Private practice is my next step…or is it?

This is the story of a very successful addiction counselor. After seven years in practice with a variety of agencies, Terry decided to go out on her own as an independent contractor in a group practice. In the beginning, the flexible schedule, shorter days, and reduced paperwork were a dream come true. And then…reality set in. Not many clients made the transfer to the new office, and the insurance requirements were confusing and overwhelming. Her colleagues were terrific, but she was new…and referrals were slow to come. The day had a different rhythm to it now–if Terry didn’t make time to send invoices, market some valuable contacts and think about the business side of things…no one else was going to do it for her! Gone was the business manager, the IT supervisor and the clinical director who could help out in a pinch. There were no more sick days or for that matter, paid vacation. She was on her own.

Wasn’t that what she wanted? Isn’t that the goal? You get your experience at a agency and then move on to autonomy, higher income, better hours.

Maybe. I’d like to share an alternative view.

Sometimes, the comfort, security and schedule of working for someone else is best for you.


And it’s important to recognize that you value those things above the benefits of being solo. I liken it to my work-out schedule. When I signed up for the expensive group session, I never missed it. It was a small group, and we relied on each other to get us from the beginning of the class to the end. I felt guilty if I let anything get in the way of my class. I thought the expense was too much, and by the time the year was over, I had learned the routines inside and out. In fact, I could have taught them!

Not so fast. As soon as I was “out on my own” I filled up my work-out time with all kinds of things. The loss of structure was my downfall. I recognized that when it came to workouts; I needed all the help and support I could get. I am back looking for the perfect class!

There are lots of alternatives to going it alone. You can work for a group, large or small. You can go out with one another clinician and keep each other accountable. Or you can try it part-time and firmly put into place the necessary attributes of a successful private practice:

Marketing, a defined niche and best business practices.

Terry decided she had no desire to take care of those three areas. She wanted to practice. Her focus was that hour with the client and spending time doing anything else felt like a waste of her time and passion.

So, before you decide starting a private practice is definitely the next step, take a minute to think about what you love to do best in a given day. If the variety of tasks around your practice seem too daunting or out of reach, think some more. Maybe you are not ready to make the leap just now or maybe ever!

And Terry? She’s joining a group that does a split and has an office manager on site for billing, scheduling and marketing. We are going to chat in a year or two and see if this scenario is still working for her. After all, she’s really good at what she does–in any setting.