Starting up a private practice can be overwhelming, intimidating, and often a huge financial risk. Taking steps to mitigate the dangers involved demands approaching things from a business perspective; the dilemma is that this is the anthesis of what we consider a genuine therapist should be. Finding a way to blend the two – business skills with the therapist mindset and ethics – is the key.
One of the services I offer is being a business mentor for mental health therapists (psychologists, social workers, licensed professional counselors, nurse practitioners, etc.) who are interested in starting, or refining, an independent private practice. Having a mentor to help advise you in developing your private practice can make a significant difference in terms of time, focus, and money.
Perhaps the most important resource available for therapists is what many consider the gold standard in the “therapist business book” category: Be a Wealthy Therapist, by Casey Truffo. First published in 2007, Casey’s book focuses on the key features that often separate business owners from mental health therapists: It’s ok to make money. Certainly, there are many practical tips at starting a business in the field of private practice, however the focus on our therapist mindset as being both our greatest asset and our greatest weakness cannot be understated. As a social worker, I remember being torn by the dilemma of billing, setting rates, no-shows, and the need to remain financially solvent back when I first got started. Add in the changes to our field with the Mental Health Parity Act, increasing business costs, and diminishing insurance reimbursements over the past decade, and it can be difficult to find your way forward. This is an excellent book that I highly recommend as an important pre-requisite as part of your business growth and development.
Mindset, as you may have noticed, is an important factor in developing your business. Too strong or misguided, and you’ll miss your mark and alienate your client base. Not focused enough, and you’ll have more empty appointment slots that you want. Robert Kiyosaki’s Before You Quit Your Job is an important element in finding the balance between these two extremes. While not specifically designed for a psychotherapist, it touches heavily on our desire to “do no harm” as being important yet one way to certainly cause burnout, frustration, and fatigue in any entrepreneur. Knowing the in’s and out’s of your business is important, but understanding your inner desire to be the best as a potential pitfall towards attaining your goals is critical. Being aware of what steps need to be taken both strategically and mentally before starting your own business is what this valuable book is all about.
Finally, you’ll want to review this critical book regarding the word all therapists loathe: Marketing. When I first started out, I grappled for at least six months before I even began over the single most difficult concept I’d ever faced: I didn’t want to do sales. I just wanted to do my private practice job, excelling at what I did best and growing where I felt best suited. The sad truth is, however, we all need to know how to send our message out into the world (or even our own city) without it being watered down or overshadowed by others. Many people will tell you that therapists are delightful people; however in our desire to be our best we can become quite neurotic individuals when we don’t understand why no one will show up and schedule an appointment. Understanding that there are immutable laws surrounding success that cannot be ignored will save you heartache and unnecessary soul searching/punishment. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Ries & Trout is just such a book. While not geared towards therapists specifically, and in fact, more towards large global companies, it is an important guide in understanding both the necessary mindset and acceptance needed in being a therapist in private practice.
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