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Private Practice Kickstart
with Miranda Palmer, LMFT
& Kelly Higdon, LMFT

Bridging the Gap – Moving into Full Time Private Practice

Starting a Private PracticeYou have a job and while it’s a paycheck, it truly doesn’t satisfy.

You have a deep desire for independence and flexibility. You dream of it just being you in private practice. No one to answer to but yourself.

But it doesn’t feel like you can just quit your job today and start a practice tomorrow. Others of you might be able to do this, which is exciting, but I find it to not be the majority of therapists that want to be in private practice.

So how do you move from employment to self-employment? How do you juggle having two jobs, particularly one that you would rather be in more than the other?

“Have patience, work hard, clearly define who you are and what you offer, and most importantly… Value yourself!!!” – Kimberly Slagle, LMFT

And my response…

How much risk are you willing to take? 

I had a coaching client who did her work but wasn’t fully invested in her private practice until she quit her job. That safety net that had been hanging beneath her was now replaced with a fire. She now had to take her business seriously and there was no room for messing around.

Some of you might know that you just have to remove the safety net in order to be successful. Others of you know how much you need to survive for 3 to 6 months while you give your best effort towards your business. Lastly, for some, there will never be enough savings or guarantees to convince to leave your practice, you simply will just have to decide and do it. Who are you? What are your needs?

“Be able to live off savings for a year. It will never happen, but you will be so grateful you have it, because it provides mental ease.” –  Dr. Gretchen Kubacky

Evaluate where you are at in life. It may not be the right time. When I made the leap, I had maternity leave pushing me out the door. It was the perfect time to leave and never come back. For others, this would have been their worst nightmare. But I wanted to be home with my daughter more. I needed time and I couldn’t do both. I have gotten questions about juggling family life and bridging this gap between employment and self employment. Truly it boils down to how much discomfort you can tolerate and what is it worth to you. To be home with my daughter was worth the discomfort, hand down. There is no right way just what is best for you.

“Running my own practice has enabled me to pursue work that I am passionate about and have the flexibility to better balance all the things other than work which are important to me. That is what i focus on when a goal is challenging me too hard. I could never go back now to working for someone else. Life is too good.” – Catriona Lightfoot

You can offset the risk.

Parkinson’s law states that work expands to fill the time available. I find this to be the case with income. If you can, don’t spend the income you make in your private practice while you are working your other job. Save it. You will get used to earning two incomes and it can make it harder to leave your job. Others of you are working two jobs out of necessity, but if you can, don’t acclimate to your income increase. Use that money for savings in your business. This cushion will offset your risk for when you quit your other job.

“One way to make it more feasible is to sublet by the hour… I also have a home office.” – David Silverman, LMFT

Sit down and decide, what do you need to happen in order for you to leave. I’m not talking about ideas or feeling, get concrete. Is it a certain amount of income per week? Is it x amount of new clients booked per month? This kind of preparation will help you more easily make the transition. You have to decide this. No coach or mentor can do it for you. Only you know what you need in order to make this happen.

“Create a pro/con list for why you want to start your own practice. When fear or the unknown becomes too big, use that list to ground yourself and keep working towards the goal of being a profitable business owner!” – Anna Osborne, LMFT

Getting a solid business foundation with effective business and marketing processes in place will greatly reduce your risk. If you don’t know how to run a business, learn before you leap. Get the structure in place so you can safely launch into your private practice simply continuing to do what you have been doing to generate referrals and build your practice.

“I would say have to have the determination that you will be successful; be open to networking, be open to others input ( coaches, business leaders, book resources) know everything will be hard at first. But find a system and refine it….believe it will happen.” –Sherry Shockey-Pope, LMFT

Give yourself some time.

Once you know how much risk you are willing to take on, then you can set a date to quit your job. Everyone is different. Look at your schedule and be honest about how many hours per week you can dedicate to this process. Based on how many hours per week and how much risk you are willing to take, you should be able to determine how much time you need to make this happen. You must commit to your vision. That’s why I recommend setting a goal. Otherwise, private practice will turn into a hobby or your second income, which is ok, but not if you are wanting something else.

I can’t stress enough that this is for you to decide. I know successful private practice owners that stay with their other jobs for very good reason and doing private practice solely isn’t a goal for several years. If it works for you great. Just know what you are trying to create for your life so you can put a plan into place.

“Get yourself financially, spiritually and emotionally ready. Save money for bills, make sure you’ve dealt with your own personal issues and insecurities. All of these will be challenged but if you’ve prepared you can toss the head trash.” –Nyshia Johnson, LCSW

Declare it.

Give a voice to your vision. Why do you want to run a private practice anyhow? Your vision is your motivation in the good times and the rough times.

Share your dreams with people. The more people who know what you are doing, the more people can support you. Particularly focus on reaching out to people that are successful in their private practice currently. When I had my job at the county, many colleagues had practices on the side and many said, it’s too hard to do private practice solely. I had to seek out people that left the county and were able to build great practices. It made a huge difference in my perspective and I had more accountability. Support is essential to be carried through this process.

Start of on the right foot.

A solid business foundation will give you confidence to move into your private practice. Realize, you have some time since you have your other job to be more calculating and thoughtful about what you want in your practice. Implement good business processes, not quick fixes. If you don’t know how to run a business, get help and training.

“Do a lot of footwork BEFORE opening your doors, paying rent, etc. I did a lot of prep stuff once I had my office and by the time I opened I felt ready. And of course, hanging out with you great peeps helped too!” – Michelle Farris LMFT

Implement self care now. Even in the midst of two “jobs” you need to nourish yourself mentally, physically and spiritually. When you get to the time to actually quit your day job, you want to have mental clarity and energy, a readiness to do so. If you get to that point and you are wrecked, you won’t want to do any work, even if it was your dream job.

“Understand that owning your own practice is the ultimate act of self care as a therapist. It allows me to live a life honoring my values of self determination and independence, focus on my family’s needs, as well as making my emotional, physical and spiritual health a priority for the first time in my professional life.” – Laura Reagan, LCSW-C


Let grace abound.

Having compassion and recognition for your needs is required in this process. You might get to your deadline and realize you aren’t ready. That is not a failure. It is an opportunity to assess. Just to clarify, avoidance is not compassion. Be honest with yourself. What do you need in order to make the jump? What needs to change? Grace allows for options. We had a client that recently moved to a different full time job that will allow her to save up and give her the flexibility in her schedule to work on her business. This job also has part time opportunities so she can do more of a step down process. She allowed for a creative solution instead of getting stuck in the “I must do it this way” mentality.

“Despite fear, making the decision to quit my job was the best decision I ever made. I now live a life I love. My advice is to have faith, do the footwork, and get a coach with a tribe of likeminded people.” – Shirani Pathak, LCSW

Am I ready?

After you have offset the risk, the time has come to leave you may still wonder, should I leave? At some point, you just have to jump. You won’t be able to grow your practice the way you want being spread thin between work and your business. And when you want to make that jump, there are many of us, over here, on the other side of the canyon that are cheering you on. We know this is possible because we live it. We would love to hear your stories about bridging the gap between employment and self-employment. Share below and join in the conversation

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Bridging the Gap – Moving into Full Time Private Practice

Kelly Higdon, LMFT

Kelly Higdon, LMFT is a private practice expert that believes therapists are some of the most important healers in the world. She teaches therapists how to grow successful businesses from scratch and to move beyond the couch with multiple streams of income. Get to know Kelly better through her free private practice marketing trainings, the Business School Bootcamp for therapists, or through private practice consultation.


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APA Reference
Higdon, K. (2019). Bridging the Gap – Moving into Full Time Private Practice. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2020, from