Maintaining a successful therapy private practice takes a lot of time, effort, and skill. There are countless aspects of your business that require painstaking attention in order for things to run smoothly. It can be difficult to work so hard and still sometimes experience economic uncertainty, so it’s important to analyze the causes of financial inconsistencies. Here are 7 factors that affect private practice income:
1) Client Retention Rates
The ability to keep a client engaged in meaningful and helpful therapy is a learned skill that greatly impacts your private practice income. It doesn’t get as much attention as generating new referrals, but in my experience it is equally important. While it would inappropriate to continue seeing an individual who no longer needs or desires therapy, keeping clients committed to the therapy process and attending sessions regularly not only helps them adequately work through their struggles and meet their goals, it also helps practitioners maintain their business. Conversely, clients who prematurely discontinue therapy put both themselves and their mental health professionals at a disadvantage.
2) The Number of New Referrals
Acquiring new clients is of course an excellent way to increase income, but it can be hard to predict the ebbs and flows of exactly when new individuals will seek your services, so it’s not a guaranteed strategy. I have found that it’s helpful to begin tracking the number of new referrals and then chart them so you can anticipate and prepare for business lulls in coming years.
3) Economic Climate
The general state of the economy can greatly impact whether clients will go to sessions as often or are willing to pay out of pocket. For some individuals, therapy is considered a necessity, while others may be view it as a luxury. Your income as a practitioner is in part dependent on the current economy of your community and state.
4) Season/Time of Year
The time of year can affect when current and/or potential clients ramp up their therapy time, as well as when they often take breaks. In my experience, the last two weeks of December is when everyone (clients and providers) take time off for the holidays. Just as with new referrals, tracking the dips in client numbers can help you save for those times when you will not be getting paid.
5) Fee Collection
You may have a steady stream of clients, but your income can be significantly lowered if a number of them have outstanding financial balances. How much money do people owe you? Are you good at collecting your fees? If you work with insurance companies, are you able to get reimbursed in a timely manner? All of these play a major role in the financial stability of your private practice (click here for how to set high expectations and create firm financial policies).
6) Moving Office Location
Relocation will almost certainly affect your private practice income. Depending on how far you move, it can take time to develop relationships, create a strong web presence, and acquire referral sources for therapy. Even if you are moving to another location in the same city, you may find that this may temporarily impact your client hours.
7) Leave of Absence/Taking a Vacation
One of the biggest complaints I hear from private practitioners is that if they are sick and have to miss a few weeks, they are left without an income. Taking some time off from seeing clients means we are not getting paid; understandably, this can create financial concerns.
These and other factors (some within your control, others not) can greatly affect how financially stable your practice will be. And as one of my goals is to help therapists experience income stability, I again strongly encourage you to pursue multiple income streams as a way of advancing professionally, serving your community, and also providing for your own needs.
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