4 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Private Practice in Counseling
Everyone likes to be their own boss, and therapists are no exception. Being your own boss means you have full control over your schedule and time which isn’t the case otherwise.
In fact, a recent study reveals that 74 percent of practitioners operated privately during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why? Private practice is profitable and practitioners get to work with the clients of their choice. No wonder an increasing number of mental health professionals are working in the private sector.
But running a private practice is no different than operating a business. What we mean to say is that you’ll encounter a number of pitfalls in the journey that may make private practice a bit challenging.
However, the good thing is that some of these challenges can easily be avoided if you take precautions beforehand. That said, here are a few mistakes that you can avoid while working as a private practitioner:
#1 Not Taking Advantage of All-in-One Practice Management Tool
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when starting out is not organizing things to manage your practice. Often, practitioners leverage different tools for different tasks. Leveraging different tools for note-taking, invoicing, telehealth services, and scheduling appointments is stressful, confusing, and, of course, a waste of your money and time.
To save practitioners from the hassle of jumping from one tool to another, many software companies offer all-in-one therapy practice management software. Be it recording notes, appointment booking, teletherapy, or invoicing and payments, such software comes with everything practitioners need to carry on their day-to-day operations smoothly.
What’s more? Usually, all-in-one practice management tools ensure top-notch security, as they are stored in HIPAA-compliant servers. That means all your data is protected from cyber attackers.
Owl Practice believes that good organization is the key to being a successful practitioner, and we second that. A practice management solution specifically designed for mental health practitioners will help you with that.
#2 Extending Sessions Beyond the Time Limit
Practitioners often extend therapy sessions beyond the time limit, which isn’t good. Sure, you’re a private practitioner, but you should always value your time. If your clients arrive late, it isn’t your responsibility to make up for the missed time. It’s only you who will suffer in the end, as you’ll have to alter the rest of the appointments. Overstretching yourself will affect your personal life besides your professional life.
Also, connecting with patients on weekends or vacations is a big no-no! While it may seem hard, establishing boundaries between personal time and work life is important. If you don’t create boundaries, you’ll end up with patients who won’t respect your time.
Communicate upfront about late arrival and cancellation policies with your clients so that they can plan their day accordingly. Alternatively, you can start as a part-time practitioner to familiarize yourself with the challenges of private practice. This will help you formulate policies that will come in handy when you begin working full-time.
#3 Not Taking Clients as per Your Expertise
Saying yes to every client is another mistake that private practitioners make. Make sure you’re not among them. We understand your goal is to help every person that enters your clinic heal. But that doesn’t mean you should take clients without considering your areas of expertise.
Establishing a niche is important. Otherwise, you won’t be able to attract clients in the long run. Take into account your experience and area of specialization when defining your ideal client. We also suggest you design a first-session client interview, as it will help you understand if the person fits your “ideal client” category.
Also, we advise you against taking high-needs clients when starting. But if you decide to take them, you must establish a strategy that will help you deal with emergencies. There should always be an emergency protocol in place for high-risk clients.
#4 Undervaluing Your Services
In an attempt to attract clients, new therapists often offer their services at low prices. Some also offer hefty discounts on their therapy sessions. Many therapists also fail to revise their pricing structures after every few months in accordance with the changes in the market and their increased experience.
Do not commit this mistake. If you lower your service prices, it means you don’t value your service. As a result, your clients will also stop valuing your work, which you wouldn’t want.
Before you open your clinic’s doors, work out a full-pricing strategy. Remember, you have to make ends meet, so the pricing must be fair.
The Take-Home Message
Starting out as a private practitioner is exciting, but it comes with its own set of challenges. The easiest way to prevent yourself from falling into such pitfalls is to establish your practice policies upfront. Of course, you can tweak your policies whenever you want. But do not open the doors of your clinic before planning your policies, as this could impact your business in a negative way.
Last but not least, approach counseling in an ethical and professional way, as it will keep you on a positive track and help you reach your goals quickly.