When asked recently in an interview what it takes to have a successful private practice, I found myself rattling off 5 essential elements that I know for certain must be in place.
I have learned from my own years of experience building my successful private practice, and then helping therapists in the United States, Australia, Ireland and Israel give birth to their dream practices, that if these 5 essential elements are not cultured, cultivated and well established, therapists will struggle to ever make private practice work successfully.
What a lot of therapists wanting to go into private practice miss is that a private practice is a business that requires a whole set of skills not taught in graduate school. But it’s more than just skills. It requires particular ways of thinking, believing and behaving in order to have a successful private practice..
The 5 essential things you must have for successful private practice. . .
Make these 5 things your focus every day and you’ll be well on your way to seeing your dream career as a therapist take off!
1. You Need A Map, a GPS and a Plan.
GPS stands for global positioning system. These nifty electronic devices that help us figure out where in the world we are now and how do we get to where we want to go come in handy. Before smart-phones and vehicles with GPS built in, we used compasses and road maps. Regardless of how far we go back in history there is one thing we’ve always known for sure and that is aimless wandering rarely gets us to where we want to be.
In setting out for having a successful private practice you have to first know where you are now and where you want to be. Creating a vision that you can imagine with all your senses is key. Identify what you know to be your strengths as well as the areas you will need some help with.
Dreaming about your ideal career is not enough. The next step is to figure out how you’re going to get there. It’s essential you create a PLAN for your business which not only contains goals but measurable objectives and actual action steps with deadlines. It’s a good idea to have a business coach or mentor who understands the art and science of building a successful private practice.
2. Learn to Effectively Manage Your Time.
Your relationship with clock and calendar is crucial. In order to have a successful private practice, you need to revere your calendar as your new BFF. Your partner. Your constant companion.
You know how to conduct a client’s therapy session in such a way that you are present 100% for that client without any distractions and within a 50 minute time frame, right? You have to train yourself to regard every task you have in your life and business as a client.
The most successful people in the world schedule everything. Everything. Block off time for errands and just do errands. Block off time to knock out progress notes and do nothing during that time but progress notes. Remove all distractions and set a timer for each block of time. Time blocking is key.
Regard your time as the precious commodity it is. Don’t let yourself get sucked down the black hole of surfing social media without setting a timer to keep you on track. Shut all those tabs on your computer that you are not using right now and close your door, turn your phone on do not disturb and get focused. Your efficiency will sky-rocket.
Effective time management is essential to having a successful private practice.
3. Clear Up Your Beliefs About Money.
Depending on the story you have running under the surface about money, you may find yourself always struggling to have enough money to make ends meet. Or maybe money flows to you easily but then runs through your fingers. Maybe you notice you have a tendency to run up credit card balances and never get them paid off. Did you hear adults tell you when you were a child that money doesn’t grow on trees? Or that you can’t afford this or that? Or did you get a message along the way that making a lot of money is wrong or in contrast to the nature of being a therapist?
I created a two hour training for therapists and helping professionals called Money Matters for this very reason. I noticed that a lot of psychotherapists operate from an unhealthy mind-set when it comes to their relationship with and to money. If you stay in that belief system that money is bad and dirty or if you are stuck in the struggle of needing and wanting money and feeling there is never enough, it’s time for some deep work to uproot those beliefs and restructure those cognitions.
4. Grow & Nurture a Network Garden.
In order to have a successful private practice you must have a network of referral sources. And in the business of psychotherapy services it’s essential that your network be comprised of people who know you, trust you and refer to you often. This requires having real, true, authentic relationships with people in your community far and wide.
Think of it like a garden. You have to prepare the soil and plant the seeds by scheduling time every week to get out into the community in a variety of ways and places to get to know as many people as you can. And when you are getting to know people, be sure to lead with genuine interest in who they are and what they do in their work and lives rather than handing out business cards cold. Be sure to collect people’s contact info and follow up. The follow up is like tending the garden. Watering, fertilizing, pulling weeds. Stay in touch with people you meet in a way that helps them to know you as the considerate person you are.
Nurturing your network garden is the key to generating consistent referrals from a variety of sources.
5. Be Confident.
When you are confident in your abilities, in your skills, in who you are, what you do and how you help people, it’s like a magnetic field drawing new clients and referrals your way. A lot of this starts with what’s going on between your ears but it also takes practice, practice, practice to come across as truly confident.
Develop a couple of sentences that quickly and effectively explains who you are professionally, who and how you help as a therapist. What problems do you help people solve? Who do you serve? This statement is sometimes referred to as an “elevator pitch.” A short, to-the-point description of what you have to offer. Once you develop this, start practicing. Start with the mirror, then move on to practicing with someone you know, love and trust not to judge you. Eventually, practice everywhere you go. The grocery store clerk. The server at the restaurant. The other moms on the playground. The receptionist at your doctor’s office. Be prepared to SHARE with others everywhere you go something about who you are, what you do and how you help with CONFIDENCE.
P. S. If you are looking to build a private practice providing play therapy services, I want to share about a program I developed with Jen Taylor, LCSW, RPT-S called Play Therapy Practice Building Academy. After years of running high-impact, high-touch 90 day practice building MasterMind programs, I decided to bring all that content together into an evergreen, self-paced training system with additional guest experts and instructors. Go learn more about that program here.