Results of the 2015 Independent Clinician Reader Survey

Every year, I like to survey my Independent Clinician readers to check the pulse on how people are doing with starting and growing their private therapy practices.

I have a wide range of readers – from clinicians who are curious about private practice but haven’t taken action yet to clinicians with multiple locations of their large private practice. Given the diversity of readers, it’s even more important for me to understand what kind of information people are looking for so that I can better tailor my content to everyone’s unique needs. 

If you didn’t get to take the survey and would still like to, click here.

If I boiled the respondents down to a typical “reader profile,” it would look something like this:

  • The majority of my audience are Speech-Language Pathologists (followed by OT’s, PTs)
  • My audience is fairly evenly split between “thinking about private practice” and “actively treating clients”
  • Most of my audience are working full-time jobs and looking to treat private clients “on the side”

Based on my readers’ comments, I have come to 5 conclusions:

1.  People Are Motivated By Helping More People – On Their Terms

Most people get into the fields of speech-language pathology, occupational therapy and physical therapy to help others. Once in the field, they still find deep personal satisfaction with helping their clients but can become dissatisfied by their school administrators, insurance regulations and other red tape.

​It was clear from the survey that “helping people” is the prime motivator for clinicians – but that they want more control over what services they provide, how services are delivered, frequency of services, etc. 

2.  People Are Worried About Billing / Insurance

Many readers are unsure of how to get paid for their private therapy services.

Some are unsure about how to set their rate (don’t want to charge too much or too little) and others are questioning whether to do private pay only to become an insurance provider. Getting paid for your services is VERY important. You are a skilled clinician and deserve to be paid fairly for the value you provide for your clients.

​My recommendation is to stay private pay only as long as you can, as it is much simpler to keep organized. If you decide to become an insurance provider, follow these three steps:

  1. Figure out which insurance company is the most popular in your area
  2. Ask private practice peers what their experiences with the company have been
  3. Apply to be a provider for ONE company at a time (to reduce overwhelm)

Realize that billing insurance has a steep learning curve. You will miscode things (but then learn how to do it right), you will get denials for things have have no idea why (you’ll call the company and ask), and you will be confused and overwhelmed (until you create systems to streamline your billing process.)

If you need more information on how to become a health insurance provider, Chapter 6 of The Guide to Private Patients is dedicated to helping you get started.


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3.  Peoples “Ideal Private Practices” Look VERY Different

 When I first considered going into private practice, I thought that they only way to have private practice was to have rented clinic space with a waiting room, receptionist and employees. The problem was, I didn’t want all of that, I wanted to stay small.

One of the questions I asked was, “What does your ideal private practice look like?” Here are some of the answers:

  • 15-20 hours a week working in clients homes
  • Child friendly clinic with lots of toys, samples of various AAC devices  
  • A classy office in a nice part of town with afternoon patients
  • Treating clients in my own home and having my own business with enough clients to support me financially so I don’t have to have another job
  • Me as the owner with independent contractors working for me

See what I mean?

Everyone has a VERY different vision when it comes to their ideal private practice.

No matter what – the first task is getting your very FIRST client and laying a solid foundation for future success – no matter what that may look like to you!

4. People Are Interested in Financial Freedom 

“Helping people people” often don’t like to admit that they are motivated by money. They often feel an internal conflict around charging for their services. Having said that, when I asked the question “Having a successful private practice would allow me to ______________” Many responses had to do with income goals. People reported wanting to “retire with financial freedom,” “extra income for vacations and children activities,” “be financially comfortable” and “take earning pressure off of my husband.”

It’s okay to be motivated by money!

I have often said, “I didn’t get into this field for the money… but it sure would be nice to have more.” 

One of the questions focused on why people had not taken action towards developing their private practice yet.

The majority of people said that they had limited time and / or that they were afraid of making a mistake.

I get it.

You work long hours at your regular job. You may have a family that depends on you. Basically, you’re overworked and overtired and figuring out how to start a private practice isn’t exactly on the top of your to-do list.

Just remember – you don’t have to quit your job or “leap into private practice.” You can dip your toe in the water and treat 1-2 clients “on the side” and build from there. 

For those of you with minimal time (which I also totally get – on top of everything I do I have a toddler at home to take care of), if you’re looking to save time and cut down on the hours it takes to research how to start your speech therapy private practice, The Guide to Private Patients is concise and offers step-by-step advice to navigate the process of getting started.

5. The Biggest Obstacles to Getting Started Are Limited Time and Fear of the Unknown 

My Next Steps…

So what am I going to do with all of this information?

In the next few months, you’re going to see a shift in how I deliver content.

I have always wanted to get into producing webinars, and I am eager to get that going. I plan to host my first webinar “How to Finally Start Treating Private Clients” in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Many people have joined my Private Practice Mini Course and I’ve gotten some great feedback on it. One of the things you’ll notice is that in several emails, you’re asked to click on a link to identify yourself in some way.

My rationale for this is to separate my list according to level (beginner, intermediate, advance), discipline (SLP, OT, PT, other) and other metrics still to come.

I don’t want to send advanced content to beginners – and those with large practices are far past the steps that beginners need to be taking. If you’re on my email list, please open all emails and if there’s an option to click on a link, it’s in your best interest to do so.

Lastly, many of you know that I’ve been working on a new resource to help you get more clients through efficient and inexpensive marketing strategies. It’s taken significantly longer to create than I thought, as it’s a mix of videos, worksheets and reading material.

Jena H. Casbon, MS CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and private practice consultant. She started her own speech therapy private practice in 2006. She is the founder of The Independent Clinician and author of The Guide to Private Patients and The Guide to Creating a Web Presence for Your Private Practice. Since 2008, she has helped thousands of clinicians get the flexibility, income and freedom they desire from starting their own private speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy practices. 

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