What’s it like to go into private practice? … no, what’s it really like?
I officially opened the doors of my private practice on January 4th, 2016 … just 18 days after I graduated from Yorkville University with my Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology degree.
In the months leading up to opening my practice, I had registered as a member of the OACCPP (Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists and Psychotherapists) so I could work as a counsellor as soon as I graduated. I had also begun the process of applying to the CRPO (College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario) as a Registered Psychotherapist (qualifying) so I could practice as a psychotherapist.
I obtained insurance and found a supervisor. I had about 6 clients from my coaching practice who I brought under the umbrella of my counselling and coaching practice. I also had about 12 clients from my practicum, whom my practicum supervisor graciously permitted me to keep on as my own clients as I transitioned out from his practice and into my own.
I put an ad in Psychology Today and within a few months, obtained about 6 new clients from there. Lastly, I sent a personal email out to everyone I knew letting them know that I had just graduated and was going into private practice. I told them a bit about the work I was doing, the approaches I used, and who my ideal client was. I clarified that I, unfortunately, couldn’t work with family members or close friends, but if they knew someone who they thought could benefit from my services, to please feel free to pass that email along. I received about 4 more clients from that route.
In all, I opened my private practice with 28 regular clients.
Now, you might be wondering “how many clients do you need for a full private practice?”
Of the 28 clients, about 8 were seeing me weekly and the rest were seeing my biweekly. I had chosen not to work with clients on an irregular basis or with sessions less than once every two weeks.
On a weekly basis, I saw about 18 clients. I worked 4 days per week (Monday to Thursday) approximately 11am – 7pm (because those were my preferred hours), and saw about 4-5 clients per day.
This was an ideal set up for me.
It was the precise vision I had created for myself several years earlier when I had initially decided to go back to school and obtain my Masters degree to become a counsellor/therapist.
I felt extremely fortunate, that right out of the gate, I had a full practice and was able to begin paying back debt, not to mention, begin living the lifestyle I had been dreaming of.
With a full roster of clients, and between my Psychology Today profile, word-of-mouth from current and past clients, and some intentional networking with peers, colleagues, and other professionals in the community, I was able to maintain a full practice with a waitlist.
I didn’t struggle to obtain new clients, and I had a steady, monthly income from day 1. I consistently took about 4 weeks of vacation per year. Within the first year, I stopped carrying a waitlist because I really didn’t need to. When a current client ended, there was always a timely new inquiry. I found that keeping a waitlist wasn’t helpful because by the time I circled back to it, those clients had already found another therapist or gone in a different direction.
Within that first year, I was also able to stop advertising. Word-of-mouth through clients and my referral sources was enough to generate the new clients I needed to replace the ones that completed therapy.
Another shift in my practice took place within the first 8 months.
In the summer of 2016 I decided to move from Barrie, Ontario to St. John, New Brunswick. At that point, I had a few clients online, but the rest were in person. I told all of my current clients that I was moving and they had a choice to allow me to refer them to another local professional, or transition to having our sessions online. The vast majority transitioned with me, and my practice did not suffer for it. Quite the opposite actually – once I started working online, I found I was getting even more referrals from people who previously weren’t able to access me in person.
Fast forward to nearly 3 years later, and my practice is still full. I have not advertised for clients in over two years, and I have experienced a steady stream of both clients and income. Month-by-month, and year-by-year, my income has been nearly as steady as it would have, had I been working at a full-time job with a fixed hourly or annual salary. Except, I’ve been able to take time off when I wanted to, and only work 4 days per week.
By the fall of 2018, I shifted down to seeing clients only 3 days per week to make more room in my schedule for supporting other counsellors and therapists to build their private practices.
Now, I see about 12-15 clients per week, while the rest of my time is focused on supporting the Build Your Private Practice Facebook community, running the 8-week online Build Your Private Practice Mastermind Course, and offering group and individual mentorship to counsellors and therapists in the pre-launch, launch, and post-launch stages of private practice.
My personal experience in private practice, is that it really is everything I thought it would be.
Through creating a clear vision, and taking the right steps to get there, I have consistently experienced the freedom and flexibility I have always dreamed of. I have an income that feels sufficient for my lifestyle and meets the needs of my family, while allowing me to be creative and independent, doing work that I am truly passionate about.
If your heart is telling you that private practice is right for you … I would encourage you to!
It might feel scary at first, but with the right support and guidance, there is no reason why your dream of private practice can’t be a reality!
If you need support, check out one of my offerings to help you build, launch, or grow your private practice at www.buildyourprivatepractice.ca/learn-with-christine