Starting a private therapy practice is hard work! You’re not only going to be providing behavioral health services, you’re also running a business. Unless you happen to have an additional degree in business management or you have some small business experience, it can be a tough path. However, there’s hope! Many therapists successfully start a private therapy practice each year and so can you. On the other hand, many therapists fail as well, so be prepared. This article ought to help.
Start as a part of a group practice
Joining a group practice as your first private practice experience is a great idea. You’ll obviously get experience providing treatment for clients, you’ll also get exposure to the stresses, challenges and opportunities in the business. The best part is that you aren’t “on the hook” for the business as much as you would be if you went at it alone. You can also get some great ideas on what not to do! Learning from others’ mistakes is an excellent way to avoid them yourself. You might also learn that private mental health treatment isn’t really your thing. It’s much better to learn this before it’s your financial investment on the line.
Specialize: develop your therapist niche
I can’t emphasize this enough. As I discuss in a previous post Marketing Planning for the Therapist Entrepreneur, specialization is critical if you want to stand out in a crowded market. If you’re the best pre-teen eating disorders expert in Tampa, you’re phone won’t stop ringing. If you’re a generalist, you’ll be one of hundreds doing exactly the same thing.
I love France. One of the best things about France is the highly specialized, small shops. You want the best cheese? You go to the cheese shop. You want to find the perfect piece of lamb for a stew? Head over to the butcher. Want the perfect wine? The wine guy is the place to go. Are you looking for just “average?” Head to the supermarket. When I’m in France, I go out of my way to visit my favorite baker even though there are supermarkets far closer and at a lower cost. Think about that when you start your practice. Supermarkets are generic, specialists are valued.
Begin marketing your therapy practice before you have one
Be sure to learn about inbound marketing. Please read our post How inbound marketing can help you get more therapy clients for a great overview. If you only remember one thing from this, remember this: inbound marketing is like compound interest, the benefits get larger and larger over time. The sooner you start the bigger the return. What this means is that you should start your therapist blog now even before you worry about your private practice. This is going to begin the important process of getting you ranking in Google searches for your niche and your location.
Definitely read our article about inbound marketing and how to start a therapy blog. The more effort you put into this now, the better your lead generation will be. What does that mean? You’re laying the groundwork for clients to find you which mean you’ll spend less on traditional forms of marketing. This is a key part of building your therapist brand which is essential if you want a long term, sustainable practice.
Do some market research
Be sure to research the area in which you want to open your practice. Understand the demographics, the trends and population growth patterns. Keep an eye on things like the number of schools opening (or closing) in an area. Be aware of major industry nearby. All of these bits of data are valuable when you are determining your area of specialization but also what the relative economic strength of an area will be.
Your new therapy practice location ought to be strategically considered. Don’t just pick a “pretty” building in a nice part of town. Look at a map and cross reference that with other practitioners in the area. Don’t go where everyone else is going. Be a contrarian. Don’t be afraid of poor, working class areas. Also don’t be afraid of high rent areas either. Do your homework and attempt to analyze how your practice would fit into the economic and social realities of a particular area.
Get professional advice
Before you take the plunge, get an appointment with an accountant who is familiar with working with professionals. Get some tips and expert opinions on how to get organized financially. You might also consult a lawyer to discuss favorable business structures. Don’t forget to have a conversation with a good insurance agent as well! Do all of this before you get started so you can make good decisions that are relevant to your goals and geography (i.e. such as tax consequences of particular business structures.) Be sure to look into health insurance plans for yourself. You also want to be sure you have a disability plan as well. If something were to happen to you, you need to be protected!
There’s far more that goes into starting a private practice than I’ve discussed here. However, any conversation on how to start a private therapy practice ought to begin with the high-level basics. It’s cheap to think, it’s much more difficult if you jump in unprepared. Just remember that a private practice depends strongly on your therapy marketing plan as well as paying attention to therapist branding. Be sure to check out our other article about how to use social media to market your therapy practice.