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Tips for Counsellors Who Want to Set Up a Private Practice

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Is counselling something you always wanted to do? Do you want to work for someone else your entire life? Was opening a private practice something you dreamed about for a long time? If this is something you want, I can’t blame you.

Being your own boss is fantastic. You can set your own schedule, get to keep all of the profit and invest it as you want, and most importantly, you can help as many people as you want. But is opening a private practice the right thing for you? When is the right time for it? 

Why start a private practice

The pandemic of 2020 has taken a toll on all of us. Lives were lost, businesses crumbled, and the ones who survived are now left to deal with the consequences on their own. With no real end in sight, people have started to think about the negative effects the quarantine has had on our collective mental health

Millions of people have been experiencing heighten amounts of stress, insomnia, and anxiety. Young people are especially at risk. Studies have shown that since the pandemic started university students have experienced:

  • 16% rise in severe depression 
  • 25% increase in stress levels
  • 27% rise in high levels of anxiety 

From the numbers, you see that there’s a real need for therapists. As a matter of fact, many counsellors are recognising the need to start their own private practice and reach out to people that need the most help. Starting a private practice wouldn’t just help you, but dozens, if not hundreds of people out there that need counselling. 

Psychologist and isosconnect Advisory Board Member Dr Bijal Chheda-Varma, founder of the Foundation of Clinical Interventions, shares:  ‘As psychologists, we are privileged to explore and work with the beauty of the human mind. The advancement of digital tools to enhance our practice offering has meant that we can now apply the basic principles of CBT in a virtual safe space to the benefit of both our client’s needs and our business offering.’

Speaking about safety, it is crucial to keep your clients’ sensitive information well-guarded. Secure online communication is key to running a responsible, reputable practice, so choosing a HIPAA-compliant email service that’s perfect for your therapy practice is essential.

Understand the challenges ahead

Counselling might be your passion, but remember, you’re trying to start a business. Financing a business, renting an office space, making sure that all of the legalities are taken care of – all of this should be taken seriously. If not, your private practice could collapse in a matter of months.

And that’s just the start. Here are some important things you need to consider:

  • State and local laws that may limit where you can work
  • Does your counselling business need a license to operate
  • Are there any additional taxes that you need to pay
  • Is there professional liability and malpractice insurance
  • What’s the actual scope of concerns in your practice

When you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of the law, you can definitely use some help. Just make sure that your lawyer knows the laws in your state. If you want to open an LLC in Florida, for example, you should find a local professional that knows the ins and outs of the state law. You can find good LLC formation services online too

Checklist for starting a private practice

Now that you know why opening a counselling practice is not such a bad idea and understand the challenges ahead, we should talk about what you need to do to open one. Here are five things you need to do/have in order to start a private practice on your own (and succeed in it).

  • Formulate a business plan. Unless you’ve been planning to start a business for a long time, you need a business loan to finance your private practice. To do that, you need to formulate and write out a real business plan.
  • Find an office and handle logistics. Once you start work on your business plan, you need to find an office. If you have a spare room in your home, you can turn it into an office. If not, you also need to handle the logistics of transporting furniture to the office space.
  • See how much help you’ll need. Can you afford to answer your phone all day long? Don’t you have some counselling to do? Hiring an office administrator can save you time and money. Think about expenses like these and come up with your budget accordingly.
  • Network with other counsellors. If you’re running a business for the first time, you need help. And there’s no better way of avoiding common potholes than asking someone with more experience for advice. Networking with other counsellors will give you free marketing too. 
  • Market your private practice. Speaking of marketing, don’t forget to leave a part of your budget for marketing. If no one knows about your business, you won’t be able to help anyone. Build a website, get on social media, and amass a following. 

The bottom line 

You can always start a business. While the pandemic has had an impact on the economy, there are ways of making money after all. You just need to know what the people want and more importantly, need at this moment. What people need right now is help. And you can provide it. 

Just to sum up, to open a counselling office in 2020, you need to:

  • Come up with a formulated business plan and write it out
  • Find cost-effective office space and handle logistics
  • Calculate how much money you’ll need for outsourcing
  • Start meeting and networking with other professionals 
  • Make sure to come up with a marketing plan for your business

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.


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