Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas

Rising Stars: CARE Counseling Founders on Secret to Success

Late-night champagne parties. Handwritten thank-you notes. Surprise pay raises handed out at a moment's notice.

Those are just a few of the perks that employees of CARE Counseling have come to expect from their laser-focused leaders.

In a mental health industry where providers leave in droves and clinics struggle to hire new talent, CARE seems to have found a secret recipe for success, one that they’re more than willing to talk about.

Instead of hemorrhaging new hires, CARE is absolutely busting at the seams. Recently named the fifth-fastest-growing business in the Twin Cities by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, the company is well on its way to opening a sixth location later this year, adding dozens of providers and welcoming hundreds of new clients.

Founded in 2014, CARE Counseling has shown just how quickly a successful business can grow and make an impact on its community. The duo behind that growth – a pair of inspiring Tommies – believes their success is hardly surprising.

A partnership in every sense of the word

Meet Dr. Andrea and John Hutchinson. The leadership team forms a unique partnership, which also happens to be a literal marriage.

John and Andrea Hutchinson, University of St. Thomas alumni and founders of CARE Counseling in the Twin Cities, stand for a portrait together on the Minneapolis campus. (Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas)

“From the beginning we never had a hard time working together,” Andrea said. “It’s always worked so well that I never questioned it.”

The path to creating CARE began more than a decade ago. Newly married and ready to take on the world together, John and Andrea decided it was time to truly embrace a new era. Each found purpose in graduate programs at the University of St. Thomas, with Andrea pursuing her doctorate in counseling psychology (PsyD) and John attending the full-time MBA program.

Armed with Andrea’s health care expertise and John’s business acumen, CARE Counseling became the natural next step.

“We have complementary skills,” Andrea said. “And it was during the brainstorming and launching of CARE that we realized we could work really well together. We were transparent with each other, and we held ourselves accountable.”

Laser-focused on providers

Early on in those brainstorming sessions, the duo locked on to what would become the hallmark of their business – and likely key to their success – creating an unparalleled workplace for providers.

“We were watching how providers were treated, how little money they made, the types of trade-offs they had to make,” John said. “And we were like, let’s build something that actually will keep people around.”

Mental health providers have one of the highest turnover rates in any professional field. The Hutchinsons set out to change that.

“Our focus is simple,” Andrea said. “Let’s think about the clinician first, knowing if the clinician is treated well, and they’re well-trained, they’re going to provide the best service to the client.”

And it appears to be working. CARE Counseling is on track to employ more than 150 practitioners by this fall.

“The most exciting things we do are for the clinicians,” John said. “The number of raises is something that I’m super proud of. We gave something like 250 raises last year to an average staff of 75.”

Bonuses often appear in cash, as a surprise, at an employee’s desk.

“We like to have a lot of fun,” Andrea said. “We have champagne nights for employees staying late. John will go put $50 bills under their windshields if people are staying after 5 o’clock.”

The commitment to providers can be found just about anywhere within the walls of CARE. New clinic locations are based on where employees live. Hundreds of hours of training are racked up each year. And providers receive regular feedback on their work.

Christopher Vye, chair of the St. Thomas Graduate School of Professional Psychology, had Andrea in class and has been watching CARE Counseling’s rising star ever since.

“They provide a really wonderful climate for their employees,” Vye said. “What Andrea and John have done at CARE is create a climate that puts a focus on a healthy work-life balance.”

Growing the next generation of providers

The Hutchinson’s acute focus on practitioners doesn’t stop at their own doors, they’re also heavily invested in growing the next generation of clinicians.

The couple recently established the CARE More Fund at St. Thomas, an initiative to break down financial barriers for students underrepresented in the field of psychology. The funds are currently being used to help pay for books, eliminating one hurdle to receiving a degree.

"They did not forget about the challenges that they observed while receiving their own education," Vye said. “Reducing those barriers is really important to help students get through school."

That mindset was instilled early on for Andrea and John during their respective time at St. Thomas.

“The university does a really nice job of bringing up diversity, equity and inclusion in every class and thinking about multicultural counseling,” Andrea said. “We need more diversity in the mental health field – a lot of that mission we learned at St. Thomas and we’re hoping to move forward in our communities.”

As the Hutchinsons give back to their alma mater, they're also thankful for the continued support they’ve received long after their degrees went to the printer.

“The school has been amazing since graduating,” Andrea said. “Right when we were thinking about opening CARE, a couple professors consulted and met with us. The support we’ve received from St. Thomas has been phenomenal.”

The future of CARE

As CARE Counseling approaches its 10th birthday in 2024, the Hutchinsons have grand goals. They hope to hit 500 providers and expand services across the entire state. After that, they may finally pause to catch their breath.

“We've grown between 60% and 70% every year like clockwork,” John said. “It goes back to consistency, how much growth we think we can handle without messing with the culture or cash flow.”

Through it all, they plan to keep their focus locked in on their original mission, providing for the providers.

“So long as we stay focused on that one piece of the puzzle, we have a company that can grow and it's sustainable,” Andrea said. “We like our people a lot. We care about them deeply and I think they care about the team and what we've created as well.”