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How do you start a private mental health practice smoothly and efficiently, with all its moving parts, without overlooking a vital step or getting bogged down in overwhelm? Follow along for a structured map and expert guidance on how to start a private practice.

Before getting deep into legalities and financial concerns, let’s begin with the bigger questions. As you dip your toe in the water, start simple and create a sound foundation under your feet.

Why do you want to start a private practice?

Who is your ideal client?

What’s your vision for the practice?

What services will you provide?

Once you navigate the big questions, the path is cleared for the details.

How To Start a Private Practice – Challenges To Consider

A successful private mental health practice means effectively managing a long list of details, including: scheduling, billing, office expenses, taxes, liability insurance, administrative tasks, record keeping, marketing, HIPAA compliance, and more – not to mention treating patients.

Don’t allow this lengthy list to hold you back from your dream. Resources are easily accessible to help make this transition into business ownership possible and even smooth. Check out this free business plan template to break all the details down into manageable bites.

Mental Health Private Practice Legal Requirements

Depending on your state and municipality, regulations vary for mental health private practices. Schedule a meeting with a local business attorney during the early stages of your private practice startup. One key to a smooth transition into private practice is knowing when to seek professional guidance.

Keeping track of the different local legalities involved may be too much to navigate without a lawyer’s help. Some localities have specific zoning requirements to follow. A business license may be necessary. Liability and malpractice insurance minimums also vary.

In addition to finding a local business attorney, online resources like cover some of the other legal and financial considerations for a private mental health practice. Deciding on a business structure like LLC or PLLC, for instance, is important when it comes to protecting your personal assets and keeping the business legally separated.

Save time and headaches by investing in a legal professional to advocate for your start up practice right from the start.

  1. Where Will You Practice?

    With telehealth in full force, the question of where to practice takes on different dimensions. For practitioners hoping to lower initial overhead costs, telehealth makes sense. Eliminating a practice’s largest monthly expense, office space, makes a dramatic impact on early profits.

    In-person sessions also mean decorating your space, furniture purchases, and extra expenses like Wi-Fi and electricity.

    Maintaining a private practice only in the virtual world, without any face-to-face sessions, presents a different set of challenges. Some patients, for example, might feel intimidated by technology, and prefer in-person sessions. Making your virtual space friendly and calming requires some thought. Another factor is insurance. If you are listed on a provider network, make certain telehealth sessions are covered.

    It’s a good idea to read up on the subject of in person vs. telehealth for the factors to consider when deciding on your practice’s location.

  2. Consider Hiring

    Adding additional clinicians means you can expand your reach to more patients, meet higher demand, and generate more revenue. That said, hiring therapists in today’s climate may prove challenging – especially with predictions forecasting overwhelming shortages within the counseling community.

    There are many factors to consider when hiring counseling staff. Where should you recruit? Is there a specific specialty your practice lacks, where another therapist could fill a gap in care? How will you vet potential employees and onboard them once hired? How much can your private practice afford when hiring talented employees in a competitive environment?

    You can dig into more of the specifics on hiring with online resources like this one.

  3. EHR Software for Mental Health

    To compete with other practices, especially with the current demand for therapy, private mental health practices must use every technological advantage. Choose the best technology for your practice by researching what’s available and what best meets your needs. Make use of all accessible training support for yourself and your staff.

    Practice Management – Simplify Your Practice Management

    Use practice management tools to streamline your new practice’s billing, scheduling, insurance, and credit card processing. The right software can cut down significantly on administrative tasks that otherwise eat up resources, freeing up your time to focus on patients.

    Clinical Care – The Right Tools that Help You Help Others

    Clinical care integration means scheduling, treatment, and documentation tools are built right into the clinical workflow. Tasks such as managing group therapy used to require a major time investment to schedule, document, and bill properly, but are simple and easy with the right tools. Clinical care software should also help with e-prescribing, treatment planning, and outcome measures.

    Patient Experience – Deliver a Positive Patient Experience

    Giving your patients a hassle-free experience, during what may be a difficult time in their lives, is the height of patient care. Through a patient portal, your clients manage billing statements, appointment requests, and scheduling. In addition, a patient portal allows patients to send confidential messages to providers, fill out intake questionnaires, and even join telehealth sessions.