Table of Contents
So you’re thinking of starting a private practice, but you’re not quite sure where to begin? Going private is a monumental decision to make and it’s understandable if you’re nervous about it. We’re here to demystify the process and allay some of the fears you may have about striking it out on your own.
In this final part of a two-part series, we speak to three of our A Space Between mental health experts, on what they’ve learnt from starting their own private practice.
Starting your own practice means total control and freedom.
With more than two decades of being a certified coach and counsellor, Yvonne Yeow has ample experience with private practice and practising under an existing institution. “I didn’t want to be bound by rigid schedules,” says Yvonne, on why she chose to venture into private practice. “It allowed me the freedom to take on the right number of clients for my ever-changing life circumstances, because of personal and family commitments.”
As you can expect, complete flexibility is a huge reason for why most practitioners may decide on setting up a private practice. This doesn’t extend to just flexibility over your time alone, but also flexibility in terms of deciding the focus of your business and the way you want to practice your work.
“I was interested in understanding issues faced by populations outside of institutional settings,” shares clinical psychologist Tan Yeow May. Speaking from 8 years of experience of working in government and community settings across Australia and Singapore, Yeow May adds, “I wanted to be able to do things my own way and focus fully on each client’s needs, without having to worry about management or policy that could interfere with their therapy.”
Similarly, Kim Fisel, a therapist with over 17 years of experience, echoes this need for independence, “With my own practice, I can ensure I keep to the highest ethical standards to support all of my clients; and set my own boundaries on how to provide my clients with the best service.”
Be disciplined about your time.
However, this total freedom also has its drawbacks: namely, in terms of being able to strike a good work-life balance. As a private practitioner, it’s harder to ‘clock out’, as your work hours are determined by yourself.
That’s why it’s important that you are disciplined about taking proper time off from work. As summarised by Kim, “I often tell my clients, ‘You cannot allow others to drink from a well that’s empty’; similarly, I make this my own mantra to ensure that I’m not over-doing it.”
“I set rules for myself,” says Yeow May, about how she ensures she doesn’t overwork herself. “For example, I try not to check emails or texts after my work hours. I also have a good support system around me, who provide a good mirror for whether work has gotten too much.”
What may also help is deliberately blocking out time for your rest. “I make sure to schedule in down-time to rest and relax, and indulge in my hobbies,” shares Yvonne.
Administrative tasks can take up more of your time than you expect.
Another drawback of having total control as a private practitioner is that you lose the administrative support you had when working for an institution. These new tasks that you have to complete can take up time and eat into your mental bandwidth, which can take away from the energy you want to bring to your clients.
“Working with logistics is something that often challenges me,” admits Kim, who shared that this was one of the biggest hurdles she had to face when going into private practice. As expected of a mental health professional, Kim is positive about this and embraces this challenge, “I recognise that I’m growing from this process and that I’m constantly learning!”
An example of a logistics issue would be locating a suitable location to meet your clients could be a challenge. “While some clients choose to meet me in their own home or office or virtually, some prefer to have face-to-face sessions outside of their private space,” shares Yvonne. “In these cases, I need to find a suitable location for working together.”
Find opportunities to connect with the community.
Even though you’re practising by yourself, the life of a private practitioner shouldn’t be a lonely one. In fact, it can be counterproductive for your own personal growth if you seclude yourself from the wider community.
“Private practice doesn’t have to be a solo journey,” emphasises Yvonne. “It’s crucial – both professionally and mentally – to be a part of a community and to receive supervision, even between peers.” This is because discussion with peers can broaden the way that you think about how you practice, as well as help you identify areas that you need to grow in.
On the importance of a community, Kim adds, “Most therapists have a specific skill that sets them apart and finding how to use that to promote a practice is important. Find colleagues who can mentor you through the process.”
Last but not least, no matter how shaky your legs are feeling about the journey, take time to celebrate this milestone! You don’t need to have all the answers right from the onset; what matters is that you’ve taken the first step.
“Be brave,” cheers Yeow May. (This may definitely sound like familiar advice – maybe even something you’ve told your clients before.) “Trust that you’d figure it out at each point in time, as you have done with everything in life so far.”
There is help all around you.
At the end of the day, you are not alone on your journey. Your friends and loved ones are around to support you; and you should feel comfortable in sharing your concerns and thoughts.
In addition to this emotional support system, there are other resources that you can tap on as well. For example, mental health co-working spaces just like what we have at A Space Between can help you with overcoming a few key challenges, when you’re first starting out.
Through our services, it’s easy to find a private and cosy space to organise a session with any of your clients as well as network with fellow private practitioners to exchange learnings and tips. For a full run-down of how A Space Between can support your work, you can read the first part of this series here.
Most importantly, remember to take time to breathe as you embark on this journey. As cliched as it sounds, it’s a marathon and not a sprint; and you shouldn’t need to feel pressured into doing everything, all at once.
When you’re ready, feel free to reach out to us, anytime. If you’d like to see how our team can support you, we offer a one-month trial for new members so that you can see how our services fit into your own plan for your practice.
An experienced health & wellness writer, I am a story-teller at heart. For me, writing is a way of weaving together the little details that make our existence meaningful and significant into a beautiful, larger story.