Starting Your Psychology Private Practice
This year is my ninth year of private practice as a Clinical Psychologist. I remember when I was newly qualified – I’d hold my breath when a client glanced at my certificates on the wall. A close friend always told me about her psychoanalyst being a “wise old woman” and I wondered if my lack of wrinkles would make me less credible. Nine years (and a few wrinkles) later, I find myself drawn to mentoring newly qualified Psychologists. These Psychologists, much like me, were never taught any business skills and as a result of limited clinical posts, many were forced to pursue private practice at the start of their career. I’m still learning each day about balancing the role as a therapist and running a practice. My added experience as a professional speaker has certainly taught me valuable lessons about being an entrepreneur!
Below are a few tips on starting your Psychology practice. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather “The Basics” to get you started. Future blog posts on this topic will include marketing and social media.
- Make sure your professional registrations are in order before you start working. If you have just completed your studies or community service year and you want to start practicing immediately, it is worth physically visiting the HPCSA offices in Pretoria, followed by the BHF in Johannesburg (for a practice number), to expedite the process. Many colleagues waited months by going via the postal service!
- Obtain indemnity insurance. Medical indemnity insurance is essential before you start practising. I belong to the Medical Protection Society (MPS) and find their service to be exceptional. If you have any ethical query, you can contact their offices (based in the UK) and a legal adviser will give you telephonic and/or written feedback. There are other options for indemnity insurance, but make sure that you read the small print (often the cover is limited).
- Research the area that you would like to practice in. You will find in the bigger cities, certain areas are saturated with Psychologists, making a new practice extra challenging. Find out where there is a need for your specific fields of interest (perhaps near a school or business area) and a location that is accessible. Easy access for clients includes free and secure parking, on a main travel route and close to public transport.
- Rent rooms on a sessional basis. If you’re starting a practice, it is ideal to keep your overheads as low as possible as it may take time to build a regular client base. I started my practice by renting a room in a Speech Therapy practice two afternoons a week. As I became busier, I rented more time at a Psychiatry practice until I found that I needed my own permanent office (where I am today).
- Open a business bank account. When you register as a Psychologist, your banking details are sent to most medical aids through the BHF. Having separate business and private banks accounts will make your life simpler as your business grows and for tax purposes. A business bank account is necessary if you ever want to apply for a credit card machine. While many Psychologists don’t necessarily have a business account, it is a tip that I wish I was given when I started my practice. Changing your banking details with medical aids is a time-consuming exercise – each will need their individual forms completed and stamped by your bank!
- Start advertising your practice. Make appointments to meet therapists, schools, psychiatrists, GP’s and other practitioners in your area. Consider listing your practice on an online network of therapists or even setting up your own website. Many clients make use of the internet to find a therapist, so consider taking the time to Google your name and see what comes up! A more detailed blog post will follow regarding the marketing of your practice.
- Join a supervision group. Private practice can often leave you feeling isolated after your training. A great way to connect with other therapists in your area is to join a supervision group (or even start your own!). You can set meetings as needed (weekly or monthly) and each member has a turn to present a challenging case or a journal article. It’s a great opportunity to share ideas, make referrals, network and offer support.
- Remain positive. Starting any new business can be a daunting task. I found many people to be negative about “Another Psychologist?!” starting in the area (including the graphic designer who made my business cards and the web designer who listed my practice!). Have realistic expectations – it will take time to build your practice (many suggest 2-3 years). It is a good idea to supplement your income with lecturing or hospital sessions (for guaranteed income). If you are a skilled therapist, you are not afraid of networking and you enjoy good relationships with your clients, colleagues and referral sources, then you are on the right track to building a successful private practice!
If you would like one-on-one or group consultations regarding building your private practice, please visit the CONTACT PAGE to book an online appointment via Zoom.