Is Private Practice Right for You?

Therapists in Popular Culture

When I taught graduate students for over ten years, I had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of them about their career interests. The vast majority of them had some interest in private practice. They had visions of beautiful offices with plush expensive furniture and high hourly rates. Well I am not so sure about the vision…but I know what media representations of therapists look like. It looks like therapists in private practices with beautiful offices, big beautiful homes and ideal clients who can pay privately for therapy.

There is a never a mention of the business aspects of developing a practice. The most that is depicted are the ethical perils of fictitious therapists having affairs with clients, drug problems and helping cover up crimes. Never is there a mention of any financial concerns and of course no mention of student loan repayment.

On reality shows we (therapists) meet with people in their home, ask a few questions, give a home work assignment and then the session is over in less than 5 minutes. Therapy is quick and having a therapist is for public consumption and entertainment.

What is Private Practice Really?

In reality, private practice requires cultivation. It requires work, effort, energy, strategy, development and planning. If there is an easier path (and that is a big “if”) that path would be working in a setting that allows the therapist to learn.

  • First: learn to be an effective therapist with ongoing psychotherapy cases.
  • Second: learn the way that a practice runs.

There are different versions of private practice. One version of private practice involves working alongside other therapists in what is called a group practice. Within the context of group practice you could either be one of the co-owners of the practice or you could be a person who is contracted to work in the private practice. The next type of private practice would be the solo practice. Solo practice involves one practitioner who works for themself.

Solo Practice vs. Group Practice

Is solo private practice right for you? Well one way to know the answer to this question is determine the following:

  • How you do with working on your own?
  • Is it important to you to have people to talk to in between sessions?
  • Is it important to you to have other people around to help share the financial responsibility?
  • What about sharing the financial gains?
  • Is it important to you to be able to move quickly and make decisions on your own?
  • Do you prefer having someone to bounce ideas off of who is also responsible for seeing it to fruition?
  • Do you prefer time spent alone between sessions?

The answers to these questions might help you determine whether not you would like to be in private practice on your own or if it’s better for you to be in practice with other people. Some therapists start out in solo practice and then as they gain success, they hire contractors to work for them. The contractors share some of the cases that the original therapist can no longer take.

In which case, this person moves from being a solo practitioner to owning a practice.  For those contractors working for the practice owner, they are experiencing elements of group practice. However they do not have the responsibilities of ownership.

Some practitioners go down that road and they really enjoy it and then they might even bring on partners who have more financial responsibility and actually buy ownership in the practice. Still others prefer solo practice and reverse the decision. They long for the days of relative freedom and independence from their business and the needs; demands and risks involving those who work for them. Ultimately they close the group aspects of the practice and return to solo work.

Practice Partners & Hiring

An important aspect of a group practice is “partnership.” Determining who to partner with and what the important considerations when selecting contractors are. As well as outlining the nature of those agreements, including non-compete clauses.

  • Do you select a partner based on whether or not they complement your areas of weakness?
  • Do you select a partner based on having a lot in common and therefore having fewer potential conflicts?
  • Do you select a partner who perhaps even works primarily in a different field? Perhaps they work in business as an accountant?

Whatever you choose to do, it is very important that you seek both legal and financial advice in setting up your solo and/or your group practice.

No Pressure

Lastly, I highly recommend that those considering private practice do not feel pressured to figure it out all by yourselves. There are many resources available to those interested in developing a private practice joining a private practice and so on. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel and you don’t have to pay big bucks. You just have to be willing to invest in some resources and to seek some consultation as needed.

So is private practice right for you? Only you know the answer to that question. But I hope that these examples help you figure it out all by yourself.

It doesn’t matter what stage of career you are: beginning, middle or closer to the end. At any point in time you can decide to start your career anew or bring a chapter to a close. For those in the early stage starting out, my most important recommendation is that you don’t rush. That you don’t skip steps. That you don’t look so forward to what you can build; what you could become; and what you could create…that you miss out on the important process of learning the trade by developing the competency that simply comes along with doing the work.

Copyright © 2018 Ruby Blow. All rights reserved.

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