“I hate marketing… I’m an introvert… I am not good at business”. These are a few of the comments we hear in the first session of our consultative groups. And you might think I have just defined the first three considerations for NOT going into private practice. Well, no. As with anything, marketing and business can be taught or even outsourced. And, introversion doesn’t ever exclude you from having an authentic conversation explaining what you do and how passionate you are about it. But, there is some other issues to consider:
- Are you comfortable being in charge?
In any given session, you are setting an appointment time, asking for money, and then doing it all over again. And again. Working for someone, takes most of the responsibility and administrative scheduling out of your hands. And while you may pay a premium for the services, you often don’t have to collect money!
- Are your life circumstances conducive to a private practice right now?
In the beginning, as you market, gather clients and build your practice, your income will fluctuate, your schedule may be erratic and your mood will change with both these things. Be sure you recognize the end goal and have the confidence and business plan to sustain yourself for one year after you make the decision. We find that within that year, with purpose and a process, most therapists will find stability and a steady income.
- Is this the only new thing you are starting?
Recently, a new member of our consultative group was excited to find out he and his wife were expecting a baby. Well, two babies–twins! At about the same time, he was planning on leaving his hospital based practice and going out on his own. I am never one to dampen enthusiasm but that is two changes too many. Better to take the next 12 months to welcome one change (or two, in this case), adjust and plan exquisitely for the practice.
- Do you have enough personal support?
And I don’t mean your therapist or clinical supervisor. I mean partners, family, friends who can talk you through the three cancellations in a row and brainstorm with you about next steps. I’m talking about your former college roommate who will accept tacos and a beer to help move your furniture. And finally, I mean, the folks who will whisk you away to the beach for the weekend and forbid you to talk about your business. Be sure to have this kind of support on speed dial. They are the ones who will see you through the beginning, middle and the sticky parts. Now’s not the time to move to the new city where you don’t know anyone and hang out a shingle.
- Do you have enough professional support?
I can say for sure, that I never would have made the jump to private practice if a dear colleague hadn’t told me daily to hang in there and do it. We were both working at a busy, industrial complex that included full-on mental health services and an in-house medical department. We saw everything: workplace violence, schizophrenia, PTSD and domestic abuse. We experienced transports to the hospital, in-patient consults and daily rounds if we could get ourselves free to do attend them.
Professionally, I developed confidence, assertiveness and know-how. And Beverly reminded me of this daily. Shortly after she left, I did too. And for the first couple of years when there were no-shows and insurance snafus, she would figuratively tap me on the shoulder and remind me what I knew. Get yourself a Beverly. Or three. Join a consultative group, and talk it through. It will pay off in spades and keep you moving forward.
Take your time with this. Then make a decision. Don’t be afraid to stay where you are if the stars are not aligned– and leap if they are.