I am absolutely thrilled and honored to have a guest post by the wonderful, amazing Jena Casbon! She has a fabulous website about everything under the sun for private practitioners and those hoping to start their own practice, so I suggest you hurry (not mosey) on over to The Independent Clinician as soon as you finish reading!
Attention graduate students and new grads:
Are you interested in starting a private practice someday? If you’re anything like I was, I hoped to get my degree, work for a few years and then start my own private practice. I had fallen in love with the profession of Speech-Language Pathology and couldn’t wait to fix everyone with a speech, language, cognitive or swallowing disorder.
During my CF, I became aware of two colleagues who had their own private practices. They worked part-time at the hospital with me and part-time treating their own private clients. I longed for their freedom, their confidence, their status as private practitioners and their ability to earn double their hospital salary in half the time. In the year after my clinical fellowship, Rick and Kathryn taught me everything I needed to know about treating private clients. From what liability insurance to get, to how they documented, to their suggested fees and marketing strategies. Eventually I felt ready and started to treat my own private patients and I haven’t looked back!
If you’re still interested in becoming a private practitioner someday, here are 5 Lessons that Will Help YOU Start Your Own Private Practice Someday
1. Your Knowledge Must Be Valuable
Speech-Language Pathologists provide a service, much like a masseuse, a car mechanic or a realtor. In private practice, clients will either pay out of pocket for services or they will be reimbursed through health insurance. Make sure that you have enough experience and expertise before you start to charge people for your services. Although a bad massage or a half-fixed car would be a bummer, patients and families are trusting you with all of their heart to help their child or family member to become whole. Do not take that lightly.
2. Be Open to Various Forms of Private Practice
Many people think of “being in private practice” as leasing office space, having employees and a waiting room. The mentality is that you either have a private practice OR you have a regular job at a school or hospital. There is a much larger percentage of clinicians who have their own part-time private practices after work, on weekends or during the summer. Some therapists have private practices that do second opinion evaluations only. Others incorporate cool elements like pet therapy. One of the best things about private practice is that it’s yours to shape how you want to.
3. Have Multiple Streams of Income
This is something I learned from my mentor Kathryn. She told me, “Never become dependent on one income.” Now she took this a bit further by working at the hospital, having her private practice, owning rental property and teaching 14 spin classes at the gym BUT the principle is worth practicing and sharing. Working full-time at a “regular job” is typically extremely safe but layoffs do happen. Private practices can have a steady stream of clients and then a drop off. By flexing your schedule and adding extra income opportunities, you can keep yourself safe.
4. Become an Expert Something You Love
By this point in your early career you have probably started to figure out your interests. Maybe it’s with adults with aphasia. Or children with hearing loss. No matter what aspect of our field that you fall in love with, if you’re truly interested in helping people, become an expert. Read journal articles, ask questions, attend seminars/conventions/workshops, do research, give a presentation at ASHA. In general, the people who are most successful in private practice have become experts. People want their loved one to receive therapy from an expert. Become the expert and watch your practice grow.
5. Build a Network of Colleagues/Friends as Referral Sources
You may be too young to realize this but the therapy world is very small. The people you know through graduate school, clinical placements and friends of friends are all a part of your referral network. Embrace and cultivate those professional relationships as they will become part of the backbone of your success. Also, don’t limit your network to SLP’s only. You’ll want to add OT’s and PT’s, music therapists, pediatricians, social workers, special education instructors, neuropsychologists, etc. to your list of professional contacts. Engage with these people often and make sure they know what your professional interests are. Private practices often grow through word of mouth referrals. Personal referrals are often the most successful.
One Final Note
One thing that amazed me about Rick and Kathryn was their willingness to teach me how to get started in private practice. My initial thought was, “Why would they teach me, their potential competition, how to enter the market?” The truth was, we weren’t competition. We had different interests, levels of expertise and years of experience. By supporting me, I was able to in turn help them. Collaboration always wins over competition.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have had that level of mentorship. This is exactly why I created The Independent Clinician, a website filled with resources to help SLP’s, OT’s and PT’s get started on their journey to private practice. Even if you’re not ready yet, go ahead and get on the mailing list. I am here to answer your questions and support you if or when you decide to start your own private practice.
Jena H. Casbon, MS CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist in New Orleans, Louisiana and soon to be returning to Boston, Massachusetts. She is passionate about helping adult survivors of stroke and brain injury regain prior functions and be successful in their new lives. She has acted as a consultant for MTV’s True Life: I Have a Traumatic Brain Injury and Lisa Genova’s novel, Left Neglected. In addition to helping her patients, she has taught hundreds of SLP’s, OT’s and PT’s how to start their own private practices. She is the author of two books: The Independent Clinician Guide to Private Patients and The Independent Clinician Guide to Creating a Web Presence.