5 Things to Know Before Starting a Practice
Starting a practice in the mental health field can be tricky and intimidating, but there are some things you need to keep in mind to ensure that your business gets off to the right start. These five points are important to know before starting a mental health practice, so you can make sure your business has the best chance of succeeding from the beginning.
1) Get Educated
While it is important to have an idea of what you’re doing when starting your practice, there is also value in getting educated. You should learn about how insurance companies work, how to make money and most importantly, how to get clients. There are many different ways of approaching these tasks but be sure you are on track before you open your doors. You don’t want take your first client and realize that you aren’t ready! When starting a business or practicing any profession for that matter, knowledge is power. So as you embark on your new endeavor, know exactly what steps need to be taken and why they are necessary. If you understand why certain things need to happen at certain times during startup, then making decisions will become easier down the road.
2) Figure Out Your Mission
When starting your own practice, it’s crucial to figure out why you want to start it. Is it because you’re passionate about helping people? Do you have financial problems? Or do you just love meeting new people and talking about your interests for hours on end? Figure out what drives you so that in those moments of doubt, or just when things get rough (and they will), you can remind yourself of why you started practicing in the first place. You may also need to adjust your mission statement as time goes on, but getting started is an important step in itself. And don’t forget to share with others why you started practicing! Maybe they too would like to join you!
3) Set up your Website
Setting up your website is key for making sure you’re able to convey who you are and what you do to potential clients. Whether you’re setting up a full-blown site or simply having something created on WordPress, having an online presence is crucial for any mental health professional hoping to start their own practice. But if one thing that working with tech companies has taught me, it’s that simple websites often work best. If your website doesn’t look good, no one will want to hire you—no matter how great of a therapist you are. And while I think it’s important to have some semblance of design in place (to make sure people actually read what you write), overthinking things can be counterproductive. For example, I once spent hours agonizing over font choice before realizing that people don’t care about fonts—they care about helping themselves feel better. So, my advice: keep it simple. Make sure you include information about yourself and your services so that people know exactly what they’re getting when they come to see you. Beyond that, just let nature take its course! You might be surprised by how many new clients start coming through your door after just a few weeks or months.
If you’re serious about starting your own mental health practice, there are several things you need to do right out of the gate. Think branding and marketing. Consider what type of service offerings, location, facilities and patient care you want and be sure that they’re all tied together in one cohesive package. Most importantly, make sure that your brand is unique in some way from other providers in your area. Otherwise, why would anyone choose you over someone else? There are thousands of mental health professionals across America and many patients have no idea how to find them; having a strong, recognizable brand will help you stand out from the crowd. In addition, get started on social media channels as soon as possible; these sites are great for reaching potential clients and keeping up with their needs and concerns. Finally, put together a website to establish credibility with patients—and prospective patients—right away. Make it professional-looking without being too fancy or complicated (remember: most people looking for services aren’t web designers). When people visit your site, make sure they can easily access information about fees, insurance policies and payment options.
As you start your practice, remember that you are your own best marketing tool. Other mental health professionals and potential clients will want to know why they should pick you over another therapist. Start by creating a website where people can learn about your practice, background, and beliefs. It should feature information about your specialty areas and any treatment approaches that are unique or different from other therapists in your area. Keep in mind that social media is also a powerful marketing tool for both finding and communicating with potential clients. The more active you are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram (and others), the more opportunities there will be for people to learn about your practice.
Starting a Practice that includes Clinical Behavior Analysis
There are many aspects to simply starting a practice, all of these become somewhat more complicated if you are moving into Clinical Behavior Analysis – either as a behavior analyst or a dually licensed clinician. You need to strongly consider your scope, limitations, regulations in your area, the availability of on-team multi-disciplinary staff to support you, and/or external consultation and supervision. Each of the above areas of focus will also need to be considered from the perspective of starting this unique type of practice or launching a business with an integrated practice team. If you’d like to know more about these topics, visit our Clinical Behavior Analysis series in the “Shop” or reach out to us.
Angela Coreil, PhD
Consultant and Educator
Angela J. Coreil, PhD works with individuals and organizations to promote better connected, purposeful, and effective living through behavior analytic principles. She has over a decade of clinical experience treating human suffering and promoting human excellence using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and other behavioral therapies. She now focuses on the promotion and translation of Clinical Behavior Analysis as a way to improve our science.