I’ve worked in private practice for a number of years now. I work alone, running a busy clinic with a small virtual team, so I know first-hand just how isolating it can be. The issue also comes up a lot in the CBT in Private Practice Facebook group I co-founded with my colleague Heather Howard.
Often, people are used to being part of a team, so moving into private practice on their own can seem daunting. The current pandemic also means many people are working from home for the first time and experiencing isolation in a new way. Whether you’re new to private practice or a few years in, I’ve gathered together some tips and advice to help you cope with working alone…
Tips for Reducing Isolation in Private Practice
Join an Established Team
When starting out in private practice, you can either set up on your own or research local private therapy companies and contact them to see if they have space for you to join their practice. Joining an established team of therapists means you’re more likely to have a stream of referrals and possibly the opportunity for peer supervision. The service will have policies, procedures and methods for record keeping in place, so you won’t need to set them up yourself.
Considering where your office is based is a great way to limit isolation. Working in a building with other businesses allows you to mix with others and may even provide a source of referrals. I have an office and I sublet some of the space to other therapists. This has created a nice community. If this isn’t an option, getting to know and collaborating with local therapists working in other fields can be rewarding. For example, I have connected with nutritionists, general practitioners, local solicitors, reflexologists and physiotherapists.
Working from Home
Working from home could mean you end up alone for long periods. Some people enjoy this, but some find it challenging. Think about who you will talk to when you’re not with clients. You may want to ensure your supervision arrangements are flexible in case you need an urgent chat.
Having associate therapists means you pass work on to other therapists who work alongside you. Your colleagues are self-employed and it’s a good way of adding to your income while also reducing isolation. It can be particularly useful for referrals that are not in your specialism (such as children or complex clients).
Peer Group Supervision
As CBT Therapists, peer group supervision can be an excellent way of reducing isolation. Groups typically have between two and six members who have approximately the same level of professional experience or share a specific area of interest.
You have the opportunity to present and ask questions about your own cases as well as engage in discussion about the cases of other group members. The group can offer valuable guidance on difficult cases and tough ethical dilemmas. It can provide a break from the isolation and serve as an informal setting to discuss not only clients, but the experience of working in private practice.
Most areas of the country have a BABCP branch that can provide invaluable support and connection with other therapist who are working in a variety of settings. I’m also part of Womgene, the special interest group for gender minorities in BABCP and CBT. Special interest groups are full of people from all over the country, so they tend to meet virtually online.
In private practice, you chose who you have as a clinical supervisor, how many supervisors you have and the amount of time you spend with them. This flexibility is a real perk of private practice, so make the most of it. Providing supervision yourself can be a great way of connecting with others and feeling like you have a team around you.
Training, Conferences and Networking Events
Investing in regular training and attending conferences is another way to stay connected. Most communities have networking events for local businesses too. Although they can be a bit hit and miss, they can often raise your profile and help you get to know other business owners in your area.
When you set up your private practice, you’ll quickly learn you can’t do everything yourself. You may decide to outsource certain elements such as administration support, website design, accounts, copywriting or social media. Choosing the right people is important as they will become a vital part of your business and it’s likely you’ll have long standing relationships with them. It might not be a MDT, but you will certainly have a team around you.
I may be biased, but Facebook groups are a great way to connect with other therapists. We now have close to 1K members in the CBT in Private Practice Facebook group which means someone is active in the group most of the time. You can post a question and receive a reply pretty quickly. It’s great for working through common worries, sharing resources and discussing business ideas. There are some great therapist humour quotes too!
Discover more resources for therapists getting started in private practice.