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The Practice of Therapy Podcast ( helps therapists, counselors, and other mental health clinicians start, build and grow in their private practices.  Whether you are just starting into private practice or have been in it a while, The Practice of Therapy Podcast will give you information to help you grow and succeed!

Jan 7, 2019

In this episode, Gordon has a conversation with Ellie Vargas about her private pay psychotherapy practice and why there is no quick path to building this kind of business. Ellie’s journey took her to start the Bay Area Center for Immigration Evaluations and this venture assists with diversifying her income because she shares a fee with the clinicians in her business. Later, Ellie explains why she wouldn’t change the way she started her business and gives tips on expanding your practice.

Meet Ellie Vargas

Ellie Vargas, LCSW is a trauma-informed psychotherapist in Berkeley, CA ( where she specializes in helping individuals become more present, authentic, and connected in their relationships – even after childhood relational trauma. Ellie also founded and runs the Bay Area Center for Immigration Evaluations ( She and her team conduct psychological evaluations and write reports for legal immigration cases.

Diversifying Income

The Bay Area Center for Immigration Evaluations allows Ellie to have other therapists take referrals under her business. This unique niche group practice creates passive income for Ellie, and she describes the fascinating journey to get there. The group practice is remote with a virtual assistant. As demand grew, more clinicians hopped on. Her practice is a training institute, and Ellie provides a lot of materials and oversight to ensure her clinicians are up-to-date. They are sharing the fee with Ellie, but those clinicians do not have to hustle for the business.

Lessons Learned

Ellie left her salaried position to start a group practice because she felt like she had a good idea. In hindsight, Ellie believes everything she struggled with to get here is all part of her journey and helped evolve her business to where it needed to go. Therefore, Ellie would not do anything differently if she could because those mistakes built her business.

Tips for Expansion

Think about the skills you already have. For example, Ellie knew how to give a thorough psychotherapy evaluation. She used these skills to offer them in a similar but slightly different way. Ideally, use these skills to fill a demand. Ellie saw a market for immigration evaluations, and so she started a business. The more diversified you can be, the better.

Diversifying Outside Your Usual Services

As any practice grows, clinicians can reach a place where they need to increase income without having to increase their workload.  It’s important to be able to think outside the box and find ways to bring in additional income without having to add to your workload in the long run.  This is where providing services as Ellie has mentioned becomes important.  You want to be able to structure things so that you get the maximum amount of return of your time and efforts. In other words, learn to work smarter, not harder.

Resources Mentioned

Brighter Vision

Therapy Notes

>>Get the FREE Financial Analysis Guide<<

Ellie’s Resources


Meet Gordon Brewer, MEd, LMFT

L Gordon Brewer

Gordon is the person behind The Practice of Therapy Podcast & Blog. He is also President and Founder of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC. He is a therapist, consultant, business mentor, trainer, and writer.  PLEASE Subscribe to The Practice of Therapy Podcast on iTunesStitcher and Google Play. Follow us on Twitter @therapistlearn and Pinterest “Like” us on Facebook.