How To Start An Online Therapy Practice

Online therapy practices allow clients to interact with therapists from their own home, expanding the market for mental health services. 

For many therapists, teletherapy offers an exciting alternative to the traditional office environment.

Starting an online therapy practice requires more work than you might expect—you can’t just set up a laptop and call it a day. 

Check out this guide to discover the essential steps to starting an online therapy practice. 

How To Start An Online Therapy Practice

Starting your own online therapy practice means balancing the traditional demands of therapy with running an online business.

Research Your State Practice Laws

Before you get invested in your online therapy practice, you need to familiarize yourself with local laws. Just because you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you can ignore your state’s licensing laws.

Most states only offer a license to practice within the state, and that includes teletherapy services.

However, some states use an agreement such as PSYPACT to allow for practicing across state lines.

Familiarize yourself with your local laws, so you understand just who you can reach with your practice. On a similar note, check out home business laws for your state, and any permissions you might need.

If you’re renting, you may need to get permission from your landlord to run an online business.

Invest In Good Wi-Fi

Do not overlook the importance of good Wi-Fi. This really can make or break your online therapy practice.

Bad Wi-Fi can lead to dropped calls and disrupted sessions. It also looks unprofessional, and can drive a client away from your service.

Build A Website

If you’re starting an online practice, then your website is essentially your office waiting room.

All the effort you would normally spend decorating and designing a waiting room has to go into creating a website

The website is the first thing your client will see when they research the practice. If it’s poorly designed, hard to navigate, or doesn’t have the information they need, the client will look elsewhere. 

Create a website with cohesive branding, one that clearly explains who you are and the services you offer. Be upfront with details such as payment, insurance, and availability.

Try and build a brand within your website. Blogs and advice pages can be a way to draw in clients, and link to your marketing efforts.

Invest In HIPAA Compliant Software

How To Start An Online Therapy Practice (1)When running an online therapy practice, it really is better to operate most of the business virtually.

Everything from making a booking, introducing a client, taking a payment, and preparing for the next session will need to happen online.

EHR software is catching up to the expanding world of online therapy.

The right EHR system will allow you to conduct most of your business from one single place, making it easier for you to stay on top of things. You also need a secure and reliable video conferencing service.

This is the backbone of the practice, so make sure to do your research. 

Finally, any software you use for your online therapy practice needs to be HIPAA compliant.

If it isn’t, you risk a hefty fine.

Research Malpractice Insurance

Yes, you do need insurance, even if you are working from home.

Malpractice and liability insurance can save your practice in the event of a lawsuit, and they’re just as necessary for online therapy as in-person therapy.

Online therapy practices have become larger and more popular in recent years, so more insurance providers should have experience understanding these operations.

When researching malpractice insurance, check to see if the policy covers teletherapy specifically.

Research Accepting Insurance

Whether you’re offering in-person or online therapy, one of the most important choices is whether to accept insurance.

This is a highly personal choice, so make sure to weigh up the pros and cons before making a decision.

Many insurance providers do now cover online therapy and teletherapy, but make sure to verify the details with the provider before joining a panel.

Finalize The Details

Before you begin marketing your online therapy practice, you need to consider the realities of your working day.

First, what are your working hours? When you’re running your own business from home, it can be easy to allow work to take over. An online practice does make it easier to offer variable hours.

For example, you might consider early morning sessions, or evening sessions. However, if you plan on doing this, don’t forget to schedule time off.

Establish a no-show policy, and make it clear on your website. No-shows might be less frustrating online versus in the office, but it still means a loss of earnings.

Create a two-way no-show policy, and make sure the information is easy to find.

Working online doesn’t mean you won’t need paperwork, even if it is virtual.

Before you start your practice, sort out your informed consent documents, intake forms, and all the paperwork you need for a functioning practice. Many EHR services offer paperwork templates.

Set Up A Workspace

It might not be an office, but you still need a professional workspace to run your online therapy practice from. Set up a desk that you’ll feel comfortable working from, and that you can shut down at the end of the day.

Your office space must have a strong internet connection, good acoustics, and a neutral background for video calls.

Consider using a white noise machine to block out background sound, and adjust the lighting to avoid shadows and increase clarity.

Test Everything

If there are any issues with your online practice, you want to discover the problem now, not when you’re halfway through a session.

Ask a friend to help you test your software by setting up an appointment, making a call, and engaging with the website.

Start Virtual Marketing

When your business is online, the majority of your marketing needs to be online.

Look for online directories where you can list your service, and use your marketing budget to advertise your practice in local areas.  But don’t overlook traditional routes, such as referrals.

Connections with other practices in the area are still a key part of the business.

Final Thoughts

When you start your own online therapist practice, you need to blend the traditional skills of the office with the newer challenges of teletherapy.

It’s important to maintain professionalism, and investing in good software and an appealing website will pay off in the long run.

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