All right, everybody. Welcome back. Today’s episode marks the first in a series of episodes geared toward the beginner practice owner. Today, I’m going to be talking really just about whether you are ready to start your own testing practice. I’ll talk through some mindset components and some logistical components that will help you figure out if a private practice could be right for you.
Now, I am biased. And I think private practice could be right for just about everybody for many reasons, but you can’t just leap into it without preparation and planning and some deliberate action. So that’s what we’re going to be talking all about today.
Before I jump into the [00:01:00] episode, I would like to talk through something that has been quite important to me over the last several weeks.
Now, for the life of this podcast, I have not pursued and have in fact turned down many sponsorship opportunities because:
1) I did not want to dilute the content of the episodes.
2) It’s really hard for me to endorse any product or company that I don’t believe in 100%.
As the audience has grown, it has become clear to me that this is a platform that now reaches thousands of individuals each week and there are many valuable products and services out there that testing psychologists could benefit from knowing about. I would like to start bringing some of those products and services to the forefront.
And now, in the interest of transparency, because I’ll always try to keep it real with y’all, compensation for the time spent producing the podcast has grown more important as [00:02:00] I’ve doubled down on content. So to that end, I have decided to consider sponsorship agreements with trusted resources here in the field. From this point forward, you will hear short ads at the beginning and middle of the show. My promise to you is that this information will always be valuable and that I will heavily vet any sponsorship opportunity to make sure that the product, service, or company advertised is directly relevant to you as a testing clinician.
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Okay, on to the episode.
Okay, y’all, here we are talking all about the mindset and logistics necessary to consider as you think about starting your own testing practice. Now, I said in the intro that starting your own testing practice is something that I think nearly anyone [00:04:00] can do. And a private practice has afforded me many benefits over the years. Certainly some flexibility and opportunities for growth. There are all kinds of things that you get from private practice. The ability to practice the way you want, practice independently, see exactly the clients you want.
And at the same time, some folks prefer not to take on the risk and the responsibility necessary to run a private practice. And that is totally fine. But if you are on the fence and you’re thinking about, Hey, could this be the right choice for me? Could I start a private practice with testing as a component? Then I think this is the episode for you.
There are a couple of ways that I approach making this decision. Two areas that I think are important to consider. [00:05:00] The first is the mindset. I think mindset is the most important of the two. The next one that I’ll talk about is logistics. But I start with mindset because to me, this is where 95% of the hurdles are going to occur. And this is where probably 95% of your troubles down the road after you start your practice are really going to come into play.
So when I talk about mindset, I mean, where’s your head at when you think about starting a practice? Because if your head is not in the game, then it’s just not going to work.
So, let me talk through a few components of mindset when you are thinking about starting a private practice. And each of these I think is important. So if you find yourself listening to this discussion, and you’re saying, “This just does not fit for me. I don’t [00:06:00] think I can go to the depths necessary or wrap my mind around some of these things.” That is totally fine. It is work, but if you’re not in the place right now, maybe you will be in the place down the road.
So, here are just a few mindset components to think about. The first is that maybe something that does not bear repeating, but I’m going to anyway because I think it’s so important, is just to recognize that you really do have to have the mindset to make a private practice successful. If you really want it to go, if you really want it to be a successful thing that brings you, hopefully, some joy and financial success and many other things, you really have to have a good mindset and approach it that way as a serious venture. [00:07:00] Not that you have to take yourself seriously, but it does take some effort. So, just knowing that this is something that you got to kind of throw your weight behind to really maximize the experience.
So, that’s the first thing right off the bat is just knowing like, hey, if you’re going to do private practice, set the intention to do private practice and commit to that. I don’t think it’s going to go as well if you keep it as a wishy-washy sort of idea that you might put some time into here and there, but it’s not going to be your main thing. I think you just need to be prepared that even if you’re going into part-time private practice, it’s got to be your main thing in terms of mindset and emotional and cognitive energy while you’re starting up.
So that’s one piece. It’s just making sure that you have the capacity to set the intention for private practice and commit to that for [00:08:00] as long as it takes to get up and running.
Another piece to consider is just the emotional and mental roller coaster that private practice will take you through. Now, there are some really unique situations and quite pleasant situations, to be honest, that happen sometimes where you might somehow step into a relatively busy, easily functioning practice. Maybe you bought a practice, maybe you have had great mentorship, who knows. Those situations do occur. But generally speaking, private practice is a bit of an emotional roller coaster in the beginning.
So, asking yourself if you are ready to take a financial hit for a little bit, or at least bear with some ups and downs in finances while your caseload evens out and builds up. But also, just the emotional roller coaster [00:09:00] of becoming a business owner, confronting things that may be really hard for you.
For me, when I started my practice, honestly that was the first time that I engaged in an activity that I hadn’t really been trained for either through school or life experience. I had no business knowledge. There was a lot to figure out. And that was really tough for someone who over the years, you know, I felt like I could do pretty well at being taught and learning and then putting those concepts into play.
So the major shift was just finding out that I had a new identity as a business owner, and I was going to have to literally do everything myself, or at least make the decisions myself as to how to start and run this practice. So, that’s a bit of an emotional roller coaster.
Now, another component is [00:10:00] just the, “Am I doing this the right way? Am I any good at this? Will people call?” There’s so much uncertainty with private practice, especially in the beginning that I think it does take some emotional fortitude to ride that roller coaster. Now, it’s totally going to work out, right? It will work out, but I’m guessing you’re going to go through some ups and downs.
Another piece that I think is huge that comes up quite a bit but operates a little bit behind the scenes is our self-worth and our boundaries. So, if you have not done some major work on self-worth and boundaries, and the relationship to yourself, and knowing what you’re worth, and knowing what you want from your practice, [00:11:00] this will come and kick you in the ass a little bit time, and again, as you’re starting your practice.
There are just some examples of how this might come up. You might be tempted to see clients outside of the hours that you would like to, or you might take on clients that are a little outside your area of expertise just because you want to have more clients. You might not charge a no-show fee. There’s a ton of self-worth wrapped up in money. I’ll talk about money in just a second. Those are just a few ways that self-worth and boundaries can come up in private practice. And these things will be tested by your clients and by your business.
So, just keep that in mind as well. I think it’s totally worth it to do a little bit of personal work around what is my worth and what is important to me and how do I hold boundaries when I set them?[00:12:00] So I mentioned money a second ago. Money is huge. So, this is another area. If you have not done some work around money, I think you should do some work around money. And this is all totally coming from a place of, hey, I did not do this. So, do as I say, not as I do. So I stumbled into this and it was not until two years into private practice that I realized that some kind of deeply held money beliefs and money attitudes were really interfering.
I’ve talked about some of these things on the podcast before, but one big one is just the simple fact that I grew up in a family that did not talk about money at all. So I really had no idea how we were doing financially and if we are secure and so forth, I mean, I assumed we were, but I never really knew. And I only found [00:13:00] out when I was really an adult that there were times when I was growing up that we were quite close to poverty that my parents were trying to figure out how to buy gas and food during certain times of our lives, but I really had no idea.
And that followed me into my business where I basically ignored the ins and outs of finances of the practice for a number of years until it really punched me in the face and I was not able to ignore that anymore.
So, attitudes around money, there are a lot of resources for that. I’ve mentioned Tiffany McClain on the podcast many times. She has an episode here. She has many episodes on her own podcast which is called The Money Sessions. So there was a lot to work with there in terms of money mindset, and attitude. So, I would dive into that as well as you get started in your [00:14:00] practice.
Now, another piece to consider is that again, private practice is some work. I talked with Dr. Kim Dwyer about purpose-driven practice. We talked about the concept of not letting private practice just be an escape from something else. You should enter private practice very deliberately and hopefully, and ideally with some joy, and some excitement. The idea is that it’s not just an escape from a job that you don’t like or a situation that you don’t like because eventually, whatever was going on in that job will probably follow you to private practice and then you just got to work through it there too.
So the final piece that I will say just about mindset is, I think it’s worth it to do some really in-depth visualization around your ideal practice, which to me flows [00:15:00] into your ideal life and work backward from there. I think we get wrapped up in preconceptions and misconceptions even about what private practice should look like. Like you have to work in the evenings or you’re going to have to work weekends, or you have to take insurance or you have to go to an office in X part of town or whatever it might be. I mean, just do some visualization around what your ideal practice would look like and work backward from there rather than the other way around, which is like starting from zero and sort of conforming to whatever might be out there.
I did an episode way back in the beginning with Kelly Higdon around your ideal day, a perfect practice, that sort of thing. I’ll put that episode in the show notes. Kelly remains a dear [00:16:00] friend to this day. She was so big on lifestyle practices and making your practice work for you instead of the other way around. That’s the last component I just want to mention as you are thinking about starting a practice. So these are all mindset issues.
Before I transition to logistics, let’s take a quick break.
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Now, on the logistical side, we got to get down to some brass tacks as well. Let’s just start with finances. Do you have the financial resources to start a practice? And you might say, “Well, what does that even mean? How much do I need?” So what I say is, do a little market research and figure out where are you at. What’s your area look like in terms of typical office rent. And if you can ballpark your overhead, which for us is relatively low, so that’s going to be maybe an EHR, it’s going to be some testing materials, and if you have to pay for internet, [00:18:00] that sort of thing. So you should be able to get a decent ballpark of what your overhead is going to be.
And then you want to add in any expenses that are truly unique to start up. So the big one that I think about is perhaps buying testing materials if you’re not doing a pay-as-you-go kind of model like Q-interactive and also buying furniture for your office. So we don’t have a lot of overhead to get started, which is a good thing. But I always say, if you want to be absolutely safe, shoot to have six months of those expenses saved up so that if you had literally zero business for six months after you signed your lease, you’d be okay. I think three months is relatively safe, but if you want to be totally safe, go for six months. So that’s the financial component.
How do you do that? Well, if you get an idea of what you will need, you can set that target, and ideally, [00:19:00] take maybe six months or a year to save that money up. And you’ll be ready to go.
Another logistical component is simply thinking about again, what is it practice going to look like, but more in a practical way. So, what is your area of expertise? What are you going to specialize in? Are you comfortable naming an expertise or identifying an expertise? Because I think that it will be helpful. Seems counter-intuitive, but it will be helpful to name an area of expertise right from the get-go so that you can tell people when they ask what you’re doing and where you’re spending all your time these days. You can tell people, well, I have a private practice and I specialize in an X kind of evaluation.
I don’t think it’s enough to just say evaluation or assessment or testing. You need to have an area of expertise, even if that’s, I work with kids. [00:20:00] I do testing with kids to help parents figure out their strengths and challenges. So, finding an area of expertise and being able to articulate that clearly.
Another logistical piece, the last one that I’m going to talk about is simply, do you have the time to dedicate to starting this practice? So, if you’re going to go into private practice full time, or if it’s just going to be kind of a side practice which I will talk about in an upcoming episode, you still need to have the time to dedicate to this.
I love that quote that I’m going to paraphrase and possibly butcher, but it’s something along the lines of, vision without execution is hallucination. So the idea is, yeah, it’s fantastic if we have any number of ideas but executing on those ideas is really what’s important. [00:21:00] So, for you, the important component is figuring out where you’re going to spend the time to execute this vision. Is that going to come in the evening? Is it going to come on the weekends? Is it going to come during the day when your kids are at school? So, just thinking through before you really leap into it, do you have the time to dedicate to this pursuit? It will take some time, but totally doable.
And if you want to get super practical, you can even map out a schedule. So mapping out blocks. We’ve talked about time blocking and deep working. So, a 2 to 3-hour block each week to work on your private practice until you are ready to launch. And there are many things that you’re going to do during that time. I’m not going to go into all those things during this episode. We’ll talk about them later. But there are many things you can work on, so that time will [00:22:00] easily be well-spent.
All right. So that’s just a brief discussion. Just to put it on your radar, if you’re thinking about starting your practice, here are some things that you really want to look into and think about before you start to make that commitment. Because the last thing that I would want to happen is that you get excited about private practice. You leap into the planning without being deliberate. And then over time it gets old, it gets tiring, it gets overwhelming and you don’t have time. And then you abandon it. That is the worst experience. Or you kind of give it a half-hearted go, don’t get many referrals, or don’t know how to bill or whatever, and these other hurdles come up.
So, what I was trying to do today is just get you in the mindset and really encourage you to think about what you [00:23:00] should be thinking about if you are going down the road of private practice.
Okay, y’all. Thank you so much for listening to the podcast as always. If you have not subscribed or followed the podcast, I would be honored if you would do so. I’m going to be doing like I said, a little bit of a beginner practice series over the next few weeks. So, if you are someone who is in that stage, you’re in the right place.
All right, everyone, I hope you are doing well. Take care, stay healthy and stay sane. Until next time
The information in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist Website is intended for [00:24:00] informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here. And similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with an expertise that fits your needs.