Tips for Therapists on How to Build A Private Practice
So, you are a licensed therapist who is wondering how to open a private therapy practice. The thought of providing help on one's own terms, explore new techniques in therapy, and shape your business as per your style and preference is exhilarating. But, it is a daunting task.
Right now, you may have a lack of connections and no proper understanding of how to market and handle a private practice. A school may make you an excellent therapist, but it may not teach you how to run a successful practice.
Welcome to the world of therapy. These are some tips and steps to starting a private practice.
1. Plan & Prepare
Who doesn't prefer to work for themselves?
For a private practitioner, it is a dream come true. But, it requires you to have sharp business skills or at least some expertise in managing one.
- Talk and connect with other therapists in private practice to get a better idea about the do's and don'ts
- Expenses - tax, insurances and coverage, payroll for employees, office space, internet, etc.
- Insurance and other paperwork
- Work approach, time management, organizational skills
- Manage countless paperwork, insurance reimbursements, comply with numerous state guidelines
There is endless planning, preparation, and management involved in running a thriving private practice.
2. Laws and Regulations
Each state in the U.S. has a distinct set of rules and regulations concerning a private practice. With the help of a lawyer, you must get a good understanding of the state laws.
- State laws that specify where you can practice
- Guidelines surrounding state and inter-state jurisdictions
- Guidelines for teletherapy and telepsychology in state, inter-state, and across international borders
- Permission and license for your practice
- Professional liability insurance (PLI) against negligence
3. Office space
The moment clients step in your office space, they must feel safe, and it has to be appealing. Keep a budget to maintain your office space.
- The office must be secure and private for the clients
- Well ventilated and lit, a relaxed atmosphere
- Comfortable office furniture
- Internet and phone facilities
- A safe place to keep your notes and documents
4. Business Plan
Starting a private therapy practice requires a detailed business plan. Record any changes in the strategy so that you could learn and adapt accordingly.
- How much should I earn to support a decent living and continue my practice
- Financial goals - to hire employees and other therapists
- A loan repayment plan, if required
- Track your goals and make changes in your business plan as required
- Funding options - internal and external resources
5. Establish a niche
At the beginning of your practice, you may need to take any clients. But, as you establish yourself, you could focus on something unique, in demand, and make the best use of your time and energy.
Zero in on your strong suit and make yourself stand out from the other practitioners.
6. Market yourself
Your clinical prowess alone will not sell your practice. Marketing your private practice the right way is essential.
- Have an informative website
- Regular writing of blogs and articles
- Be active on online forums and message boards
- Give talks on mental health in community centers and schools
- Attend conferences and seminars to build your network
- Create, post and be active on social media
- Meet other practitioners, healthcare professionals, and leaders
7. Policies for your practice
Mention the policies clearly in the forms and discuss the same with your clients. It establishes a sense of trust between the client and you.
Clients will get a better understanding of what they can expect from you as their therapist, and it will help you run your practice smoothly.
Highlight the following:
- What are the payment policies?
- What is the per-session rate?
- Will you give any discounts or any sliding-scale payments?
- Appointment and cancellation policy
- What are the measures taken to ensure the protection and privacy of client data and information?
- Does your practice obey HIPAA rules?
- How will you proceed if you consider your client to be a danger to himself or others?
- Would you refer your client to another therapist? When and how?
8. Gather relevant forms
To ensure the effectiveness and smooth running of your practice, you must have the right forms.
- Informed consent forms
- A client intake form for the information needed for treatment
- A disclosure form highlighting your policies - office, payment, and privacy
- A referral form to refer your clients to other therapists
- Insurance reimbursement form
9. Hire employees
Hiring additional help such as assistant, accountant, receptionist, project manager, or a second therapist comes with extra costs and, of course, benefits.
They will save your time and energy by taking on your burden of:
- managing money and finance
- answering phone and scheduling appointments
- manage paperwork and forms
- track payments.
It will allow you to focus more on your work and take on more clients.
10. Expand and Grow
Apart from seeing clients, you could organize workshops on dealing with mental health issues and educational programs. You could collaborate with social services and other government organizations.
After a few years of experience, you could teach other practitioners to build private practices. Write books, create educational videos, manage corporate events, and many more.
Expand and grow your skill sets that will help create opportunities and increase your worth.
When planning to set up your own practice, know that you are not just a therapist, but also a businessman. Becoming a private practice therapist takes a different approach with its fair share of challenges, but it is the best way for a therapist to grow and prosper.