I, you email the board, you ask them, they’ll give you an answer. Sometimes. Sometimes they won’t answer but at least you try. So I actually compiled a whole list for LPCs, LCSWs, LMHTs, and there are some states that could care less of you’re in their state seeing your clients in your state of licensure. But there are some states that don’t allow you to do that. So you have to be super aware of that if you are traveling. Like Texas is one Texas is a state I cannot be sitting in as a Virginia therapist and seeing my clients that are physically located in Virginia as an LCSW. So if we’re staying in Virginia, I know that or in Texas, I know that I’m not going to be booking clients while in there. Yeah, so it’s there’s logistics like that. The taxes I, you know, I have an accountant, thank God because I don’t even want to try to keep up with that stuff. So my business is registered in Florida because there’s no income tax and I was advised to do that. My mailing address, physical mailing addresse is in Florida. It’s my mom’s address, we use that address. I’m licensed in the state of Virginia. I have a virtual address in the State of Virginia through this thing called anytime mail. And that’s where I run all my insurance contracts through. So as far as the insurance companies know, I’m, you know, at this address in Virginia, which is actually virtual address. So when I do my billing, I send it all through that Virginia address, because that’s my state of licensure.
Katie Vernoy 10:14
So it’s, I mean that, like, people have to actually plan ahead.
Kym Tolson 10:19
Yeah, I would say you need to plan ahead, if you want to do it like this. I mean, if you’re, if you’re somebody that’s like, gosh, I just want to take a month off, you know, it’s different. It’s different for everybody. So it really starts with like, what do you want in your life, as far as traveling goes? Sure, if you want to take a month off, you cancel your clients, you make sure they’re taken care of, you know, there’s different logistics for that sort of thing. And if you’re not going to be working, wherever you’re traveling to, you don’t have to worry about the taxes part and all that.
Curt Widhalm 10:45
And I imagine that being really good friends with your accountant, also, just in tracking a lot of your expenses, especially if you have a travelling therapist as kind of your business schtick, I guess is…
Kym Tolson 10:59
Curt Widhalm 11:01
I mean, I know, our general advice is don’t take tax advice from therapists. Go to an accountant instead. Is there some of the added business benefits of being a nomad like you have?
Kym Tolson 11:12
Yeah, you know, so this isn’t the case for everybody. But since the traveling therapist is a business, and it’s actually making money, I am able to write off a lot of what I’m doing at this point. The Airbnb is able to write off some of that, anytime I eat a meal, or talk about a place where I spent money, if I posted on social media, or of one of the traveling therapist accounts, I can, I can report that to my accountant as an expense that went towards the traveling therapist business. So, you know, I don’t know what it’s like for a therapist, you know, but a coaching business, if you’re using your location to help promote your business, you can write that stuff off. So I’m still learning too. I keep a spreadsheet of what state I’m in, where and the expenses that happen. And then at the end of the year, I’m just gonna give it to them and they calculate it and they do their magic.
Katie Vernoy 12:05
True delegation, you’re like, I’m just gonna keep track, they will decide. They will help me figure it out. Love it. I guess the thing that I’m just experiencing is that you said it’s like being on vacation every day, but it’s also like being at work every day. How do you manage kind of the work/life balance integration separation, however you how does that look when you’re when you’re actually traveling and working?
Kym Tolson 12:27
Well, like I was saying, you know, I do have the stuff scheduled, like the clients and all of that. And then as we know, like having a side hustle or being like a serial entrepreneur, there’s always something to do, you know, so I kind of, you know, work it around, like my boyfriend’s schedule. Like if he’s got meetings or something, you know, I’ll work on that stuff or in the evenings if he’s, you know, watching baseball or something, I’ll be working on that stuff. So I just kind of fit the work stuff in when we don’t have other stuff that we’re doing; like out exploring or even going to the gym, we belong to Planet Fitness. So we try to go to the gym every day, wherever we are, there’s usually a planet fitness. So yeah, I just fit the work stuff in when I can when there’s not other stuff going on that I want to be doing.
Katie Vernoy 13:10
I think for me, it’s the other part that seems hard, like it would be hard to unplug if you’re like, Okay, now I gotta take the selfie so that I can write off this little side trip and and…
Kym Tolson 13:20
Yeah, oh, yeah, I see what you’re saying. Yeah, I mean, I’m kind of like, I just do what I’m doing. And then like, at the end of the week, I’ll be like, Oh, okay, I need to like document this stuff. I need to be like, Oh, shit, I need to write this down. Okay, I did this, this and this. That’s, that’s more my style, you know, so I kind of I guess I compartmentalize that way a little bit. You know, I just kind of had my fun and then I like backtrack a little bit like, Okay, I need to play catch up. But that’s just my personality. For somebody else that might be stressful trying to do it that way. You know?
Curt Widhalm 13:55
What are some of the surprising things that you’ve come across in your travels and trying to do this?
Kym Tolson 14:03
Let me think. I mean, literally every day is a surprise. I mean, I wish I could like summarize like a bullet point kind of thing. But every day is a super adventure. You know, I get on TripAdvisor, and I’m like, Okay, what is there to do here? Okay, there’s this dude that will come teach you like surf fishing in the ocean and I really want to do that because there’s these guys out here every day catching fish. So I’m like, Okay, I want to know what the bait is. And you know, how do I catch these fish? So every day is like, a surprise to me. Really, because I wake up I like do what I have to do, like on my schedule that I’m like, okay, the world is my oyster sort of thing. What can I go do and explore, you know, so that’s been surprising for me. Another thing is, I thought it was going to be super hard to let go of all my stuff. You know, because we sold our houses. And you know, I was like, gosh, I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this. So we sold everything before we became digital nomads. And then we put like the rest of our stuff and in a 10 by 10 storage unit and right now we’re trying to figure out how the heck are we going to liquidate that thing and get rid of it? Because we’re paying like $250 a month. So the remaining stuff that I felt like I had to hold on to, but it’s like, I’m surprised that I have not needed any of that. I don’t care about any of it, I’m ready to let go of it. These Airbnbs have everything you need. I don’t need a ton of stuff. So that’s been surprising to me, too. Because in the beginning, it was hard to let go of that stuff. You know, initially, like, oh, my gosh, I’m gonna sell my house. Oh, my gosh, I’m not even gonna have a house. You know, that process?
Katie Vernoy 15:34
What are the things that you do need? Like, what’s the stuff that you find yourself taking with you place to place? Whether it’s for the personal health aspects of being a traveler, or the professional aspects of being a business owner working from a place that you don’t own?
Kym Tolson 15:49
Okay, so I have celiac disease. So it’s, if you don’t know what that is, that means you can’t consume gluten at all, it makes you very sick.
Katie Vernoy 15:58
Yeah, so that’s a whole specific thing that you have to take care of. Yeah.
Kym Tolson 16:01
It’s a whole thing. So we definitely need places with kitchens, you know, because I can’t eat out a lot of places because of cross contamination. So I definitely need a kitchen, I need my own pots and pans, which is kind of crazy that I have to travel with like a pot and pan and a spatula, because a lot of these kitchens are the dishes and everything are sort of contaminated. So I have to worry about that. I need my computer, we definitely need multiple Wi Fi options. So Ken is my boyfriend, he has a different carrier than I do a cell phone carrier. So we have two different hotspot carriers, because if miine’s not working his might be and vice versa, we can use each other spots. We also have another portable mobile hotspot that we can turn on and off as we need it. It connects to any cell service that’s local to where that hotspot is. So that’s another alternative. So we definitely have that taken care of everywhere we go, because we both need, you know, the Internet to be able to work. So those are the big things for me that I definitely have to have. And the rest. I mean, these Airbnbs have everything pretty much you know, they’re pretty well stocked most of the time. So.
Curt Widhalm 16:31
How do your clients react? I mean, I imagine that, you know, with this being your brand that it has to come up at some point or another and just wondering how you handle those curiosities.
Kym Tolson 17:26
I’m really open about it. They know I travel. They know, they knew when I, when I left Virginia. They knew, you know, when I decided to become a digital nomad. I’m pretty just open about it that, you know, sometimes there might not be a good internet connection, we might have to go to a phone call, you know, if we have to manage it that way. And like I said earlier, I only have like five or six clients. And these clients are long term to me. We’ve known each other for a long time, most of them and they just kind of pop in when they need, you know, a therapy session or a tune up, so to speak. So they know, they know I talk about it openly, I do have a virtual background I usually have on during my sessions just for like continuity sake. So it’s not different every single time they see me. But other than that, I’m pretty open about it. But I know some therapists don’t mention it at all and they use the same background. And they never say that they’re not right where they are supposed to be or where the client thinks they are. So it’s really your preference, I think.
Katie Vernoy 18:24
That seems like almost a kind of clinical orientation question of do you let them know what you’re doing or not?
Kym Tolson 18:31
Katie Vernoy 18:32
I’ve heard people talk about like having a particular, you know, painting or not painting necessarily, but some sort of artwork or something that they put up against a wall so it looks pretty similar. Or using the same virtual background, those kinds of things. And it seems like that can be, you can have continuity, and share or have continuity and not share. It’s it’s kind of interesting. I find that clients are usually more flexible about it than therapists are, I would imagine. They’re like, okay, yeah.
Kym Tolson 19:01
They’re like, whatever. Can we talk about me now?
Katie Vernoy 19:04
Yeah, pretty much, pretty much. But it seems like you you’re balancing the caseload, and it sounds like that small, it’s manageable. It’s people that known you for a long time. But you also have all of these other income streams.
Kym Tolson 19:15
Katie Vernoy 19:15
So and you’ve kind of just, you know, kind of said, oh, what I’ve got these other businesses, but what are those and how have you kind of put that life together? Because it seems like there’s a lot that you’re doing that requires your attention and so moving around seems like it’s just one additional step, but what are the what are the income streams?
Kym Tolson 19:32
So I’ve got a million. I wake up every day with a new idea. Though, the biggest side hustle, I guess you would call it, it’s almost like my majority of my income now is the insurance billing for private practice stuff that I do. So I had a terrible biller story. I knew nothing about insurance. They fired me which is a long story, but then I learned how to bill insurance. And then I just felt super passionate that I had to like put that information out to other therapists so they felt empowered in their own private practices to at least know what was going on with a biller if they were going to have a biller or to know how to do it themselves because of what happened to me. So I have tons of courses that created mini courses, one big huge course. I’ve got a membership where monthly you come in and we do like live billers meetings; myself and to actual billers are in there. And we’re just constantly helping if you want to do it on your own. And then aside from that, I started a directory for billers that, you know, because I want them to be reliable. If somebody’s going to use a biller, I want them to be reliable. So I’ve started sort of that side business too. And then I have the travelling therapist stuff that I’m working on, which has led to the traveling therapist podcast, which is so much fun. I’m having so much fun doing that. And that leads to sponsors and affiliates. And you know, so I have a lot of income coming in that way from people that just, you know, want me to promote their stuff, and my Facebook groups and and on the podcast and my other income stream places. So that’s kind of in a little nutshell what I’m working.
Curt Widhalm 21:10
With a lot of the therapists who are taking your courses and that kind of stuff, what are some of the questions that you see people initially struggling with? You know, Katie made reference to other therapists might be the ones who kind of struggle with some of this idea the most? What are some of the common anxieties that you hear from other therapists who are considering this kind of lifestyle?
Kym Tolson 21:31
Oh, the traveling lifestyle? Oh, gosh, it’s there’s so much. The big one is, you know, I don’t want to leave my family. That’s hard. How do you do that? Another one is, I’ve got young children, I’d love to be nomadic. But what do I do with the kids? Like, how do we manage them with homeschool? And that sort of thing? Another one is, how do you afford it? You know, I’m not sure how I would be able to do this, live this lifestyle if if I really wanted to. So that’s like money, mindset stuff comes up a lot. Those are the biggest ones. And just, you know, I think people worry about getting lonely, if they’re trying to do it on their own, and they don’t have a partner to do it with. I think that’s that can be, you know, an issue for people. So those are those are some of the major ones that come up.
Katie Vernoy 22:16
How do you help folks sort through those things? Because some of them seem like they’re timing, especially like with young kids, that kind of stuff. And it’s a it’s a big life decision. But with the the money mindset stuff, I mean, there are some practical restrictions on being able to travel and stay in Airbnbs and that kind of stuff. How do you how do you help folks with the money concerns?
Kym Tolson 22:37
Yeah, you know, I really start with looking at the way their practices are set up, or, you know, the way that they’re making, like, how are you making money? How are you managing money? You know, if, if you’re an insurance based practice, are you on panels with a bunch of like, low paying EAPs, and insurance companies that are only paying you $60 a session? Because if you are, you’re killing yourself. You’re working too much, and you’re never gonna, like, get out of that trap of, like, 40 clients a week, you know, just trying to make ends meet, you know. So I started, they’re like, What is going on with that? You know, can we get you off some of those lower panels? You know, let’s talk private pay, how do we how do we set your rate at a better place, so you can actually live the life you want to live? How do we start working towards that. You know, I really focus on that stuff. You know, and then there’s just money mindset stuff around like overspending, you know, people that just don’t budget well, you know, that sort of thing. So just trying to look at all of those factors that come into and you know, generational type messages that say, you can’t or it’s not okay to spend money, you know, all of those pieces come into that financial money mindset piece, especially with this kind of stuff, like wanting to travel, like, even feeling like you have the right to travel, you know, it just sometimes this intergenerational trauma and messaging just keeps people from being even able to try to step into a lifestyle like this, if that makes sense.
Katie Vernoy 24:00
But I mean, I think there are the practical elements of not having a typical home base.
Kym Tolson 24:06
Katie Vernoy 24:07
I mean, how expensive is it really,
Kym Tolson 24:10
It’s expensive. I mean, for us, we’re partners, right? So we split everything and he has a really great job, he makes plenty of money, I make plenty of money with the side hustles. S for us, it’s not that bad, you know, but I think for somebody else if you know these Airbnbs we get are like, you know, two bedrooms, two baths. You could do it cheaper. You could do one bedroom. You can even rent a room in somebody’s house. You could even have an RV and there’s this thing called Harvest hosts where you can live in people’s properties for free. Like there’s all kinds of ways to do this stuff. The way we’re doing it would probably be considered expensive to some people. You know, because these Airbnbs are not cheap; the cleaning fees and you know, the taxes. It’s one price but then when you check out is like probably $1,000 more on top of it. So yeah, so you need to look at that stuff like okay, what’s within my means? How much do I want to do this? And like, how can I make it work with what I have coming in?
Katie Vernoy 25:06
Yeah, and there’s traveling and then there’s the full digital nomad. And so I think there’s also going away for a month and keeping some income is very different than selling everything and living out of Airbnb is all the time.
Kym Tolson 25:19
Curt Widhalm 25:21
It sounds like there’s a lot of intentionality and a lot of organization involved in this.
Kym Tolson 25:28
There is. There is and there isn’t? Some of it? Yes. And then the rest of it is just kind of like totally, willy nilly, like sporadic, day to day kind of things.
Curt Widhalm 25:41
What kinds of suggestions or tips do you have for people in keeping organized like this?
Kym Tolson 25:48
Oh, good question. Again, it’s like your mode of travel is going to be important, you know, to stay organized. So for us, people would think we’re ridiculous, because we’re literally traveling across the country in a two seater convertible with the trunk that’s like, very small. So we, anything we can fit in the trunk is what we take with us. But other than that, that’s it. We just don’t have room for anything. But if you’re somebody that needs lots of stuff, I mean, you might want to be like an RV person. You know, where you could have your whole house in the RV. Or like a school-ee, you know, where you converted it and you could take all your stuff with you. I think the organization piece depends on how much space you have. And like the structure of how you’re going to be doing this really?
Katie Vernoy 26:28
How much routine do you get into? Because it seems like for me, I think I would get homesick number one. But I think the other element of it is I would feel so lacking roots, lacking structure. And so how much structure do you put into or routine do you put into your day to day life as you’re moving around the country?
Kym Tolson 26:50
You know, I’ve got that regular schedule with the clients. You know, we wake up, we have breakfast, we go to the gym, pretty much every day. We do our work, and then we just like fill in the spaces. So there is, there is structure that way. You know, but I hear you about like the roots and stuff. That was when you were asking about the surprising things. That was another surprising thing like I do miss my family. But you know, FaceTime is great. I see them a lot that way. But I do sometimes feel a little like, okay, gosh, shit, I have a home base. But then the surprising part is like no, I feel like each new place we get to I feel pretty rooted like within a couple of days. It’s strange. It’s like we kind of just fall in is like this feels like home today.
Curt Widhalm 27:32
Do you see the therapists who are maybe following in your footsteps? Do you see them as more established clinicians who already have kind of their clientele? Or are you seeing any sort of growth as far as people who are initially trying to start a practice? And is there a difference between those two groups?
Kym Tolson 27:50
Yeah, I, I see a mixture of both, really. I don’t I haven’t seen a difference. Like I like a notable difference in the type of person that’s doing this. I mean, a lot of the younger therapists you know, it seems like therapists these days are going straight from grad school to their own private practices, even if they’re not even licensed yet. You know, they’re doing like private pay or so, yeah, I don’t see a difference really. Once you kind of like get a whiff of this lifestyle, it’s like contagious a little bit. So people just want to like jump on board, regardless of where their practices are, I think. I think they just want to figure out how to make it work, you know. If you have good referral sources, and they know that you’re all online, it’s pretty easy to try to, you know, maintain a caseload regardless of what you’re doing with this stuff, I think.
Katie Vernoy 28:38
I think that’s what the pandemic really taught us is that we can actually be somewhere else and still maintain our referral sources via phone call, or zoom, or whatever it is. It seems like there’s an element of this that is really a lot easier than it appears. Because there’s all of the stuff in the background, like I’m thinking of like, I have to like move and like do all this stuff. And then it would be super fun. But then when you really come down to it the workday is the workday. The office may be a little bit different. The chair may be more or less comfortable. You may be in a closet, or you may be in a fully furnished office, but it like it seems like there’s that element of once you land in front of your computer, the work is the work and you don’t have to be in physical space with people to be able to do business anymore.
Kym Tolson 29:28
Exactly. Yeah, it’s, you really can just do it anywhere. You know if the rest is okay. Like if you could manage like we’ve talked about the stress and the organization and like figuring out the back end of stuff and all the logistics and all of that. But yeah, you can do it anywhere. It’s wonderful.
Curt Widhalm 29:47
Any other pieces of advice for people who are maybe considering this or how to dip their toes into this and see if this is the kind of lifestyle for them?
Kym Tolson 29:55
I think just you could just start out with like one or two week somewhere and you know, make sure you have reliable internet. Make sure licensure wise, it’s okay for you to be in the place that you want to go to. Plan the trip, schedule your clients according to the timezone, and just give it a try and see if you like it. You know, most people say once they do it, it’s like, oh my gosh, I can’t wait to go on the next trip or you know, the next place. Because you know, you can you can make money doing this from anywhere. You know, you don’t have to like, before I even went online back in 2018, it was like, I was taking eight vacation weeks a year because I love to travel so much, you know. So it was like, I have to cram all my clients in, take a week or two vacation, come back, cram all my clients in and take a week or two vacation. So this is like the perfect solution for somebody like me that just loves to be on the go like exploring all these different places, you know.
Katie Vernoy 30:50
And before we started recording, you did say that you were going to offer a special little deal for our folks are modern therapists who might want to learn more about this and get their practices set up this way.
Kym Tolson 31:03
I would love to offer that. So I do have a course it’s called The Expert’s Guide to Becoming a Traveling Therapist. It’s actually, I had about 20 contributors, other traveling therapists, we all contributed trainings to this course to help people learn how to do this, if that’s what they want to do. But for your listeners, I’d like to give 25% off the course with the coupon code: modern therapists. Yeah.
Katie Vernoy 31:26
Thank you. That’s awesome.
Kym Tolson 31:28
Curt Widhalm 31:30
And where can people find that?
Kym Tolson 31:32
Yeah, so if you go to thetravellingtherapist.com, that’s my website. If you’re on Facebook, I’ve got a Facebook group called The Traveling Therapist, you can find us there. About 6,000 members in there. Most people are traveling to some extent. So it’s a really fun place to go and just try to plan this stuff out. And then if you’re into the insurance piece, you want to learn more about that privatepracticeinsurancebilling.com is my other website where you can find me.
Curt Widhalm 32:00
And we’ll include links to all of that in our show notes. You can find those on our website mtsgpodcast.com. Follow us on our social media, join our Facebook group, The Modern Therapists Group. And if you want to continue to support the show, please consider becoming a patron or supporting us through Buy Me a Coffee. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy, and the traveling therapist Kym Tolson.
Katie Vernoy 32:24
Thanks again to our sponsor, Thrizer.
Curt Widhalm 32:27
Thrizer is a new billing platform for therapists that was built on the belief that therapy should be accessible and clinician should earn what they are worth. Every time you bill a client through Thrizer an insurance claim is automatically generated and sent directly to the client’s insurance. From there Thrizer provides concierge support to ensure clients get their reimbursement quickly and directly into their bank account. By eliminating reimbursement by cheque, confusion around benefits and obscurity with reimbursement status they allow your clients to focus on what actually matters rather than worrying about their money. It is very quick and easy to get set up and it works great with EHR systems.
Katie Vernoy 33:07
Their team is super helpful and responsive and the founder is actually a longtime therapy client who grew frustrated with his reimbursement times. Thrizer lets you become more accessible while remaining in complete control of your practice. Better experience for your clients during therapy means higher retention. Money won’t be the reason they quit on therapy. Sign up using bit.ly/moderntherapists and use the code ‘modern therapists’ if you want to test Thrizer completely risk free. You will get one month of no payment processing fees meaning you earn 100% of your cash rate during that time.
Curt Widhalm 33:41
Once again, sign up at bit.ly/moderntherapists and use the code ‘modern therapists’ if you want to test Thrizer completely risk free.
Thank you for listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. Learn more about who we are and what we do at mtsgpodcast.com. You can also join us on Facebook and Twitter. And please don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any of our episodes.