1) Locate an office site so you can start the process of applying for insurance panels. Whether you use your home or pay rent for space, all health insurance providers need your address to start the ball rolling. If you just want to do private pay, you still need an office location to start your marketing plan and networking with others.
2) In Massachusetts, mental health professionals have to register for the CAQH-Council Accreditation for Qualty Healthcare-for insurance panels to get their information on their credentials. The CAQH is a two hour process to fill out the information required for panels to access your information. The CAQH is designed as s "one shop stopping place" for professionals to document their credentialing information so all insurance panels can get the same information.
3) Pick and choose insurance panels you want to apply to. Some are open to new providers, others are not. One insurance panel is closed to all new mental health providers in my area although there are less providers in this panel to service the mental health needs of their clients. It is important to be a "Nag" in calling these panels to verify that you received your information and checking up when you will be approved.
4) If you are interested, you may want to apply to Employee Assistance Program panels to get referrals. You can get a list of such providers by googling "EAPs" or going through your local telephone book or through word of mouth. There are national EAPs as well as local ones in your area. Each EAP have their own pay scale on how much providers get paid for their service. On a side note, it took me five years to get on one EAP panel after management replaced all its workers this year. Apparently, someone at this company did not want me to serve as an EAP provider due to not wanting to upset their colleague who counsels ADHD clients like I do.
5) Check out local office supplies and websites for getting business cards and other office items. I find that www.vistaprint.com is one of the best websites to order business cards. Once you get on their email list, they send you daily different offers to attract your business. Some providers also use Staples or Office Depot to order their business cards as well.
6) There are also businesses and websites that offer low costs for building your website. I found that having a website did not bring me any business. It is an individual decision to decide if investing in a website is worth your time and money.
7) Networking with Primary Care Offices is a wonderful way to attract business. I found that after getting one client from a PCP's office resulted in me being put on their list for clients to refer to for mental health referrals.
8) If you want to earn money for your business, do workshops for a reasonable fee on topics relevant to their employees. For example, I will be conducting a few trainings for a local healthcare provider in the fall for their staff. My goal is be on their permanent list as a trainer for their staffing needs. In the past, I have done a few workshops where I have been invited back on a yearly basis to conduct future trainings.
9) Another way to attract private pay clients is to take their co-pays while you want to approved by their insurance panels. Some providers are doing this as a way to attract new business to their practice. You can also offer a sliding scale fee as well.
10) Blogging for free for local newspaper sites is a great way to get your name out. I blog for one local newspaper for free since the beginning of summer. However, I don't use my credentials due to liability purposes. I do have folks in my town reading my blogs as the word is getting out.
It is up to you to put the time and effort in to start your private practice. Some colleagues are hiring others to do their "footwork" for them in getting on insurance panels. I heard mixed reports from a few who hired others to help them and were not happy the results. It is up to you.
Robbin Miller is a counselor who specializes in mindfulness meditation; Positive Psychology; and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies; and is also a volunteer cable access producer and co-host of her show, "Miller Chat" in Massachusetts.