Los Angeles Chapter  California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

Los Angeles Chapter — CAMFT

Editor's Note

06/30/2021 9:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
Voices Editor

Getting Paid: A Private Practice Success Primer for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, Associates, Trainees,
& Students—How to Get Started

Private practice success is on therapist’s minds—and wish lists—wherever I am these days. Associates want to work in a good paying supervised private practice. Students and trainees want to know what they can do now so they’re in the best position for private practice when the time comes. Licensed therapists want affordable offices, many clients, and enough income to pay their business expenses, have a vacation, and to support themselves financially. 

Each therapist wants to have an affordable, successful private practice in a preferred location when the time is right—and everyone wants to know how to make this happen as quickly as possible. 

LMFTs, LCSW’s, LPCCs, Psychologists, and Associates have many effective, low cost, and practical tools at their disposal to build, develop, or revitalize their private practices. While trainees and students are not permitted to work a private practice, there are many things they can do today to set things up for the time they’re permitted to practice privately when licensed or as a Registered Associate under supervision.

The information shared here comes from my full time private practice experience, as well as time spent teaching, training, supervising, and doing private practice coaching with licensed mental health professionals—and lessons learned from interacting with LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, Psychologists, Associates, Psych Assistants, trainees, and students during the past 10+ years while being an active participant in several professional organizations as well as a board member and event attendee. 

How Do I Get Started? I have no clients and can’t afford a full-time office. 

Licensed Therapists are smart about private practice. We know how costly it can be to set up an office full time on our own, so we share offices and rent space to each other to defray our costs and to keep each other company. Entrepreneurial therapists sometimes lease a suite with a few offices and then rent them out to therapists full time, part time or hourly—or start a group practice and hire Licensed Therapists on salary or pay a per hour rate to serve the clients referrals that the group practice generates from business marketing efforts. 

There are many options for licensed therapists to choose from to begin a private practice. Here are some:

  • Rent your own office for a full-time practice
  • Have your own office with others in a group for a full-time practice
  • Share an office for a full or part time practice
  • Rent one or more days in one or more locations for a full or part time practice
  • Part time job and rent one or more days, or share an office or rent hourly
  • Full time job and practice on the side by sharing or renting an office hourly, daily or half day.
  • Telehealth/Online only practice
  • In Person and Telehealth/Online hybrid practice 

Many in the therapist community are under the impression that the most common type of private practice for a Licensed Therapist is a full time one, where they lease their own office. While this was largely true until the early 2000s, the most prevalent form of private practice today is where the Licensed Therapist is employed full or part time at a counseling related entity and has a part time private practice in a shared office or one rented by the hour, half or full day. 

If you want a full time private practice where you have your own office, you don’t have to start with that. You can start your practice while working full or part time and renting space hourly and then gradually build up your practice. You can increase your office time as your client flow increases. When you have enough clients and can afford the overhead then you can move to a full time practice with your own office if you choose. Many therapists have transitioned to full time private practice this way. 

How do you find these office leasing or subletting opportunities?

Get to know those who share or rent out office space in an area where you’d like to have your practice. While you can look at ads in professional publications or postings on Social Media Websites for Therapists, most offices are rented by word of mouth or through professional connections. Get to know these professionals in your community and before you know it you’ll have the office setting that’s just right for you. 

Private Practice Success Factors

Ultimately, private practice success depends on these six factors:

1. Location of your office—Physical or Online

Is it where your clients are and can easily travel or go online to see you?

2. Your referral sources, including your website, webpage, and/or directory listing(s) and social media.

Can potential clients and referral sources easily find you and contact you online right away when they need your services?

3. Parking—If you’re in a physical location. Video Platform—If you’re online.

Is parking easy and inexpensive for clients. If this seems silly, think about places you’ve stopped going because parking is difficult or expensive.

Is your video platform easy to access and use? Is it reliable? Does it freeze or lose audio or have tech difficulties often? 

4. Knowing your numbers
  • How much does your practice cost? What is the total monthly/yearly cost for your practice. How much are your expenses?
  • How much do you cost?
  • How many clients do you need weekly/monthly/yearly at what fee to pay your business bills and yourself a salary?

5.    Reaching your numbers

  • Will/do the fees that the clients you work with cover your practice expenses and salary? If they don’t your practice cannot survive.

6.     Knowing where your money and your clients are coming from.

  • Keep track of what’s working and then do more of it!
  • Know your results and repeat what works. 

I hope you’ve found this information to be helpful and encouraging as you create, maintain, or upgrade your private practice. Private practice success is doable but it does take planning, skill, and ongoing effort.

I wish you much success in your private practice endeavors, whether online or in person.

Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative Adults across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping them develop even more successful careers and practices. To learn more about her in-person and online services, workshops or monthly no-cost Online Networking & Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com or www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.

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