First Steps to Starting a Mental Health Private Practice


Are you thinking about starting your own mental health practice?  Maybe you are newly licensed, or have worked for other institutions and groups for awhile.  From my own experience I can attest that owning your own practice is a wonderful adventure that gives you professional and personal rewards far beyond working for others to earn a pay check.  But starting a practice is not for everyone.  Starting up can take a good deal of effort and faith in yourself and your skills, both as a mental health professional and as a business person.  Here is a list of questions to ask yourself before embarking on starting your own private practice.

1. Am I “business minded”?  Do I look at my work as a service I provide for a fee?  If you answer “no” to these questions, you are not ready to start your own practice.  A private practice is a business that exists to earn a profit.  You are a highly skilled therapist and the service you offer is very necessary and needed by many, many people. However, at the end of the day you are providing a service for a fee like a lawyer, an accountant, or financial planner.  To be successful, you will need to think as a therapist AND as a business person.

2.  Am I comfortable wearing many hats and multi-tasking?  Can I do my clinical work and focus on business demands at the same time?  To run a successful practice you will need to do two things: 1) spend time building and running your business and 2) seeing clients in your office.

3.  Do I like to be my own boss and in control of how I spend my time?  Am I a self starter?  Owning your own practice can be very liberating in how you spend your time. You can work on your schedule and create a work/family balance that you might not otherwise be able to achieve working for somebody else.  You do, however, need to be self-motivated and a self-starter because no one is going to hold you accountable to be at work, or to seeing a certain number of clients a week.

4.  What is my comfort level with risk?  Starting your own practice means you are in charge of how profitable you and your business are at any given time.

5.  Can I delegate?  Entrepreneurial practice building requires multi-tasking, but does not mean you should schedule your own appointments or do your own bookeeping.

6.  Am I comfortable with the concept of marketing?  Many mental health professionals have the notion that marketing is “not done,” in our profession.  However, smart marketing is not only fair and ethical, it is mandatory to be a successful practice owner.

7.  Am I open to learning new ways of thinking, doing and delivering my expertise?  Running a small business requires flexibility in thought and action.  For example when managed care changes rates, policies or requirements, how will you handle this?  As a practice owner you need to be able to change with the business realities that impact your bottom line.

8. Am I open to learning new things and making the occasional mistake?  Most of us received no business training in our post-graduate studies.  We need to learn business strategies and steps from the ground up.  Like learning anything new, we make mistakes.  In order to be successful, you must be open to learning, accepting the occasional mistake, learning from it and moving on.

If you answered “YES” to most of the questions above, you are ready to start your journey in building or expanding your private practice.  To learn more, please visit

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