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Private practice counselling business plan

This blog is written by Jude Fay, This Business of Therapy

Are you about to start a counselling private practice? And looking for an easy-to-follow guide on writing a business plan that works? Our private practice counselling business plan template is for you!

But before getting into the specifics let’s first address 2 key questions…

What is a business plan?

Quite literally, it’s a plan for your business, your therapy business. It’s a structure to help you to clarify what you want and a guide of how you are going to go about it as a new private counsellor.

How my counselling business could benefit from it?

A business plan will help you:
- Analyse the environment in which your practice is going to be established
- Identify which areas in counselling are in high demand
- Establish what services you would be offering
- Differentiate you from competing private counsellors
- Set up your financial goals
- Create a marketing plan for your counselling business
- Stay accountable to your business goals and aspirations
- And with the basics out of the way let’s get straight into our template…

Table of Contents

1. Profession Overview: Environment, Trends & Competition Analysis
2. Market Positioning: Establish Your Place in the Profession
3. How to Write a Counselling Service Description That Attracts Clients
4. Private Practice Counselling Service Description That Attracts Clients
5. Risk Analysis: Challenges When Setting Up A Counselling Private Practice
6. Financial Projections to Guide your Counselling Therapy Business
7. Executive Summary: Your Counselling Business Plan in a Snapshot
8. Counselling Business Plan Checklist: 16- Question Guide to Writing your plan

1. Profession Overview: Environment, Trends & Competition Analysis

Start by looking at the environment in which the practice is going to be established. What is going on in the therapy profession now, and how will it impact your plans? Consider for example:

- Technology
- Client Issues in the news
- Employee Assistance Programs and Health Insurers
- Tax issues

Ask questions, read professional journals, or attend meetings where these issues are discussed. Learn about the business aspects of the profession.

Look around at your colleagues who are already in practice. Speak to your own therapist and supervisor. What can you learn from them? How have they rooted into their communities? Consider doing some market research.

The environment in which we practice will influence and shape our practice. So, a city practice will differ from a country one or one in the suburbs.  Where are you planning to locate your practice, and what are the unique challenges and strengths of that location and its inhabitants?

2. Market Positioning: Establish Your Place in the Profession

How do you see yourself fitting in with the broader environment you explored in the previous section?  Are there any opportunities which might help you in setting up your own unique counselling business?

Begin to form an idea of your preferred client. Think of a client you have loved to work with. What was it about them that appealed to you? Do you like working with women or men, young or old, parents or adolescents or couples? What are their struggles and their aspirations? Try to get as specific as you can.

3. How to Write a Counselling Service Description That Attracts Clients

All therapists appear to offer similar services but each is unique. Try to get a feel for the shape, colour and texture of your practice. How do you see yourself offering services to clients? What will those services be? How do you describe what you do? What benefits will your work bring to those who you work with?

For example, you may offer your counselling sessions online, or visit a client’s home. You may offer a fixed term contract or have views about endings. You may feel strongly about anonymity or about time boundaries. You may like to sit on the floor or offer playdoh or crayons. You may wish clients to find forgiveness for themselves to stand up for themselves and find their voice. Our own personal experiences of life will influence the therapy we offer to clients.

In this context, it is important not to focus too much on your qualifications. What clients want to know is that you are interested in their problems, and that you hold the hope of something better for them in the future.

4. Private Practice Counselling Business Marketing Plan

Having a plan for how to market and attract clients to your practice is an essential. A marketing plan takes you out of your ideas into the reality of taking action. It sets out how you are going to be seen and heard and should address the following questions:

- Where do clients come from?
- What is your aim for your first meeting?
- How could you encourage potential clients to choose you?
- Will your clients recommend you? If not, why not?

Be as specific as you can. For example, if you are expecting clients to come through GPs, be clear about which GPs you are going to target and why.

What would tell you the client is a good fit for you?

Most importantly, note that we are not talking about selling someone into a service they don’t want or need. We are talking about opening a door and welcoming those who wish to enter and are a good fit for what we have to offer.

5. Risks Analysis: Challenges When Setting Up A Counselling Private Practice

There is risk inherent in every venture. The challenge when setting up a private counselling practice is to identify the risks and to find ways to mitigate them with the appropriate supports. What risks do you face in setting up or expanding your practice? Typical risks include:

- Financial risks such as losing money, or not having enough financial support in the early lean phase.
- Emotional risks such as feeling overwhelmed or isolated, and fear of failure.
- Informational risks such as not knowing how to do something, or who could help.
- Reputational risks such as doing something you’re not competent to do and harming your reputation
- Legal risks such as failure to implement relevant legislation

The more specific you get about identifying the risk (or the fear) related to being a private counsellor, the easier it will be to find a solution to help.

What supports might you need to help manage these risks? Supports might include information you need to find, skills you need to learn and grow, or people supports.

6. Financial Projections to Guide your Counselling Therapy Business

Your business plan should include some financial information. Converting your plans into numbers helps to concretise them. You can see whether your income is likely to meet your financial needs, and where you may need to tweak your plans, or acquire some financial support, such as a business loan.

For example, the income in a therapy practice can be seasonal, with peaks and troughs at different times of the year. You will need to plan for these variations and to put some money aside to carry you over the lean times, or when you are on holidays or sick.

Financial information also helps to form a ground from which you can set your fees. How much of a client’s hourly or sessional fee do you pay out for your rent, or your supervision?

Before starting you will need to clarify several parameters, such as:

- What time do you have available for your practice?
- What price range are you thinking about?
- What costs are you likely to incur, such as rent, insurance, supervision, professional memberships, CPD etc

If you are starting up, you should have some projections or budgets, that show how you expect your practice will perform financially in the first year or more of its life. If you are already in practice, in addition to projections, your business plan should also include historical information, such as an income and expenditure account.

You can find links to an example of these in the long version of this article on my website here.

7. Executive summary: Your Counselling Business Plan in a Snapshot

You should be able, in just a couple of sentences, to summarise your vision for your practice and how it is unique to you. Include an elevator pitch for your counselling business which says in 1 sentence, who you help, what problems you help them with, and what they can hope to achieve from working with you. You can read more about an elevator pitch on my website here.

8. Counselling Business Plan Checklist: 16-Question Guide to Writing your Plan

When you set out to create your own business plan, you may find it helpful to refer to my 16-question guide to writing your own business plan. You can find it in the longer version of this article on my website here.

You can read more about creating a business plan for your practice, and lots of other advice about finding your way through the maze of starting a private practice in my book “This Business of Therapy: A Practical Guide to Starting, Developing and Sustaining a Therapy Practice,” available on Amazon.

About the author:
Jude Fay is a psychotherapist and supervisor, and has a private practice in Naas, Co Kildare. She also supports therapists who struggle to earn enough in their practices, to overcome the blocks to creating a thriving practice, through workshops, blogging (thisbusinessoftherapy/blog) and one to one coaching. Jude is the author of “This Business of Therapy: A Practical Guide to Starting, Developing and Sustaining a Therapy Practice” available on Amazon.

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