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What made you start your own private practice, and how did you go about it?

I am an aspiring clinical psychologist and have been doing research on private practice. I've read on how it gives you more freedom in setting your own hours, more control of your clients, and more independence as a business. I've also read on how it requires alot of your own resources, required you to network to find clients, and increases the management need for documentation with insurance companies. I'm just curious as to hearing about what made you start your own private practice (did you want more freedom? Didn't want to climb up a corporate ladder? Wanted more client focus? etc.), how you went about it, and what the experience has been like for you. Perhaps I may even start or not start my own once I become licensed in about 4 years.

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Margaret’s Answer

I was part of a private practice for about 4 years. I decided to join for a few reasons: more money, more freedom in the ability to work with clients, less administrative oversight. I worked in public health in the substance use disorder field where clients were often mandated to come and I wanted the private practice to work with mental health clients who came because they wanted to. I decided not to open my own (and instead join one that already existed) because I didn't want the stress of overseeing the administrative aspects. The private practice I joined had an office manager who did all the billing (which was fantastic!!). I had a beautiful office that I could decorate myself and it felt very freeing to work with clients who wanted to be there. I had business cards made and advertised myself, I joined insurance panels (a lot of work but worth it) and made sure I kept my documentation up to date. The only downside is paying the office a portion for doing the billing and making enough to live on. If you're wondering why I only did it 4 years...I had a baby and decided to keep my public health job for the health insurance and stability. But I do still highly recommend it! Good luck to you!

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Carole’s Answer

I took a class several years ago that gave us assessments to take in Career Interests and Personality. I came out of this class with several career choices to research so I did the research on many different careers that were of interest. OThe one I choose which was Career Counseling/Guidance. I went back to grad school to get my certification after a couple of years and finally felt so good about what I had accomplished and really enjoyed my internship in a University and High School as a Career Counselor. After a few years I wanted to try to use my skill in the business environment, so I took a full time job in small business owned computer /Librarian and business. I was in the office of interviewing people , resume writing and recruiting. I used everyone of the skills I had obtained from other jobs and was very happy. Then I took some time off to care for children, but within a couple years decided to go back to work. I then worked for a Career Planning center, with the title of manager of Career Center, and working with unemployed people to get jobs, and to facilitate workshops for Assessments, resume writing, and interviewing. I really like it until we were ask to leave and close by the state. It was a bad time as far as jobs were concerned, but I was luck and found a job for a charity working with pregnant women and their careers. With all this that I have said I decided to go out on my own while still working with the charity group. I organized what I wanted to do as for the assessments that I would choose for my clients, and that depended on what the client wanted. I still work a little bit with interviews, assessments and resumes, but it is at my convenience. I don't need to get up early or drive a long way. I have even brought my business to a coffee shop with the younger people. I love what I do and feel that the experience I got before I had my own business gave me many ideas to put into action for my clients and many ideas that I did not want to use. I hope you have learned a little bit of knowledge from me. Good luck with your research

Carole recommends the following next steps:

I would first suggest that you research the career that you want and even interview a Career Counselor and a Psycholgist.
I would check into a university or a community college for classes that help you open your own business. This is very important
When you ask for an interview to the counselor or Psychologist have your questions ready so the interview goes smoothly

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angie’s Answer

Hello, Esther!

How did I go about starting my own practice? Well, it was a natural step in my learning and understanding on how I best guide people back to themselves. I've always been an independent person, but when I graduated, I had to work under someone at first. After learning how to run an office, schedule appointments, pay the bills, bill insurance companies, and negotiate office spaces, I felt confident enough to go it alone. I enjoy working with people on all aspects of their healing and that includes billing, scheduling, and insurance.

I knew I liked working alone and trusted myself that I would and could do all of the parts as a business owner.

Getting clients was mainly through word of mouth and a few small advertisements in my local health stores and papers. I also have an Instagram account, but rarely do I get an actual client there. They come from recommendations from friends, family and other clients.

My advice is to work under someone that trusts you and will show you the ropes of owning and running the business part of a healing practice. The man I worked for was great, and he taught me the hows of running a small business.

Good Luck!

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Howard’s Answer

Hello, Esther. It's a good question. In the two cases where I established my own practice, it was to be more in control of my professional and personal life. In both cases, I was very clear before starting that I had substantial experience and a support group of colleagues and potential clients to rely upon.

As has been mentioned before, "learning the ropes" about your specific profession, as well as familiarity with the fundamentals of business, is critical. That's the case even if you step into a situation with administrative support and shared office conveniences. Reliance upon others to do the admin and office work can be fantastic and offer a great deal of freedom to concentrate on what's important to you. But you still need to manage that person or group of people so that nothing slips through the cracks. Equally important is that whoever is supporting you provides the best possible experience for your clients.

Although I have a career full of experiences in the areas of coaching, mentoring, sales, and business, I have learned so much going through the experience of coaching as a solo practitioner, that I can't imagine starting as a therapist, for instance, without having gone through an apprenticeship or partnership with the support of someone highly qualified and experienced.

Try to look at your career through the lens of longevity and depth. Write a master plan for yourself that will allow flexibility but provide the essential experience to strengthen your portfolio as a therapist and business person. You'll thank yourself later on if you do this!

Wishing you great luck as you pursue your dream.