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Starting a Private Therapy Practice: 7 Things I Wish I Knew

Embarking on the path of starting an out-of-network or private pay therapy practice has been transformative for me. It has allowed me to embrace greater independence, flexibility, and the opportunity to provide high-quality care to my clients. 

However, there were certain aspects that I really wish I had known before diving into private practice. In this blog post, I want to share the ten essential things I wish I had been aware of before starting my out-of-network practice.

1. Understanding Insurance Reimbursement for Out-of-Network Sessions:

Navigating insurance reimbursement can be challenging when you’re not part of an in-network provider panel. I wish I had known more about the intricacies of insurance policies, clients’ options for submitting out-of-network claims, and how to educate clients about reimbursement options. Being well-informed can help both you and your clients make informed decisions about payment. Nowadays, I recommend that my clients use Mentaya to help them get reimbursement for out-of-network sessions. 

2. Setting Your Fee Structure:

Deciding on your fee structure is a crucial step to building a sustainable practice. I wish I had done more research on the local market rates, considered the value of my services, and factored in the costs of running a practice before setting my fees. Early in private practice, I set my fee very low and assumed that this would attract more clients. However, setting fair and competitive fees is essential to attract clients while ensuring your practice remains sustainable for the long haul. 

3. Developing a Strong Referral Network:

Building a solid referral network becomes even more critical when you’re not directly connected to insurance panels. Collaborating with physicians, psychiatrists, schools, and community organizations can increase referrals to your practice. Establishing trust and maintaining ongoing relationships with these professionals can significantly contribute to your client base. I wish I had taken more time early on in my therapy career to build my professional network. Nowadays, I love participating in the Teletherapist Network, which allows me to connect with therapists all over the world! 

4. Implementing a Clear Financial Policy:

Having a well-defined financial policy is essential when working with out-of-network or private pay clients. I wish I had established clear expectations regarding payment, cancellation fees, and additional upfront charges. Clearly, communicating this policy to clients initially helps avoid misunderstandings or awkward conversations later. I’ve worked hard to implement my financial policies into my intake paperwork packet so that clients have a clear sense of my policies from the very beginning of therapy. 

5. Marketing and Branding Your Unique Value:

Marketing yourself as an out-of-network or private pay therapist requires a unique approach. I wish I had invested more time in developing a strong brand identity, creating a compelling website, and crafting targeted marketing strategies. 

6. Utilizing Social Media and Online Presence:

Having a strong online presence becomes even more crucial for out-of-network or private pay therapists. I wish I had leveraged social media platforms and online directories such as Mental Health Match to increase visibility and reach potential clients who are actively seeking services. Sharing informative content, success stories, and testimonials can help build trust and credibility. Check out the recent podcast episode I did with Maddie Spear PLCC all about building an online presence on Tik Tok! 

7. Connecting with Professional Communities:

Building connections with other out-of-network or private pay therapists can provide invaluable support and insights. I wish I had sought out professional communities or networking groups where I could exchange experiences, learn from others, and gain insights into best practices for success in this model. Some of the professional communities I am now a member of include the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and The Womens Association of Addiction Treatment. 

Starting an out-of-network or private pay therapy practice has its unique considerations, but with proper planning and awareness, it can be a fulfilling and sustainable career choice. By understanding the intricacies of insurance reimbursement, setting appropriate fees, effectively marketing your unique value, and building strong professional networks, you can thrive as an out-of-network or private pay therapist while providing exceptional care to your clients.

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