Starting a Counseling Practice Part 3: Your Business Plan

The four little words that strike fear into the hearts of therapists “Create a Business Plan.” We’ve already talked about how we’ve found that less than 15% of therapists in private practice report having a business plan, and how that negatively impacts them.

A business plan

Let’s talk about what should be included in a private practice business plan. I will see 30 clients a week is not a business plan. A business plan shares the mission and vision of your business, how you will get clients, projects expenses, plans for time-off and slow time, it looks at the population in your city, how many people need your services, how you uniquely serve them- and so much more!

Business Plans are Complex

Feeling overwhelmed? Well-this is why many therapists go for the KISS solution… Keep it short and simple… Except some business plans are so woefully simple, that they become not just simple- but silly! So, how do you develop a business plan as you are starting out that is simple, but not silly?

A Simple Start

Think about breaking out your business planning process into manageable chunks. Each chunk should contain:

  1.     Very clear purpose and mission
  2.     A specific outcome in mind
  3.     Clear daily, weekly, and ongoing goals to make the outcome achievable.

Always start with your mission and purpose

For example, let’s say you are working on the part of your business plan related to building up a regular clientele. My purpose in building up a regular clientele is that I want to transform my community in a measurable way. I want to be able to work deeply with trauma clients who are ready to have deep healing. I want to do inspired work, and avoid burnout. My goal is to work with 15 clients per week- so I have ample time for clinical work, the business side of my practice, rest, training, a supervision role, and family.

Does my purpose and mission sound clear? I could probably flush it out- but you get an idea that my goal is related to my family, life, and giving quality services. Now, we move into a measurable outcome.

Develop a specific, measurable, outcome

I will work up to acquiring 3 new weekly clients per month for the first 12 months. My average length of treatment is 24 sessions. I will focus on a 90% retention/success rate- meaning I accept clients who are a good fit, do deep work, and we have happy, collaborative terminations 90% of the time. While it may mean growing more slowly, referring more people out, or even seeking more support to improve my quality of care- I am building a clear reputation as a trauma therapist- and my goal is to ensure people have exemplary experiences with me. It isn’t about quantity, but quality.

Is it clear what I’m trying to do? Is there a way to look to see if I am meeting my goal? This means over a year’s time, I would be looking to connect with about 36 new clients total. Depending on the length of treatment (I lean towards longer term relationships- this should mean 32 happy clients at the end of 1 year). If you do shorter-term work, you will need to attain more clients per month. If you attract or accept clients who want to come randomly for treatment, you may need to attract 8-10 new clients per month.

I will break this down into aiming for 4 client calls per week, and at least one fabulous client scheduling for weekly sessions.

Now, my treatment plan

Wait, is this starting to sound like treatment planning? Whoops! A business plan is not unlike a lengthy in depth assessment, evaluation, treatment plan, and clinical file. A business plan is a working file for the health of your business!

This means it isn’t something you type up and ignore, but something you refer to regularly. Best practice would be looking at this each month as you are growing your business, to see how things are progressing forward, so you can make adjustments as you go. At MINIMUM, you should be looking at this each quarter.

Feeling inspired to get clear on your business plan? Watch the bonus training today: Private Practice Planning – a free 1 hour training aimed at helping you develop a clear vision for your practice, so you can get inspired for business planning!

Click Here to grab your FREE training!


Miranda Palmer

I have successfully built a cash pay psychotherapy practice from scratch on a shoestring budget. I have also failed a licensed exam by 1 point (only to have the licensing board send me a later months later saying I passed), started an online study group to ease my own isolation and have now reached thousands of therapists across the country, helped other therapists market their psychotherapy practices, and helped awesome business owners move from close to closing their doors, to being profitable in less than 6 weeks. I've failed at launching online programs. I've had wild success at launching online programs. I've made mistakes in private practice I've taught others how to avoid my mistakes. You can do this. You were called to this work. Now- go do it! Find some help or inspiration as you need it- but do the work!