Monday, November 28, 2011

Support Anti-Bullying Laws in the Workplace

I am hearing from all fronts of the increased incidents of workers being bullied by either their co-workers/supervisors in their places of employment. Currently advocates are pushing for a bill entitled, the Massachusettes Healthly Workplace law,that would make bullying a criminal act and will enable employees to seek damages against the employee and/or against their employer. Unfortunately, employees who suffer or endure workplace bullying have no legal recourse unless the behaviors are proven to be discriminatory in nature by a third party.

Please note that there were be provisions in place to prevent frivolous lawsuits.

Workplace bullying is defined as:

" targeted, health-endangering mistreatment of a worker by a supervisor or co-worker." (

Examples of bullying behaviors include loud and abusive language, false accusations, isolation, purposely withholding of information, negative and offensive emails, sabotage, and unequitable heavy work demands and expectations.

What are the psychological and physical costs associated with bullying in the workplace? Workers suffer from:

1) Anxiety attacks
2) Clinical depression
3) Post-Traumatic Disorders
4) High Blood Pressure
5) Heart Disease
6) Nighmares
7) Other physical conditions

I endured workplace bullying from a former supervisor at an adult foster care program two years ago. She accused me of not following her directions and not doing my work after telling me a month earlier that I was performing satisfactory on the job. She forced me to repeat back her directions to her where her face turned bright red and her neck muscles tensed up. She demanded answers from me on why I was not following her directions. In fact, when she met with my counterpart two hours earlier to discuss the same issues we were both having, she gave her positive feedback and guidance on how to do a better job while I received the above treatment. My colleague told me this information when we met after my meeting with the supervisor.

What was her motive? It seemed to be that she wanted to make my counterpart, who was twenty years younger than me with no experience working with the aged, a full-time employee who was working part-time at the time. I can never forget during the month of July 2009 how she quickly made up three insubordination reports in a matter of weeks against me. I informed human resources and her supervisor about her mistreatment towards me at work. Unfortunately, they ignored my pleas and,instead, played along with her devious tactics to get me terminated. Though, I suffered from minor clinical depression and intensed anxiety during this time, my world changed for the better after I was fired. A few days later in August, I received a surprised telephone call that a boy needed to be adopted out of state. The higher power provided me with a different perspective on what was important to me in my life and a change in my career.

Unfortunately, there is no legal recourse for me to sue her in court for bullying me since Massachusetts has not passed a law yet. My case was found to not be age discrimination by a third party due to their narrowed and biased viewpoints of considering all the facts objectively.

I decided to move on by telling my story and promoting the above bill. I also work with individuals who have suffered from workplace bullying by providing them coping skills and educating them on the psychological nature of bullies.

I have forgiven the bully supervisor by understanding that her actions toward me no longer have control over my life. I believe in the universal paradigm that "What comes around, goes around." It is not me who has to make amends with the higher power and with your soul. I am ay peace by refocusing my energies on doing things in my life that bring my joy and purpose in my life. If I happen to see her again in a public setting, I will ignore her.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ten Tips for Starting a Private Practice

1) Locate an office site so you can start the process of applying for insurance panels. Whether you use your home or pay rent for space, all health insurance providers need your address to start the ball rolling. If you just want to do private pay, you still need an office location to start your marketing plan and networking with others.

2) In Massachusetts, mental health professionals have to register for the CAQH-Council Accreditation for Qualty Healthcare-for insurance panels to get their information on their credentials. The CAQH is a two hour process to fill out the information required for panels to access your information. The CAQH is designed as s “one shop stopping place” for professionals to document their credentialing information so all insurance panels can get the same information.

3) Pick and choose insurance panels you want to apply to. Some are open to new providers, others are not. One insurance panel is closed to all new mental health providers in my area although there are less providers in this panel to service the mental health needs of their clients. It is important to be a “Nag” in calling these panels to verify that you received your information and checking up when you will be approved.

4) If you are interested, you may want to apply to Employee Assistance Program panels to get referrals. You can get a list of such providers by googling “EAPs” or going through your local telephone book or through word of mouth. There are national EAPs as well as local ones in your area. Each EAP have their own pay scale on how much providers get paid for their service. On a side note, it took me five years to get on one EAP panel after management replaced all its workers this year. Apparently, someone at this company did not want me to serve as an EAP provider due to not wanting to upset their colleague who counsels ADHD clients like I do.

5) Check out local office supplies and websites for getting business cards and other office items. I find that is one of the best websites to order business cards. Once you get on their email list, they send you daily different offers to attract your business. Some providers also use Staples or Office Depot to order their business cards as well.

6) There are also businesses and websites that offer low costs for building your website. I found that having a website did not bring me any business. It is an individual decision to decide if investing in a website is worth your time and money.

7) Networking with Primary Care Offices is a wonderful way to attract business. I found that after getting one client from a PCP’s office resulted in me being put on their list for clients to refer to for mental health referrals.

If you want to earn money for your business, do workshops for a reasonable fee on topics relevant to their employees. For example, I will be conducting a few trainings for a local healthcare provider in the fall for their staff. My goal is be on their permanent list as a trainer for their staffing needs. In the past, I have done a few workshops where I have been invited back on a yearly basis to conduct future trainings.

9) Another way to attract private pay clients is to take their co-pays while you want to approved by their insurance panels. Some providers are doing this as a way to attract new business to their practice. You can also offer a sliding scale fee as well.

10) Blogging for free for local newspaper sites is a great way to get your name out. I blog for one local newspaper for free since the beginning of summer. However, I don’t use my credentials due to liability purposes. I do have folks in my town reading my blogs as the word is getting out.

It is up to you to put the time and effort in to start your private practice. Some colleagues are hiring others to do their “footwork” for them in getting on insurance panels. I heard mixed reports from a few who hired others to help them and were not happy the results. It is up to you.


Robbin Miller is a counselor who specializes in mindfulness meditation; Positive Psychology; and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies; and is also a volunteer cable access producer and co-host of her show, “Miller Chat” in Massachusetts.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tidbits to the Graduating Class of 2011:

Congratulations to the graduate students from the Social Work and Mental Health programs across the program. Your hard work and dedication will pay off as you enter the “real world.” Here is the top ten list from a seasoned professional of fourteen years in the trenches:

10. Know who your supervisor will be in your first job after graduate school. One thing I learned is that having a unprofessional boss who exhibits unethical behaviors and is simply “rude” and “unkind” to you is not worth staying on the job. Know your rights when you have been taken advantage of and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.

9. Select a new job where the commute is reasonable and feasible. Why take a job that can wear and tear on your car and is far away from your home. If you do home visits as well, pick a job closer to home. Car repairs are very expensive.

8. Be aware of the parameters when taking a salary job as opposed to a fee for service job. If you don’t make productivity, you are in danger of losing your salary and benefits and being stuck as a fee for service clinician. Choose carefully and wisely.

7. To add to number 8, if you are in job that requires reaching unfair productivity quotas, be ethical in your billing practices. There are too many clinicians who bill for hourly sessions when they saw their client for a half hour if they double booked them that way.

6. Provide support for your colleagues by being non-competitive and being a good listener. Select an employer where the work environment can be a “second family” to you. I have been blessed twice over the years to have worked in this type of environment. It helped to decrease my stress levels very much.

5. Be nice to the administrative staff that does your billing and filing. Even though you are educated, it does not mean you are better than them. Treat them with compassion and kindness.

4. It sometimes pays to be choosey in deciding what clients you want to counsel. It is not ethically appropriate to see a client where their issues may push your buttons or is out of your league. If a client is not a good fit, please remember to not take it personally. If you wish to grow and expand your horizons in working with different clients, that is OK too. Just remember to know your limits and not use your “ego” to reach productivity standards that are beyond your control.

3. Customer Service applies when seeing your clients. If you offend them by accident, say you are sorry and be humble. Thank them for coming in to see you. Don’t forget to smile as well.

2. Keep up on the latest trends and knowledge in your profession. Go to conferences; attend workshops; read books and magazines; and stretch yourself to read books outside of your profession. I read books from the business sector to get ideas on how to perfect my customer service skills and to market my work to others.

1. Take care of yourself. If you need to speak to a counselor, go and do it. It does not help you and your client if you are not able to counsel them objectively and fairly. Choose at least three interest/pleasurable activities to engage in to get grounded and balanced.


Robbin Miller is a counselor who specializes in mindfulness meditation; Positive Psychology; and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies; and is also a volunteer cable access producer and co-host of her show, “Miller Chat” in Massachusetts.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Odds and Ends as Spring Arrives....

I love when Spring arrives in New England. "It comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb" as the saying goes. I have good news to report in my neck of the words. I wrote in the past about the inequities in the mental health system for children on commercial health insurances who need intensive services and can't access them. I am glad to hear that there is proposed legislation in Massachusetts to mandate that commercial insurance cover children who need intensive care coordiation for their mental health needs. What this acutally means is that counselors and social workers would get paid for doing collateral services such as going to school meetings and calling primary care doctors on behalf of their clients. At the present time, providers are unreimbursed for their time if they conduct these extra services outside of the counseling parameter for their clients. Over one thirty five organizations co-sponsor this legislation. The state chapter of the National Social Work Association is one the organizations co-sponsoring this bill. However, I don't know if the state chapter for Mental Health Counselors Association is co-sponsoring this bill as there is no information on their website ( that says they do. If anyone who belongs to this organization knows, please email me privately. If the bill passes, all children and not just those on Mass Health (medicaid) will receive due diligence for their mental health needs.

I am so glad to hear that the ACA is forming an Ethics Revision Task Force. I would like this Task Force to implement regulations on ethical billing practices. For example, there is some professionals who bill for an hour when they see their clients for only thirty minutes. The rationale is twofold: 1) They have productivity requirements to meet or lose their benefits and salaries if they don't meet their monthly quotas and; 2) Some agencies/practitioners operate on the principle if your client wishes to end thirty minutes early or comes late, you have the right to bill for an hour. I look forward to debate on this controversial issue. Another area to look at is Section F.11.c.Multicultural/
Diversity Competence. This area needs to include what cultural competencies are required to be taught to graduate students. Right now, some counseling programs across the country are not teaching their students to be disability sensitive when counseling those with physical and psychiatric disabilities. I speak from professional experiences working with graduate interns and fellow colleagues who have clients with disabilities. I welcome again your feedback on this topic area. The Task Force needs to look at how social networking mediums such as Facebook; Twitter; and Linkedin can affect the counselor-client relationshp. It is obvious that counselor should not "friend" their clients on Facebook. However, if you counsel a fellow colleague who wants to be in your linkedin group, what do you say? Can counselors/agencies twitter their clients on announcements? What do you think?

I wish everyone a Happy Easter and Passover in April.