It’s been on my back log for ages to write a long piece about how to grow a therapy practice, based on my learnings from eight years working in private practice. Especially now would be a good time to gather my thoughts, since It’s Complicated, the platform I’m helping maintain on the side, is growing and new therapists are always eager to hear what worked for other counsellors when they searching for clients.
So, I asked around for inspiration, and asked my colleagues what their experiences had been, when they first started work as private practitioners. One of the counsellors I probed was Kevin Monaghan. He is an Irish accredited counsellor, who I’ve done peer supervision with for the past year, and who I’ve been following from the sideline as he set himself up, up until now where he has a flourishing, full-time practice in Frankfurt. Kevin’s answers were so thorough and hands-on that I shifted from wanting to post a long-form essay to instead wanting to publish his answers, exactly as he gave them.
Therefore, without further ado, here is what Kevin Monaghan says about growing one’s practice as a mental health professional.
Be Business Minded – at least to a minimum degree
Before or as you are starting your practice, do some form of business management/development course. It doesn’t need to be extensive, but you’d want it to cover the basics of accounting, marketing and management. Things like your Unique Selling Point and basic marketing concepts can really help you stop getting lost in the lists of other therapists. If, like me, you are not business minded, this is even more important, as not doing this at the beginning, will come back at you down the road. If a course doesn’t suit you, there are books such as Grow your Private Practice by Jane Travis.
Separate the Business and Therapy
There are some things where conducting therapy, and managing a business are mutually exclusive. Fees, discounts offered, cancellation policy, whether to have a contract or not etc. It’ll be up to your style and priorities to judge this balance.
Have an Abundance Mindset
There are plenty of individuals desperate to find the right therapist. We will see the long-term impacts of the pandemic for years to come, and therapy is becoming more understood in its place in our society. Resist the urge to say yes to every client because you need the income, trust me that it won’t work out well. Instead, know what you offer and that your practice will grow.
Starting a practice can be very isolating, and developing a network of colleagues can offer a level of support, and potential paths for client referral. This can be with other therapists in your local area, or online. Anything is better than nothing.
Consider working with EAP services
For a lot of therapists, having an affiliation with an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can be the backbone of a practice, offering a consistent stream of client referrals and income. Be aware that the fees will be greatly reduced than those you may charge privately, but that is the trade-off. As your practice case load becomes full, you can then choose to back off with the EAP work, or to continue.
This is one thing that took me a year to find out I should have been doing from Day One. Let’s be honest, most clients have very little to go on when it comes to picking a therapist. Qualifications, years of experience, quoted specialisations etc are all good, but I have only twice had clients actually ask about my qualifications. Since I started placing Testimonials (anonymised) up on my website, I have had clients directly state that they chose to contact me because of what was written by a previous client.
Decide if you wish to advertise using social media. Don’t be flippant with this decision, as once you begin, it is almost essential that you are consistent. IG is full of therapists posting about mental health and theoretical concepts, as well as advertising online courses. I was never, and will never be social media minded, and so I grew my practice without any use of it. So I can tell you that it is not mandatory (maybe I would have grown faster if I used it, but who knows). But if it fits you, go for it!
Thank you Kevin, for your super concrete, simple advice! And if you want to read more about Kevin or reach out to him, you can find his profile here.