So, I started my counseling practice as a new mom of a breastfeeding infant with a deep knowing (link deep knowing to the Part 1 blog post). However, just knowing I was supposed to be doing this did NOT make everything fall into place.
Getting on Insurance Panels
In fact, everyone I talked to had started private practices using insurance. And, I hadn’t been licensed for two years yet. I also didn’t have really any contacts out in the private practice world and no referral source. I had several people tell me that they wouldn’t refer to my private practice until I was on insurance panels.
Getting Office Space
I felt like one of my first major hurdles was getting office space. The idea of paying for office space when I had NO clients was unimaginable to me. I didn’t really know anyone well enough to understand how subletting offices would work and didn’t know to ask about that. What I did know was that the office space that I had practiced in at the local non-profit as an intern wasn’t used in the evenings, and I wanted to see clients in the evenings so my husband could watch my son.
Asking Was the Hardest Part
I remember being TERRIFIED to ask my old boss about renting out the space in the evenings. Rationally, I knew the non-profit needed money and that this could benefit the counseling center and give them money to buy needed treatment manuals and pay for trainings. However, emotionally it felt like a BIG ask. It was especially hard because I was planning to offer faith based services to clients who asked. Integrating faith into counseling sessions ethically had either been not talked about, or verbalized as impossible depending on what work setting I was in.
Sharing My Heart
I knew from my work with clients, and my own therapy journey that being able to find someone who was open to doing holistic work that included faith was difficult. I found this study later
“Nearly three-fourths of Americans say their whole approach to life is based on religion. But only 32 percent of psychiatrists, 33 percent of clinical psychologists and 46 percent of clinical social workers feel the same. The majority of traditional counselor training programs have no courses dealing with spiritual matters.”
I sat down with my old boss and shared my heart anyway. It was SO much easier than I made it out to be. She was excited about my going into private practice. She was encouraging as to how important it was to have therapists with my domestic violence and sexual assault training in private practice. And, she knew my heart so she knew that my integrating faith would be done in an ethical, and client-centered manner.
Setting Up the Office Rental Contract
She was incredibly open to how we set up the sublet contract, even allowing it to be pay for use. This allowed me to have an office space to advertise, without paying rent if I didn’t see clients. Our initial arrangement was $15 per session, up to a maximum of $75 to have the office one day a week in the evening. As I got full and expanded consistently up to 2 nights a week, I simply doubled that (although they truly didn’t care), because it felt fair to me. There were no lawyers involved. No crazy rental templates just good ol’ human language. Of course, this could’ve gone all sorts of bad- but thankfully, I trusted my intuition and had a good relationship- so it was easy peasy!
So what is the moral of the story? There will be lots of things you do not have access to when starting a private practice. Very few situations are perfect and easy. However, you probably have more resources and options than you realize. Sit down and make a list of all the people you know or have worked with in the past. You might just find you are more prepared for private practice than you think!
Next, we will be talking about marketing a private practice as a mom with a breastfeeding infant