We earn commissions if you shop through the links below. Read more

Dr. Chloe Carmichael’s Journey in Mental Wellness

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Dr. Chloe Carmichael’s Journey in Mental Wellness

Today, we are delighted to converse with Dr. Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., a distinguished figure in mental health and personal development. Dr. Carmichael has established a notable presence with her innovative approach, combining clinical expertise with accessible self-help resources through her website, www.drchloe.com. Her work particularly resonates with high achievers, offering them unique strategies for harnessing their potential.

This discussion promises to unfold the layers of her entrepreneurial journey, her challenges, and the wisdom she’s garnered in carving a niche in this dynamic field.

Inspiration and Inception

SBS – What inspired you to start a mental health and personal development business? How did it all start?

Chloe – I moved to New York City in 2001, and I was teaching private yoga lessons to type-A New Yorkers and doing customized programs for them. For example, if they were interested in stress management — which many of them were — we would work on poses to relieve stress physically and meditations to reinforce that. Similarly, if they wanted to build their confidence and assertiveness skills, we would do poses that would awaken a posture of strength and meditations that would coincide with mental toughness and assertiveness. 

I really enjoyed that work and found a lot of success with it. My clients really loved the work that I was doing, and I felt like they were almost attributing a level of expertise to me that I wasn’t sure I really, truly deserved. So, I wanted to go deeper, learn, and study more to be at the level of expertise I felt they were attributing to me. 

Of course, believing in the body-mind connection very much as a yoga teacher and having benefited a great deal from therapy as a client myself, it was the natural step for me to go and get a Ph.D. in clinical psychology so that I could really study and learn more about the brain and how that all worked.

I actually had not even finished college at that point. I was in my early twenties and had not finished college because I didn’t see a need. I was teaching and studying a lot of yoga and taking college classes part-time without any real sense of urgency. But then, when I had a reason, I wanted to get my Ph.D.

First, I had to finish college, so I was able to get accepted into Columbia University and finish my psychology degree there. I graduated with a 4.0 and got into one of the most competitive programs because I had that motivation at that time. But previously, I hadn’t even finished college and had no real desire to do it until I had a reason.

Distinctive Services

SBS – What makes your services distinct from the others that offer similar services?

Chloe – I think one thing that makes me different from many clinical psychologists or therapists, in general, is that I always came from a place of working with people who already had their lives together, and they’re somewhat driven. They’re working professionals; that’s how they can afford a private yoga teacher in the first place. The fact is that what they choose to do with their extra discretionary income is to do private yoga lessons and train themselves to reach even higher levels.

So, I was already coming from a place of maximizing our growth and potential rather than a focus on psychopathology, the idea of a diagnosis being very important, the idea about coming from a deficit perspective. I’ve always been focused on what we in psychology call high-functioning people. Everything that I learn and work on in my whole approach with clients comes from that perspective rather than from highlighting their trauma, framing them as a victim, or looking at their deficits. I’ve always actually only worked with and accepted clients who were at a certain threshold of functioning, to begin with, and who wanted to increase that functioning— except for in my training, of course, in my Ph.D. program. Part of the training is that you work with lower-functioning people, and that was great and also fulfilling to me, but it only helped to inform my perspective about recognizing and understanding what a high-functioning person is. That’s just always been more my focus.

Even my book, Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety (which was endorsed by Dr. Deepak Chopra and called a game-changer by Jim McCann, the founder of 1800 Flowers) is about how to use the healthy function of anxiety — which is to stimulate preparation behaviors. So, even just looking at your average person who’s dealing with anxiety, my first thought isn’t, “What’s your diagnosis? Could there be something clinically disordered about you?” My first reaction is, oftentimes, “Okay, well, of course you have anxiety. It’s a part of our natural human emotion. A person without anxiety wouldn’t look both ways before they cross the street. How can we use that anxiety in its healthy way, which is to stimulate preparation behaviors?” Anxiety can also signal that you have a healthy interest and investment in future outcomes, and that’s a sign of vitality and engagement. That’s what I’m often looking at with people.

I think it’s important you don’t have a predisposition because when people see an expert, they’ll often take their cues from them. So, if the expert has a predisposition to view the client as disordered or having something wrong with them, the client can often internalize that message. Not to say that I’m not willing, of course, to recognize and treat and see that there are cases of disorder, but it’s not my first impulse. 

Target Client Acquisition

SBS – How do you find your target clients?

Chloe – I’ve never struggled to obtain clients. I teach a course. I have a video course about how to get clients and build a practice because it is something many people have struggled with.

For example, when I first started out, I was so broke. I had just finished Columbia University, an Ivy League school, and then a Ph.D. program. So we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt! I live in New York City, a very expensive place. I was living in a women’s rooming house. I was really broke, but I knew that I needed to make this work. I didn’t have any parents who were going to provide me with a financial safety net or anything like that. 

So, I set up my office on Park Avenue, which was a little bit bold, but I knew that I was going after clients who worked on Park Avenue. I needed to be where they were, and I needed my space to look like their space. I made an investment in making sure that my professional image was appropriate. For example, I had professional photographs taken and set up a very nice, professional, upscale office environment.

When I wrote a little blurb about my practice for my ads in Psychology Today and things like that, I wrote it from a strengths-based perspective. A lot of therapists and psychologists will have a little ad in Psychology Today and will say things like, “I can help you with your trauma, and I know that things are debilitating right now for you, but together, we will go through the dark storm.” I didn’t do anything like that. I said, “Are you a bright, intelligent person who’s maybe doing well in your field, but you are seeking more fulfillment, or you’re having trouble finding a relationship, or you’d like to make a career change, or you’re targeting a promotion, and you want someone that can help you to overcome some of the anxiety associated with that and learn how to use that energy productively? Are you a goal-oriented, results-oriented type of person?” I made it clear in all of my materials that I’m a high-energy, results-oriented, upwardly mobile person. I think that created a natural type of rapport with the kinds of clients I was seeking.

I also (and I share all of this in my course) made a rule for myself to work 40 hours a week whether I had clients or not. Obviously, I didn’t have 40 clients a week when I first started, but I still went to that very expensive office for 40 hours a week. I had a rule that I would either be seeing clients or actively working to obtain them for those 40 hours. I had to learn everything.

Now, I have a full team, staff, and everything, but at the beginning, it was only me. At the time, I had a WordPress website, and I was learning about meta tags, tags, search terms, and how to get those into my website so that I could attract more clients. I was also learning to go into constant contact and set up a newsletter. Also, I was writing blogs and content about the types of services and thoughts that I had.

Another thing that helped is social proof — if you’re in the media or other people are noticing you in the public eye, the general public will start to think there’s something valid about you and what you’re doing. I would go to the website at the time called Help a Reporter Out (HARO) during those 40 hours and look at requests for comment from psychologists on various topics and just start submitting myself.

I would spend those 40 hours making social media profiles for myself and doing all the things I knew you had to do to get your name and face out there and increase your SEO because I was putting my approach to work.

Remember, my book came later, but the thoughts came early, and the message of my book is that the healthy function of anxiety is to stimulate preparation behaviors. I had anxiety about my business failing, and I used that anxiety to stimulate preparation behaviors. I didn’t just sit there biting my nails. I sat there moving my fingers on my keyboard, writing, sending, and doing other things. I wouldn’t say 24/7, but 40 hours a week at least, I was working on either seeing clients or finding ways to get them. I share more about this in my book. There’s a whole chapter on how I did this myself in case people want to read more about it, and I also talk about it in my course.

One of the things that was also helpful for me was that I had two lists. One was a list of things to do when I was feeling high energy (e.g., calling other doctors within a six-block radius of my office to set up referral relationships and attend networking events). Another was a list of things to do when I was feeling more low energy or just more introverted. Those are the days when I might just do repetitive things, like the tedious admin, filling out a bunch of newsletter creation forms, creating different social media accounts, and populating them with all these things (just quiet task work). Both lists were extremely long because there’s almost an endless amount of things you can do to build your business. But instead of becoming overwhelmed or daunted by that, I took comfort and refuge in it because I knew that it meant that I would never have to sit there feeling powerless, as if there was nothing I could do to help build my business. 

Balancing Roles

SBS – How do you balance being a psychologist and being a businesswoman? Is it sometimes hard to distinguish one from another? 

Chloe – There’s a lot of natural overlap, so it’s not hard. It’s exciting and fulfilling because many clients I work with are driven business people. As my business has grown, I’ve had to go through hiring employees, firing employees, hitting the million-dollar annual revenue mark, and thinking about my own business and how to expand it and balance it with my personal life and those things. It’s only made me a more credible psychologist. As I work with very driven, accomplished people, it’s important that I can speak their language and understand their drive. So, I haven’t felt it’s been a negative competition for time or skill. They’ve actually really served each other. 

For example, if people are coming to talk about anxiety about public speaking — I’ve been on national television more times than I can count as a featured expert. Or if they’re coming because they have anxiety about interviews — I’ve been on both sides of the interview table. I’m, of course, bringing the knowledge from my Ph.D. in psychology on how to manage and think about that stress, but there’s also real-life experience.

Marketing Strategies

SBS – Is there any exceptional marketing strategy helping your business today?

Chloe – I think finding ways to be in the media is really helpful regarding social proof and getting your name out there. Whenever I got in the media (and I did this, especially at the beginning), I would get the social media handles of the journalist, the producer, and anybody and everybody involved in that media interaction. Then, I would connect with all of them on social media and LinkedIn and periodically retweet or repost their materials to try to stay on their radar. 

I don’t know if Facebook allows this anymore, but at the time, whenever I had a TV clip of myself or anything like that, I would take it, post it to Facebook, and then do an advertising campaign with that clip. In the demographics of the advertising campaign, I would target TV producers in New York so that they would likely see my clips and call me.

Through my program, I encourage people to ensure they have a newsletter and send it out at least every month. I tell them it almost doesn’t matter what’s in it. It doesn’t have to have anything earth-shattering. For example, in my field, it would be very simple things like, “It’s September. It’s back to school time. You may not be going back to school, but let’s think about that back-to-school energy”, or “It’s holidays. Let’s talk about holiday stress.” It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, but the idea is just to stay on people’s radar. I explain, for example, that I went to a networking event ten years ago and got on the mailing list of some accountant I met there, and he would send me his mailing list every month for years. I never even opened it. Then, one day, I needed an accountant and was like, “I know that guy in my Gmail box. I’ll just Google him.”

I also find that having a book (I have two books) is really helpful. It was a surprise to me, I guess, because with all the writing that I’ve done through college at Columbia and Ph.D., I didn’t realize what a big accomplishment it is to write. I was told to write a book by several different mentors of mine. I think it’s so easy. It shouldn’t be hard if you consider yourself an expert at anything (which, if you’re opening a business — you should!). Just write down the five things you tell clients the most — there’s the outline for your book. Then, just methodically fill out that outline whenever you have a few minutes.

Once I had a book, it was really helpful because I started getting paid five figures to speak for an hour, which was exciting. For whatever reason, having a book seems to be the passport to higher-ticket speaking engagements, which have been really fun and financially rewarding for me.

Client Engagement and Satisfaction

SBS – How do you make sure that your clients maintain engagement and leave your sessions satisfied?

Chloe – Well, I’ll only continue the sessions if I feel that something helpful and valuable can happen. I think a lot of therapists or coaches — and I know this, unfortunately, because of the programs I do for therapists — seek to keep clients in standing weekly appointments simply because it’s good for that therapist’s wallet.

When I talked to them about ending the work and calling it a success (which is good news), they responded by saying things like, “But how do you make money that way?” My response is, “Because, number one, you can charge more when people know you’re somebody who will resolve things in a shorter period. Number two, they will refer their friends to you, return when life throws another curveball, and want to resume their sessions.”

So, to answer your question, if I’m starting to feel like we’re no longer engaged in active challenges and actively working on them, I will not hesitate to say it seems like we might be done with this chapter of work and that I consider that a success. Sometimes, I will say, “Perhaps we should schedule a check-in in a month or two months from now just to make sure that your gains have stuck.” For some people, having that little accountability measure on the horizon is helpful. Sometimes, I just leave it to them to get back to me.

Another thing that I do that I think is somewhat different (and I know this again from my work with therapists as well as personally having been a client of different therapists and coaches) is whenever I’m seeing a client, I’m writing down pretty much everything they say. I’m just scribbling it along in my shorthand. Then, at the end of the session, I write down their homework for the next session. This means that when they arrive at their next session, I can just, at my fingertips, know the names of the people and their situations, and I know exactly what the homework is. I can follow up with them about it. I know that this is different from the way that many people in my field work: They won’t write down most (if anything). They may not even be holding a pen and paper at all!

I’ve asked many clients (it’s one of my typical onboarding questions), “If you worked with someone before me, why are you leaving them? Why aren’t you going back to them?” A lot of times, they’ll say, “Because I felt like I had to keep repeating myself a lot to the person.” Again, because I’m working with high-functioning people, they want to move quickly, and because I’m charging a lot of money, they don’t want to be paying money to repeat themselves. They also say the homework they discussed at the end of a session wouldn’t be brought up again until maybe three sessions later. The idea would come up again, and then the therapist would say something like, “Didn’t we talk about that once?” or “Did you ever do that?”

I know as well for myself that during my training, supervisors in graduate school would discuss homework, and most if not all of them, would have the position that it is the client’s responsibility to remember and raise the topic of the homework because they attributed it. I believe it was just a cover for laziness, essentially, but they would attribute it to saying, “Because it’s more meaningful and it’s more important, and if the client doesn’t remember or think of it, then that can be informative to the treatment to discuss that.”

I take a different approach. I’m just a little bit more of a practical person. I will bring it up myself proactively to direct the session. If the client didn’t do the homework, then yes, that’s informative, and we can talk about it. But I’m very prepared, and it’s not a big complex secret; I just simply write it all down and then review it a few minutes before I see the person again.

I’m not seeing that many clients personally anymore because, as I mentioned, I’m more focused on speaking, but I still employ therapists who work under me. When I saw clients more actively, I sometimes got the client who wanted to come in and just have a 100% validation session. They wanted to talk about what they were thinking and feeling and everything else and just have validation without any real challenge.

That was a problem for me because if I’m hearing something that’s maladaptive and the client is saying, for example, “I’m here because I’m unhappy at my job, my boss is such a jerk, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I’m either hearing things they’re doing that would cause problems in a workplace, and I’m aware of it, or I’m thinking, “Well, if your job is so impossible, then we should be taking steps to cause you to find a new job. I’m not going just to sit here and have you make the same complaints every week and talk about how that must be so traumatizing for you and just validate that pain.” I don’t find that productive, but that’s what some people actually want.

When I discovered that that was the case, I would say to the person, “There’s such a thing in psychology. It’s called the stages of change model. And there’s a pre-contemplative stage of change where the person just wants to talk about the problem without taking action. And that’s a valid stage of change, but it’s not the one I work with. I will refer you to a therapist in my office if you want to come and talk about the problem without making any changes.”

I would find that nine times out of ten, that would galvanize the person. They would say, “No, I’m ready, just let’s go!”. On that note, I also encourage people when they are shopping for a therapist to ask the person, “Will you be giving me homework every session, and will it be my responsibility to remember and bring up the homework, or is that something that you will take the lead on in our work?” I have a whole blog about this. If the therapist tries to turn it back on you and try to analyze your question instead of just answering you directly, I take that as a red flag. 

Future Vision

SBS – What kind of advice can you give someone wanting to start therapy or a psychology business to help people?

Chloe – Obviously, I would encourage them to check out my programs. I think it’s great for people to start therapy as a business. There’s a need for that, so I would encourage them to go for it in their spare time and not hesitate to create their website before they’re even licensed. Obviously, for legal reasons, your website shouldn’t be offering therapy and things like that until you’re licensed, but you can still create a website that just features your thoughts and interests about psychology and what you’re learning and thinking about because that will help to build your SEO traction.

You can have a forum to build your newsletter and get email addresses to have a base of people to tell when you launch your official practice. I would encourage them to put themselves out there and to always be writing, thinking, and keeping a list and a vision board of their dream practice. 

Advice for Aspiring Therapists

SBS – What are the future goals for you and the practice? How do you see yourself in the next couple of years?

Chloe – I’m continuing to grow and expand my speaking. It has been amazing for me just to discover what we can do now on Zoom and the fact that, at this point, I can get five figures for speaking on Zoom for an hour. I’ve had a lot of success with my outbound marketing. I get some inbound requests, which is great, but I’m just learning more and more about how to sharpen and improve my outbound marketing for those types of events.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Dr. Chloe Carmichael’s Journey in Mental Wellness