Dr. Lynn Friedman is a skilled clinician, supervisor and coach. She provides tips for clinicians attempting to establish private practices.
How does one go about building a private practice in psychotherapy? This can be particularly challenging especially if one is newly licensed, recently relocated or working in a major metropolitan area that is crawling with therapists.
Although this column is written about establishing a psychotherapy practice, many of these suggestions apply to those establishing
private practices in other areas such as coaching, career counseling and others. Here are some preliminary
suggestions. Take a three pronged approach. First, continue to develop your skills. Second,
begin to network with colleagues and gatekeepers. Third, seek some
support for this endeavor. Each will be addressed in turn.
Click here to go to Dr. Lynn Friedman's new website. Where she provides over 30 articles on building a private psychotherapy practice.
Network with colleagues
It's important to continue to develop your skills
through some formal, structured training activity. Pursue
your professional interests. Consider entering a training program
for family therapists, a psychoanalytic psychotherapy program, a
cognitive-behavior therapy program, a child therapy program or some
other type of advanced training. Alternatively, consider entering a
supervision/consultation group that is congruent with your interests.
Also, consider obtaining individual supervision. Engaging in these kinds
of activities will have the positive effects. They will allow you to
refine and more comprehensively develop your clinical skills. This will enhance your
self-esteem. Also, these involvements will help you to establish a
reputation as someone who is skilled and committed to continued
professional development. Moreover, they will allow you to establish
contacts. Finally, starting a private practice for the first time,
particularly in a city where you are an unknown quantity can be very
challenging. Supervision can help you to provide quality care and help
you feel more solidly grounded.
Network with gatekeepers
Identify an interest area and to begin to develop a
specialty in it. For example, if you like providing consultation and
you have a background working with children and families, you may want
to consider establishing liaisons with schools or residential treatment
centers. The key thing here is to find a part-time consulting position
where you can achieve some visibility. Alternatively, you may want to
consider doing some teaching at a community college. For example, if
you are a cognitive-behavior therapist, you may want to teach
assertiveness training. If you are analytically-oriented, you may want
to offer a of developing your self-esteem.
Also, if you are new in town consider establishing a
referral network. You can start by putting a group of five
professionals together and gradually add people. Ideally, it's important to include exclusively
people who are in business for themselves. Specifically, include
people who can and will refer to each other. For example, if you work
with adolescents, you may want to recruit a family attorney, an
adolescent OB-GYN, someone who provides consultation about school
selection, etc. In putting together such a group, it is important to
consider two things. First, carefully select your colleagues. They
should be people to whom you are comfortable referring. Second, do not
put people with competing interests in the group. That is, for example,
don't include another therapist. Ideally, you should meet one morning a
week, perhaps for breakfast, before the work day begins.
Building support for this endeavor
Building a practice in today's competitive market poses special
challenges. So it's important to create a support system. My experience in providing consultation to clinicians developing practices has been that the opportunity to discuss practice development must take place in the context of a discussion of clinical concerns.
So, you may want to find someone to mentor you in this endeavor. If you
pursue this, it's important to be sure to seek out someone with both solid clinical
skills and strong skills in practice development.
Another, perhaps more cost-effective, alternative is to put together a
practice development group. If you are in a major city you can do
this by linking with people all over the city. Because you are not
practicing in the same immediate area, you will not be in competition
with each other. In fact, if you know skilled clinicians throughout the city, you will be able to provide better quality care.