So you’re thinking about starting a private practice. Whether you’re a recent graduate or you’ve been in the field for years, opening your own private mental health practice can be a daunting yet exciting experience.
Beginning your own private practice comes with its fair share of pros and cons, and proper research will surely help you to make the best decisions. Rather than explain the in-depth research process (read more about this here), in this article we will focus on how to successfully establish and market a mental health private practice as quickly and efficiently as possible.
I graduated in 2016 with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship, I landed a job at a comprehensive medical practice. While this isn’t technically considered private practice, the caseload was low which meant I had to quickly figure out how I was going to increase my caseload (or else I was going to have to find somewhere else to work).
Web research is crucial, but I realized it takes a lot more creativity to become successful. Here is how I built my caseload:
Devise a Plan
There is so much that goes into a practice. Consider the capital of renting an office, advertising, and the time it will take to build a caseload. Make sure you are financially ready to be independent. It’s important to create a name for your business. Something that is catchy or meaningful will pique the interest of future clients. Also, do you have a specific niche? Can you offer a treatment or specialty that others in your community don’t (e.g., telehealth services, biofeedback, etc)?
Do Your Research
Talk to other clinicians in your community and find out what works and what doesn’t work. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel. Ask around and find out what are the best places in your city/town to set-up shop. Find out if you can sublease an office for an hourly or daily rate while you are developing your caseload. If you are going to be cash-only, learn what the typical rates are in your community.
Get Yourself Out There
This one can be tough. I know in my graduate school, we didn’t learn how to network or market our own private practice. I’m definitely an extrovert, but this was way out of my comfort zone! However, in my experience, this was one of the best ways to get referrals.
Where to Go
School counselors, social workers, and administrators will sometimes refer families to therapists. Don’t expect to be able to talk to any of these people by simply walking through their doors though. I’m a former high school counselor and I can attest that my schedule was crazy! My recommendation would be to send a good e-mail explaining who you are and offer a presentation, along with an old fashioned snail-mail letter (with card & brochures).
Primary Care Offices
Pediatricians, primary care docs, PA’s, and nurses give referrals almost daily. They can be a huge resource! Since they are also busy, it’s unlikely you will be able to see them if you just walk-in. Yet, I learned the benefit of walking into an office and introducing yourself to the office manager. They may give you important information about when you can schedule an in-person meeting. A handy tip to keep in mind is that most of these offices really like free lunches, so if you can offer to bring them lunch, they will be more likely to hear your pitch.
This is a great place to find clients! Call the community manager and see if you can stop by with brochures, cards, and offer a short presentation.
Join Your Local Chapter of APA/AAMFT
And be sure to regularly attend meet-ups and networking events
Network With as Many People as You Can
Reach out to other private practice clinicians and ask if you can take them out for coffee. If they have a full caseload, they may be willing to put you on their referral list.
Attend Conferences & Networking Events.
APA offers local conferences (e.g., the Midwestern Psychological Association conference) where you can network. If your focus is on children, go to a medical pediatric conference in your local community and find out if you can advertise.
Once you have referral sources, maintain that list. Send thank you notes and visit their practice at least twice a year. Lastly, when you get yourself out there, remember this: People love food & trinkets. If you can provide lunches or coffee/donuts, do it! Bring pens or stress balls with your name on them. And, always have business cards and brochures available!
Use the World Wide Web!
I can’t tell you enough how important the internet is when it comes to marketing a mental health practice or networking. You can use social media to market yourself (for example, posting to friends/family on Instagram or Facebook) or you can advertise through apps or websites. While getting yourself set up on the various social media platforms may provide long-term benefits, advertising can provide near instant results. Patient support Apps like Reachout, or websites like Psychology Today, or Therapy Sites offer some of the best traffic.
Write a blog. Pick topics that you are passionate about and demonstrate your expertise. Write about problems that are common to your community or population of interest.
Join e-mail list-serves. Sometimes, your local APA or MFT chapter will have a list-serve and people will send out e-mails to find mental health clinicians for specific clients.
Get On Insurance Panels.
This can be a challenging process but there are resources out there to help you out, one example is the American Counseling Association website. Many medical providers advise patients to call their insurance companies and find someone from the list of approved mental health practitioners.
Whilst there’s no definitive, set method to marketing a private mental health practice, many people are able to enjoy success in this field. Just remember that it takes patience and persistence! Take care of yourself during this process and talk to friends/colleagues regularly for encouragement and advice.
Yvonne DelZenero is a Clinical Psychologist in the Denver-metro area. She practices at Comprehensive Pain Specialists providing therapy and assessments for adolescents and adults. Her specialties include helping people cope with chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder from car accidents. She also conducts neuropsychological, ADHD, and learning disorder assessments.