If you are reading this, then you are a newly qualified mental health specialist. Or maybe you’ve been working for a mental health organization?
Starting your own therapy practice can be overwhelming, regardless of which path you choose.
Many people don't even attempt to do it. Pressure comes from various sources: working alone, managing a business, facing a lot of responsibility without knowing anything about the legal process.
But no worries, we are here to help you overcome all the obstacles.
With a private therapy practice, you can provide help on your terms, implement a tailored practice management system, use your own psychological methods and techniques, and also design the ideal office space for your counselling practice.
Likely, you have a very limited or no experience of being a business owner. But if you want to achieve your goal, breaking it down into smaller pieces can make it more manageable and real.
To help you get started, we’ve summarized a significant amount of the information for your future psychotherapy private practice, including:
- Where to start
- Income and expenses (bank account, insurance companies, reimbursement)
- Creating a business plan
- Marketing in a private therapy practice
Where to start
Reflect on your area of expertise first. What and who do you want to treat? Have you got decent experience and training as a clinician? Are you ready to work full-time?
It is possible that you do not know the exact answers to these questions. Knowing your strengths and preferences can serve you well in building a practice and attracting new clients. But what if you are not sure about your narrow specialization?
A general start is not a big deal, and you can acquire over time an understanding of the type of work you enjoy. Keep in mind the brilliant quote by Richard Branson, a well-known British entrepreneur:
“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming” - Richard Branson
Don’t dive headlong into the process alone.
Every person facing a challenging decision needs support. Talk to your friends, co-workers and people who have gone through it before. You can get potential clients even before you start your practice by sharing the information about your upcoming opening.
There is always a viable chance to become a part of an online community, or social networks for therapists via Facebook, for example.
Small business requires knowledge of tax law, labour law, and other legal procedures. Therefore, it’s not a dumb idea to talk to people with business experience and other practice owners. For example, you can call your supervisor.
Income and expenses are the first thing to talk about.
Income and expenses
If you’ve made up your mind to start a therapy business and become a self-employed specialist, you should meet with a lawyer or an insurance provider. These specialists enlighten you on a needed liability insurance and an issue of income tax. If you consider a real money-making, being approved and certified by an insurance company is a must. Without it, you can only accept payments in cash. Needless to say, it’s the way to nowhere.
What should you do?
#1. Get a NPI number
Getting a unique NPI (National Provider Identification) number is an obligatory step. Healthcare providers acquire this 10-digit number to identify themselves in a standard way throughout their industry. You must apply for this number through the NPPES (National Plan and Provider Enumeration System). This allows your patients to check your current status as a mental health specialist. It’s also convenient for your new and potential clients to find the information about your taxonomy and address in one place.
An NPI number is a must, even if you don’t plan to run an insurance-based therapy practice. The number helps your clients to seek reimbursement through their insurance provider, enhancing their loyalty.
#2. File a LLС or PLLC
We believe that every business must be legal and protected. So, the next step to take is to file a LLС (Limited Liability Company) or PLLC (Professional Limited Liability Company), the latest being more preferable for licensed professionals, such as lawyers, doctors, architects, engineers, accountants, psychotherapists, and others. Choosing the best option depends on your needs and business structure.
But remember: members of a PLLC are not protected individually from malpractice claims against them.
#3. Create a bank account
The next vital step is to get a separate bank account for your practice, so you can differentiate personal and business finances. That will help you to track revenue, expenses and make up a full analysis of your financial goals. Furthermore, if you can clearly see how much you need for taxes and other expenses, you will not be tempted to spend more than you need.
Think about the payment methods you would like to use. These can include:
- Cheques and cash
- Credit cards
- Bank transfer
- Online payments via PayPal and others.
#4. Track your finances
At the very beginning of your self-employment you can use such instruments of tracking business income and expenses as Google Sheets, Excel or other online tools. But are you ready to spend hours entering the data?
So to say, we are convinced that you can spend more time on your patients and less on paperwork.
With modern medical digital software, you can keep track of bookkeeping, CRM, accounting, and analyses all in one place you can access from your smartphone, saving a lot of time!
Learn how you can easily manage financial processes using the Medesk platform. Our financial and accounting modules will help you to track and manage payment processes and create invoices at all stages of interaction with a patient.Learn more >>
Talking about expenses, we should mention office space, mobile traffic, the Internet, business cards and others. To reach them successfully, you need a workable business plan.
Creating a business plan
A solid business plan will give your practice the clarity you need at the beginning.
We recommend you include these 5 points in your plan:
- Create a comprehensive picture of your target audience. Who is your ideal client? What are his aches?
- Think about your private pay rate. Analyse the competitors.
- Create an expense list. You’ve already learned what to include there from the previous paragraph.
- Don’t forget about your budget. Answer the question, how much money do you need to make for your business license to survive? Compare your answer with the expense list, and you’ll find out how many clients you need to serve per week/month etc.
- Find an office location. The good news is that even a group practice doesn't require much space or furniture. But keep in mind that people are more likely to visit your office if there is a convenient and big parking space nearby. And don’t forget about a cosy waiting room.
Or maybe you would like to consult online?
Online therapy practice
COVID-19 dramatically impacted psychology practice. Since the peak of the pandemic, a large number of specialists have switched to providing care remotely. And now when there is a chance to consult in-person again, they don't rush to do it.
On the contrary, a recent report of the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that both patients and providers who use telehealth generally view it favorably.
So what are the advantages of starting an online private mental health practice?
You may benefit from online therapy if you treat patients with physical disabilities, those from rural areas and small towns. In addition, these patients may be ashamed to be seen entering a psychologist’s door.
This is also true for the specialists themselves. It doesn’t matter where you live, you can work full- or part-time, non-traditional hours, especially in the first year.
Medesk allows you to conduct telemedicine consultations with patients via videoconference directly on the platform. Transfer any planned appointments online with the click of a button.Learn more >>
There is also one big bonus: you don’t have to find an office and pay rent. All you need is a quiet place and fast Wi-Fi. You can work from home, or use a co-working space.
But remember, working online still requires the legal procedures described above.
Marketing in a private therapy practice
Now you know your target audience and have a business plan. The time has come to fill your caseload through marketing.
First thing first, you need a website.
You cannot avoid having a website these days if you want to get customers. In addition to having a good location (people need to be able to find it easily), your website needs to provide value, be appealing and be easy to use so as not to disappoint your visitors.
A website is your first marketing instrument. You can do it yourself, or hire a specialist if you have a sufficient budget. You should treat your website like an investment, not an expense.
If you’ve decided to build a website, we recommend you to use site templates like WordPress, or Squarespace. These platforms have user-friendly interfaces that help you to get started on the web painlessly.
In order to attract new patients via a website, your content must be attractive for Google, Yahoo and other search engines. Using search engine optimization (SEO), you can fill your site with words people type in order to find information about companies similar to yours. So, make sure your content is relevant.
Medesk helps to manage the work with patients. The platform tracks the entire history of interaction with them: from the attraction channel to the profit received.Learn more >>
For example, if you are a mind and body practitioner, use this phrase on your website in the different types of content: headings, texts, image names, and meta descriptions.
Only fresh, catchy and regular content can attract traffic to your site. Ensure that your information, sales and new services are advertised on the social media profiles.
Make the most of it! Your potential customers are there - on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. We recommend you focus on one or two media platforms, if you don’t hire a SMM manager. Your undivided attention can reduce your ability to be effective and use precious time.
It’s very important to share patients’ feedback on your social media. People tend to trust other people who are not specialists, so your task is to make providing feedback and easy task. Feedback and commenting can turn your followers into your clients.
You can also expand your patient base with referral agencies and patient aggregators (Aviva, BUPA, Care First).
Referrals may come naturally if you interact with other specialists, attend courses and seminars. Try to appear at meetings and events where your potential clients are, like business groups and public hearings. These are excellent platforms for you to present yourself, make an impact and hand out business cards.
Remember: you must be heard and seen, online and offline.
We hope these tips will help you overcome any fears and uncertainties you may have and start your own private practice!
Last but not least, we want to remind you.
In books and articles on the Internet, there is quite a bit of free support. Learn from others! Visit our blog for additional information on mental health counselling.