For many psychologists, opening their own practice is the ultimate goal. It affords freedom: the freedom to work when you want and with whom you want. However, it does have its own challenges. Usually, a client-base needs to be built up from scratch, and keeping track of paperwork or tax laws can become problematic if left unchecked. If you’re based in the wrong location, things could get very quiet. Have too many clients and it can turn chaotic. Here are some suggestions about how to set up a practice, and how to keep in running smoothly.
Have a niche
According to ProPsycentral.org, the easiest way to focus on a niche is to look at the needs of your surrounding community. It’s important to note that trauma work and substance abuse are now standard with most psychologists and are no longer considered in the realm of specialists. You’ll need to think outside of the box and aim to become a ‘local expert’ within your desired niche. Good examples include sports psychology, adult ADHD, school-readiness and gay couples counselling. You may need additional training for your chosen specialisation; there are a number of online courses that you could do to give you the extra knowledge.
Have a business plan
Opening a private practice is just like starting your own business. Like any business, you need a clear plan and mission; otherwise it’s bound to flop. ProPsycentral.org suggests that you speak to psychologists who have been running their own practices for a while. Find out how they got started (and how they bumped their heads). Their advice could prove invaluable. The more people you speak to the better. It’s also advisable to talk to tax, law and finance specialists for your administration needs. Things can easily become highly complicated if you’re unclear on insurance requirements or billing procedures. It’s also advisable to learn about marketing because, like any business, you’ll need to advertise your services to the right people.
Have a vision
Imagine your ideal practice. What does it look like? Is it swanky and sophisticated, or relaxed and laid back? Who will your main clients be and what will they need? All of these questions need to be answered when you’re setting up, as the general feel of the practice needs to match up with your client base. For example, if you’ll be treating young adult males for ADHD you would want a relaxed, unintimidating environment. You could have some beanbags and free Wi-Fi/coffee (American Psychological Association). It’s also a good idea to make sure that the people you hire (bookkeepers, receptionists, psychologist partners) make a good ‘fit’.
It can be tough opening up your own practice, and you’ll probably face a number of obstacles along the way. However, some clear planning will help you immeasurably. Remember that setting up a private practice is no different to starting your own business – the same principles apply. You need determination, forethought and a clear mission.
This guest post was written by Ang Lloyd. Ang writes on behalf of Now Learning. An Australian higher education portal that promotes TAFE courses in SA.