How to Go from Working in the NHS to Private Practice – A Therapist’s Guide


Are you thinking about leaving your NHS role to start your own private therapy practice? I’ve been there! Transitioning into private practice is a journey that comes with challenges and rewards. It requires preparation, investment, and patience, but with the right planning and mindset, it can be a fulfilling and profitable venture. When you join us in the ‘Therapist Corner Community’, there is a comprehensive checklist for getting started in private practice to work your way through. Here’s the link

Do You Want to Transition Gradually from the NHS to Private Practice?

Transitioning from the NHS to private practice can feel overwhelming, so many therapists choose to do this slowly, reducing their NHS hours gradually while planning their new venture or building a business on the side. Here are some tips if this is what you intend to do:

  • Discuss your plans to transition into private practice with your NHS employer. Being open about your intentions allows for a smoother transition and helps maintain a positive relationship. Ask about the possibility of part-time work or flexible hours to accommodate the initial stages of setting up your private practice.
  • Understand the terms of your contract, particularly the notice period you’re required to give before leaving your NHS position. Planning around this will ensure a smooth transition for both you and your employer.
  • Clarify any policies regarding secondary employment or private work. Some NHS contracts may have specific clauses about working in private practice, so it’s important to check.
  • Discuss any potential conflicts of interest. Ensure your private practice will not negatively impact your NHS role or violate any contractual agreements.

How to Plan and Prepare

Setting up a private practice is a significant step that requires careful planning and consideration. I spent about six months to a year contemplating the move. From launching my practice and putting the website live, it took me about three months to start receiving consistent referrals. This timeline will vary depending on your setup and preparation.

How to Set up in Private Practice – Take the Getting Started in Private Practice Course

Watch one of our therapists’ spotlights. Natasha talks us through how she planned to move into private practice.

Here are some things to consider and do if you want to go from working in the NHS to running your own private practice:

Business Planning

Start with a business plan. Although it’s a working document that will change over time, it gives you a clear direction. It’s like a therapy formulation, identifying key problems, setting SMART goals, and outlining your vision. Consider the type of clients you want, your working hours, financial investments, and how you’ll save for pensions and holidays.

Download this >>> Business Plan for Therapists

Space and Logistics

Decide where you’ll practice. Will you rent a room, work from home, or set up an office? Consider the cost and logistics of each option.

Read this >>> 6 Tips to Help You Deliver Therapy Online

Registration and Accounting

You need to decide whether you’ll be a sole trader or form a limited company. Register with HMRC and align your business start date with the tax year to simplify things. I highly recommend getting an accountant and bookkeeper from the start, especially if finances aren’t your strong suit.

Read this >>> How to Decide Between Sole Trader and Limited Company

Client Documentation and GDPR

Consider whether you’ll keep paper or online notes. Remember, GDPR compliance is crucial, so ensure you understand how to collect, store, and delete data properly. Invest in secure systems for your notes and client information.

Read this >>> A GDPR Cheat Sheet

Systems and Processes

It’s important to develop a clear and efficient client intake process. This includes creating intake forms, setting clear expectations for therapy, and establishing a cancellation policy. You should also implement a system for receiving client feedback. This can help you understand your client’s needs better and refine your practice over time. Finally, it’s essential to have protocols in place for client emergencies. You should know who you can refer to and what steps to take if a client needs more support than you can provide.

Read this >>> How to Effectively Manage Late Cancellations & No-Shows in Your Private Practice

Insurance and Legalities

Ensure you have the necessary insurance, like professional liability and contents insurance, if you have your own practice space. Also, think about income protection and other financial safety nets.

Setting Fees

Use a fee calculator to determine what you should charge per hour, considering all business expenses. It’s not just about matching others’ rates – it’s about covering your costs and making a profit.

Use this >>> Therapist Fee Calculator

Build Your Brand

Branding is a key part of building a business, however big or small, and is probably more important than ever before. Nowadays, most people find their therapist online. When they stumble across your website, social media platform or directory listing, you only have a few minutes to convince them you’re the right therapist for them. Branding allows you to stand apart from other therapists and show potential clients what makes you special and unique.

Read this >>> Branding Your Private Practice – What You Need to Know

Create a Website

Websites are essential for businesses to establish credibility and build trust with your clients. Your online presence can have a massive impact on the success of your private practice, your ability to attract clients and how much money you make. For healthcare professionals, we obviously recommend Pocket Site.

Read this >>> How to Create a Website for Your Private Practice

Marketing and Referrals

Think about your marketing strategy. Will you use social media? Are you going to rely on referral agencies or take steps to attract self-funding clients? It’s important to understand Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for your website. I’d also recommend being selective with your social media platforms to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Remember, word of mouth is powerful, so let everyone know about your new practice.

Download this >>> Your Free Guide to Local SEO


Transitioning to private practice can be stressful. Remember to prioritise self-care and set boundaries to prevent burnout. Your well-being is crucial to your practice’s success and your client’s care.

Read this >>> Self-Care for Therapists

Find a Community

It’s so important to connect with other professionals in the field. We created Therapists Corner on Substack for this very reason. It’s an incredible community – a welcoming online space where you can receive support from people who have gone before you. Better still, when you sign-up, you can download a comprehensive checklist of things to do, a planner and a list of resources, equipment and useful links to help you on your journey into private practice.

Sign-up here >>> Therapists Corner

You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

If you’re considering this path, start planning today, and don’t hesitate to seek advice and support from those who’ve already made the move. Remember, you’re not alone! If you have any questions or need further details on any topics, please feel free to reach out. Your successful private practice awaits!

The Course – Getting Started in Private Practice

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Sarah Rees

Sarah is a fully accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and mental health writer delivering Modern Mental Health for you and with you in Mind. Sarah is the author of ‘The CBT Journal’ which helps you write for your wellbeing incorporating CBT techniques. For more information and to keep in touch have a look at