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Can I Succeed in Private Practice?

When Dea took her first hesitant steps toward building her own private practice, she was terrified. With tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, only a few months’ rent in her savings account and zero family support – financially or otherwise – she constantly wondered if she was making the right decision.

Dea grew up in a community with little access to educational or financial resources. Her parents were constantly stressed about money and had little capacity to foster a sense of confidence and courage around professional possibilities.

Dea knew she wanted to use her degree in psychology to help people overcome their challenges, but she also felt driven to craft something of her own – a business that could help her transcend the scarcity mindset that she had developed in her early years. She was compelled to carve out a life that was empowering, where she could be the master of her professional fate.

It was daunting.

As the first person in her family to start her own business, she would be going against many of the middle class money mindsets that she had been taught growing up. Financial security, predictability and safety were encouraged above all. Dea was taught that others were out there to take advantage of her, that risks only led to failure and that it was best to play it safe.

woman therapist afraid to start her own private practiceDea isn’t alone. For many therapists who want to go into private practice, the primary obstacle is fear.

Like Dea, many therapists struggle with insecurity, self-doubt and anxiety about failure. While many of us complain that we did not learn about business in school, the real lessons around creating a successful private practice have little to do with concrete skills and everything to do with the mental game. This is especially true for those of you who are the first in your family to break the mold of the blue-collar, working-class lifestyle.

While setting a new course may feel daunting, it can also be the most rewarding journey of your professional (and personal) life.

Here are some things to consider when asking yourself, “Can I succeed in private practice?”:

1. It will be hard. Creating a successful private practice requires that you are willing to take a close look at your own behavior. Unlike when working for someone else, there is no one to point the finger at when things go awry – except yourself!

2. Your clinical skills will improve. As noted above, building a private practice forces you to be accountable for your actions – including those that lead to gains and those that lead to losses. Your willingness to take responsibility and to look at yourself when things go wrong will exponentially improve your clinical skills because you must practice what you preach if your business is to thrive.

3. You will grow in every realm of your life. Your business is a concrete expression of your psychological landscape. When a client comes in claiming they have trouble in only one area of their lives, we know that in reality, many other realms will be fundamentally impacted through the course of therapy.

It can be both thrilling and terrifying to know that it is the same for your business. As you come up against challenges in running your private practice, you can rest assured knowing that these same challenges are impacting every other aspect of your life. If you are committed to creating a thriving business, the rest of your life will experience substantial improvement, as well.

4. The rewards are great. As you can see, creating a successful business, requires self-examination and a willingness to lean into your fears. It is not just a job. It is an art. Learning to design an streamlined, authentic and exquisite practice means you will not just be rewarded in terms of finances. Rather, you will experience a wealthy life, in which you will develop rich personal and professional relationships, time to explore your passions and the ability to make a lasting change in the lives of those you are called to serve.

In “The Art of Private Practice,” I look forward to joining you in this exhilarating journey that is private practice. Let us commence!

Photo Credit: Ion Chiosea

Can I Succeed in Private Practice?

APA Reference
McLain, T. (2016). Can I Succeed in Private Practice?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 16, 2019, from