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Spotlight: Cash Pay PT – An Interview with Alison McLean PT, DPT, ERYT, HHP

Have you ever dreamed of opening your own cash pay PT practice, but are afraid to take the plunge? Check out our interview with Alison McLean, PT, DPT, ERYT, HHP of Ignite Wellness for some inspiration.

It is possible to make it on your own!

1. What is your full name and title? Where did you go to school, and when did you graduate?

My name is Alison McLean DPT, ERYT, HHP.

I received my Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Chapman University. I am also an experienced registered yoga teacher. My original training is from Prana Yoga Center in La Jolla, but I have mentored and assisted Rachel Krentzman for a few years, as well as attended many many Yoga Therapeutics Trainings.

HHP stands for Holistic Health Practitioner. I attended massage schools in San Diego and New York, and have completed over 1000 hours of massage training.

2. Did you know what you wanted to do while you were in PT school? Meaning specialty/opening a practice…

Yes. I went back to PT school several years after graduating college (graduated undergrad in 2001, started PT school in 2007). Since I had been previously practicing massage for over 5 years, I wanted to specialize in orthopedics. However, I did do rotations in acute inpatient and neuro just to be sure.

3. What did you do when you first finished school? Can you explain your professional trajectory?

After graduation, I worked in a traditional PT setting for a couple of years. I was in outpatient orthopedics in a clinic I interned at during grad school. The job was great because I saw a lot of post-op patients with a variety of surgeries. In general, I benefitted from seeing a high volume of patients right out of grad school.

The downside was that there was only 30 minutes scheduled for evals, and I was often double and triple booked. There were a few weeks where I treated over 75 patients. I was burning out, and more than half of my monthly salary was going toward my student loans, so I was just making ends meet.

I eventually decided that this was not why I went back to school. I had been a practicing Yogi since 2001 and had hoped to combine it all together one day. However, when I was offered a job with salary and benefits, I went the safe route to pay the bills.

Ultimately though, this was not making me happy. Eventually, I worked my way into a clinic working on commission. In this role, I could combine yoga and physical therapy since this was the clinic’s niche.

4. At what point did you decide to open your own practice? Was there something pivotal? Was it gradual? Was it a growing interest in yoga?

While working for my mentor, I learned a lot. However, I was still working for someone else and was subject to all of the politics that go with a small clinic.

I began to feel dissatisfied in this setting as well. I was treating patients back to back (this time 1:1, but no breaks between patients), and there was a lot of paperwork, especially for Medicare.

Then a combination of a few things happened. During that time, I had a baby and was introduced to essential oils and the oil business. My mentor also sold her business and I was given one week notice.

At that point, I could go work for someone else, or I could finally take the leap and follow my heart. It was scary because I hadn’t planned on starting on my own this way. We had very limited savings, no start up capital, and a small baby.

5. Are you cash pay? Insurance based? What services do you offer?

I am strictly cash-based. However, I will provide a receipt if someone wishes to submit to their insurance. I offer 1:1 physical therapy sessions combining hands on, yoga therapy, the Yoga Wall, and essential oils. Patients also have the option to do preventative work with wellness sessions, which could be a massage or a private yoga session.

I also distribute essential oils, manage my growing team, teach weekly yoga classes and monthly workshops, and teach anatomy at yoga teacher trainings around town. My partner and I also lead our own Yoga Wall trainings.

6. What are the challenges? What are the rewards?

The benefits of using all of these modalities is the flexibility to work with a variety of people utilizing different tools that can be individualized for each patient.

Because I also have an essential oil team and residual income, I can book my sessions every 90 minutes instead of on the hour. Therefore, I don’t feel like I’m rushing from session to session. I also don’t have to feel pressured to market and be slammed each week.

Just to clarify, my oil team is not all patients. There are yoga teachers and other healthcare providers incorporating the oils into their practices too, so it’s really fun. We exchange ideas and work in the community together. Doing this business in complement with my PT business adds variety to my week.

Because of all of this, I feel my sessions are high quality. I am also preventing burnout. I am at a busy but sustainable pace, and I have the opportunity to pay off my student loans. I also love that I never have to pay for marketing. It’s all word of mouth. Because I teach weekly classes and workshops I’m able to pick up patients from there too.

A major challenge is working out of my home when my husband and 2 year old are home. My daughter often wants to participate in a treatment. We have a small house, so when she’s cranky everyone hears it. Overall though, I love working out of my house.

Another challenge is keeping track of my schedule, with all these different moving parts.

7. What are your plans for the future? Grow? Stay small?

I think I will stay small. My goal is to remodel the garage and have a small studio space for small group classes with a private treatment room.

I’m not sure I will ever rent out a large space. I don’t want to feel pressured to treat back to back patients again. I love what I do and I want to keep doing all of it. But you never know what will happen….

8. What types of patients do you see?

I see all types of patients, but a lot of yogis, Pelvis, SI, and spine issues are very common in my practice.

9. What would you say to a person who is curious to do what you’re doing, but maybe a little scared?

If someone is curious, keep learning through mentoring, shadowing, trainings, and just experience. Then at some point, you just have to put your fears aside and believe in yourself.

It’s funny, but the biggest surprise is all of the self-growth I’ve experienced since owning my own business. To evolve your business, you have to evolve yourself. To do this, I listen to podcasts, read books, webinars, and blogs, and attend live trainings of all of the modalities – yoga, PT, and oils.

And when you have a vision, write it down. Then break it down into smaller obtainable steps. It probably won’t happen perfectly, because that’s life, but just keep putting one foot in front of the other and it will happen.

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About Meredith Victor Castin

Meredith Victor Castin
Meredith is the co-founder of and the founder of The Non-Clinical PT. She is originally from Tyler, TX and attended UPenn for undergrad, before graduating with her DPT from USA (San Diego) in 2010. She has worked in outpatient ortho, inpatient rehab, acute care, and home health. She loves spending time with her husband and 3 cats, and enjoys creating art and weird music.

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