Summer is quickly approaching!
Many children (and some adults) don’t have access to therapy services over the summer and seek out private practitioners to fill the gap.
If you have considered treating your own private clients, summer is a excellent time to get started.
There are several tips and strategies to maximize the chances of your private practice success this summer – and beyond!
5 Things to Do Right Now If You Want to See Private Therapy Clients This Summer
1. Determine who will you see – and know the rules for seeing them
What is your clinical speciality?
Is there a disorder or treatment approach that you love?
Clients and family members who hire private practitioners are looking for excellent clinicians. Take some some to think about what your areas of clinical speciality are so that you can help clients make the most gains in a (potentially) short amount of time.
Before you start treating clients know that there is some gray area related to treating students from your school district… as well as treating children of friends. School districts often have written rules and policies.
If you’re not sure if you’re allowed to see clients, ASK. When it comes to treating kids of friends, some clinicians avoid it altogether and some clinicians / families make it a point to separate personal / professional boundaries. It’s 100% up to you.
2. Get professional liability insurance
Even if you’re just treating a few private clients “on the side,” that is considered a private practice.
Private practices are businesses and need certain legalities in order.
At a basic level, professional liability insurance provides coverage in case you accidentally harm a client. It is quick and easy to get, costs about $100-$150 per year and is essential to have before you start treating clients.
I personally use and recommend HPSO but others use and like Marsh; both are good.
3. Set your rate
At least twice per day I get emails asking what the “going rate” is in X area.
Here’s the problem with that: I know nothing about you, your geographic area or your skills nor do you know about the skills of the clinicians you’re basing your rate on.
Your hourly rate should be based on the value you provide and your level of expertise. If you’re feeling stuck about setting your rate, check out this resource.
4. Spread the word and get your name out there!
I also get daily emails from clinicians wanting to know “how do I get the word out about my services?” I have two standard answers:
You have to tell people and you have to make information available where clients are looking.
Tell your friends, colleagues, relatives, fellow clinicians, teachers at schools, etc. that you are treating private clients over the summer. Make sure they know who know your ideal private clients are (ex. kids with articulation issues) and make sure they have your contact info and general details to pass along.
It’s also wise to have physical marketing materials where clients can see them. For example, send flyers to special Ed departments at schools, post flyers / business cards at toy stores and coffee or ice cream shops, etc.
Clinicians are often afraid of being pushy or salesy.
To avoid this, talk about the benefits that the client will receive from the therapy. What do you help clients do? Is there a key reason why your services will be better than what they may already be receiving? (Ex. you offer individual therapy that is tailored towards their specific needs vs the group therapy they get at school.) Just be natural, real and show yourself as a helper.
5. Just do it!
Nearly every SLP, OT and PT I’ve ever met says they are (or have been) interested in starting a private practice – but few actually go through with it. The reason? Fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of failure. Fear of not making enough money or getting enough clients.
If you let fear stop you, you will NEVER reach your dreams nor help the clients who desperately need your help.
“It’s better to start now, and start small, than not start at all.”
You will make mistakes and you will learn from them.
Ready to dive in a bit deeper?
If you want to learn everything you can about treating private clients, check out my Resources Page.
Signing up for the (free) Training for Beginners is the easiest way to get started.
Jena H. Castro-Casbon, MS, CCC-SLP, is a private-practice consultant who has helped thousands of speech-language pathologists start and grow their own private practices through her company, The Independent Clinician. She has written articles for The ASHA Leader and Presented at ASHA Connect (2017).
Jena lives in Boston, MA and is a wife and mama to two young boys.