Starting a private practice in counselling can be both an exhilarating and daunting experience. You get to enjoy the freedom that goes with choosing your own therapy practice, along with the flexibility of structuring your work around your life. You may also be impassioned by the idea of changing lives for the better. While emotionally supporting and helping your clients may be your forte, managing your own business does have its own set of challenges.
If you have the qualifications to start a private practice in counselling and are looking for guidance on how to make it happen, here are ten tips to get you started.
Recognise Your Additional Responsibilities
When you are new to private practice in counselling, you may view this journey with rose-tinted glasses. While there are certainly many upsides to the practice, such as being able to work at your own time and target, it is nonetheless a business that comes with additional responsibilities. Make sure to familiarise yourself with the challenges in self-employment as opposed to working for someone so you are fully prepared.
One area to take note of is having more expenses. For a start, it is likely that you will be taxed more as you are running your own business. In addition, as you do not have an employer to help you submit the Central Provident Fund (CPF), you would have to save for retirement and healthcare needs by planning for yourself. If your workload is getting too heavy to shoulder alone, you may have to consider hiring employees. This implies that you would have to deal with payroll taxes, offer employee benefits and a monthly salary.
Working for yourself also requires a lot of self-discipline. As there is no one to chase you down for work, you have to make sure you are on top of things. You have to develop your own work routine and manage your time so you do not fall behind.
Finally, be aware of the paperwork that you will have to settle. Things like insurance claims, consent forms for your patients, and other items have to be in place to ensure your practice aligns with local laws.
Hire a Business Lawyer
It is imperative to hire a business lawyer to keep you up to date regarding the laws and regulations that come with a private practice in counselling. Familiarise yourself with local laws on private therapy practice so you do not risk running into any issues during the practice. Areas you should look into include what are considered malpractices, and getting professional liability insurance that can safeguard your business.
Find a Suitable Practice Space
The right office space can make all the difference in your work, whether it is in relation to your productivity, your mood at work, or your motivation to show up. The atmosphere, location, design, and pricing of the workspace all play a role. While purchasing a traditional office space may be the first option that enters your mind, it operates on fixed monthly leases so you have to continue paying for the days you are not using the space. In addition, you also have to shoulder the expenses of furnishings, WIFI, electricity, phones, answering service, among other things.
A co-practice space is a more practical option as it has a flexible payment plan that is based on the number of hours that you choose to work there. Furthermore, it has all the amenities covered so you do not have to spend extra time and money getting them in place. You will also benefit from the companionship of other people working in the same space. They not only help to alleviate your loneliness but may also help you with issues that arise at work.
A Space Between is a popular co-practice space for counsellors and therapists. It currently houses over 30 members of practising therapists, with each specialising in several fields such as depression, relationship, paediatrics, and LGTBQIA+. It is suitable for hosting counselling and small group therapy. Located near Tanjong Pagar MRT station, its central location also makes it accessible for your clients. The rooms even come with special safety features to ensure that the environment is ideal for therapy.
If you are looking to rent a space, you can find out more details here. You may also request a tour of the co-practice space to confirm if it is the right fit for you.
Decide if You Are Hiring Employees
Doing everything by yourself can be overwhelming, but it does not have to be. One advantage of working for your own business is you have the choice of designating work to others to lighten your main workload. If you have enough financial resources to invest in hiring employees, you can consider outsourcing the types of work that you are not too competent at doing yourself to others.
For instance, if logistics are not your strong suit, you can employ a logistics team to take care of the details. This way, you can focus your attention on counselling and do not have to worry about the rest. Make sure that you have the budget to offer a competitive salary to your employees without jeopardising the survival of your business.
Draft a Workable Business Plan
While a business plan can differ from person to person, there are a few key components you are advised to include. Calculate how much you would have to make each year to survive as a business after factoring in the rental and hiring costs (if any). Also, find out how much you would need to earn to make a decent living. These will help you to formulate your financial goals and take the steps to reach them.
When your business is still in the initial stages, you can start with short-term annual goals. Once you manage to hit your targets consistently, you may proceed with a five-year plan to cater to your business’s growing needs.
If you find that your savings are insufficient for supporting the total costs of your business, consider options to fund them in the short run so you can get started without the expenses holding you back.
Prepare a Marketing Plan
Marketing is crucial, especially in the early days of your business where you need to get as much exposure as you can to establish a notable reputation in your field. To kickstart your marketing strategy, you are recommended to focus on a few online marketing platforms before branching out more. Instagram and Facebook tend to work well for counsellors as you get to share more details in text form. You can also run ads with a selected target audience that is more likely to respond to them.
While Tik Tok is a less common platform for counsellors, there have been examples of professionals who make a name for their brand by going for the less beaten path. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which platform you feel most comfortable sharing your practice on. Tailor your message such that it feels authentic to you. What is authentic will naturally draw the right audience to your service.
Consult Other Therapists in Private Practice
As you are new to private practice, you may get useful information from therapists who are already familiar with the business model. Network with them by going to events in your industry. They can help you with common queries and even refer clients to you. To ensure the relationship is reciprocal, you can partner with them on projects and find ways to help with their businesses as well.
At A Space Between, there is a ready community of therapists you can network with. With professionals from various backgrounds and therapy practices, there are bound to be the ones you can connect with.
Decide on Payment Methods
Having clear and convenient payment methods is attractive to both current and potential clients as most people want to avoid the hassle. It is also a good idea to diversify your payment methods so that clients can choose the most favourable one for them.
Direct bank transfer, as well as transfer through popular mobile apps linked to bank accounts like Paylah and Paynow are common methods of payments used in business transactions, in addition to in-person use of Nets and Debit cards.
Settle the Forms
There are numerous types of forms you have to prepare for your clients before starting your private practice. Compulsory ones include the intake form that includes the client’s information for you to decide on the right kinds of treatment, the informed consent document serving to confirm treatment, the referral form in case clients have to be referred to other professionals and other necessary additions.
Now that you have the structure in place, it is time to make a promise to yourself to always put your best foot forward. Ultimately, this would be the best way to build up your business, as satisfied clients would always refer you to others. Most importantly, you would find purpose in your work by bringing a meaningful change to their lives.
Yimin is open to new experiences and perspectives. She is most passionate about psychology and creative writing and hopes to publish a novel someday.