Starting a medical business, particularly a psychotherapy or psychology practice, involves carefully considering finances, marketing, and a practice location.
In this episode of the Healthy Practice podcast, host Ellie spoke to Sara Hagerman, a registered counsellor based in London, to discuss setting up a clinic.
Sara shares her professional journey, the motivation behind starting her practice, and valuable insights into the qualifications, location, paperwork, marketing, and business operations necessary for a successful practice.
You can listen to the whole conversation here:
Starting a Private Psychotherapy Practice: What You Need to Know.
Starting your own private therapy or psychology practice can be a rewarding and fulfilling career choice. However, it also requires careful planning, preparation, and attention to detail to succeed.
Here are some critical requirements you must consider before starting your private practice.
Qualifications and Licences
First and foremost, to start a private psychotherapy practice, you must have the appropriate education and training.
To become an accredited psychotherapist, you must obtain a postgraduate qualification that is recognised by one of three professional organisations:
- United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
- British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC)
- Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP)
Different courses have varying requirements and durations for completion. However, most applicants typically need a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field like nursing, social care, or medicine.
In addition to obtaining a degree, pursuing additional training and certification in specific therapeutic techniques or specialisations is essential. This may include cognitive-behavioural therapy, trauma-focused therapy, or other evidence-based treatments.
It’s also important to note that continuing education and professional development (CPD) are essential components of staying current in psychotherapy and psychology. Attending conferences, enrolling in training workshops, and reading up on the latest research are all ways to stay up-to-date on advances in the field.
Office Space and Equipment
While location was traditionally significant for healthcare practices, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the landscape, with virtual therapy becoming more prevalent.
Sara highlights the growing acceptance of virtual sessions and the flexibility it offers. However, she also acknowledges the importance of having a physical location for those who prefer in-person sessions.
Sara advises practitioners to prioritise their comfort and consider potential client needs.
Ensuring a comfortable, distraction-free environment is crucial for maintaining focus during sessions. Practical considerations such as noise reduction, sufficient seating, and privacy should be addressed.
Sara also suggests incorporating elements that enhance the client experience, such as blankets, candles, and mirrors. As the practice grows, practitioners can upgrade their space to match their evolving needs and provide a high-quality experience for clients.
Navigating Paperwork and Business Operations
Managing paperwork, including privacy policies, contracts, insurance, and client data, is essential to running a practice. Sara advises using a good practice management system to streamline this process for you.
Sara also recommends seeking guidance from experienced practitioners, utilising templates, and outsourcing tasks like accounting to professionals. She emphasises the importance of setting clear financial policies, having ongoing conversations about fees, and establishing efficient billing systems.
Practitioners can separate their roles as clinicians and business owners by establishing routines and automating administrative tasks.
Marketing and Acquiring Clients
Getting the first few clients through the door can challenge new practitioners. Sara suggests utilising directories, such as Counselling Directory and Psychology Today, to establish an online presence.
Refining the language used in profiles is crucial to make them accessible and relatable to potential clients. Additionally, having a simple website that provides essential information and contact details can be beneficial.
Insurance Provider Panels
Insurance companies typically have a network of providers, or panels, that they work with to ensure their policyholders have access to quality mental health care. Being part of an insurance provider panel can benefit both the therapist and the client, as it allows for a broader range of individuals to access quality care without the financial burden of paying out of pocket.
Once a therapist is accepted onto an insurance provider panel, they may see an increase in potential clients. Many individuals seeking therapy prefer to use their insurance benefits to cover the cost of their sessions and, therefore, will search for therapists who are in-network with their providers.
It is important to note that being a part of an insurance provider panel can also have drawbacks. Insurance companies often dictate the number of sessions a client is allowed each year and may have restrictions on the type of therapy that can be provided. Additionally, insurance companies typically pay therapists less than private clients, which can impact a therapist’s bottom line.
Establishing Your Practice Brand and Identity
Building a successful psychotherapy practice requires professional expertise and a strong brand and identity. Creating a clear and consistent image for your practice can help attract potential clients and differentiate your services from competitors.
Here are some tips on how to establish your practice brand and identity.
1. Define Your Ideal Client
Before creating a brand, you need to identify your target audience. Consider what type of clients you wish to attract to your practice. Are you focusing on individuals with specific mental health conditions or a more comprehensive range of clients seeking personal therapy? By defining your ideal client, you can tailor your branding efforts to appeal to their needs and preferences.
2. Develop Your Message
Once you have a clear picture of your ideal client, it’s time to develop your message. Your message is the key to communicating your practice’s values and goals to potential clients. Consider what differentiates you from other psychotherapy or psychology practices and how you can communicate that through your messaging. Your message should be clear, concise, and easy to understand.
3. Design Your Visual Identity
Your visual identity is the face of your practice, so it’s essential to design a consistent and professional look. This includes creating a logo, colour scheme, and typography that aligns with your messaging and appeals to your target audience. Your visual identity should be cohesive across all channels, including your website, business cards, and social media accounts.
4. Build Your Online Presence
Having a solid online presence is critical. Your website should reflect your brand and provide potential clients with all the information they need to book an appointment. Consider creating a blog where you can share insights into the therapeutic process or mental health in general. Utilise social media to connect with potential clients and share valuable information.
5. Take Advantage of Marketing Opportunities
Marketing is crucial to building your practice’s brand and reaching potential clients. Consider partnering with local organisations or participating in mental health events to increase visibility. Join insurance provider panels to expand your client base and take advantage of advertising opportunities.
Listen to The Healthy Practice Podcast
The Healthy Practice guides you through the common problems of starting your own practice.
We aim to help you take control of other aspects of practice management – including work-life balance, marketing, finances, & more – by offering insights & tips from practitioners who have mastered the early stages of private practice.
Or search for The Healthy Practice wherever you get your podcasts!
About Sara Hagerman
Originally from Sweden, Sara has lived in the UK for over a decade. She trained as a counsellor and psychotherapist in Scotland, focusing on pluralistic psychotherapy, and then moved to London to pursue her doctorate and become a registered counselling psychologist.
After qualifying, she ventured into private practice, finding greater freedom and effectiveness in helping clients than working within organisations or the National Health Service (NHS).
Sara decided to test out private practice as a side venture initially, but it quickly became her primary source of income due to the solid client base she developed.
You can find more about Sara on her website: https://sarahagerman.org/