Live Consulting with Brenda Stewart: What are the First Steps to Starting a Group Practice | FP 88

Are you thinking about starting a group practice? How do you set up your group practice so that you encourage clinician retention? What are some of the early financial pieces to be aware of?

In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens does a live consulting call with Brenda Stewart about the first steps to starting a group practice.

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Meet Brenda Stewart

Brenda Stewart holds a MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Regent University and is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Florida and a Nationally Certified Counselor. She is the founder of Wellspring Therapy Associates, a clinically sound faith-based practice in the Orlando area.

She specializes in working with clients who struggle with anxiety and those have experienced trauma. Brenda’s additional trainings and certifications include EMDR, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Compassion Fatigue Educator, and Compassion Fatigue Therapist. Brenda is a member of EMDRIA, the American Counseling Association, American Association of Christian Counselors, and Chi Sigma Iota where she served as chapter president.

She has presented at various professional conferences on topics including grief, infertility, spirituality in distance supervision, and the impact of childhood sexual abuse on adult relationship patterns through the lens of attachment. She has also appeared on the Hope Unabridged Podcast and conducted webinars for Jay Johnson Ministries. Brenda is passionate about helping others heal and imparts hope to her clients throughout the therapy process.

Visit her website. Connect on Instagram.

In This Podcast

  • To start a group practice or not?
  • Initial steps for starting a group practice
  • Early financial investment
  • Retaining clinicians

To start a group practice or not?

There are many benefits to starting a group practice. Here are some things to consider:

A group practice is a launching pad:

Once you have your systems running well, you have hired more staff who are seeing clients, you are making vicarious income off of their seeing clients and this income provides you with the space to see less of your own clients, giving you the chance to do more things to grow the practice.

Try to not do it all at once

Even though you may have lots of ideas that you are excited to try out, pick one to start with because when you commit to too many new projects, you burn yourself out and often struggle to complete them all.

Consider your own energy levels

Think about how you feel energy-wise with the clients you are already seeing before adding on new projects onto your current workload.

What I’m hearing as you’re talking is that a group practice might be the way to go initially … so that bigger things can happen and there’s more ideas and more resources to pull from. (Brenda Stewart)

If you decide that you want to start a group practice, do not delay it unnecessarily. You can start even when you are a little uncertain, even if you are a little nervous – because the sooner you start, the sooner you will have that extra income and the sooner you can begin to work on the projects that excite you and grow your practice further.

Initial steps for starting a group practice

Once you have decided that you would like to start your group practice, and you are unsure as to how many clinicians to hire, Whitney recommends that you always hire two clinicians at a time.

But at the same time, if you get three or four [therapists] and you just think that they are fantastic, do not turn away a good therapist for your practice, they are not always easy to find … don’t let somebody fall through the cracks just because you’re nervous about filling them up with clients. (Whitney Owens)

In the beginning stages of a group practice, the philosophy “if you build it, they will come” does ring true. If you set up your practice for four clinicians, even if currently you only have one or two recently hired, you will either find the other two or they will come to you.

The more people at your practice, the more people that know about the business, the more clients that are coming, the more specializations they can offer, the more people you can market on your website. (Whitney Owens)

When you hire clinicians in patches of two, you save yourself time and money because you can train them together instead of spending time with them individually, and you encourage comradery between them because they get to know each other well while they train together.

Depending on the type of practice you would like to run, you can either hire clinicians whose skillsets compliments your own and thus your practice will share similar ideal clients, or your practice can host a variety of therapists who specialize in different fields.

Early financial investment

With regards to finances, it does become important whether you hire W2 or 1099 clinicians. If you choose the W2 model, it is slightly more expensive in the beginning but it definitely pays off in the end because you can receive higher profit margins than if you had 1099 employees.

Most businesses that go with the W2 model tend to have better profit margins … I’ve talked to several other people, and I’ve noticed in my own practice when I made that transition from contractors to W2, the [W2] model had better profit, and I could invest a lot more in the business and do more for the clinicians than when they were contractors. (Whitney Owens)

First, when you hire a new clinician you have to think about initial expenses, such as:

  • Phoneline,
  • EHR,
  • Email

Some of these are expenses that you may already be paying and do not need to add more of, however, there will be small expenses each time you hire a new W2 employee.

Get your income rolling in first before you hire office space, and a good rule of thumb is to not pay rent that is more than 10% of your annual income.

Retaining clinicians

Often group practice owners worry about retaining their clinicians. In most cases, W2 employee clinicians tend to stay in the group practice longer than 1099s.

In your interview process, you can vet potential clinicians to see if they are willing to, and want to, stay with you in your group practice for the long term.

Ask them what their long-term goals are, and see if they are the kind of people who would want to start their own business or if they are the kinds of people to work within a company.

You can create a group practice where your clinicians would like to stay, and this opportunity is opened up through good communicative channels.

Ask your clinicians what services would be important to them to have, what they like and don’t like, and you can structure the group practice around their needs because then they would be more likely to stay.

Useful Links:

Meet Whitney Owens

Photo of Christian therapist Whitney Owens. Whitney helps other christian counselors grow faith based private practices!Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.

Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.

Thanks For Listening!

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Faith in Practice is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts that are changing the world. To hear other podcasts like Empowered and Unapologetic, Bomb Mom, Imperfect Thriving, Marketing a Practice or Beta Male Revolution, go to

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