My motivation for starting my private practice, Wasatch Family Therapy, was very clear. I wanted to create my ideal work environment and I knew that no one else could do that for me. I felt called to help people heal themselves and their relationships. I knew that I wanted work with therapy clients who valued my services and time, and who were dedicated to working hard to improve their life. I wanted the flexibility to set my own schedule and take time off to be with my children and attend school and sporting events. I wanted to do paperwork that was relevant and helpful for treatment. I wanted to invite other clinicians into my professional space who were gifted therapists, genuine people, and who I enjoyed spending time with. I wanted to work as a social worker part-time and make a full-time income (a lofty goal in a profession where many work full-time and make a part-time income).
I know why I chose to go into private practice but I was curious if other therapists and counselors around the country had similar motivation opening private practice. I recently asked several therapists about their reasons for taking the leap into the business world of owning their own practices and noticed three common themes emerged. I call them the 3 "F"s of private practice: flexibility, freedom, financial opportunity.
Therapists who take the leap into private practice value flexibility in their work schedule to better balance work and family life, and to pursue other interests. Dr. Mary Sidhwani, a psychotherapist in private practice since 2000 in Ellicott City, Maryland opened her practice so she could have the flexibility to care for her two young children. "I wanted to be able to balance both my professional and family life; to be able to spend as much time with my children as possible while they were young." Social worker Diane Spear, LCSW-R of New York City said, "I had worked at an agency with wonderful colleagues, but private practice gave me the opportunity to set my own hours and fees."
Of his decision to open his own practice psychologist Dr. John Duffy says, "I wanted to go into private practice as I wanted control over my career: my schedule, niche, fees, client base, whether I accepted insurance, and so on. I also wanted to be able to write, consult, speak, and expand my practice, or take fewer clients, as I went along."
Freedom to select a particular client population to work with and choose your own approach to treatment has drawn many therapists to open a practice. After agency work left her overworked, underpaid and burned out, Esther Kane, MSW of British Columbia chose to open a private practice because it allowed her to focus on her passion - women's issues. Kane says she loves the "autonomy and flexibility of not having to answer to anyone."
Spear says she appreciated being able to choose who she worked with and how she approached treatment. "I wanted to choose level of pathology I want to treat, choose the theoretical orientation and supervisor I'm most comfortable with, and set the environment as I prefer. In short, autonomy, autonomy, autonomy!"
3) Financial Opportunity
It's a risk to open your own practice, but when it grows, you are the one who benefits most from the financial growth. Private practitioners have the opportunity to grow their income in ways that are unlikely to happen when you work for someone else. New York City therapist Emma K. Viglucci, CFT, LMFT, CIT experienced the growth potential first-hand. Since opening Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy, PLLC she says, "I've grown the practice to the point where I had 10 clinicians working with me as part of our clinical team. My practice has become an Internship Placement Site for MFTs in training."
Financial need helped Lisa Gomez MA, PLC of Surprise, AZ transition from part-time to full-time private practice. After being laid off from a full-time staff position due to budget cuts Gomez says it was "the perfect opportunity to take the step of faith into full-time private practice. I love private practice because I can be as successful as I want or as flexible as I want."
What motivated you to start your private practice?
If you're thinking about venturing into private practice, what do you hope to gain?