7 Tips for Starting a Private Practice
Here are areas you can start on today to prepare and expand a private practice.
Following years of school, training, and supervision, many therapists have dreamed of one day opening a private practice.
Many wonder if the effort is worth it, how to get started, and what can help them succeed. There’s a wide variety of options when it comes to private practice.
Some join a group practice to get started, while others prefer to stay independent.
Even if you’re not joining a group practice, sometimes teaming up with other therapists can help you get off the ground.
While some things are best learned as you go, there are many things you can prepare for now.
Seasoned therapists offer a few tips to keep in mind as you’re planning and starting the jump to private practice.
- Research specialty areas. If there’s a specific area that you’ve most enjoyed working in, explore this further. Search online to see how many therapists work with this in your area.Talking to other therapists can also be invaluable. They can make recommendations on areas of need. Examples of specialties include marriage counseling, working with teens, CBT therapy, or treating eating disorders. There are hundreds of others.
- Think about your ideal lifestyle. Would you like to work 9 to noon, three days a week, or just on weekends?Would you rather work in areas of advocacy or help clients build on strengths? What types of therapies and projects have you enjoyed the most and been the best at? Are these areas where you can provide a service, and is there a market to pay for it?
- Create an “ideal client” prototype. Think of the type of clients you enjoy working with the most, who seems to like and benefit the most from what you offer, or what you might want to offer.Have this prototype of specific client in mind as you move forward. Here are a few “ideal client” examples:A man in his 40s who is highly stressed and wants to be happier at work and home.A teenage girl in middle school, who is having a trouble with friends and struggling with self-esteem
A woman in her 50s with grown children, looking to explore her own interests and possibly a new career path
Once you have this prototype in place, you can begin to answer other questions, like what times of days to offer therapy (for teens it would often be afternoon, evenings or weekends), or how to market online (empty-nesters may differ from busy moms).
- Look for a local therapist network. In some areas, there are Facebook groups focusing on specific specialities or communities.These can be a particularly helpful way to connect to peers and see what referral needs are out there.
- Look into the overhead costs. Costs of teletherapy software are fairly nominal compared to therapy income. (In fact, your internet connection can cost more than a teletherapy platform.)You can generally cover these costs within a couple of therapy sessions per month, if not less.However, if private office space outside your home is needed (to provide telehealth or to meet with clients in person), the cost can vary greatly in your region. In the beginning, try to keep overhead costs low, especially as you build up.Having a backup income and savings or a smart budgeting plan can be helpful with this variable. Consider these areas that might bring startup costs, or require significant time and/or investment:
- Marketing and advertising (blogging, online ads, time spent networking
- Training or certification in your specialty area, and finding continuing education credits on your own
- Office expenses, including rent, internet connection, furniture, office supplies
- Software/online programs, such as electronic medical records system, a secure e-mail system, scheduling system (can often be combined with EMR), telehealth platform (there are various price options)
- Credit card fees to charge clients electronically
- Time spent on billing, following-up on bills owed, sending out reminders (can also be managed to an extent through your EMR)
- Designing and hosting a website
This can seem like a daunting list, however the overall cost of starting a therapy practice is considerably lower than in many other professions that require ongoing supplies or goods.
Shopping around can help you get the best quality services at the best price.
- Get things rolling online. Consider starting with an online presence, even before you start offering private therapy. It takes a while to build up traffic to your website in your focus area.You will need a social media presence, a website or profile location, and content to bring in traffic to your page.You can start with simply blogging, or take an online training in SEO, to learn how to get traffic to your site.There are trainings, books and podcasts that walk through therapy marketing. These can get you started.
You may also want to go ahead and set up social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Depending on your target audience, having a social network presence can be very helpful.
Even if your target audience doesn’t often use these apps, having a social network presence increases your SEO, or how much you show up in Google and other searches.
Most people will use Google search or something similar.
- Sign up for Google Small Business. This is a helpful tool that at this time favors local small businesses.Through this site, you can create a profile, describe your services, and essentially advertise for free through Google.You can even compete with big business in your area if you have an active online presence.
It can be a very scary and exciting time to consider opening a private practice.
Like with any new venture, there are opportunities and challenges.
Starting with research and comparing that to your own goals and intentions can give you a better idea if starting a private practice is the right match for you.
And, you can overcome many obstacles even before you get started, setting yourself up for success.
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