7 Steps From Graduation To Private Practice
How to conceptualize your Private Practice's Launch
From Pre-Work to Thought Process to Leap
1. Educate yourself about your career path and pay your dues early:
OK, you are ready to think about having your own practice. Research how to launch into Private Practice. Opportunities like volunteer positions, internships and your clinical hours give you insights and experience that are extremely useful to your practice’s launch. In Social Work, don’t be scared away from the difficult jobs because of low pay or bad hours. These jobs are where you learn the most about your city, potential clients and how systems work. They allow you the opportunity to network and to get free advice. You learn about your countertransference, your limitations, and narrow in on your population and specialty of choice by doing - not just academically. The most important lessons of the doing of Therapy can be learned working in schools, court, foster care, supportive housing, rehabs and mental health clinics. You get many many sessions to hone your skills and correct mistakes. These positions will inform and shape your style of therapy and interpersonal engagement later on in your career.
2. Don’t stay too long in one job prior to launch:
In Social Work, loyalty and commitment to one organization for long periods of time could put you behind in salary gains, promotions and experience. It is common in Social Work to change positions or agencies 1-3 years in order to work towards the larger goals and continue climbing the salary ladder. Tangential leaps from clinic to clinic or from a school to a rehab in the same role can help you increase your pay. Don’t be afraid to take risks with jobs if it helps you gain experience, salary jumps and position titles.
3. Set Goals:
Make them. Have them. Know them. Always work towards them. Think of goal setting in two time frames, short (1year-3 years) and long (5 years – the biggest goal). For me, my goal has been private practice, but the journey towards it has been long, punctuated with many smaller goals and reworking my script constantly as I move forward. My goals have included completing College, Graduate school, licensing and higher licensing. My career goals started broad and ensured that each additional position brought a better salary, promotion in responsibilities, and more specialized clinical work to prepare me for private practice. It was extremely important to allow opportunities for “mistakes” - learning populations, agencies, or situations that were not right for me. Going back to the drawing board became a part of my process. In these moments I was able to reset, and re-invent my next career goal. I learned to accept momentary failures or setbacks as a ruling out of a situation, and an opportunity to re-think the next step.
4. Practice Self Care:
In Therapy self-care is important, and the least prioritized activity that we do. The skills we teach ourselves and practice regularly early on, will already be in place when things get busier, faster and with higher stakes. Try, learn and refresh what works for you. I’ve found that self-care is more than just a yoga class or reading a book. Self care is about setting boundaries about how often, how long, and how much we will allow ourselves to be mentally engaged in work activities. How often and for how long do we let ourselves unwind, rest, and detach from the stressors or work. Self-care is especially important in a field like Social Work, because the practice of it will ideally challenge the rate of burnout, compassion fatigue and mistakes in the workplace. It’s essential to find and engage activities that bolster our self-care. In making self-care a priority I found a way to engage in and continue to explore my passions, create happiness and - equally important - become better in setting boundaries. This focus insures that we are more than just our jobs but that we practice what we preach to our clients. Your Private Practice will be boosted by these efforts
5. Develop a professional network, maintain it and grow it!
#Adulting is hard. #Work is hard. In Social Work or Therapy you will not achieve success of any measure alone. Professional networking is a critical skill to focus on immediately. Your professional network is best made up of inspirational people and mentors you’ve worked with and met along the way. Colleagues, peers, students and friends of friends that you have found value in their words and respect in the way they handle business. These people become influencers in your private practice and become sources for cross referrals.
I have found, in addition to colleague support, it has been useful to connect and find support in people who have experience in other specialities in order to help you learn a new skill. Connecting to groups like Serene Offices - who are welcoming, supportive and helpful in trying to navigate the business of therapy is essential.
Finding ways to connect with people you will grow the most from, and ensuring they take the journey with you, is just as important as cultivating a great resume.
6. Build an excellent personal support system:
Your support system is invaluable. It consists of everyone outside the framework of your Therapy Practice and its business. People - Friends, family and your personal therapist. These are the people who keep you stable, engaged in the good parts of the world, continue to make you laugh and create your happiness. These people will lift us up when we are feeling run down and ragged. Refocus our intentions when we are feeling lost or without a goal. Celebrate with us when we achieved a milestone. In the field of Social Work, it is important to cultivate relationships with people who will help you distinguish the boundaries between work and home, and remind you to find joy in small moments, and be silly as often as you can.
7. Take the leap of faith
As with many other things in our life, we never feel entirely ready for the next step, or the leap of faith moment. I would say the courage to take the next step comes when you find that you are outgrowing one of your later goals, not feeling as challenged in your current work environment, or that your noticing you CAN handle more...and want to. The final push came, when I became proactive with my research and networking towards private practice. My language changed from “my goal is private practice” to “ I am actively working towards private practice” and finally, “I have launched my private practice”. When others in the business field, like Serene Offices, started hearing me speak actively about creating my business, they were also ready to take action with me. Having the opportunity from Serene Offices, providing me with flexible rentals, free business coaching, free practice building coaching and free supervision allowed me the chance to transition into a private practice at a pace that felt comfortable for me and minimized early start-up stress. In that way, I transitioned a long term goal into a reality with the support and guidance from friends, family, colleagues and family business Serene Offices.