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  • Writer's pictureEmily Weis, LPC

5 Essential Skills You Need to Grow A Therapy Practice That Thrives

Updated: May 2

how to grow a therapy practice

Being a therapist is a long journey (believe me, I know). You’ve spent years at school developing your clinical skills and worked hard to land a job at a therapy practice, but sometimes you’ve got to go it alone.

Leaving a cushy job with good pay to start your own private practice can feel terrifying – but also kind of exhilarating. 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but providing great therapy isn’t enough to get your practice off the ground – you’ll also need to develop a range of additional skills that will grow your business and increase your income.

To get you started, here are five skills to master.

1. Clinical Expertise

Your clinical skills are your bread and butter – clients are coming to you in their most vulnerable states, and you need to support them in their journey to mental wellness. 

Being well-versed in evidence-based treatments is extremely important. That means being up to date on research in your specialization areas – CBT, psychodynamic, ACT, etc – and staying up to date on best practices in these areas.

However, expertise also goes beyond theoretical knowledge – you need to be a good listener. You need to be able to listen, empathize with and reflect on your client’s problems, and create a safe and supportive space where they feel able to confidently engage with you.

Finally, you also need to be able to communicate well. It can be hard to take complex ideas and explain them in a way that your average client will understand – but, that’s what makes a good therapist.

2. Business Competency

I’m sure that you’ve got so much passion that you’re dying to take into your own practice, but sometimes that’s not going to cut it. You’re going to need some business competency, too.

I don’t mean that you’ve got to go and get yet another degree, but brushing up on a few basic business skills will really serve you well when you’re out on your own. At the very least, you need to learn about the following:

  • How insurance works: Know how insurance billing works and what codes you need to use to get paid in your practice. You can also get involved with professional organizations that can help train you on this.

  • Financial management: You’ll need to create a budget and track all of your monthly business expenses and cash flow.  

  • Operations: You may be fine juggling everything when you’re first starting out, but once those clients start coming in, you’ll need to be extra organized when it comes to making appointments, tracking client records, and other HIPAA-related tasks (more on that later).

3. Marketing skills

If you’re still operating under the illusion that all you need to do to get clients is wait for word-of-mouth referrals to come to you, it’s time to join the 21st century. 

To reach your ideal clients, you need a marketing plan. Here are just some of the things you might want to think about:

  • Define your niche: Figure out your area of clinical expertise and what kinds of people you want to serve. This gives you a way to create a marketing plan that focuses on drawing in the people who will benefit the most from your services.

  • Get yourself online: Build a website that highlights your values, services and contact information. Also, consider therapist directories and social media (with the proper ethical protocol, of course!).

  • Networking: Connect with other mental health professionals, healthcare professionals (like PCP’s and OB’s),  community organizations and referral sources to exchange ideas and build relationships. This can increase word-of-mouth referrals and referral sources.

4. Ethical practice

Ethics is something that we do every day, it comes naturally to us as therapists. But, when you’ve got your own practice and clients to think about, you’re going to have to be more by the book than you’ve ever been before.

You’ll need to ensure client privacy by strictly adhering to HIPAA regulations and maintaining secure record-keeping practices. As well as establishing clear boundaries with clients regarding communication, scheduling, and professional conduct. This means absolutely no personal or professional relationships with clients outside of the therapeutic context.

Aside from following the ethical guidelines that rule our industry, ethical practice is also about ongoing thoughtfulness and reflection, and a commitment to professional learning. Attending workshops, conferences and continuing education opportunities ensures that you are at the forefront of your field, and doing your best to offer your clients the finest care.

5. HIPAA compliance

HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is the basic law for protecting individually identifiable health information (PHI). Here’s what you need to know.

  • Take reasonable steps to protect both physical and electronic client information from unauthorized access, disclosure or use.

  • Obtain written authorization from clients before disclosing protected information, except in the circumstances outlined in HIPAA regulations.

  • Educate yourself and any employees of your organization about HIPAA requirements. A great deal of helpful information and training is available online.

Start Building a Thriving Practice

So, that was a lot of information and I don’t mean to completely scare you off from starting your own practice! 

But, it is important to know that developing a flourishing therapy practice takes time and a commitment to constantly learning and improving. If you want your business to succeed, you’ll need to dedicate yourself to ongoing clinical expertise development, learning good business skills, consistently hitting ethical codes of conduct, and adhering to HIPAA protocols.

You may not have chosen the easy path, but boy are you going to learn a lot along the way. Plus, if you need some extra help to get things off the ground, I’m always here for you. I offer professional coaching for therapists who have dreams of going solo.

Learn from someone who’s literally been in your shoes, made all the mistakes in the book, and still come out the other side. If you’d like to talk to me about your future practice, get in touch with me today, or book your first consultation.


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