Spending vs. Investing in Your Private Practice

“Investing is simple, but not easy.” -Warren Buffett

A friend recently invited me to come over for a visit. As I walked in the door, my friend’s husband said, “Hey, have a slice of homemade bread. It’s good.” As I checked in with my societally-induced gluten-guilt, about to err on the side of “Meh, I’ll pass,” my friend meandered out of the kitchen and said, “Do you want some bread? It’s fresh out of the oven, still steaming. I’ve been working on it all day, and it comes from a family recipe that’s been passed down for generations. It’s absolutely delicious— it makes me feel warm and loved every time I take a bite!”

Suddenly, I HAD to have that bread. Not only did my friend “sell” me on the bread, I swear it tasted better knowing that her Nonni (and her Nonni’s Nonni) had kneaded their love and history into the same recipe, just as she had shortly before.

Wording Matters

 My friend didn’t just “sell” me on the bread, her words created an enriched experience of the bread even before I had slathered it with butter and stuffed it into my maw.

What does this have to do with private practice? Well, a lot, actually:

  • As many of us know, the clinical application of word-choice can make a difference in clients’ healing (ex. encouraging clients to replace “I can’t” with “It’s challenging.”).
  • The wording we use makes a big difference in the value we place on our work, and the language we use in “selling” that work to potential clients.
  • Within our own business, we need to pay attention to the words we use when it comes to spending money in our own practice.

Let’s focus on the last point, and specifically on two specific words as business owners: What is the difference between “spending” and “investing” in our business?

Investing giveth, spending taketh away

  • Spending indicates taking away from our hard-earned income. It carries negative meaning, literally and figuratively.
  • Investing is a form of giving. We are putting our money toward something that will reap greater rewards later. It is a gift that we give our business. It’s empowering.
  • Spending indicates that the things we pay for in our business are a burden.
  • Investing indicates that we care for our business (think of your practice as a dear, helpful friend), and we are happy to put resources toward it.
  • Spending feels “one-and-done.” The money is just gone.
  • Investing carries a sense of possibility. It is focused on the future rewards of the money invested.

As a group, we therapists tend to be more reserved when it comes to putting money toward our business. Why?

  • Some of it is just our personality type. There’s a reason we went into the counseling field and didn’t become hedge fund managers. We tend to be more into stability and risk-aversion on the whole, so frugality seems like a safer path. (There’s even evidence that money-mindset can have a strong genetic component!)
  • Speaking of safety… the other reason we worry more about “spending” and have less excitement about “investing” in our business is that, for many of us, we have a lot of fear and shame around money. Many of us are new to being business-owners, and in the face of the unknown, we hold our cards (and money) closer.

While it makes sense to be mindful of where we put our money, particularly at the beginning of a private practice when there isn’t a lot of it available, the danger in a “stressed spending” vs. “joyful investing” mindset is that our fear can keep us from:

  1. a) investing in resources that will make a profound long-term difference in our overall income and satisfaction as business owners (whether that’s coaching, software, support systems, or really great office furniture) or
  2. b) enjoying the things we’ve invested in, and celebrating them as blessings.

I didn’t just “eat bread” that day or “add to my gluten-count”. I invested in a beautiful experience of joy, of historical and social significance, and of…deliciousness. I savored the experience.

Think of ways you can shift your thinking from “fear of spending” to “joyful investing.” This is a greater shift into the principle of abundance and trusting that there’s enough out there. Enough clients, enough income, enough enjoyment. Investing is empowering. What would be different if you shifted to a joyful-investing mindset?

  • Would you put money toward coaching or consulting for your practice in order to avoid the pitfalls of entrepreneurship and increase your long-term income?
  • Rather than feeling annoyed at obligatory fees for malpractice insurance, would you happily celebrate knowing that “someone’s got my back” if something bad happens?
  • Would you have fun paying for the books, trainings, and learning that come with investing in your continuing education?
  • Would you invest in membership in organizations that offer you support toward your success (say, the National Association of Counselors in Private Practice ?
  • Would you enjoy and savor the office space and decor that you’ve put funds into, as they are a sign of your creativity and personality, and your business-independence?
  • Would you celebrate the ability to choose where you invest in your priorities, rather than having those decisions made for you in an agency?

Money growing photo available from Shutterstock

Spending vs. Investing in Your Private Practice

Jane Carter, M.Ed., LPC

Jane Carter, LPC is president and founder of the National Association of Counselors in Private Practice, an organization committed to the growth and success of counselors and other therapists in private practice by providing a supportive community, marketing & business skills, and key mindset strategies. You can download a free Ideal Private Practice Visualization Tool at


APA Reference
Carter, J. (2016). Spending vs. Investing in Your Private Practice. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 9, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Jan 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Jan 2016
Published on All rights reserved.