By Anna Jankowska MA LCPC
Many counselors dream of opening a private practice, even when they are still at school. Unfortunately, they don’t find much understanding and support anywhere. Their teachers don’t encourage them to pursue their goals and quite often discourage them from seeking their life dream.
This lack of encouragement from the academia might come from realizing that being in private practice takes a lot of time and effort and sometimes it takes working seven days a week to achieve your dream. Additionally, many professors at graduate programs are not in private practice themselves and usually teach full time or work for other companies. This gives them limited knowledge about private practice, and therefore they do not share their valuable knowledge with students who might want to open their practice. Young students look for mentors and experiences that give them empowerment to venture outside their comfort and into areas that are exciting but unknown. They have a lot of fears and nobody that they can discuss them with.
IF YOU WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL, YOU HAVE TO GO INTO PRIVATE PRACTICE FULL-TIME RIGHT AWAY.
It is possible to go into private practice full time if you have prior experience in certain areas and you either have a source of clients or you have established good connections with either insurance or EAP companies. You do not have to depend on insurance or EAP companies, but you have to have life experiences that give you some knowledge in certain areas. You could, for example, work in a school setting with underprivileged kids and you might have an idea about opening an after-school program that will involve tutoring and counseling services, and you can present this idea to your school principal or anyone else in the community who is interested in helping the children. Trust your instinct and your thoughts, and if you are passionate about this you can make it happen! Even if you do not work in any educational setting, it could be an idea that you have while working in a business environment. Your manager knows that you are in a counseling program and that you would like to improve the effectiveness of your team that you are a part of. You know best what hinders the effectiveness of your team. It could be that the members are not getting along with each other or that some employees have problems with finding appropriate child care for their children. Believe in yourself and talk with the management or human resource and present your ideas to them. Have a plan and a program that you would like to implement even if it’s a brown bag lunch seminar that you can present in your office cafeteria. You develop your private practice while still working for someone else and a lot of your ideas might not even sound like private practice to you. By the time you decide to venture into working for yourself, you might not only be ready, but you will have a particular niche, a plan, and the most important potential clients too. You can always begin part time a few nights a week, and this will allow you to test your ideas and see if there’s a possibility to make money.
YOU HAVE TO BE CERTIFIED OR LICENSED BEFORE YOU OPEN PRIVATE PRACTICE.
People who open private practice are not successful just because they are certified or licensed. They are successful because they have a plan and a driven personality that guides them. There’s a lot of things you can do with your undergraduate or graduate degree to test the waters and see if you have even potential for being your boss. Coaching is very popular and does not require any certification or licenses. Certainly, that people can obtain additional training in coaching but if you don’t have a personality for working with people none of it will help you. Rely on your instincts, your knowledge, and your interests. You’re the best in what you do if you follow your dreams. If you have a particular area that can make a difference in peoples’ lives you should follow that. Don’t copy other peoples’ ideas only because they are successful in something. Make sure that the area that you choose is your passion and don’t let anyone deter you from following it.
YOU HAVE TO BE SMARTER THAN OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR FIELD.
From the seventeen years of experience in private practice, I can tell you that the people who do open private practice are not smarter than others in their field. They might possess certain qualities that tell them apart from other counselors, but smartness is not one of them. They believe that what they have to offer is important, they persevere and will not change their minds after a few failures. They do not accept NO for an answer and look for solutions to every problem even if it seems impossible to others to unravel it.
These are just a few myths that we encounter while wanting to open a private practice. My advice to those of you who want to do it as follows:
– Please trust your instincts
– Run your ideas by your friends who are not in a counseling field
– Listen to their feedback
– Ask your friends and family members what do they see as your biggest strengths.
Do they see you as an entrepreneur with bold ideas?
Do you think you have strength to go on when you have no support coming from anyone?
Every person in private practice feels lonely at times. We question our decisions and sometimes there’s nobody to help us make them.