Where to Start if You're Brand New

If you’re like most therapists new to private practice, or even just beginning to consider entering into private practice, you have likely experienced some of the overwhelm and uncertainty of where to begin.

The solution to this problem is this: Start with a Dream and End With a Goal.

The good news is that you likely already have the dream, why else would you be here, reading this article now. You’re dreaming of working in private practice. Maybe it’s the flexibility of the schedule, being your own boss, or the potential income you could be making that has your heart wishing. Dreaming is a critical part of this process because it is a sign of HOPE and possibility. We need to dream about what can be and what is yet to come. Unfortunately, dreaming alone is not enough. You can’t just have the dream, you have to do something about turning your dream into a reality.

The first step in making your dreams happen is to clarify them. Dreaming is an essential part of succeeding, however the very nature of dreams is that they are not well defined. We oftentimes describe dreamers as having their head in the clouds, and that is sort of the shape dreams can take too; they’re big and fuzzy, even a bit cloudy. Dreams become a reality only when we pull them from the clouds and translate them into visions.

Vision is the ability to see. If you are going to be successful in private practice you must be able to clearly see and define what success for your practice will look like. We walk down the path that we are looking at, and if you want to your path to be private practice you need to lay out what the path looks like so you know where you are going. You need to know how many hours you want to work a week and which hours are you working. Are you going to work with insurance companies or only accept cash-paying clients? Where is your office going to be and what population will you be serving.

Take the time to sit down and clearly define your vision. If you haven’t already downloaded your Free Private Practice Business Plan, click below for you copy. This is a great resource for helping you put your ideas into words and translate your dreams into a defined vision.

This process should inspire you and ignite a spark that you may not have even known you had. Sure, there will be some doubt and some negative self-talk but this process is meant to push beyond that into the possibility of everything you’ve always hoped for and wanted for yourself. Remember, you are turning your dreams into clarity. Your dreams. This is exciting. Your vision should be so clear and so felt that the only option you have once you’ve seen it is to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Once you have defined your vision and you feel clear about what your practice will look like, the next step is to translate it into actionable steps and we do that with goals. Goals are visions and dreams with work clothes on. This is where you move into action and do something to make the dream a reality. Goals convert our vision into energy and by laying out exactly what you want (and need) to do, in detail, you can feel the pull onto your new path.

In order for a goal to be successful it must have 5 components and each component must be addressed in order for the goal to work. Remember, goals are not wishes, or dreams, or even visions. Goals bring each of those down to earth, where, with our feet firmly on the ground we take actionable steps to make our dreams a reality.

First, a goal needs to be specific and a goal must be measurable. We know this from all of the training we’ve had on treatment planning right?!? It’s not enough to just say “alleviate depression” because that is too vague. Vague goals are not goals; they are dreams and wishes. Similarly, you can’t just say I want to have a full practice; that is not specific enough. You can’t say I want a successful practice because that’s not specific or measurable. Some examples of properly set goals that are both specific and measurable are:

  1. I want to have 20 full-fee clients.

  2. I want to make $100,000 per year.

  3. I want to complete a course in Mindfulness.

  4. I want to move into an office with an ocean-view.

Next, goals must have a time limit. Let’s use the example above: I want to have 20 full-fee clients. That’s great, when? Twenty years? Twenty months? If you don’t put a deadline on your goal it’s not a goal, again it’s just a wish or a dream. When you set a time limit on your goals it also helps you set micro goals and break your goals down into more digestible bite-sized pieces. Sticking with this same example, if you want to have 20 full-fee clients and you set the timeline for yourself of within one year, that averages out to less than 2 new clients per month, which is much less intimidating and also easier to come up with a plan for how you will go about getting those 2 new clients each month.

Additionally, your goals must be YOUR goals. If you don’t own the goal and it doesn’t come from your dreams you likely won’t have the toughness to persevere when the going gets tough. There is never an exception, everyone who succeeds must push through obstacles at some point, likely lots of them. You simply will not put in the hard work if you don’t really want this for yourself.

Finally, goals must be in writing! For some reason, this seems to be the hardest component for people to commit to. It sounds good in theory but almost no one follows through with actually writing their goals down. There is something very powerful about taking pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard if you’re so inclined, why else would we ask so many of our clients to journal?

Moving from your big dreams, to a clearly defined vision, and into goals helps lay the foundation for the path that you will take in building your private practice. Sure, there will be more research that needs to be done. You will need to figure out what your marketing strategy is and how many hours a day you are willing to put into the process, but before you can do that you need to know where you are going.

How You Can Take Action Right Now

This week my challenge for you is to take action by writing your goals down. And if you feel courageous enough, write them down here, in the comments section below, and allow the community to be a source of motivation, inspiration, and accountability.

And of course if you have any other thoughts, questions, protests, or reactions, please leave a note down below and let’s start the dialogue! And, again, if you haven't already downloaded your FREE copy of the therapist's business plan workbook for private practice, click the image below to download it now!