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Establishing a New Psychology Practice in the Midst of a Pandemic

“We knew we needed a system so that we’d have the right information on hand whenever the courts require it, but Power Diary provides us with so much more than that.”

Christine Harding, Hargan Psychology

Within a few moments of meeting Christine, you are immediately caught up in her positive attitude and infectious enthusiasm for her work. When it comes to the new practice Christine has founded, she is bubbling over with ideas and plans for the future, all underpinned by a focused passion for helping vulnerable children and teens.

With her background in juvenile justice, Christine has a lifetime of experience advocating for children, walking with them through the most difficult times. Working with troubled teens from all socio-economic backgrounds, she’s learnt that “the complexities that come up in youth justice are the same as those that teenagers struggle within many different environments.”

Born out of a desire to make a bigger, lasting impact for families, Hargan Psychology is the start of something new in her professional journey. The practice gives Christine and her team the space to address some of the areas and opportunities that she’s identified in her work to date. By offering support in these areas, she believes that they can make a proactive, collaborative difference to children and families in her local area. She sees the practice as a place where different invested parties, including parents, and school representatives, can come together to work towards the best outcome for the child. “It’s a chance to move from working in a reactionary place of trying to support families who are in a difficult space to being more proactive and equipping children and their parents with skills to resolve confrontation and address systemic issues before they take root.”

Family room

It’s with this in mind that Christine has developed the Best Kids program, an interactive curriculum that consists of group work focused on problem-solving and at-home worksheets to address the impact that technology is having on children. Having reviewed the research, Christine has identified a disconnect: “Children can’t read social cues, and the Best Kids program is designed to build essential social skills together.” As the program has gained momentum, it has expanded to “Best Teens” and “Best Parents” – both programs that aim to foster connection and relationships in the home.

She doesn’t shy away from the reality that the work they do is difficult, but she sees part of her mission to help children and families as providing a safe and welcoming space for them to come to. As Christine puts it, “I want people to feel good coming in. My idea has been to create something where families would feel at ease, something that wasn’t clinical – more like the home of a trusted friend or family member. From the moment you step foot into Hargan Psychology, you immediately start to relax. The waiting room is a calm, private space with fish tanks, magazines, separate areas, a signature scent and gentle instrumental music. The sessions themselves are conducted in family therapy rooms and play rooms designed to put you at ease with their lounge-style feel including comfortable couches, play areas for younger children and a calming colour palette.”

As people in Melbourne look forward to a new post-COVID reality, there is an important role that Hargan Psychology hopes to fulfil. A lot of the work they do is in the area of cognitive assessments and education assessments. With children returning to school, parents will want to know where their children are at because, while self-directed learning is a good fit for many children, it’s definitely not an ideal solution for all.

When Christine opened the practice, she turned to Power Diary as the practice management system. She credits the software with freeing up time and mental space for her team to focus on growing the business. “When I started my Power Diary trial, I had no idea what I was doing. So, I sat down one Saturday morning to work it out. And it was amazing. The software is so intuitive, you don’t need to do a course, you can get started by yourself, and if you have any questions, they have a support team on hand to resolve any queries immediately.”

Having used it herself for a few weeks, Christine then needed to train her practice manager to use the system, and her wording to her new recruit was along the lines of, “I don’t have time to explain this to you, click around and get a feel for it and if you get stuck come and ask me.” The interesting thing was that he didn’t have to come back. Even for someone who had never used the system and was in a brand-new working environment, the system was completely straightforward. The same thing happened when a new psychologist joined the team. Christine says;

“with no training, Carly was able to pick up the software because it’s so intuitive, and I haven’t had to show her anything.”

Christine knew that she needed psychology practice management software before she even started. Because of the nature of her work, she was accustomed to having to provide clinical notes and records to authorities when they were demanded and she wanted a system where everything was centralised and accessible at the click of a button. With Power Diary, it’s easy for her to answer questions from the court, such as how many sessions she has booked for a client and how many were declined.

At Hargan Psychology, they use a number of Power Diary features including the calendar, SMS reminders, session notes, referral templates, bulk personalised emails, referrer information, Medicare billing, and the Xero integration. She’s been surprised at how well some of the functionality has worked for her clients – SMS reminders, for example, have been well received by her teen clients, “I always use SMS reminders, and they’re so good, I didn’t think young people would respond, but they do. They’re really responsive.”

The billing and reporting functionalities have also been really good for Medicare clients and managing outstanding bills. In fact, when she hired her bookkeeper, her bookkeeper said to her upfront:

“Please tell me you use Power Diary and Xero, if you don’t use Power Diary, I recommend that you get it”.

When asked about whether she would recommend Power Diary, Christine’s immediate response is “We love it. We couldn’t be happier. All the information is available with a few clicks, and it all makes sense. It’s an intuitive, simplistic system that is easy to use, but provides the most incredible depth and range of features.”

Christine is not someone who does things in half-measures. She’s taken a big risk with Hargan Psychology, and despite the challenges that COVID has posed to health practices across Australia and especially a fledgling practice like hers, she’s proud of the growth they’ve experienced through word-of-mouth and their ability to deliver services in the face of challenges. As Christine says, “imagine what it’s going to be like as things return to normal!” They’ve also had a lot of support from the local community and the parents that come into the practice, with one mother saying “I can’t believe you don’t have a wait-list, I can’t believe how amazing this space is.”

And the most exciting thing is that there is room to grow. They have 5 big rooms and conferencing facilities so as schools start to open up again in the wake of COVID, Hargan Psychology will be ready to offer even more support for schools and families in the community.

Christine’s vision for the practice is clear, and the practice’s tagline says it all: “Supporting you to live your best life”. That goes for her clients and the practitioners as well. She is excited to offer flexible working hours that work for the practitioner’s life stage – whether it be a new mother returning from maternity leave, or a young psychologist working in schools who needs a room in the evenings.

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