In my last blog post, I addressed the first of two topics of interest for private practitioners, provided by Jeffrey Freiden, admin for the American Counseling Association FaceBook Page (you’ll surely want to become a member of this page). As promised, here is my response to Jeffrey’s second suggested topic. Securing a place to practice is one of the most important decisions you will make as a private practitioner. There are many factors to consider when making this decision; I tend to use a lot of checklists and ask a lot of pointed questions of my clients when we address this topic in our coaching sessions.
Some of the factors you’ll want to consider include: How quickly do you want to make this transition? That is, are you looking to stay in your place of employment and find some space to share for a few hours a week to get started? If so, you might consider talking to a local physician you know who might be thrilled to have a therapist on-site one day (or evening) a week and would welcome you to use or rent one of his/her offices while your practice builds. A local church might also be interested in having you there. Think about how the collaboration might work, and choose the person/place you think might be the best option.
Another option for your part time practice is to contact other local private practitioners who might want to sublet space for the hours/days you might need an office. It is a great way for them to offset their expenses, and it is usually a cost effective way for you to get started. Be sure to choose clinicians you can trust and respect. Although you will be running an independent business, we are often judged by the company we keep. Reputation is everything when it comes to private practice – protect yours with all of your might!
If you feel you are ready to take the plunge and find a place just for you, you are much more likely to be married to your decision for quite some time. It is worth your time and effort to do your homework in advance and choose the place that best meets the majority of your needs. Ask yourself these types of questions…
•Where might be the best location for my clients?
•Where might be the best location for me?
•Do I want to share space with other (mental) health professionals?
•Do I wasn’t to share space with ancillary professionals (i.e. attorneys, massage therapists, coaches)?
•Do I want my office environment to be in a corporate building… a refurbished home… a storefront?
•Do I want to have my space all to myself?
•Am I willing to sign a long term lease?
•Is my landlord willing to allow me to sublease my space?
•What things are not included in the rent (utilities, taxes, renovation, snow removal, etc)
•Do I have to sign personally on the lease?
A Private Practice Mentor can help you to explore your hopes/needs/vision for your practice as well as the details of each of your options. Sometimes it really helps to have an interested, yet “outside” person help you to see everything you need to see when making such a big decision.
Be sure to invest in a couple of hours of legal time to have your attorney review any lease you may sign. You’ll also want to run by the lease and terms with your accountant for his/her financial advice as it pertains to tax implications.
There are plenty of other decisions to make once you find your ideal location. But first things first – find the place that best fits your needs in the moment and for (at least) the term of the lease you are about to sign.
Deborah Legge is a counselor, an assistant professor, specializes in coaching counselors in private practice, and is the founder of InfluentialTherapist.com