10 Tips for Starting a Private Practice in Counseling in Massachusetts
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
The most important part of your practice are your clinical skills. Be honest with yourself. Are you ready to independently handle the clinical pressures of private practice? Are you seasoned enough to understand your niche client? Can you identify the type of client that is a good or poor fit for your private practice? Making sure you are experienced enough and ready to take the next steps will set you up for success.
Be prepared to handle it like a boss! Run out of toliet paper... your problem. Don’t want to see a client that gives you the willies... your choice. Too tired to complete your paperwork... it’s your pay check that will be delayed. Be brave and make sure you have what it takes to follow through and handle whatever comes your way.
Many therapists want to have a lovely office to provide therapy to clients. That is totally different than running a business. You will spend just as much time figuring out your business strategy as you do developing your clinical craft. The first year I opened my practice a business mentor said to me, “Do you have a hobby or do you have a business? A hobby is what you do, in a business... you know your numbers.” Ouch!
Find the people who have success in what you want to achieve and connect with them. (Even if you feel totally out of your league.) Find out what they do and how they do it so you can learn. If you want to be the best, you need to play with the best. Every interaction can teach you something and bring you closer to your goals.
Do not take things personally. To own your own business, you need to develop thick skin. People will say hurtful things to you at some point. There is always someone ready to offer you an opinion, even if you didn't ask for one. They may think your office is bare, or to busy, that your clock should be blue or your logo is weird. Be true to your instincts and try to differentiate between helpful feedback and chatter that is keeping you from moving forward in your own unique way.
Your word and your integrity are reflections of the business you develop. If you make a mistake, own it. If you are unsure of an answer, own it. The worst thing you can do is promise something you can’t deliver. Each time you don’t know an answer or can’t figure things out, think of it as an opportunity to grow and learn. Let folks know you will get back to them with the answers. Do your research, speak with mentors and respected colleauges, and follow up.
Consistently allows you to develop a presence. Success probably will not happen within the first six months of your business, but keep showing up, keep returning calls, keep making connections. Your hard work will pay off.
The business can be overwhelming and stressful (wait until late August hits or the week of Thanksgiving and Christmas). You will learn to navigate these bumps. When the going gets tough, don’t project fears onto clients and start cracking down on cancelation fees or no shows. If you are a stickler for these practices that is fine, but keep in mind we are in a profession that works with clients in painful times in their lives. They are struggling too.
Maybe this is my pet peeve, but we need to remember that we are developing businesses around the practice of creating a warm and empathic place for people to be vulnerable. If you are yelling at the water delivery guy or treating the mailman poorly that reflects poorly on you and your business.
This is for you. Love yourself. Pause for a second and really think about that. This is no different than what we tell our clients. If you do not practice good self-care, you are spiraling down the wrong road. Take this moment to reset, if you want this journey to private practice, let it begin now. Isn’t this whole dream revolved around a better future for yourself? You can start the journey today.
Karen Peabody, LICSW is a therapist and business consultant for social workers and therapists interested in starting their private practice. She founded Forgewell Solutions in East Bridgewater, MA. Her office is a great place to start a private practice. Visit her FOR THERAPISTS page to learn more.
Read about Karen in SCORE SE Massachusetts Success Stories.