Time to Move to
Time to Move to Private Practice?
Consider these pros and cons of
opening a private therapy practice.
Consider these pros and cons of opening a private therapy practice.
It’s a big decision to quit a job, invest time and money, or otherwise take a risk, such as opening a private therapy practice.
It can be difficult to know if it’s worth the energy, resources and often cost of going out on your own.
For some it’s a great fit, and for others it ends up being more challenging than they thought.
Here’s a list of the benefits and challenges (pros and cons) of opening a private practice.
Being in Charge
Pro: You’re the boss
Many people who crave private practice do so because they become frustrated with the management decisions of their employer.
The larger an organization, the more difficult it can be to make changes, make your own decisions, and generally control your own caseload and responsibilities.
In private practice (especially if you’re going solo) you alone can make all of those decisions.
Con: The boss has a lot of work
Because you make all of those decisions, it can become overwhelming, especially in the beginning.
Often you are starting an entire business from scratch, so you have to set the schedule, take care of logistics (like office space and/or a computer system), and anticipate needs and problems.
This is a lot on your shoulders.
Pro: You set your own schedule
The ultimate freedom many people dream of in being self-employed is setting your own schedule.
If you’re a morning person you can start at 6 a.m. if you like.
If you’re not, you can sleep in every day.
You are not obligated to an arbitrary time when the office is supposed to “be open.”
You can be open only by appointment, which is the case for most therapists.
Con: You set your own schedule
Because you are in charge of your own schedule, there are common pitfalls.
Many times therapists end up working more, rather than less, when they open a private practice.
That’s because it’s your baby now.
You might be writing blog posts or revamping your website all weekend, while seeing clients all week.
It’s more difficult to set boundaries and limits when there are none put upon you.
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Pro: You can choose your own clients
In private practice, you can essentially choose your own clientele.
It’s generally recommended that you pick a specialty area (such as working with teens, or couples) and accept outward from there.
This specialty area allows clients and other therapists to target in on your services and know what you’re offering, experienced, and trained in.
You can also choose to accept private pay only, apply to be in insurance networks, or work with other third parties (like EAP programs) that pay for your clients’ therapy.
Con: It can be hard to set limits
When you work for an agency you often have to see whatever clients the organization chooses.
In some cases in community outpatient therapy, you may be asked to see whoever walks in the door, even if it’s a need or area you aren’t particularly trained or experienced in.
In private practice there’s a similar phenomenon, but for a different reason.
You may be just getting off the ground and feel you can’t afford to say no to a client who asks to see you.
This may end up filling up your schedule with clients who aren’t necessarily the best fit for you.
It’s a tricky balance to keep enough work while building up a specialty for long-term success.
Certainty vs. Uncertainty
Pro: Private practice brings more life freedoms
Many people dream of being their own boss, controlling their own life and feeling more freedom in the world.
This makes the uncertainty of private practice well worth it for some.
Those who stick to private practice vs. going back to employment for others tend to have something in common: working for themselves is more important to them than having a steady paycheck and covered benefits.
The pride and freedom they feel is a top value in their lives.
Some of the many freedoms that come with private practice can include:
- You set your own schedule
- You decide your own rates
- You decide what areas to treat and focus on
- You don’t need to ask to take time off, go to the doctor, or schedule a vacation
- You can refer clients who don’t feel like a good fit
- You don’t have a time clock, boss to answer to, or regulations put upon you
- You ultimately answer to yourself when it comes to your business
Con: The uncertainty of private practice can be stressful
For some, this freer lifestyle is appealing, but ultimately causes a lot of stress.
When you work for an employer there’s much more security, you know when your paycheck is coming in, and someone else shops for health insurance plans.
In private practice, the workload is much more unpredictable.
You may be too busy to keep up in one season, and the next season be struggling to keep a caseload going.
In private practice you are the therapist, business operator and marketer, all in one.
These are some of the important factors to consider when opening a private practice. Ultimately it comes down to you, your strengths and values.
If being independent and making more of your own choices is something you’ve always dreamed of, and you don’t mind investing time and work in that dream, private practice therapy may be a good fit.