Private Practice

Many behavioral health professionals are so focused on caring for their clients that they don’t even consider creating a professional profile. They often don’t realize that it’s an important tool for growing their practice. We get it. After all, you have deep experience and expertise in behavioral health, not necessarily in marketing yourself or your practice online. At Health Affiliates Maine (HAM), we encourage affiliates to consider their professional profiles not as a superficial sales and marketing tactic or a job resume but as a space to build connections with best fit clients, foster understanding, and inspire confidence. That is why we feature affiliates’ professional profiles on our website free of charge (just one of the many perks of affiliating with us!)

When it comes time to create these professional profiles, our affiliated clinicians often ask us for advice on how best to craft their professional profiles. They want to know what’s important to include and how it should be written. 

This might seem challenging, but by answering a set of key questions, behavioral health professionals can create an engaging and empowering profile. In this blog, we explore what these questions are and why they’re important for shaping your online narrative.

Who are you beyond your qualifications?

Of course, a brief introduction with your qualifications and professional background is necessary. Yet, remember, therapy is built on human connections. So, delve a little further. Talk about your beliefs, your passions, perhaps even mention how you find solace in the calm of nature or find inspiration in the strokes of a paintbrush. Show that you, too, are human.

What are your areas of expertise, and what is your approach to treatment?

Share your areas of proficiency–whether it is cognitive behavioral therapy, Family Systems Therapy, child and adolescent psychology or anything else. Yet, remember to also discuss your approach to these treatments. Your philosophy and methodology provide a glimpse into your practice and its uniqueness.

What are some of your experiences?

Share experiences that shaped you as a therapist. Talk about the resilience you have seen, the journeys you’ve borne witness to. This is about normalizing the ups and downs of behavioral health care and portraying yourself as a compassionate companion on this journey.

Why have you chosen this path?

State why you decided to delve into this field. Perhaps, a personal encounter sparked your journey, or maybe you’ve always felt an innate calling to help others navigate their mental and emotional landscapes. These insights make you relatable and trustworthy.

How do you nurture resilience and empowerment in your clients?

Including empowering language in your profile portrays positive outcomes and encourages those seeking help. So, as an advocate, supporter, and guide, how do you encourage individual growth and resilience? What specific strategies and interventions do you use to help clients discover and bolster their strengths?

How can someone reach out to you?

Make it clear how individuals can contact you for a consultation or further queries. Normalize this process by encouraging individuals to take this step, reassuring them courageously and compassionately.

Getting Started

Once you have written your profile, put it out to the online world! We encourage all affiliated clinicians to start by crafting their professional profiles with us at HAM. Affiliates can have their professional profiles featured on the HAM website free of charge one of the many benefits of affiliating with HAM!  Other organizations, such as, will also post online profiles for a fee. 

Creating an online professional profile is about breaking down the walls and extending a hand to those seeking help. Let your profile reflect that, let it echo your dedication, let it speak in a voice that grounds, heals, and believes.

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In our digital-first society, behavioral health professionals should not overlook the importance of their online identities. At Health Affiliates Maine (HAM), we encourage our affiliated clinicians to use the web as a platform to reflect their expertise, competencies, compassion, and dedication. Doing so will not only help you connect with clients that are the best fit, but it will also help you to market your practice. This all can be achieved by crafting engaging and well-articulated online profiles that accurately represent who you are and what you do.

You might think, “Why does my online profile matter? Isn’t my real-life work enough?” The online world isn’t detached from our physical lives, it’s a natural extension. An optimized profile bridges the two by introducing your “real life” self to those seeking services or professional connection online.

Let’s break down how to build an engaging professional profile that offers that important human touch.

Prioritize Authenticity

Crafting your online profile is about being true to who you are and the values you hold dear. Your profile should undeniably reflect your authenticity. We encourage you to list your qualifications, but don’t stop there. Humanize yourself by mentioning your passions, your approach towards treatment, and your commitment towards empowering individuals. You’re more than just your degree(s).

Frame Your Experience, Not Just Your Expertise

Of course, listing your areas of expertise is essential, but it is equally powerful to narrate your experiences. People connect with stories. They inspire, they console, they empower. So, talk about the resilience you’ve seen and nurtured, share how you’ve stood as an ally. This relatability helps build an emotional connection that often goes beyond professional levels.

Use Accessible and Empowering Language

A profile filled with medical jargon may showcase your knowledge, but it often fails to connect with patients and clients. Use accessible language that anyone can understand. Emphasize the power of individuals to enhance their own quality of life.

A Gateway to Genuine Connection

At a time when screens often precede handshakes, your online profile serves as the initial handshake, smile, and conversational opener. It’s your chance to say, “I see you, I hear you, and I’m here to walk through this with you.” For individuals seeking help, making that first step can be daunting. By including your picture and a warm introduction, your profile can help break down this barrier. It offers a sense of comfort and understanding right from the start.

Because, remember, as prospective clients search for a therapist, they will search online. And they will want to see and get to know you before ever picking up the phone or sending an email inquiry. They will want to read your professional profile and see your face to help them begin to determine if they want to work with you, and if they will be able to trust you.

The Essence of Your Practice Distilled

Think of your online profile as a distilled essence of your practice’s values, philosophies, and approaches. It’s not just about attracting clients—it’s about attracting the right clients. Those whose needs align with your skillset, who seek the specific support you offer, and who you can most effectively help. This alignment is the cornerstone of meaningful therapy.

The power of a well-crafted, authentic online profile in marketing your private therapy practice cannot be overstated. It’s a testament to your dedication and a bridge to those in need. As behavioral health professionals dedicated to nurturing resilience and advocating for accessible care, use every tool at your disposal to connect, uplift, and empower. Your online profile is not just a part of your marketing strategy—it’s an extension of your mission, your values, and your unwavering commitment to making a difference.

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Our series, Managing Your Private Practice, examines how to successfully run your private practice as a behavioral health clinician. Essential to any therapy practice is a clear process for screening new clients.

As clinicians, we know what happens in January…every January. We get inundated with new clients. Coming off the stress of the holidays, possible family drama, anxiety over the coming year, post-holiday blues. There is so much need this time of year.

Having worked with hundreds of private practice clinicians over the course of our agency’s 13-year history, we’re reminded (particularly at this time of year) of the importance of screening. With all the requests and referrals you’re likely receiving, it’s more important than ever to slow down and screen. Do you have a tried-and-true screening process? Do you know who your ideal client is? Have you identified your particular therapeutic skills so you can ensure your skills match the clients’ needs? Are you clear up front about your schedule, rates, and what insurances you do (and do not) accept?

As clinicians, one of the things we all dread is getting into a relationship with a client whose needs do not align with our therapeutic skill set or modality of treatment. And because most practitioners do this work because they are called to help, it can be challenging NOT to accept a new client. Client screening is is about creating the right match between therapist and client so that the client receives the highest quality of care. It’s also about ensuring ongoing satisfaction in your work.

Screening Strategies for Initial Client Call

Here are a few screening strategies we’ve seen our affiliated clinicians employ that have set them up for successful new client relationships.

Be True to Yourself, Your Values, and Your Brand

We suggest screening clients in a way that feels authentic to you. You should have the freedom to develop a process that makes you feel comfortable and confident. You may want to do short, structured calls or longer, more free-form calls. You may want to send a follow-up email after the call to reiterate what was said. Regardless of how you screen or what your process is, the process should be followed consistently so that both you and the client get the information needed to ensure a productive, lasting relationship and also to ensure the process and level of care are the same for all, regardless of age, disability, religion, cultural background and sexual identity.

Know Your Niche

We could write an entire blog about finding your niche (and we plan to!), but for the purposes of screening, it’s important to identify what your particular therapeutic style and specialties are. What presenting concerns are you most interested in? What are you really good at?

As you know, not every therapist is the right fit for every client, and not every client’s needs align with a therapist’s expertise. Client screening allows you to evaluate your own competencies and determine if you have the necessary skills and experience to address a potential client’s specific concerns. Treatment plan interventions denoting your specific therapeutic modalities ensures more effective and focused treatment, enhancing the overall quality of care.

Consider creating a checklist of items you need to ask to identify if you might be able to help a potential client. Are there certain presenting issues you stick to within your niche? 

By knowing your niche, you will also be able to determine at the time of screening if the client’s level of distress and presenting concern are appropriate for the type and level of care you provide.

Know Your “Target Market”

Who is your ideal client? Based on your specialties or niche, what types of clients do you most enjoy treating and working with? In our experience, we see practitioners gaining much more satisfaction from their work when they are working with a population that they have identified as people they wish to serve.

Can you identify certain criteria surrounding the clients you want to treat? Do you only work with adults? Families? Adolescents? Do you only work with clients who have MaineCare or private insurance?

It’s helpful to have a list ready of other therapists in your area so you can easily refer out if you are unable to serve the client within your specialty or scope of practice.

Don’t Forget the Logistics

It’s important to inform clients of your rate at your earliest convenience. Before you schedule an appointment, ask the client if they have any questions about schedules, insurance, or fees. If a client has a pressing question about logistics at the beginning of the call, consider answering it right away so you don’t waste their time. There’s always a chance that your fee is too high for their budget, you don’t accept their insurance, or your schedules don’t align.

Be sure to have a plan for sorting out logistics in the initial call regardless of whether the potential client inquires about them. Here are some key logistics to go over:

  • Scheduling
  • Fees/Insurance
  • Location accessibility
  • Initial paperwork requirements

We encourage you to think about your screening process not as a means to exclude clients, rather as a means to create the best conditions for a successful therapeutic relationship. In private practice, you take on so many roles – from clinician to business owner. We find it’s helpful for our affiliated clinicians to think about the client screening process as a strategic tool for managing various aspects of your private practice including the mitigation of your own burnout! By carefully evaluating potential clients, you can build strong therapeutic relationships, reduce risks, and ultimately enhance your client’s overall well-being. In doing so, you provide the highest standard of care while fostering a fulfilling and sustainable private practice.<

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Our blog series, Managing Your Private Practice, examines how to successfully run your private practice as a behavioral health clinician. Essential to any therapy practice is establishing clear, ethical boundaries with your clients, including how to set out-of-office practices, which subjects are OK to text and email a client, and how to terminate a patient-therapist relationship if need be. 

Office policies are an essential component for any successful business. When it comes to paperwork, therapists have an additional responsibility: ensuring all bases are covered in terms of legal, ethical, and HIPAA compliance. Fortunately, Health Affiliates Maine is here to help clinicians when it comes to compliance and current regulations. 

We previously addressed How to Write Office Policies, and now we’ll continue our discussion on private practices’ policy decisions as it relates to boundaries within the patient-clinician relationship. 

How a Therapist Can Take Time Away
Part of providing effective therapeutic treatment and avoiding burnout and compassion fatigue involves taking good care of yourself as a behavioral health professional. When you are ill, on vacation, or simply in need of a break, you may want to communicate your absence with clients and ensure they have continued therapeutic care if needed. 

As with other office policies, consider putting your vacation in writing. Setting clear policies in writing helps both parties know what to expect. It is also an extra step towards fulfilling an ethical obligation as a therapist to communicate in advance about plans to be away from the office. According to the ACA Code of Ethics, counselors are required to assist “in making appropriate arrangements for clients … during interruptions,” including vacations and illness. By following our suggested checklist below, you can ensure your client’s therapeutic needs are met while you recharge. 

  1. Let your clients know about your plans in advance. Give notice in both written and verbal formats, such as in an email or letter and then again in person at their session.
  2. Set up automated out-of-office messages for your voicemail and email for your time away. Include: 
    • Dates of absence and return date
    • Instructions that include how to manage emergencies or crises, such as local emergency room information or a crisis number

Likewise, if your client needs to cancel or reschedule an appointment, you may find it helpful to have standardized office policies in place to address those occasions. Here are some tips on how to write an effective missed-appointments policy 

Should You Share Clinical Information in a Text? 

While emails and text messages have become ubiquitous in our culture, questions around what type of information is professionally appropriate to share in this format arise. Behavioral health clinicians in particular have to be to be mindful of the confidentiality-related issues involved in sending information over the internet. To stay within HIPAA guidelines and the Transmission Security standard specifically, therapists often employ text or email solely for appointments and scheduling topics, leaving clinically related materials and information for in-person or other secured forms of communication. There are secure texting service providers and apps available, if you prefer to communicate through technology; however, keep in mind that licensed therapists are responsible for ensuring that the platforms are HIPAA compliant. 

An additional item to consider when texting and emailing your patients is the client record. You may need to retain and file some of the information they provide, and you will need client-informed consent regarding text messages and their documentation. If you are researching texting service providers and apps, you may want recordkeeping ability to be part of your search. 

Furthermore, when adding technology to your communication with clients, remember to be mindful of your own availability and work-life boundaries. Will introducing a new technology for communication blur the line between your time “on” and your time “off” as a therapist? This is a question you may first want to consider. 

How to Terminate a Patient-Clinician Relationship
In some instances, you may need to make the difficult decision as a therapist to terminate your professional relationship with a client. 

Can I Terminate the Client Relationship?
To avoid clients feeling abandoned and ensure your reasons for termination or referral are appropriate, consider why you are discharging the patient. 

Ideally, you will have already worked collaboratively with your client to create a care plan for their therapy. With a clear, written course of treatment, including benchmarks for goal progress, a review of the therapy plan may make it apparent that the client has either reached their goals and no longer needs assistance, or that the client needs a certain type of therapy that you may not provide.

How to Discharge a Client
If you have determined it best to discharge or refer a client, you may want to follow similar guidelines as shared below to work through the termination process in a professional manner. 

1. When you make a referral for where a client might seek treatment, give at least three options of other behavioral health providers located within a reasonable distance and who can help based on the client’s needs. This may mean making a referral to a therapist who practices with a different modality, has different training, or has more experience in a particular issue, for example. 

2. Assist your client in processing emotions related to ending the professional relationship with you. When the reason for discharge is your own career or location, consider providing as much advance notice as possible and developing a contingency plan for your clients to minimize interruptions to their therapeutic service. 

3. Finally, keep in mind that documentation throughout the patient-clinician relationship is not only required, but also a form of protection from any potential claims of abandonment by clients. Proper recordkeeping can demonstrate that you put your client’s needs first and acted ethically during each step of the process, including termination and referral. 

This Health Affiliates Maine blog post is another in our series on Managing Your Private Practice, where we explore how to successfully run your private practice as a mental health clinician. Previous articles covered how to market your private practice, create office policies, and billing and finances.

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As a therapist, you know that finding the right office space for your private practice is critically important. Your office location can be crucial to attracting and retaining clients and to your quality of life—after all, you will be spending a large part of your time there. Equally important, the interior environment you create in an office establishes the overall vibe for your practice—it needs to feel safe, secure, and welcoming for clients. 

As you prepare to search for office space for your practice, we recommend taking some time to ensure you have a good sense of your client base, location needs, monthly budget, and the type of lease you’re looking for. Here are four questions we’ve found it helpful to consider (or re-consider, as the case may be) as you prepare to start looking at properties. 

1. Who Are Your Target Clients?

Defining your client base will help bring your office location requirements into focus. Who are you looking to serve and where are they located? Do you specialize in practicing with a specific population group? For example, do you envision working middays with office professionals on their lunch breaks, or are you hoping to serve children for after-school counseling sessions? If you’re doing individual sessions with office workers during the day, you might look at properties in downtown areas that have a concentrated number of professionals, whereas therapists working with children or adolescents may consider locations close to schools or related health services to maximize cross-references and convenience for the child and guardian alike. 

Do your best to meet your clients where they are and when it’s convenient for them—but, obviously, within the parameters of your own work style and preferences—for example, you may or may not mind a longer commute. This is, after all, one of the advantages of running your own business. 


2. How Much Rent Can You Afford?

As you can imagine in this real estate market, for most private practice therapists, rent is one of the largest items on their monthly budgets—if not the largest. There’s no fixed number for what percentage of business income your rent should be. Most financial guidelines suggest spending anywhere from 2 to 20 percent of your total practice income on rent, with the majority falling in the 5 to 10 percent range. If you are new to owning a small business and don’t yet have at least a year’s worth of data to determine your annual revenue, we recommend being conservative with your projected figures. 

Five to ten percent of your revenue is still likely to be a large range. So how much rent can you truly afford? 

There are multiple factors that affect rent prices and some of these factors may be more or less important to you based on your target demographic and how you want to work. For example, if you’re conducting most of your therapy sessions online, geographical features might be less important than, say, noise control. Clinicians practicing somatic therapies or play therapy may need more space for equipment, for instance, while other therapists may value a window over more square footage. Some considerations include: 

  • Urban or rural location
  • Type and size of building
  • Square footage of office 
  • High-traffic area and/or easy to find
  • Easily accessible by public transportation
  • Ample parking
  • Services available nearby, including potential competition
  • Secure, reliable internet access (especially for those practicing telehealth) 
  • Noise/privacy levels 
  • Accessibility
  • Maintenance and repairs 
  • Windows and lighting

We have found that it’s helpful rank your priorities for office space from one to ten, with the top three or so being must-haves. 

From there, you can determine what your bare minimum requirements are for office space and what you would be willing to splurge on. Would the more expensive rent benefit your business in a tangible way? Whichever percentage you settle on within the suggested range, set it firmly in your mind before you start visiting properties, and stick to your budget.


3. What Type of Office Lease is Right For You?

There are three main types of lease contracts in commercial real estate: full service (landlord pays for all expenses); net (tenant pays the rent and a portion of taxes, insurance, and maintenance fees); and triple net (tenant pays the rent and all of the taxes, insurance, and maintenance of the property). 

If some of the fees are paid in a net contract, you’ll want to understand exactly which ones are included in the rental price, including expenses for common areas (such as the parking lot, building lighting, and property landscaping). Remember to adjust your budget accordingly if you have taxes, utilities, insurance, and cleaning/maintenance as separate expense categories.  

In addition to these types of office leases, you may also be able to find subletting options or flexible terms, such as a monthly, six-month, or yearly lease. Perhaps you can share an office with another professional whose work hours are different than yours. And your landlord may be willing to negotiate their asking price, especially if you are entering into an extended lease. If you can be creative within the lease contract, it may save you money in the long run. 


4. What Interior Factors Create the Right Environment?

Unlike some small businesses, the layout and interior design of an office rented for therapy use is critical. We all know that physical environment affects our emotions and behavior. When a client feels comfortable, relaxed, and safe in a therapy office, it builds therapeutic rapport and enhances self-disclosure. 

When scouting offices, occupy the space under consideration and imagine a therapy session taking place there. Is the space inviting as is? Are the walls thick and the doors solid to satisfy privacy concerns? Who controls the temperature? Is it quiet? Is the lighting warm and adjustable? 

Consider which elements in the office you are allowed to change and whether or not you want to spend the time and money to make those changes yourself. Can you paint the walls, hang artwork, and so forth to create a comfortable environment? Is the office semi-furnished? How much will furniture and other design elements add to your costs? What do you need to add to effectively soundproof the room? 

You can promote positive interaction with your clients through office modifications that follow healthcare design principles, such as clutter-free, light-filled spaces with greenery and soft seating. And don’t be shy about displaying your credentials: a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology (Devlin, 2009) showed people rate mental health practitioners most favorably when they have more diplomas on the wall. 

Another thing we have found it useful to keep in mind is your client’s experience with the entire building location, from the first step of their visit to their last. Can they easily find a parking spot or bike rack? Is there a security system in place? Are accessibility aids incorporated throughout the building? Is the waiting room clean and well-maintained? Who are your neighbors? Is the bathroom centrally located? When you thoughtfully consider how your client will feel throughout each moment of their therapy session, your private practice is more likely to have positive therapist-client interactions and an advantageous retention rate, which will be reflected in your bottom line.  

This Health Affiliates Maine blog post is another in our series on Managing Your Private Practice, where we explore how to successfully run your private practice as a mental health clinician. Previous articles covered how to market your private practice [link to], create office policies [link to], and billing and finances [link to].

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In this blog series, Managing Your Private Practice, we explore how to successfully run your private practice as a mental health professional. We started the series by looking at how to market your private practice and how to create your office’s written policies. This month, we turn our attention to another critical aspect of owning your own business: billing and finances. 

As a business owner, you get to decide how to structure your therapy practice, including which hours you’re available, who your clients are, what your office policies are, and which insurance providers to work with—if any. While the autonomy can feel liberating, the sheer workload of managing both the therapy part of your practice and the business part of your practice can be daunting. Fortunately, Health Affiliates Maine can help clinicians in this area, by providing administrative support for credentialing and billing for MaineCare, Medicare, and private insurance companies, among other benefits.

Separate Your Business and Personal Finances

Whether you have structured your private practice as a sole proprietorship or as an LLC will determine your accounting and bookkeeping methods to some extent. In either case, treat your practice’s finances as separate from your personal finances. This delineation—separate checking accounts, separate debit or credit cards, separate accounting systems—will not only save you a headache come tax-filing season, but it will also make it easier for you to check in regularly and see quickly whether your business is achieving its financial goals.

Take Advantage of Accounting Software

While some business owners still do their books by hand or on a simple Excel spreadsheet, some in private practice prefer bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks or FreshBooks. Among many helpful features of tools like these is the ability to easily generate balance sheets and profit and loss statements, which gives you an “anytime” snapshot of your practice’s finances. This ongoing financial monitoring can help with decision-making, for example, whether you need to adjust your marketing in mid-stream in order to build the business you want to lead.

Establish Timely Billing and Documentation Habits

Billing your clients on a consistent, timely basis can help you avoid any cash-flow issues and helps to reinforce your practice’s financial safety net. Not only does maintaining a regular billing cycle help make your income stream more predictable, but consistency also communicates stability and reliability to your clients. Since billing at HAM is tied to session documentation, timely completion of notes is vital to receiving regular payments. In addition, collection of copays, deductibles, and coinsurance at the time of service is ideal to ensure receipt of payment, particularly if the client does not return for services thereafter.

Outsource Administrative Tasks  

When it comes to administrative tasks, it can be tempting to try wearing “every hat” for cost-saving purposes. But outsourcing can actually be cost-effective by freeing up more therapeutic hours for client work. Thus, you might consider hiring an office assistant, an accountant, or an IT person to assist with HIPAA compliance for your practice’s computer systems.

Invest in Education  

As a small business owner, you know there are many facets that go into how your business functions. Understandably, not all therapists are knowledgeable in accounting, IT, HR, or general business management. If this describes you, rest assured, you are in esteemed company, and you might consider making educational investments in areas where you are less skilled or knowledgeable. The good news is that brushing up on your business management skills—whether by attending financial training workshops or seminars, reading books and articles, joining networking groups, and so forth—is generally a tax-deductible expense.

Protect Your Future Self

To guard against any potential financial loss down the road, it’s important to be prepared for any eventuality or absence. For your business, this means ensuring that you have short- and long-term disability insurance, pre-planned savings for upcoming vacations, bereavement leave, or illness, and a healthy retirement account. It’s not uncommon for business owners to delay paying themselves at certain phases of their operations, but compounding interest generally makes Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and the like more financially lucrative the earlier you begin. So, be sure to pay your future self! While spending more money, especially at the onset of opening your own private practice, may sound counterintuitive, it can be a beneficial long-term investment for your future.

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In this blog series, “Managing Your Private Practice,” we look at how to successfully run your private practice as a mental health professional. We started the series with a dive into how to market your private practice. Now, let’s look at a critical yet sometimes overlooked element in owning a business: policy writing.

Written policy forms are an essential component for any successful business. Therapists have an additional responsibility when it comes to paperwork: you need to ensure your bases are covered when it comes to legal, ethical, and HIPAA compliance. Fortunately, Health Affiliates Maine is here to help clinicians when it comes to compliance and current regulations.

How to Write Effective Office Policies

How a counselor runs their private practice varies from person to person. Regardless of your office size or structure, there are several office policies we advise all practices to put in writing. While some behavioral health practitioners with staff develop internal policies specific to issues such as dress code and social media, we’ll focus on advice for external office policies here—the policies your clients will see and review. Here are some guidelines for how to write effective office policies.

Office Policies Reflect Your Practice’s Core Values

When you give clients forms to fill out, it’s not only important to ensure they are clearly written in simple, easy-to-understand language, it’s also essential to make sure the forms reflect your private practice’s core values. For example, if you value inclusion and diversity, you might want to create or modify an existing form or template to include options for preferred pronouns. Remember, while filling out paperwork such as an authorization to release information, intake, insurance, and informed consent forms, as well as signing office policies, your client is getting an impression of your business.

Get Feedback

Whether you consult a colleague, a mentor, or a trusted office assistant, getting feedback from others is invaluable. Outside perspectives allow others to see things you may be too “inside” your own practice to notice, and others may also have more experience around which areas of the practice need or could use written policies to make the office run more smoothly.

So, by all means, ask a friend or colleague to review the packet of forms you’ve created and get their impression. Ask:

  • Was there enough space to write your answers?
  • Is it easy to follow?
  • Are there areas of unnecessary repetition?
  • Did you find any typos?
  • How could this be simplified?
  • Which changes or additions would you make, if any?
  • Am I missing something obvious and important? (We all do this!)

While involving others in policy writing and reviewing takes more time, the final outcome of a collaborative process ultimately makes for smoother operations and happier clients. If that’s hard to add to your to-do list, consider reframing the time investment as optimizing your client’s care.

Strive for Clarity

Setting clear policies in writing is a bit like setting clear boundaries: it helps everyone know what to expect. Clear is kind.
Make it part of your therapy practice to include office policies in a new client’s paperwork and reshare annually or when policies change. Successful practitioners have standardized forms and make use of a secure, organized paper filing and recordkeeping system.

At the same time, don’t assume clients will read through all the forms. During your first session, discuss your office policies briefly. This helps ensure that expectations are clear and understood, and it contributes to building trust in the professional relationship you’re developing.

Which Office Policies Do I Need in Private Practice?

Which office policies you include in client packets are somewhat unique to the practice you run. In general, we advise therapists to develop written office policies around cancellations, fees, social media, and—important in Maine—weather. (Keep in mind office policies are separate from other paperwork you should require from clients, including intake, insurance or billing, authorization to release information, and informed consent forms.)

Cancellations and missed appointments: Life’s little mix-ups happen. But as a counselor in private practice, missed appointments can disrupt the treatment process and therefore adversely affect your income and business—particularly if they are a chronic, recurring issue. Craft a clear understanding with your clients in writing about what happens when you or they need to cancel, in addition to missed appointments.

Fees: Practitioners may accept all or some insurance, self-pay, and/or having slide scale fees. However you structure payment, be clear and upfront with clients about how (and when) you charge and collect fees in your practice. Include your fee structure with a written policy on payment and collections in every client package, regardless of whether they currently have insurance; and, of course, all practitioners should be up to date on the new GFE (Good Faith Estimate) law, which requires providers to give patients who either do not have or are not using insurance a written estimate for non-emergency procedures. (Find more information on GFE requirements here.)

Social media: Use of social media is prevalent in our country, so therapy practices in particular need policies on the use of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and the like. Set clear boundaries on how you or anyone in your practice orbit may communicate with prospective and current clients online, keeping in mind that some clients may have differing preferences around privacy. And, while we’re focusing this blog on external office policies, if you have an office assistant or other staff, we strongly encourage you to set an internal social-media policy for staff. And, finally, check with your licensing board and code of ethics to see what is required regarding confidentiality and social media use.

Weather: Maine knows snow days! Develop a written office policy on what happens in the event of inclement weather, letting clients know how you will get ahold of them or how they can check in with your office to see if it is open. Will you call them or text them? Should they check your practice’s website if the weather forecast looks questionable? While it may seem a small matter, this office policy will help eliminate confusion and smooth operations in the long term.

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Thinking about opening your own private practice? Way to go! Health Affiliates Maine is proud to help behavioral health professionals as they venture into entrepreneurship, making that potentially overwhelming experience a little easier to navigate.

Signs You’re Ready to Run Your Own Business

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. However, odds are that if you’ve been thinking about it, you know deep down that you can do this! Here are some signs to look out for when considering if the time is right to strike out on your own:

  • You can think of better, more efficient ways of doing things
  • Your values no longer align with your employer’s or company’s values
  • You feel limited at your current position
  • You want more freedom and flexibility in your lifestyle
  • There’s a strong market or need for your unique services and abilities
  • You’ve outlined or thought about a business plan
  • You have support or know where to find it, such as creating a network of colleagues
  • You believe in yourself and are excited by the idea of owning your own business

Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

Although not everyone wants to run their own business (and that’s okay!), there also isn’t only “one type” of person who would be successful at it. Here’s a list of a few common attributes in entrepreneurs:

  • You’re passionate
  • You’re independent
  • You’re organized
  • You’re not risk-averse
  • You’re resilient
  • You’re not afraid to go it alone or ask for help

If you don’t immediately identify with any of those characteristics, it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t run your own practice if you wanted to. We suggest taking time to reflect inward on why you want your own business, what you would offer and how you would start taking steps to get there.

Feeling ready to open your own private practice? Take a look at five ways you can market your new business. Marketing yourself and your business may sound unnecessary (you already have clients!) but it’s important for maintaining your professional relationships, attracting potential clients, and keeping your new business relevant.

How Not to Become Overwhelmed When Starting a Business

We won’t lie—your private practice won’t happen overnight, and you’ll likely face challenges and hard decisions along the way. When you feel overwhelmed or stressed, try the following:

  • Take a walk or do an exercise workout
  • Try yoga or mediation to calm your nervous system
  • Turn on “do not disturb” on all your devices to limit distractions
  • Consider reaching out to someone in your network for advice or support
  • Mark a day on your calendar that’s just for you (take yourself out to lunch, do errands, go shopping, go the spa, anything to distract yourself from overwhelm and allow yourself to reset)

When running your own private practice, there will be days when you’re firing on all cylinders and other days when you may question your business decisions. Both are normal and a part of being an entrepreneur! Take a few moments to remember your why. Why did you leave your previous employer? Why did you want to be your own boss? Why did you decide to serve clients your way? These answers will remind you of the vision you have for your private practice and will re-inspire you.

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Running your own practice allows you to determine your caseload, clients, and your schedule so that your business aligns with your principles. However, if you’ve had your private practice for a while (or even if you’re just starting out) you may have experienced seasons of isolation or loneliness.

Being a solo entrepreneur has its advantages, but having workplace relationships can offer needed support, camaraderie, and guidance. We know you can go it alone, but you don’t have to for your practice to be successful! Consider our advice on building your community:

Attend trainings, workshops, and other CE opportunities. They will keep you learning and up to date with best practice standards and clinical intervention methods which will benefit your practice. They will also connect you with other mental health professionals that you can bounce thoughts and ideas off with.

Join professional organizations from local, regional, and national chapters. Reach out to small business owners via email, connect with mental health professionals with a similar niche and network during events. Don’t be afraid to make and maintain connections.

Offer consulting services to local businesses and organizations. Think employeeworkshops on interpersonal communications or HR topics such as diversity and inclusion among peers. This will grow your public speaking skills, grow your business, and expand your network and opportunities for referrals.

Submit advice to a local publication or website. Perhaps there’s an expert’s section where readers submit questions looking for professional advice or maybe it’s a monthly column with a guest speaker. Think of the audience of the publication and offer a proposed article that would benefit them.

Teach a class or workshop at a childcare center, community college or corporate event. Important and common topics are stress management, establishing boundaries, and effective communication.

Lean on one another and use colleagues for support. If there’s an individual needing help, but at the moment you are unable to take on new clients, refer them to another in your network. And let them do the same for you!

You started your private practice to serve clients your way. But when you have a community of colleagues lifting you up, your wellbeing, your clients, and your practice will thrive.

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