Happy Birthday to My Private Practice Baby!

For 2 ½ years of my life, I worked at a 40-hour job, saw a few clients in a group private practice, and started a solo private practice.  It was A LOT but they were all stepping stones to where I am now.

It has been a year since I left a full-time, secure therapist job with benefits and coworkers a-plenty.
In this year, I have left job security, adventured, got engaged, went from working 40+ hours per week to sometimes less than half that, re-worked some life systems, became a clinical supervisor and hired my first employee, started Somatic Experiencing training, planned a wedding, and learned to run a business.

This has been a year of entire transformation for me, personally and professionally.  I’m sitting here in awe and some disbelief that I’m my own boss with a private practice that continues to grow and become more and more of what I’ve envisioned.

This has been a year of entire transformation for me, personally and professionally.  I’m sitting here in awe and some disbelief that I’m my own boss with a private practice that continues to grow and become more and more of what I’ve envisioned.

I’ve been stretched by uncertainty and growth.  I’ve struggled with and celebrated the ups and downs of owning a small business.  I’ve learned more and more about the business aspects of owning a therapy practice, things that were never, ever discussed in grad school.  I’ve screwed some things up and I’ve figured a lot out.

Jumping into the world of solo private practice was a risk I needed to take.  It was important to me to be able to work with folks who needed the kind of support, care, and expertise that I can provide.  It was important to me to not be burned out all the time, for the sake of both my personal life and professional career.  I take my job seriously and know that I hold a big privilege in walking with my clients through their journey.  It was important to me that I wasn’t just cramming clients in to a day, listening to them for an hour, and moving on to the next one.  I needed time and financial freedom and flexibility to be able to really be present with each client.

Through the year, I’ve discovered a bit more of my assertive self; a part of me that has been hidden for the majority of a lifetime.  I’m hesitant to say that I’ve found more extroverted parts of myself; “socially introverted” parts of myself sounds better.  I’ve learned to rely on others and accept help more than I ever have.  I’ve swayed between days of “I’ve got this!” and “What the hell am I doing?!”  I’m slowly learning how to make the best choices of my time and energy.

My biggest tips for anyone starting in private practice or considering taking the plunge would be:

  1. Have at least one person who has your back! Someone you trust, who will be there with you during the really low times and give you a high five during the celebratory times.
  2. Have some sort of savings or financial plan/support.  It can be reeeeally slow starting up if you’re a private pay therapist.
  3. Read Profit First by Mike Michalowicz and implement his system into your business finances right off the bat.  I can’t even tell you how life-changing it has been for me.  I wish I would have done that sooner.  Keep your personal and business finances separate.
  4. Know your money story.  Be curious about your financial narrative, what and how you learned about money, how your ideas of money and being profitable as a therapist could be getting in your way.  Seek out a mentor for this!
  5. Create relationships with fellow therapists and other service providers who may also be working with your ideal clients.  Go to networking events, meet up for coffee, wine, or food, connect on social media.  This can be a tough one for more introverted folks but it has been awesome to meet with people who practice in all different ways, who work with different and similar populations, and who genuinely want to help people feel better.
  6. SELF CARE, SELF CARE, SELF CARE!!!  There will be some really depressing times, some really anxious times, and, eventually, some really busy times.  Have your own therapist to talk to, talk with someone who knows what it’s like to run a business, know when to ask for help, do helpful things for your body, mind, and soul, consider doing things for your business during those slower seasons (even if you aren’t being paid for doing those things!)
  7. Set goals for yourself.  Set really big goals and smaller goals that are easier to chew.  Write them down and write them down often.  Re-evaluate each quarter.  No goal is too big or too ridiculous.
  8. Your patience will be tested.  Self-doubt will kick in more times than you’d like.  You may find yourself searching job sites looking for a part-time job while your business grows.  Through trusting the process and not applying for the part-time jobs I searched for, it gave me the free time to leave open for potential clients, network, market, do self-care, and put my energy and focus into my little baby business.  
  9. You don’t have to work with every single person who calls you for a consult.  It may be tempting to work with everyone who reaches out to you, but another big thing I’ve learned this year is that I’m not for everyone.  People have different needs and because I have some specific specialties, I simply cannot work with everyone.  It wouldn’t be appropriate and will lead to burn out on your end and a complete disservice to the client.  There are tons of therapists who would be a good fit for clients you may not be trained or experienced in working with.  This is another reason why it’s super important to have a solid referral network!
  10. Get REALLY clear on your ideal clients and who you love working with.  When I started private practice, I did work with anyone who called me.  Through the year, with some mentoring and my own development, I have gotten more clear about who I work best with and how I do it.  Young adult survivors of childhood trauma, emotional neglect, and abuse are my jam!
  11. Allow yourself to take risks, mess up, and to be taught.
  12. Practice gratitude every. Single. Day.  I know, especially on the shittier days, it’s really tough to find things to be grateful for.  But I cannot tell you how much it has helped me keep an open heart, to not give up on my dream, and to keep growing.

So, with that, I’d like to show some gratitude where gratitude is deserved:

  1. My partner, my family, and my friends for having my back all the way.  For encouraging me to kick ass and follow my dreams, for helping me during the tougher times, and being excited with me during the busier, more stable times.
  2. My former professor, supervisor, and now colleague, Brenda, for believing I could do private practice in the first place.  I don’t think I would have ever considered it if she hadn’t reached out to me about 3 ½ years ago.
  3. Each and every client I work with, past, present, and future!  Thank you for trusting me, allowing me to witness your process, your vulnerability, your pain, and your growth.  I am beyond privileged to get to do this work with you.
  4. My fellow therapists.  I have met some amazing people over the year as I push myself out of my comfort zone and meet with them face-to-face or interact with them online.  It’s amazing to me that there are people all over the world and in my own backyard who are there to help.  Thank you for taking time to connect and learn from each other, for your referrals, and for your inspiration.
  5. Fellow therapist business owners who have paved the way and showed me it’s possible to do this.  Specifically, Alison Puryear of AbundancePracticeBuilding.com; Joe Sanok of PracticeofthePractice.com; Katie Keates May of BecomeAGroupGuru.com; Kellie Collins of Senua Counseling Clinic; Curt Widhalm of CurtWidhalm.com; Melvin Varghese of SellingtheCouch.com; Bari Tessler of TheArtofMoney.com, and Annie Schuessler of CoachingWithAnnie.com.
  6. My spirit for being brave enough to lead me in this direction even when I’m afraid.

As I walk into year two as my own #bossbabe, I’m really excited to look back to where I started, where I am now, and where I want to go.  I’ve been a life-long list-maker (slowly turning into a list-doer), so why not create a list for Year Two?  Some things I’d like to accomplish, experience, and see in this year are:

  1. Maintain a full-time caseload full of my ideal clients.
  2. Continue tweaking or re-creating my current systems to better fit my business.
  3.  Rebrand!  New name, new logo, new website.
  4. Try out new marketing tactics.
  5. Expand office space/start a group practice.
  6. Help my current Associate MFT’s practice grow.
  7. Hire two other Associate MFTs and help their practice grow.
  8.  Get a few therapy groups started.
  9. Get more training in Somatic Experiencing and utilize it more in my practice.
  10. Host a trauma-informed, body-aware workshop.
  11. Get more comfortable with speaking on social media videos.

I hope these tips and reflections are encouraging to anyone who has thought about private practice or anyone who hasn’t hit their 1-year mark yet.  People who started this journey before me told me “it’ll get better”, “in a year from now, you’ll be doing better”, “you’re going to love it!”  At times, all of that was hard to believe but I’m so grateful I was given those messages, because they really have ended up being true.