You have invested years of hard work in learning the different modalities and techniques needed to be an effective helper, have a deep passion for the work you do, and have poured your heart and soul into creating a stunning website–but you might be wondering what you can do next to take your private practice to the next level.
For many professional counsellors and therapists, starting their own private practice may feel somewhat like a pipe dream–having to make critical decisions on your own and ensuring you keep your business sustainable, all while keeping your clients’ well-being and interests in mind can prove to be an intimidating task.
But don’t let the fears of venturing out on your own override that calling and passion to help people–to help you along your journey, we’ve invited two of our members, Martin Williams from Harmony Counselling and Mandd Fernando, founder of Miracle of Minds to share their nuggets of wisdom to aspiring private practitioners like them.
As with anyone starting out on their own, Mandd shares his biggest challenge when first embarking on his hypnotherapy practice: “My biggest challenge is the misconceptions that people have about hypnotherapy, and being a new kid on the block in mental health.”
Indeed, private practitioners often find themselves wearing many different hats. Regardless of what your practice involves, here are nine valuable tips to remember:
1. Know your why.
With any venture, it always helps to maintain a clear vision of your “why” and what got you started in the first place. This is what will keep you motivated during the toughest times of starting a private practice.
For Mandd, his journey started at the end of 2019: “I was questioning myself, what occupations or businesses resonate with both my mind and body. With the guidance of my mentor, I remembered a promise that I made when I experienced temporary blindness in 2005–“If I can recover from my blindness, I will use my time and body to help others.”
By relearning hypnosis and its therapeutic aspects, Mandd decided that if he could help his father cope with his long-term alcohol addiction and anger management issues, only then will he start hypnotherapy as a business.
“I am glad to say that one week after my session, my father stopped drinking alcohol and his childhood trauma was released. It was from then on that I started to tackle more cases ranging from panic attacks, phobia, acute stress and insomnia to prove to myself that I can help others through hypnotherapy.”
For Martin, his journey first began when he unexpectedly found out that he had a daughter 7 years ago: “It was obviously a huge shock which turned my life upside down. Whilst taking some time off work to get my head around my new reality, I was offered the chance to do some part-time life coaching work.”
“The work involved working with a client who struggled with Borderline Personality Disorder and, working with the supervising psychologists, I became interested in using psychotherapy to help others deal with problem situations.
To confirm this interest, I enrolled on a counselling course and knew very quickly that this was what I wanted to do going forward. By the time I finished my course, I was already focusing full time on becoming a counsellor and have been developing my skills and knowledge ever since.”
In fact, Martin’s biggest motivation is: “I see a brighter future where, when people have a better understanding of themselves, they can have better relationships with others. I believe this is the fundamental building block to making this world a better place, one connection at a time.”
2. Know your what.
The “what” is all about being clear on what you offer and can do for clients. From a business perspective, it’s similar to what they call an “elevator pitch”, which is basically a 30-second description of what you bring to the table.
For Mandd, his “what” is: “I am like a tour guide that supports you in reconnecting back to your subconscious mind in order to bring about the changes you desire.”
“My biggest strength as a helper is to be there for someone without judgment, and communicating with the client to directly reach the subconscious root cause to achieve a breakthrough.”
On the other hand, Martin’s “what” involves: “I help clients gain awareness and understanding of underlying issues relating to the problems they are facing, and work with them to develop strategies to address/manage/overcome those issues through more effective regulation of thoughts, feelings and behaviours.”
“My greatest strength is making connections and developing a trusting therapeutic environment. It has been proven time and again through research that the most important component which predicts the success of Counselling Therapy is the relationship which forms between Therapist and Client (often referred to as the Therapeutic Alliance). It is significantly more important than the Therapist’s method or approach, and even the experience levels of the Therapist.
I recognise the importance of this relationship and put building this connection at the forefront of all I do.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about knowing your strengths and what you most identify with in your work.
3. Private practice isn’t supposed to be lonely: get support!
While private practice can often feel lonely, it doesn’t have to be. Peer support is just as vital during your training as when you become a full-fledged practitioner. Mandd shares: “It is important to have networks who will support your business and gain inspiration from, rather than solely seeing the monetary value of the relationship.”
Remember that networking should be a reciprocal relationship built on mutual trust, and this means finding ways to potentially work on projects with other counsellors and therapists, attending professional seminars, answering mental health questions on online forums and message boards, and regularly seeking continuing education.
After all, therapy itself is all about relationships–whether it be those in the mental health field or even the people that you meet at a cafe or even at church, be a resource for those around you! Offer to organise workshops, group therapy sessions, or educational programs and presentations at different organisations–you never know where your next client may come from.
Martin also adds: “Develop a support network of peers to help share and learn about challenges and opportunities that exist. Be gentle on yourself if you don’t succeed immediately and manage your overheads to minimise the financial pressure on yourself.”
Just be sure to pay it forward to future counsellors and therapists in the future!
4. Get acquainted with social media.
While many therapists are able to get by just fine without social media, the fact is that most of your future clients are online. Even if you aren’t savvy in social media, or aren’t quite used to selling yourself and your services, it really pays to start building your online presence, wherever you are on your journey.
Martin shares his biggest challenge in private practice: “Marketing. It’s not something I’m naturally inclined to do and so it has taken longer than anticipated to build up a steady client base, despite excellent feedback from our existing clients.”
Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok can be great platforms to create your own unique voice and build your authority on mental health, while LinkedIn is a great platform to network with other mental health professionals and create articles that showcase your expertise in a specific area.
Remember: Potential clients don’t care about a fancy website, they just want to know if you are able to serve their needs, be succinct and avoid using jargon in your copywriting!
5. Practice self-care: you are your biggest asset!
As private practitioners, you are your biggest asset. For Mandd, this means: “I regularly do self-emotional regulation, breathing exercises, and self-hypnosis practice every day to ensure my self-progression.”
There are only so many hours that you have in a day, and having to juggle between getting new clients, running your business, and investing in continuous education–setting and sticking to boundaries is a form of practising self-care.
Martin also adds: “I conduct regular-self checks and, if my emotions are in need of attention, I will attend to them either through meditation, exercise, music, expression and sharing with loved ones. I have also developed a network with other counsellors and therapists to share experiences and provide mutual support.”
Oftentimes, going private means working outside of usual clinic hours and even on the weekends, which makes it even more important to know when it’s time to take a break.
6. Finding an accessible and inclusive therapy space.
Other than finding a suitable therapy room for rent that you see yourself conducting sessions in, the space that you work from needs to be safe, inviting and conducive to see clients. This might look like comfy furniture, tons of natural lighting, helpful amenities such as WiFi and security features such as a panic button, especially if you are working with high-risk individuals.
At A Space Between, we offer fully-furnished therapy rooms and also amenities such as lockers, a printer, weekly cleaning services, and access to community events and meetups so that you can focus on what you do best.
7. Scheduling regular admin dates.
As a solo business owner, one of the most painful parts of private practice is all the additional administrative work that needs to be done on a weekly basis. However, you can make it much easier for yourself by scheduling specific days of the week just for admin work–this includes filing your case notes, sending invoices, and tracking your income and expenses so it doesn’t end up piling up by the end of the month.
Bonus tip: Helpers need help sometimes too. If you find yourself being overwhelmed despite trying to do everything on your own, consider enlisting the help of an admin to help you manage all the paperwork, such as tracking invoices, sending appointment reminders, and performing some business outreach to save you time.
8. Keep track of your finances.
Let’s keep it real. You need to be able to cover your expenses in order to pay your bills and keep your private practice sustainable in the long run. Rental space, website hosting, any software that you might be using to record your case notes, or even a marketing budget are just some of the things that you need to factor in to calculate how much you actually need to be earning monthly in order to ensure your business remains viable.
Bonus tip: Find a mentor or coach who has been there and done that, and can offer you sound advice on how to run a successful private practice. This reduces the amount of trial-and-error you have to do by drawing from their experiences and mistakes while giving you the support and encouragement you need!
9. Invest back into your practice.
We can’t stress this enough–invest back in yourself and your business. While you do need to reward and treat yourself from time to time, it can take a while for your private therapy practice to grow–the wisest thing you can do is to reinvest part of your income back into the business, whether it by signing up for courses to establish a niche, increasing your marketing budget or hiring someone to help you.
Keep learning, growing and going!
Sometimes, the best things in life don’t wait until you are fully ready. Just keep yourself as a work-in-progress, and the rest will follow.
On his journey, Martin shares: “Through all of my sessions with clients, I keep learning about myself, but the best part is I notice that I can suspend my own beliefs and judgment when I am with a client so that I am not contaminating my own limiting beliefs to them.”
“The sharing from my client on how my session changed their life made me keep moving on in this path.”
From his journey, Martin continues, “I have learned to check myself when making assumptions about or judging others. It is something that we are taught to do in the societies we live in and, yet, when we can learn to unravel that, we can actually find far more contentment in our lives and we start to develop a more empathetic response to others instead.”
Recognise that any gaps you have now can always be learnt–therapists aren’t perfect human beings, and they are constantly growing alongside their clients. Through talking with our members, we know that starting your private practice can often feel like a stab in the dark, and most graduate counselling programs don’t teach aspiring therapists how to run a business or start their private practice. Our thoughts? That what you are doing makes a meaningful difference in someone’s life–even if it takes time, know that we are rooting for you!
Disclaimer: Both Martin Williams and Mandd Fernando are listed therapists on our website, do check out their profiles to learn more about the work they do.
Martin Williams is a qualified counsellor with 5 years of experience. He draws on his extensive real-life experience to influence his unique style of counselling and ensure that all clients receive the personal attention they deserve.
To help his father with his alcohol addiction during the pandemic, Mandd Fernando rekindled his interest to pursue in-depth study in hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Since then, he has been using hypnosis and hypnotherapy to help people who are facing weight, anxiety, stress, panic attack and addiction issues.
Currently learning to become a better human being to support other human beings. Writing has always been my preferred form of expression-and also-I probably spend way too much money on acai bowls.