A Guest Post by Rachel Eddins M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Have you considered starting a group practice? If you’re fortunate to have created your ideal practice and find that you have an overflow of referrals, you might want to consider starting a group practice. This was my situation several years ago. I had established two niche areas and wanted to slowly move away from one of them. I found that my schedule stayed consistently full and I became comfortable trusting there would be enough. A colleague I had trained in one niche was interested in working in private practice and so I hired her! She took on clients from one niche while I focused on the other. It was a great decision for many reasons and I’ve enjoyed building the practice with colleagues vs. on my own.
For me, a big part of the building the group practice has been about creating support for everyone involved. I didn’t have this when I started out and learned (and spent) so much through trial and error. We don’t need to work in isolation, we can serve as a resource for one another and we can feel part of a team.
Running a group practice is not passive income. You will increase your responsibility both in time, expenses, and liability. However, it can certainly be rewarding. Read on to find out more about whether starting a group practice is right for you.
Starting a Group Practice Might be Right for You if:
1. You have an overflow of intake calls to your practice and are turning away potential clients because you don’t have room in your schedule (or they aren’t your ideal clients).
2. You’d like to leverage your non-clinical skills (you like variety!)
Benefits of Starting a Group Practice
1. You can leverage resources.
In my opinion, this is one of the biggest benefits of group practice work! I have an office manager who can answer phones, schedule appointments and handle administrative tasks while I’m doing what I do best. She supports the practice, so we all benefit. Individually, we might not afford this additional expense.
2. You no longer work in isolation.
Even though everyone is behind closed doors much of the time, working in a group practice environment naturally increases your opportunity for collaboration and connection. Whether you’re consulting with your colleagues on a case, doing brief processing, leading a group together, or just having social contact, you increase your connection with others.
3. You can generate additional income to support your non-clinical work hours.
All that administrative time you spend working on your practice? The group practice model can bring in additional income to support that time. Watch out though, the time you spend working on non-clinical tasks also increases.
4. You can get input on decisions.
As a business owner, you know there is a lot on your plate! You wear multiple hats and you have to be knowledgeable about everything from technology to accounting. It can be helpful to get someone else’s input on the new appointment scheduling system or simply have someone to brainstorm ideas with.
5. You can leverage marketing strengths.
There are multiple ways to market a practice. Depending on the strengths of your team, you may be able to leverage those strengths into a more comprehensive marking plan for your practice. Some people are great at writing, some at speaking, others at relationship building and so forth. We’re usually not all great at everything! If you set things up from the get go and provide some business coaching, you can potentially diversify your marketing strategy by nurturing your employee’s marketing strengths.
How to Get Started
1. Start small. You don’t need elaborate resources to get started. It’s best to start small and build gradually so you take on additional expense when you have the income to support it. For example, if you work during the day, you can start by hiring someone to share your office space in the evenings and refer clients who request evening hours to your new colleague.
2. Decide whether you will hire W-2 employees or 1099 contractors. It’s important to spend time evaluating this decision. Consult with an attorney who can review your employment contract and ensure it meets IRS standards (http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Independent-Contractor-Self-Employed-or-Employee).
3. Know your expenses so you can determine a reasonable salary (see also ‘How Much Do Psychologists Make In NYC‘) or percentage to pay your employee. Typically, expenses are higher for a lower number of clinical hours and decrease as clinical hours increase. You’ll want to be clear ahead of time on all the little things that add up so you can include these in your budget (i.e., consulting with an attorney and drafting a contract).
Factors to Consider
Moving from a solo practice to a group practice is a big transition (see also ‘Starting A Group Therapy Practice‘). Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if this is a good fit for you:
1. Am I comfortable in the role of manager? Being in the role of manager isn’t quite the same as the coaching/development role you might have experienced as a clinical supervisor. Sometimes you will need to address difficult issues and make business decisions that don’t always make everyone happy. Not to mention the fact that handling these decisions is very different from handling clinical issues.
2. Am I comfortable letting go of control? Your employees will be representing your practice as they interact with clients, respond to inquiries and handle cases. However, they may handle things differently than you might. You’ll need to be comfortable with different styles and approaches.
3. Am I willing to take on new administrative responsibilities? As a business owner, you’re probably already familiar with what you need to do to manage a business. You track profit and loss, referrals sources, and so forth. This can increase exponentially when managing a group practice. You’ll need to establish systems to track what is working and what isn’t, process payroll, and assume greater liability.
4. Do I have systems in place to track the business aspects of my practice? You’ll want to have systems for items such as tracking referral sources, expenses, client no shows, scheduling, how to respond to initial inquiries, documentation, and collecting money. These systems will become your operations manual for new employees and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
There are several factors to consider, but it is possible and can be rewarding to create a group practice. Best wishes!
About the author: Rachel Eddins is a therapist and owner of Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, Texas. Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment. Follow Rachel on Facebook or Google Plus.
We are so grateful to Rachel for generously sharing such valuable information and writing this post! Please share this post with therapists who are considering opening a group practice and leave your comments below!