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Is Private Practice Right for You?

Consider these things before starting a private practice.

pxhere, public domain
Source: pxhere, public domain

Private practice is appealing to many because you retain control and profits and you needn’t convince someone to hire you. But you need to market until word-of-mouth keeps your practice full. And many counselor-types are averse to doing all that marketing.

How might you decide if private practice is right for you? Perhaps these considerations will help.

Pro-private practice: How wonderful to get to do what you want: Pick your niche, set your hours, counsel more briefly or more expansively, more practically or more exploratorily.

Pro-employed by an organization: That’s all well and good if you have enough clients. Most counselor-types lack the ability or interest in marketing, even at launch, let alone consistently for a long time.

Pro-private-practice: It’s worth the effort to learn how to market and to develop the discipline to market for a few hours each week. Remember, there are many ways to market. For example, let’s say you want to specialize in anger issues. In addition to schmoozing friends, you could give talks or write articles like "Seven Keys to Ameliorating Anger Issues," aimed at the public or at referrers such as physicians, lawyers, or social workers. If you’re assertive enough, you could email or even phone them, explaining why they should consider referring people to you. And no doubt, you can get more clients if, every few months, you check in with recent past clients to ask how they’re doing. Don’t ask for referrals. If they think you’re effective, your reaching out will remind them of you and so, as appropriate, are more likely to refer people to you.

Pro-employed: Few counselor types will do all that and stay with it until their practice is full enough to sustain based on word-of-mouth referrals. To boot, you need other attributes that not all counselors love: for example, renting office space and dealing with billing.

Pro private-practice: Finding a good rental is a one-time task. Take your time and you’ll find something adequate. And if that’s not you, decide you’ll do your sessions in your home or even at a quiet coffee shop. And regarding insurance reimbursement forms, you won't have so many insurance clients that this is a big deal. Regarding billing, you can get around it altogether by requiring payment at the end of each session. For remote sessions, just charge their credit card using, for example, Square or Costco's low-cost system.

Pro-employed: What about recordkeeping and taxes?

Pro-private practice: If even the word “Quickbooks” throws you into a tizzy, you can be ultra-simple and just have a Word file into which you enter your income on one page and expenses on another. Then just give the file to an accountant to prepare your tax returns.

Pro-employed: What about human connection? It’s isolating to be in private practice. It’s nice to be able to talk with colleagues and other people in an office.

Pro-private practice: True, but there are ways to compensate: Have an admin assistant, even for just a few hours a week for camaraderie as well as to handle those non-counseling tasks you find daunting. Start or join a case review group. Regularly invite a colleague or friend to lunch. Rent in a building with other practitioners. Take continuing education classes. Besides, many people don't like working in an office because of annoying noise or coworkers.

Pro-employed: You speak of training. If you work for an organization, in addition to the peer contact, where you can ask a question or get peer support on-site, there usually are ongoing trainings.

Pro-private practice: Yes, you’re on your own to find trainings, but you get to pick what’s right for you rather than getting force-fed what the employer wants. We’ve all been to required trainings that feel like a waste.

Pro-employed: You’re missing the overall point. Most counselor-types like being part of a group, doing counseling, not running a business.

Pro-private practice: I guess that’s why some people choose to be in private practice and others choose to work for an organization.

Pro-employed: Finally, something we can agree on.

A previous article offers a debate on another key decision that many helping professionals must make: in-person sessions vs. remote ones.

I read this aloud on YouTube.