How I Built My Private Practice
By Farah Harris, MA, LCPC – November 2018
There are many clinicians who, once they’ve graduated and received their clinical license, their dream is to own their own private practice. I was not one of those clinicians. You could say that I entered private practice reluctantly. I didn’t want to have the hustle of overhead, marketing, billing, etc. However, I believe that life has a funny way of leading you to the places you need to be if you remain open and obedient. So here I am, with a full practice and a burgeoning speaking career.
So, how did I create a successful private practice? For one, I had to have a vision of what I wanted it to look like and make sure it aligned with the life I wanted to live. I’m a big proponent of work-life alignment. As a wife and a mother of two young children (with one on the way), I wanted to create a practice that would meet my needs financially and personally.
I began my start in private practice in October of 2015. I was only seeing a couple of clients on the side while I worked as a Director of Counseling Services for a mega-church in the Chicagoland area. Although the work was rewarding, there comes a point in life when you no longer desire to fulfill someone else’s dreams, but choose to bet on yourself and the limitless possibilities of your future. As I stated before, I was hesitant in becoming an entrepreneur. I didn’t want the hassle of dealing with the business side of things. I wanted to be an excellent clinician, work for someone else, see my clients, and then go home. But greatness can be stifled by laziness and doubt … and I saw greater.
In September of 2017, I began to take my practice seriously and resigned from my position as Director in December 2018. I started out with two clients and by the end of April of 2018, my practice was full. I decided that seeing an average of 15 clients per week would work best for me and my family. It allowed me the flexibility to have time to do administrative work, build my brand, pick up my kids from school and daycare, connect with friends, and provide presentations for organizations.
But be careful not to let someone else narrate your story. As I began to grow, I had several colleagues try to encourage me to grow bigger, see more people, and purchase office space because, to them, it made sense for where they were — but not for where I was. I purposely didn’t lease space, but was blessed to find a wonderful therapist that offered me space for rent. This arrangement aligned with my vision of not being locked into something that could potentially create a financial burden and leave me feeling stuck.
I chose to invest in my business by joining wonderful social media groups that exposed me to men and women who looked like me and were being successful in the mental health field more than what was ever presented to me in graduate school. I invested financially by getting a business consultant who helped with my website and encouraged me to use my voice in all that I do to better communicate with my potential clients. I went to a couple of conferences, connected with people off-line, and generally kept my eyes and ears open to new ideas and possibilities.
I have a practice in which I see clients that I enjoy working with and who enjoy working with me. This is due to the screening process I do during our free, 20-minute consultation. This phone call provides the potential client the ability to assess if I am a good fit for them, and for me to do the same. It is rewarding to know that I am doing good, life-changing work with my clientele. I have created a firm foundation that, even if I choose to step away from my practice to go on maternity leave, I will not have to scramble to build it back up. In this season of my life, I am grateful that I have designed a practice that works for me, reflects where I am, and is flexible to become what I need it to be.
How I have built and continue to build my business is with intentionality and strategy for my own self-care. I am a better woman, business owner, speaker, wife, mother, friend, sister, and daughter because of how I have chosen to create my work-life alignment. I say that the true definition of self-care is the intentional daily act of creating a life you don’t want to run away from. I’m not running away but running towards greater.