Wondering what you need to know about starting a group practice before actually doing it? Check out my initial blog on this topic 3 Things About Group Practice that I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Began. After you’ve read that, jump back to this blog to learn 3 more things I wish I would have known.
Looking back on my 2-year journey from starting a group practice to where I am now, there are so many things I wish I would have done differently. This is based on the knowledge, experience, and consulting I’ve gotten since I began. So let’s jump into it.
You Cannot Do It Alone
When you’re in solo practice, you are pretty isolated – unless you’ve developed a pretty comprehensive support system. Maybe you have a clinical supervisor, or maybe you’re part of a consultation group. Maybe you’re connected with other community therapists either personally or via Facebook networking groups. If so, then that’s great. If not, and if you have been mostly going about your work alone, then now is the time to get extra support, consultation, and/or supervision. Reach out to colleagues who already have group practices. See if you can interview them or ask questions about their experiences. Alternatively, find a practice or business consultant who has built a successful group practice and knows the process. This is absolutely not the time to try to learn and implement everything on your own. You will very much benefit from consultation with others as you get started.
Be Planful With Your Group Practice – Not Desperate
Start working on your business plan for your group practice. Maybe you had one for your solo practice, maybe not? But if you don’t start planning what you want, you may accept the first things that happen or come to you in growing your group practice – only to regret it later. One of the things to be most planful about is hiring your first (few) clinicians. Write down what type of person you want to join your practice, how much you need them to work, and what type of work they will be doing. Then find out how to find your ideal candidate. One of my first mistakes was hiring therapists to work too few hours per week. She got full and was unwilling to increase her hours. This meant that I had to hire more therapists before I wanted to. Make a plan, follow it, and don’t hire out of desperation.
Check out my 3 part blogs on the hiring process:
- Hiring Your First Clinician Part 1
- Hiring Your First Clinician Part 2
- Hiring Your First Clinician Part 3
Outsource Now To Help Your Group Practice
Yes, even if you don’t need it, you should start thinking about outsourcing some tasks right away. The biggest hurdle most new group practice owners stumble over is filling their clinician’s caseloads. You, as the group practice owner, are probably full, so you’re not taking on any more clients. But you’re still answering the phone or emails, and new clients don’t want to see your other therapist, they only want to see you! If you outsource new client inquiries and scheduling to an administrative assistant or virtual assistant (VA), you take yourself out of the equation. You’re not the one initially connecting with a client only to direct them to another therapist. Your assistant will have much more success filling your new therapist’s caseload than you will. Of course, there are other things you can start thinking about outsourcing now too, including bookkeeping, insurance billing, payment collections, etc.
I’m hoping that you will benefit more in starting your group practice from knowing this information up front than I did when I started 2 years ago. Knowing what you don’t know can be incredibly beneficial in creating a plan to learn it before you get started. Of course, some people learn better by doing (ahem, me…) but I can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve made that way that I could have prevented with a little bit of research and planning! You can do this!
Shannon Heers is a licensed professional counselor in Colorado. She owns the private-pay group practice Catalyss Counseling in the Denver metro area, focusing on helping adults manage their anxiety, grief, and trauma. Shannon is also an experienced clinical supervisor and manager and is just starting to offer business consultation services to other therapists. She balances working with raising her two young children.