Starting a private practice in behavioral health is a dream for many. Doing so means having a chance to make a positive impact on people’s lives while having more control over your work. However, when running a private practice, there’s a hidden workload beyond providing care. Before you get started on this journey, be sure you haven’t overlooked any key areas.
Uncovering the Unseen Administrative Burden
Administrative work isn’t glamorous, but the behind-the-scenes work of a behavioral health practice is critical—and extensive. From managing paperwork to handling scheduling and compliance issues, you’ll need to be meticulous about your organization and recordkeeping. It’s not just about taking notes during sessions; it’s about ensuring that all of your records are accurate, confidential, and compliant with all relevant regulations. Keeping up with these tasks can seem overwhelming, particularly when you’re juggling other responsibilities.
And when it comes to scheduling, balancing the needs and preferences of your clients with your own availability can be a challenge. Managing appointment reminders, cancellations, and rescheduling requests can eat up a significant amount of time. Getting patient engagement right is one of the most important aspects of running a private practice. Some patients may prefer emailed appointment reminders while others may prefer phone calls. A tool that automates the reminder process can help you save time, connect with patients, and reduce no-shows.
Insurance claims and billing add another layer of complexity. You’ll need to submit accurate claims, follow up on any denials, and navigate ever-changing insurance requirements.
Understanding the hidden complexities of administrative work like this is essential for managing your workload effectively. Neglecting administrative tasks can lead to financial and legal problems down the road. Consider tools or systems that can streamline administrative tasks for you, so you can focus on providing quality care to your clients. Valant’s features are tailored just for the specific needs of behavioral health practitioners.
Financial Management: Beyond the Basics
Negotiating with insurance providers is just one example of a financial task that can consume a lot of your time. To advocate for fair reimbursement for the services you provide, you need to understand not just your own fees but also Employee Assistance Programs as well as insurance billing and coding.
Tax planning is another one of the financial responsibilities you’ll have. Tracking your income and expenses is just the first step. It’s important to identify both ongoing and one-time expenses. Managing your finances efficiently and legally could involve working with an accountant or tax professional who understands the unique financial challenges of running a private practice. This includes planning for lulls, or slower times of year.
Having a local attorney advise you on business structures, zoning requirements, and other legal and financial considerations comes at a cost, but can save you time and headaches. Especially when you are starting out in your therapy business, it’s important to have some professional guidance. Having a financial plan in place can help you ensure your practice’s long-term success.
The Human Resources Dilemma
Hiring the right staff members is essential—they will play a crucial role in your practice. From creating job descriptions, conducting interviews, and checking references to ensuring that the individuals you hire align with your values and mission, hiring is not a process to undertake lightly.
And once you add staff, you add management to your workload. Managing staff is a challenge that can catch new practice owners by surprise. The hidden workload of human resources extends beyond hiring—after all, hiring is just the first step. Once you’ve brought one or more people on board, you have to build and nurture a cohesive team.
Training and staff development are ongoing efforts that require time and attention. This includes orientation for new employees, ongoing training to improve skills, and addressing performance issues when they arise. A positive and professional environment supports the well-being of both your staff and your clients.
Marketing in the Digital Age
To attract those clients, of course, you will need to market your practice effectively. One of the benefits of today’s digital age is that building and maintaining an online presence will help you reach your target audience. Having an online presence goes beyond your practice having its own website—which of course it should—and can include activities such as social media management, joining relevant directories, and obtaining online reviews. In addition, you’ll need a good process for handling prospective patients through your site.
Online reviews can significantly impact the reputation of your practice. Monitoring and responding to reviews, whether positive or negative, can be a time-consuming process. Striking the right tone in soliciting reviews may take some trial and error, but demonstrating a commitment to taking your clients’ feedback seriously can build trust.
Social media requires some time and knowledge, but is a powerful tool for connecting with your community and sharing valuable information. For example, if you include a blog on your practice’s site, you could use social media to share the posts you write. Over time, informative blog posts could help your practice’s site become more visible. Creating engaging content is a significant undertaking, but doing so on a consistent basis reflects your expertise and commitment to your clients.
Ongoing content efforts can help to connect you with both current and potential clients. From newsletters and email campaigns to educational webinars and events, patient engagement is a continuing workload.
Marketing demands consistent effort and a willingness to learn and adapt—key traits you’ll need for running a private practice anyway. Plenty of free or inexpensive marketing courses are available through sources such as Udemy, Coursera, and LinkedIn Learning. Understanding the digital marketing landscape, and the strategies that work in your field, is an investment in your practice’s growth and visibility in a competitive digital world.
Ethical and Legal Responsibilities
Don’t underestimate the ethical and legal considerations in running a behavioral health practice. Maintaining patient confidentiality, handling legal documentation, and staying updated with industry regulations are all high priorities and all require effort.
To provide effective care, you will need to have the trust of your patients. Ensuring that you maintain the highest standards of privacy and security when it comes to your clients’ information is not just a legal requirement, it’s an ethical one. Managing electronic health records, securing sensitive information, and following HIPAA and other guidelines are all crucial tasks.
Beyond that, handling legal documentation, such as informed consent forms and release of information agreements, will also be part of your workload. Clear and effective documentation processes can protect both your clients and your practice. Ensuring that you have the necessary documents in place to provide ethical and responsible care can’t be overlooked.
Behavioral health practices are subject to evolving rules and standards, and you’ll need to stay informed and make any necessary adjustments to comply with them. When in doubt, you can choose to be proactive and seek legal guidance to ensure that your practice operates ethically and legally.
Coping with Emotional Labor
One of the most challenging but often overlooked aspects of running a private practice is the emotional labor involved. It’s a hidden kind of workload that can be significant but difficult to quantify.
When working in behavioral health, it can be emotionally draining to listen to and support people who are facing challenging or distressing situations. You need to offer empathy, understanding, and support while maintaining professional boundaries and using your expertise.
Burnout is a common issue in many fields of healthcare, and it’s often associated with the emotional labor involved. It’s important to recognize the signs of burnout, such as fatigue, decreased empathy, or reduced job satisfaction. Even for mental health professionals, providing consistent emotional support can take a toll.
Prioritizing self-care is an essential part of maintaining your own mental and emotional well-being. Setting boundaries between your professional and personal life is a challenging but critical part of running your own practice. And remember that self-care isn’t a luxury—engaging in activities that energize and rejuvenate you help you continue providing quality care. Developing strategies to cope with emotional labor is essential for your long-term well-being.
Preparing for the Hidden Workload
A private practice in the behavioral health field involves a hidden workload encompassing many different aspects. You shouldn’t expect to be an expert in all of them. Recognizing and addressing these challenges can help you pave the way for a successful journey with your own private practice.
With the right insights and support, you can build a thriving practice that makes a meaningful impact on the lives of your clients. Specialized tools and professional advice can help you avoid pitfalls and wasted time—you don’t have to handle every single element yourself. Your time is best spent by focusing on providing quality care.