You’ve decided to start your own private practice in counseling. You know you’re ready because you love working with people, helping them through difficult situations, and building trust with your clients that helps them feel safe enough to share their deepest, darkest secrets. Now all you have to do is figure out the rest: How much does it cost? How do I market myself? Where can I get office space? The list of tasks seems daunting, but once you break it down into manageable chunks, it’s easier than you think to start your own counseling practice.
Get the right credentials.
If you’re going to start your own private practice, make sure you’ve got all of your credentials straight. If you want to work with drug addicts and alcoholics, you’ll need a drug counseling degree from a reputable school. This will allow you to get the proper certification from one of two groups: the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) or the Addiction Certification Board (ACB). If you plan on treating people with anxiety disorders, depression, or any other mental illness, check to see if your state requires its own set of licensure requirements. If so, obtain that, too. That way, when someone comes looking for help for themselves or their family member, they won’t be turned away.
Plan your office decor with clients in mind.
When you create your own counseling office or private practice, it’s up to you to make sure it has a welcoming feel. Your decorating style says something about not only who you are and what you stand for but also how clients perceive your services. Consider having house plants delivered. They’re easy to come by, usually inexpensive, and look great in any space. Plus, they do double duty. Plants help purify indoor air and also enhance it with beneficial compounds such as oxygen and hydrogen. You can also add individual touches (think color) to make each space unique while still feeling cohesive. Just try to keep things as minimal as possible to accommodate patients who may be sensitive to colors or strange visuals.
Select the best location.
Before you start looking at locations and prices, make sure you’ve got some built-in market demand. It helps to think of your practice as a product, and like any good product, it needs marketing. Do your research: What are potential clients already spending their money on? How many counseling options are there in your area? Is there room for another practice? Make sure that you have some solid answers to these questions before taking out any loans or signing on any dotted lines. If you find that there is no market demand or competition has reached saturation levels, consider branching out into other areas or maybe making a career shift altogether.
A big part of starting your own practice is taking care of logistics, and that means staying organized. From setting up your office to understanding your paperwork to filing taxes, there’s a lot to take care of on your own. So, start by getting clear on how you will keep yourself organized. How will you code and label important documents? What tools and apps will you use? What specific areas of organization are most important for your needs? How will you make sure things don’t fall through the cracks? If organization isn’t one of your strong suits, think about hiring an assistant or putting together some systems with software for bookkeeping or reminders. The more organized you are, the better you’ll be able to handle stress.
Use this checklist to start your private practice the right way.