One of the biggest concerns I hear from both new and experienced therapists and counsellors who are considering private practice is that they worry it might be lonely and isolating.
I often hear people say, “I really want to work in a place where I have peers and colleagues, and I want to receive support and be able to talk with people.”
Certainly, working in an agency or for another organization that provides mental health services will provide you with built-in colleagues, and possibly supervision. I have friends and colleagues who have had great experiences being employed at an organization as a counsellor and therapist…and I have others who have shared some horror stories with me.
I’m all for working wherever you’d like to work as a therapist, whether it’s an agency, a school, a wellness clinic, or private practice. But, I do want to dispel the myth that private practice is isolating and working at an organization is not.
I know plenty of people who have worked for companies where they are kept so busy with clients (and often for too little pay), that they had no time to socialize with colleagues or really experience that sense of connection they were longing for. Depending on your place of employment, there might be a fabulous culture amongst the staff, or it could be a toxic environment for both you and your clients.
My point is, whether you are in private practice or are employed within an organization, neither necessarily guarantees that you will avoid feeling lonely or isolated.
Of course, it’s possible to feel that way in private practice, but I want to share with you the tips and tricks I have learned over the years to find connections in private practice, and the tools I’ve used to create opportunities for networking, support, socializing, and collegiality along the way.
Your Office Space
If you are an individual in private practice, chances are you get to choose where your office is located. If being alone is a concern, consider looking for office space that is within an already established organization.
When I first started in private practice, I rented an office in a building that was filled with mortgage brokers and realtors. I was the only therapist, but they were a great group of people!
And as it turns out, clients who need loans and houses…also need therapy! I received a lot of referrals from them, as well. I loved having an office where people were social. They invited me to their staff events, and I got to chat with my new colleagues in the halls and at the reception desk in between clients.
Other ideas include looking for space at a wellness centre, in a practice with other mental health practitioners, or really anywhere where other entrepreneurs are running their business.
Consider the layout of the space; is there an area for people to congregate and socialize? Ask ahead of time about the culture. Just because you are renting space from a place that rents offices, doesn’t mean they don’t have a friendly and collegial culture.
Having a supervisor (online or in-person) that you meet with regularly (once or twice a month) is great, regardless of whether you need supervision. It can be a great way to not only exercise your due diligence in receiving case consultation and ensuring you’re upholding best practices, but it can also help in allowing you to feel connected.
I don’t know about you, but I am of the mindset that every therapist should have a therapist!
Not that you necessarily have to be in therapy all of the time, but having your own personal therapist that you can lean on is another way to feel connected and supported in your private practice.
When I first started in private practice, I joined a peer support group. There were four of us, and we were all in private practice and lived in the same city. We got together on a monthly basis for sharing, case consultation, and to practice our skills (we were all trained in the same therapeutic approach).
Not only did I feel connected and supported, but I made a great group of new friends!
Psychology Today is not just a referral source for clients; it’s a networking source for therapists! Go on there, and you can search for therapists in your area. Most of them are in private practice too. You can create a network with them online, or just reach out to them and ask if they want to grab coffee or lunch!
It might feel a bit daunting at first, but after a few emails, you’re sure to find someone who is in a similar position as you and would love to connect!
Depending on your location, there are often local events put on for mental health practitioners in your area or by a local business association (usually dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs and local businesses). See if you can do a little research and find out what local organizations and events you could attend!
Continuing education is one of my favourite ways to network, and as it turns out, it’s a great referral source too!
If you’re just starting out, I do recommend focusing on building your business first, so that you have a little money set aside to invest back into your education. Too often, I see people graduate and then continue to spend thousands of dollars on courses when they aren’t yet earning enough money to cover their living expenses and pay back their already accumulated debt!
Once you’ve done that, however, sign up for training in your area, or use it as an excuse to travel somewhere. As a result of trainings I’ve taken, I have friends and colleagues across the US and Canada!
As a practitioner in private practice, delivering therapy and counselling services isn’t your only job. You’re also an entrepreneur!
Depending on where you’re at in your private practice journey, you might want to consider taking a business course, connecting with other entrepreneurs, going to conferences or workshops, or hiring your very own business coach or mentor.
Receiving support in running and growing your private practice can feel both relieving and exciting…and it can help fuel that desire to connect and expand your network!
Looking for other ways to connect?
This fall, I’m leading an Action Group just for counsellors and therapists in their first year of private practice! It includes three, 90-minute group calls, a private Facebook Group for support between calls, and is limited to six people.
We start on September 12th, and there are only a few spots left! Click here for more information!