Income Stream

Pregnancy in Private Practice: 4 Key Questions To Help You Prepare For Maternity Leave

4 key questions to help you prepare personally and professionally for managing maternity leave in private practice.

I'm a mother of four children. My first two children were born during my educational journey and my last two were born while I was in private practice. Being in private practice provides many perks for balancing work and family life. The flexibility of being my own boss has been wonderful. However, taking time off for extended periods of time, like maternity leave, can prove to be tricky.  Unlike working for an agency, in private  you don't get paid leave in private practice,  you still have expenses to pay even when you're not seeing clients, and you have unpredictable income as you "wind down" to take time off and then build your client load back up after taking family leave.  Becoming pregnant while in private practice and planning for the new addition in your family requires some extra planning, coordinating, and saving.

How Much Time Will You Take Off?

These little babies can be a BIG adjustment. It's important to really think about taking enough time for you to adapt to being a parent to this new, little person. Dr. Jennifer Fee, psychologist from California found that one of the most helpful things was taking sufficient time off after giving birth. She suggests coming back gradually and not carrying a full load for awhile.

"Rushing back [to work] while you're adjusting to and bonding with a new baby is not good for you, your baby, or your clients. The great thing about private practice is that it's not an 'all or nothing' business. You can start practicing with a few clients rather than jumping back into a full load," says Dr. Fee.

Determining the length of your maternity or paternity leave can be extremely important in keeping your practice thriving. If you are a sole practitioner, taking a three month leave could potentially leave you with very few clients upon your return. You must decide not only how long is financially feasible but also how long works for your family and your clients.

Who will provide services to your clients in your absence?

It's important to consider who will provide clinical services to your clients while you are on maternity leave. If you are in solo practice, consider reaching out to another trusted private practice colleague who has openings to provide services to your clients while you are on leave. Make sure that your clients have the contact information of the therapist who'll be covering for you. I suggest that clients in crisis have appointments set up with this therapist before you take time off.

I recently talked with a private practice colleague who is pregnant with her third child. I suggested that she consider hiring another therapist to cover her clinical cases and also to generate income for her practice while she is on maternity leave.

When will you stop taking new clients?

You'll also want to think about when you will stop taking new clients. If you plan on taking new clients up until your leave I suggest that in your first conversation you inform them that you will be taking time off so they can have the option of seeing someone who can provide uninterrupted services.

Jennifer Venable-Humphrey, LCSW of Social Work Solutions stopped accepting new clients one month before her due date. When put on bed rest with her third child, Jennifer used Skype or phone sessions to check in with current clients that she had to stop seeing earlier than planned.

How will you cover your fixed expenses and lack of income?

Taking time off in private practice is tricky because you have to plan not only for lost income but for paying the fixed expenses of maintaining a practice while you are on leave. Expenses like rent, phone, internet, or perhaps the cost of support staff may need to be paid whether you are practicing or not.

Joseph Sanok, LLP, LPC of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI suggests considering the cost of being away from your family once you have returned to your clients. Sanok decided to increase his fee when his wife became pregnant. "For me, I knew that working in my practice was going to be difficult when I had the draw of a wonderful new addition. By raising my rates, it made it easier to give up the time."

I'm curious to learn more about the changes you made or creative ways that you found for your transition to parenthood in your private practice. Share those here!

Multiple Income Streams Soothe Therapist's Financial Anxiety (part 2)

Developing multiple income streams is crucial to maintaining income stability in private practice. "Having different income sources allows me to be a bit less stressed when my main funding source, private practice, takes a dip," shares Jill Kristal, President of Transitional Learning Curves. Reducing financial anxiety is not the only benefit of developing additional income avenues. Multiple income streams allow therapists to fully express their many talents, gifts, and passions.

Writing and speaking provides former actor Frank J. Sileo, PhD with creative fulfillment as well. "I used to be an actor in a past life so getting up in front of others has helped get that need met, " Sileo adds. Additionally, multiple income streams allow therapists to make a difference on a larger scale, reaching far beyond the therapy office. "I had a desire to have more impact on troubled eaters than one-to-one sessions or even workshops and talks could provide," shares therapist and healthy eating expert Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed.

If you missed "Multiple Income Streams (part 1)" click here

Here are more potential income streams for you to consider as you seek a stable income and fulfilling career.

Teach classes

Therapist Mary Pender Greene, LCSW-R has created paid opportunities through giving workshops, webinars, retreats, seminars, training sessions, keynotes and public speaking engagements that have grown out of her passion.

These streams naturally grew out of my private practice and at the core, are centered on the struggles of adult human interaction… such as improving communication, expressing feelings, reflection, solving problems and refreshing relationships.

Michael Heitt, PsyD of Heitt Clinical & Corporate Consulting, LLC adds to his income through teaching masters students at Johns Hopkins, doctoral students at Loyola University and facilitating an online licensure prep course.

Provide professional training

After several students urged Dr. Carol Clark to teach a sex therapy program, she launched STTI, the Sex Therapy Training Institute, and then expanded it to Addictions Therapy Training Institute, and eventually published a book.

As I taught and counseled, several concepts and interventions really solidified and I realized that these themes were incorporated in everything I did with students and clients, so I spent seven years putting it all into my book, Addict America: The Lost Connection.

Therapist and faith leader The Rev. Christopher L. Smith offers supervision/consultation with other mental health practitioners and other faith group leaders as an additional income stream.

Become a paid TV contributor

After a year of contributing on a local women's lifestyle TV show, Studio 5, I was offered a position as a paid contributor. One of my personal and professional passions is using the media to educate and inspire, so not only has this opportunity created an additional income stream, it's allowed me to doing something I love to do anyway and get paid.

Provide supervision to students and interns

Have you considered leveraging your time by hiring students and interns to provide clinical services through your practice? I started hiring therapists under supervision about 5 years ago, and graduate students a few years ago. Its been a great way to provide clinical services to additional clients without having to increase my direct care hours. My Wasatch Family Therapy colleague and play therapist Clair Mellenthin LCSW, RPT loves supervising therapists. She says that in addition to providing income, "One of the unexpected joys of providing supervision is forming relationships with new therapists and helping them to develop confidence and competence."

Public speaking

From community events, corporate settings to professional presentations, public speaking and presenting is another common income stream that you may want to consider. Dr. John Duffy speaks regularly on parenting issues, and also to corporations on team-building and relationship skills.

Do any of these income streams jump out at you?

What income streams are you developing to add stability to your practice?