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Setting up in Private Practice

Setting up in private practice can be very rewarding and often marks the beginning of a professional career as a counsellor or psychotherapist. Generating a decent income and finding clients can, however, take time. Here are some things that you need to take into consideration, along with some tips that may help you, as you begin this exciting stage of your career: 

* Suitable premises - You need to ensure that you have premises that are quiet, clutter-free, confidential, and available at the same time each week. You also need to have some facility, either at the premises themselves or nearby, to securely store client records. (See the sections on Taking and Storing Notes and Records and on GDPR.)

* Insurance – You will need to take out personal indemnity insurance. There are several good companies on the market which can provide this, and your supervisor should be able to give you some recommendations.

* Safety – You will need to ensure that you work within your competency and that have contact details for relevant services in your area in case you decide to make a referral. You will need to discuss with your supervisor how ready you are to assess clients competently, and how you will manage your self-care and personal safety.

* Ethical Issues – You may wish to develop a written contract for all your clients outlining all the contractual information you need to share. This will include the specific limits to confidentiality, your data protection obligations, your record-keeping policy, your cancellation policy, arrangements regarding contact between sessions, and contact details for the client’s GP. You will also need to inform your clients about your level of training and the ethical codes to which you adhere.

* Financial considerations – Practitioners’ fees usually reflect the ‘going rate’ in any given geographical area but you also need to ensure that your fee reflects your level of training. It is important to discuss the fee you intend to charge with your supervisor.

* Business overheads – When considering setting up in private practice, you need to make sure that you have taken into account any potential overheads. These will include public and professional indemnity insurances, professional membership fees and supervision costs. They may also include room hire; accountancy fees; equipment such as phone, computer, secure filing cabinet and stationery; and marketing costs such as website design and maintenance.

* Self-employment and income tax – You can find out how to register as self-employed by visiting the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website. You may also want to engage the services of an accountant who will help you submit an annual tax return.

* Proactive marketing and networking – These are important and it is a good idea to begin by developing a website and by getting in touch with other local practitioners to ask whether they would consider referring to you if they are full.

* Professional Executor – You will need to appoint a professional executor (see the section below) and to write a professional record to serve as instruction for them in the event of you becoming seriously ill or dying.

* Support - Private practice can be lonely, so it is important to make sure you have a good network of colleagues as well as good supervisory support.

Please note that, if you are a psychotherapy student, Metanoia Institute will allow you to start up in private practice as long as you have at least 150 hours of clinical practice and provided that you have the support of your supervisor and primary tutor. You will need to fill in a ‘request to start in private practice form’. However, please note that the situation for counselling students is different. BACP does not allow anyone on their accredited courses or anyone who is a member of BACP to start in private practice until they have a counselling or psychotherapy qualification. UKCP does not have this stipulation.