For many counseling professionals, private practice is becoming a more viable career choice. Starting a private practice is attractive to many for a number of reasons. Some of these reasons include, but are not limited to the following: autonomy, financial success, flexibility, and respect. All of these things are achievable over time if you are willing to put in the hard work. Additionally, there are basic premises that professionals should consider when starting a successful counseling practice.
The first thing that you will have to learn to do is ignore all of the naysayers who will give you a crash course in Pessimism 101. Many people will tell you how hard it is and how you are not prepared to start your practice. These same people will provide you with numerous examples of why your practice will not thrive. It is imperative to do your best to avoid these individuals. These individuals will drain your creative energy if you keep them in your circle of influence.
The second thing that you need to do is to craft your vision of success for your private practice. Remember the old Proverb saying “make the vision plain and write it down” Proverbs 29:18 also states “where there is no vision, the people parish.” This is also true of any successful business. Thus, it is critical for individuals who are considering starting a practice to spend a significant amount of town conducting marketing research, assessing consumer needs, evaluating your own strengths and weaknesses, and subsequently crafting the mission and vision of success for your private counseling practice. One trait of an effective counselor is the willingness to do in one’s own life those things that we expect of our clients. For example, assessment of personal strengths and weaknesses, formulation of goals based on those results, and a constructing a plan of action based on agreed upon goals.
The third thing that you should focus on is the acquisition of new skills. Most counseling programs do a great job of preparing professionals on the specifics related to counseling. However, most counseling programs do not adequately address or cover information pertaining to starting or running effective counseling practices. Thus, it is important for new private practitioners to figure out ways to acquire the requisite skills to run the business side of your private practice. If you are still in graduate school, it might benefit you take a few business courses. If you have already graduated, it might be helpful to take continuing education courses in areas that you believe would enhance your ability to manage the business side of your private practice.
I believe that starting a private practice is an exciting opportunity for professional counselors. The three suggestions that I discussed are not meant to be exhaustive in nature. They are just a few suggestions to encourage fellow like-minded professionals who are thinking about starting a private counseling practice.
David Staten a Professor of Rehabilitation Counselor Education at South Carolina State University. He also co-owns a counseling practice, MERGE Counseling and Coaching, L.L.C The website is www.merge378.com