Practical Tips for Launching Your Own Private Therapy Practice

Starting your own private mental health counseling practice is a rewarding experience. It allows you to create a positive impact on others’ lives. At the same time, it offers you complete control over your work-life balance, income, and long-term success. However, building a successful practice requires careful planning and a structured approach. If you’re considering […]

Therapist Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta By Jaclyn Gulotta, LMHC

Updated on Apr 30, 2024

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Starting your own private mental health counseling practice is a rewarding experience. It allows you to create a positive impact on others’ lives. At the same time, it offers you complete control over your work-life balance, income, and long-term success. However, building a successful practice requires careful planning and a structured approach.

If you’re considering starting your own private mental health counseling practice, this article offers a comprehensive guide on the essential steps to making your dream a reality. As much as it is a fulfilling journey, you also need to juggle marketing, branding, networking, legal matters, office space, and bookkeeping. But don’t worry. We have lots of tips and tools to guide you through the process.

Setting the Foundation: Research and Planning

Congratulations on your remarkable journey in education and training. Now, it’s time for the next exciting step–launching your own practice. Before kicking your dream into action, take the time to thoroughly research and plan the vision for your practice. Consider your target client, location, niche, services, and fees.

Be Realistic with Your Vision and Goals

This is also the time to realistically ask yourself how you envision your practice developing over the years. Do you see yourself joining a group practice? Or starting off solo and eventually expanding to include more clinicians? What are your long-term goals and aspirations for your practice? How do these goals align with your location, niche clientele, and fee structure? Write down your answers and use them to create a roadmap for your practice.

Develop Your Brand

Once you have a clear vision and goals, it’s time to start building your brand. This includes creating a name, logo, website, business cards, and marketing materials that reflect the essence of your practice. Your brand is the first impression potential clients will have of your practice, so ensure it accurately represents your values and services.

All private practitioners require relevant licenses and permits to operate legally according to state and federal laws. While some states may only require a basic business license, others may need specific healthcare licenses.

License, Permit, and National Provider Identification

To open a business and get business insurance, you must first obtain a state license and business permit as a mental health counselor. You’ll also need to apply for a National Provider Identification (NPI) number for billing and insurance claims purposes.

Choose a Business Structure

Depending on your practice’s size and goals, you may choose to establish your practice as a sole proprietorship, group practice partnership, LLC, or corporation. Each structure has its own unique benefits and considerations in terms of taxes, liability protection, and decision-making power. It’s essential to consult with a legal professional and accountant when deciding on the best structure for your practice.

Why Do You Need Liability and Malpractice Insurance?

Liability and malpractice insurance is necessary for mental health professionals to protect themselves and their practice from potential risks. These insurances cover legal fees, settlements, and damages in the case of lawsuits or claims filed against you by a client. Make sure you have adequate coverage to ensure the financial stability and reputation of your practice.

Make Sure Your Office Building is Up to ADA Code

Your office building must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if you are seeing patients in person. This law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires businesses to provide equal access to services, such as wheelchair ramps, and accessible restrooms.

Financial Management

Effective financial management is key and can shape your success. Here are some tips for managing your finances effectively:

Calculate Your Start-Up Costs

Accurate initial expense assessment is crucial for any private practice owner. These costs include legal fees, website development, office rental, furniture, decor, insurance, and other essentials. Additionally, financial experts recommend setting aside three months’ worth of operating costs as a cushion. If unsure, consult a financial advisor or accountant for guidance.

Set up a Business Bank Account and Credit Card

As a small business owner, you’ll find it much easier to track your expenses and income with a business bank account and a business credit card. It also allows you to build credit and streamline tax filing in the future.

Billing and Payment

Not all clients rely on insurance companies and prefer private pay. To accommodate your clientele, you may want to diversify payment options and implement effective billing practices. Please note that if you accept credit card payments, your business must use a payment service that follows Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).

Pricing and Fees

When pricing your mental health counseling practice, aim for a balanced approach that suits your location and specialization. You can apply options, such as hourly rates, flat session fees, or therapy service packages. Additionally, you will want to set a cancellation fee policy and consider a sliding scale for clients with financial constraints as a financial diversity option.

Leverage Your Time with Multi-Tasking HIPAA-Compliant Business Tools

Secretaries used to be a necessity for even simple practices. But with the advent of technology and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant business tools, you can manage day-to-day operations without a dedicated staff member. These tools will streamline bookkeeping, bill processing, electronic health records (EHR), appointment scheduling, appointment reminders, and secure messaging systems for communication with clients. By leveraging these valuable resources, you can draw a better balance between providing exceptional care and prioritizing your own well-being.

Why Do You Need HIPAA-Compliant Technologies?

As a mental health professional, prioritizing client data privacy and security is crucial. HIPAA now requires all healthcare professionals to use only practice management software that meets HIPAA-compliant standards. These technologies ensure secure storage, sharing, and transmission of client electronic health records (EHR) while maintaining confidentiality. Failure to comply can result in fines and damage your practice’s reputation.


Telehealth, using electronic communication technologies for remote care, has revolutionized mental health delivery. It enables clinicians to see clients through video conferencing and phone platforms. So while patients get to save travel time and receive counseling within the comforts of their home, you can reach a wider pool of ideal clients within your state.

Diversify Your Marketing Strategies

Many private practice psychologists, social workers, and other mental healthcare providers wonder how they can create a marketing plan to build a clientele. Aside from referrals, joining insurance panels, and listing your practice in directories, you can leverage community services and online presence to promote your services.

Build a Referral Network in Your Community

Depending on your specialty, you can reach out to local schools, community centers, doctors’ offices, and hospitals to build relationships with potential referral sources. Offering free workshops, podcasts, and information sessions on mental healthcare topics can also help get your name out and establish credibility in the community.

Establish a Reputable Online Presence

In today’s digital age, having an online presence is essential for business owners. It serves as your online storefront and the first point of contact with potential clients. According to the latest consumer survey, 74.1% of clients reported an enhanced perception of their therapist’s expertise when they found their therapists online. 68.2% had a better attitude towards their therapist.

Website and Social Media Platforms

A well-crafted website creates a positive first impression, highlighting your expertise and services. Don’t worry if you have no coding skills. Platforms such as WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace offer beautiful website templates for you to use. Including engaging blog articles can further establish credibility, attract clients, and improve search engine optimization (SEO) rankings.

Social media is a powerful marketing tool for private practices. Platforms like Facebook, X (the platform formerly known as Twitter), LinkedIn, and Instagram help connect with new clients and build relationships with industry professionals. To maximize impact, maintain consistent helpful tips, articles, and relevant content to attract ideal clients. However, please be aware of the ethical practice guidelines on social media.

Take Advantage of Third-Party Online Platforms

If you’re not a technology-savvy person, several third-party online platforms simplify the process for you. Melissa Glica, a certified licensed professional counselor, says that if she were given a chance to share a few words with her younger self, she’d emphasize “establishing an online presence with third-party platforms that provide done-for-you social media management and content creation…Although I don’t want to be a content creator, I do love a good interview, and solidly enjoy answering questions for folks.”

Grow Therapy is an exceptional platform that provides therapists with a secure and professional online space to connect with clients. What sets it apart is the opportunity for therapists to contribute expert quotes in blog articles, gaining exposure and fostering connections with individuals seeking knowledge on mental health.

Networking and Collaborating with Other Professionals

Peer consultation and supervision provide clinicians with a valuable platform to discuss complex cases and receive feedback from fellow mental health professionals. These discussions offer a broader perspective and fresh insights to enhance service quality. Clinicians can engage in peer consultation groups, supervision, or group therapy sessions, contributing to professional growth and improved client outcomes.

Give Yourself Some Self-Love

Being a full-time therapist can be emotionally and mentally draining. When you don’t take time to recharge, you can experience burnout or compassion fatigue. Be aware of your caseload and prioritize self-care. This could include practicing mindfulness, exercising, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing a hobby.

Additionally, never be afraid to connect with your peers in your community. Building a support system with other clinicians can help you stay motivated and inspired as you continue to grow in your career.

Broaden Your Network with Grow Therapy

While your school and training have equipped you with the necessary skills and knowledge to be a therapist, there’s no template of a successful private practice. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to continually seek resources and support to help you thrive in your practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and take advantage of opportunities to collaborate with other mental health professionals.

At Grow Therapy, we care about the success and well-being of therapists as much as we care about providing quality care for our clients. We want to help you grow both personally and professionally. Consider joining our community to connect with other therapists, access resources, and receive support in building your private practice. Together, we can make a positive impact on the mental health industry and the lives of those seeking therapy.


  • When you are tapped out and emotionally exhausted, you can no longer provide quality care for your clients. As a matter of fact, mental health professionals have an ethical obligation to refrain from offering counseling activities when their personal problems are preventing them from being competent at their work. Please refer to APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct Section 2.06 for more information.

  • Thank you for your interest in contributing to our community! We welcome therapists to share their expertise, insights, and experiences. Please reach out to us through our website if you'd like to get involved.

  • We welcome all mental health clinicians regardless of their practice setting. Whether you are in private practice or work at an agency, we invite you to join our community and benefit from the resources and support we offer.

  • Aside from credentialing, there is no step-by-step guide for obtaining the necessary permits and licenses to start a private therapy practice. Because licensure requirements and permits vary by state, you must double-check all the specific regulations in your area. Generally, you'll need to meet the following minimal criteria: 1) Obtain professional licensure or certification in your state. 2) Choose a suitable business structure and register your business. 3) Ensure compliance with regulations such as HIPAA privacy rules, informed consent policies, record-keeping guidelines, and telehealth rules for online therapy. 4) Obtain business insurance. 5) If you see clients in person, make sure that your office space meets ADA accessibility requirements. 6) Follow PCI DSS standards for handling client credit card information.

About the author
Therapist Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta Jaclyn Gulotta, LMHC

Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta is a licensed mental health counselor with over 10 years of experience in the mental health field. She helps individuals overcome numerous issues, including stress and anxiety disorders, self-esteem issues, relationship issues, depression, behavioral issues, and grief.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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