Many licensed psychotherapists dream of a private practice for the freedom and flexibility it can allow. With the ability to choose their niche and set their own hours, clinicians in private practice are free to run their practice on their own terms.
There are essentially two ways to achieve these benefits: solo private practice or group private practice. While both usually allow practitioners autonomy over their practices, there are several differences that should be considered if you are deciding between the two.
The pros and cons of solo practice
The main benefit of a solo practice is that practitioners will collect 100% of their income.
At the same time, running a solo practice can be stressful and risky. Solo practitioners need to be business-savvy. They need a sustainable marketing strategy to generate enough referrals to keep a consistent caseload and income. They’ll need to learn the ins and outs of patient billing and insurance credentialing or be willing to outsource these tasks for a fee.
They would also want to consider their resources. Starting a solo practice will require enough savings for the clinician to be able to get by for a while without a full income, as they’ll have to allow some time for their marketing strategies to gain momentum and to build a full caseload.
Solo practitioners will also need to take into consideration their current life situation and whether starting a solo practice will be feasible in terms of the time and energy they will be able to dedicate to building a business. Beyond that, they’ll want to consider the time they’ll need to consistently dedicate to maintaining the business on top of clinical hours for the duration of their practice.
Finally, solo practice can be isolating. Solo practitioners will need to be intentional about seeking out opportunities for consultation with colleagues to combat this isolation.
Group practice vs. solo practice
Group private practices are becoming a popular alternative to the traditional solo private practice. Usually, a group private practice model offers all the freedom, autonomy and flexibility of a solo practice without the added stress of overhead tasks like marketing, billing, credentialing, and more. In exchange for these benefits offered by the group, a percentage of your compensation will typically be reallocated to the group.
The procedures of group practices will vary, so it will be important to do your research to learn if a particular group practice is right for you. For example, some group practices might expect clinicians to maintain a certain caseload or work certain hours, ultimately negating the autonomy that private practice clinicians are after. Here are 5 questions to ask when choosing a group practice.
Private practitioners joining an established group will not need any training or background in running a business. In addition to time saved and stress avoided when liberated from administrative tasks, joining a group practice is likely less financially risky as long as the group is generating consistent referrals. That is, practitioners joining an established group will be able to much more quickly generate a full caseload when the group is taking care of marketing and referrals.
Also, joining a group practice often allows private practitioners access to an established professional network of colleagues, meaning clinicians at a group practice are much less likely to be professionally isolated.
Without the burden of administrative tasks, clinicians at a group practice are usually better able to focus on their clinical work and enjoy their time outside of seeing clients for themselves. As mental healthcare professionals know well, a healthy work-life balance is imperative for preventing burnout.