Therapists: This One’s For You…
Are you a therapist who is hoping or trying to build a private practice?
Therapists tend to be people who deeply want to help others. It’s literally called a “helping profession.” It’s a way to make a living while making a difference. And while most of us choose this line of work for primarily idealistic reasons, it’s not easy work. It’s gratifying, but often draining. And many of the jobs don’t compensate as well financially as they do personally. Eventually, some clinicians begin to crave the freedom to work for ourselves, set our own rates, and build our own reputations. For many practitioners, going into private practice is like the “holy grail” of making a living as a therapist.
But the idea of being essentially a freelance service provider can be scary. We can feel like we’re at the mercy of “luck,” competition, and the unpredictable flow of clients. If you’re moving from a steady, salaried position to self-employment, it can be a daunting step to take. Working for an organization may be limiting, but it’s more stable and reliable. There is more training and preparation in graduate programs for that sort of work. I don’t remember any classes teaching us how to tackle the business of starting or running a practice; despite the fact that some of the professors did so while teaching.
Some brave souls may quit their day job and go all in. Others will open for hours on the side until they fill up. Still others may start working under a more established therapist or practice and then segue out. There is a lot of skill that can be learned at clinics, hospitals, schools and agencies where most practitioners begin working. But when it comes to building your own practice, some questions arise in different ways:
How do you generate referrals?
How do you set and raise your rates?
How do you conduct the first point of contact- the phone call or message from a potential client?
How do you determine if you can be of help to this client?
How do you formulate and communicate your policies, confidentiality, and boundaries?
How do you determine what information you want to gather at the intake?
How can you establish rapport with your clients so that they feel safe and confident to continue working with you?
How can you empower them to continue therapeutic work and healing between sessions?
I learned much of this (and continue to do so) from trial and error, and a nice amount of supervision, over the years. So I know how challenging it can be, and the self-doubt that precedes and even coincides with competence. Every clinician’s journey is unique in some ways, but as I’ve been comparing notes with colleagues and coaching new therapists, I’ve learned that there are some suggestions and practices that tend to stand most of us in good stead. Mostly relating to ethics and empathy.
I was thinking that instead of continuing to give over much of this basic information repeatedly, to different individuals who come for consultation or supervision, it might be useful to create a simple guide- a collection of private practice building knowledge. This could serve as a more time-efficient, cost-effective way for more new therapists to learn these ropes, and avoid losing time, money, and clients, the way many of us began and struggled. This could help them establish their own strong and thriving practices, building on the lessons learned from others’ empirical experience.
So, if you're thinking of opening a practice, or you have one, but are looking to gain tips and confidence, this might be the course for you. Investing in the business end of your helping career is not only good for you, but your clients benefit too. Click the link below to see:
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Elisheva Liss, LMFT is a psychotherapist in private practice. Her book, Find Your Horizon of Healthy Thinking, is available on Amazon.com. She can be reached for sessions or speaking engagements at firstname.lastname@example.org More of her content can be found at ElishevaLiss.com