Many think about starting a private practice but are unsure how to go about it. This post lays out 3 steps to starting a private practice and points you toward many other details to consider.
Step 1: Making a plan
Sounds simple enough, right? But consider this. Only 3% of adults take the time and effort to plan a future (see The Power of Planning.) And what we are considering here is to start a business–a healthy one. This involves many decisions that shape what your business looks like.
I have created several posts on the range of topics about starting a private practice. For example, I have posts on making a plan to decide on a purpose for your organization. Then I have several posts on various business structures that each provide mental health services. One might fit your purpose.
Once these tasks are done, make some plans for branding and marketing your organization. This is very important work and a foundational to building a successful private practice. Obviously if people do not know about you, your business will not last long.
And of course we need a therapy space to actually do the work and we need to decide on what mental health services we are providing to the public.
And behind the scenes, we need to start organizing all the billing, collections, scheduling, and marketing systems we need to support everything. Creating these systems will consume much of your early planning and getting them done correctly will help with everything that follows.
Lastly, there are the various financial details we need to keep track of, for example, our income, expenses, and cash flows. Again this is an area that is not very close to what therapists are used to doing and yet is so critical for success. Tracking the practices numbers is how you know that you are obtaining your goals.
For posts on all making plans to getting started, see: Making a Startup Plan.
Step 2: Organizing Your “Tasks of Daily Living”
Much of what actually happens in a business focuses on what I call the “Tasks of Daily Living.” These tasks require daily or weekly attention. They are part of every mental health business, no matter what it’s size. For example, every organization has to have regular daily methods of handling:
- scheduling your clients
- providing your services
- billing for the services you provided
- collecting from both insurance and clients
- doing the ongoing marketing that lets everyone know of your existence
For posts on these topics see: Organizing your Tasks of Daily Living
Step 3: Managing your organization
Of course there are textbooks written (here) and whole degrees on organizational management (here). This is one of the most difficult areas of all. Why? Because we must transform ourselves into managers of the business.
Why is this difficult? Well, in truth, we did not get graduate degrees in managing an organization. We are therapists and for many, it is a stretch to shift roles. (See here for a distribution of what managers really do.)
In my view, the biggest managerial challenge is managing ourselves as we tackle lots of things, small and big. (Peter Drucker, a famous management consultant, wrote a small book on this subject. See here.) I mentioned the Daily Tasks in the previous paragraph. But on top of those, we will certainly face challenges, some coming from Growth and some from the inevitable Crises that come along. Staying calm and working through the problems is not easy for anyone and yet it is essential to riding out the crises.
Managers must also be adept at staying attuned to the organization’s Culture & Community, while managing Staff members and a Leadership team. Monitoring and superintending the organization’s Branding, and Marketing efforts is critical. All this is happening while attending to the important Numbers, such as that number of intakes and sessions, that maintain the Financial stability needed to accomplish the mission.
For posts on these topics see: Managing Your Organization
And more . . .
Of course each of these 3 Steps to starting a private practice can be broken down to many smaller steps. For a complete view of all the topics related to creating and running a mental health practice, see: Free Course on Building a Mental Health Practice