Starting a Private Practice In a New State

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Starting a private practice in a new state

The personal to-do list of moving to a new state can be overwhelming. Add on to that the tasks of starting a new therapy business and you might just lose your mind! But, it can be done!

In the fall of 2015, I moved from Tampa, FL to Broken Arrow, OK and started a solo practice: Legacy Counseling Service.  My private practice experience, at that point, consisted of me seeing about three to five clients, once a week, in a shared space at my church. The rest of my time, I worked as a contractor in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I didn’t know how to market my private practice. I really didn’t have much of a business to market at the time and was full of self-doubt, fear, and the false belief that I didn’t have anything of value to offer. When I moved to Oklahoma, I had to kick it into high gear. I had a family to support, no job, and no choice but to get my business off the ground quickly. Here is what I did:

1. Network In Advance

Before I moved, I narrowed down the type of clients I wanted to counsel (chronic illness, insomnia, depression) and nailed down how to talk about my counseling orientation and philosophy for the non-therapist. Then, I began my “networking campaign”. Here are some key points:

  1. Search physicians, church leaders, therapists, schools, and others who seem to share similar values of how to help people. Make a few notes so you can bring up unique aspects of their service when you meet them.
  2. Call and ask for the office manager or referral coordinator. Schedule a face-to-face meeting within a few weeks of moving to your new state. Or, send an email or postal letter introducing yourself and that you would like to see how you can help them and that you’ll be opening your door in X-time frame and that you will touch base again in a few weeks.
  3. Once you get to your new state, attend the meeting or make another call. If you can’t get in face-to-face with the provider, drop off marketing material and a personal letter to the provider again explaining who you are and your desire to help them. Let them know you dropped off information with the receptionist.
  4. Continue steps 1-3 two to four times a month for 12 months. Each time adding new providers to your outreach list and checking on the original outreach group about once every quarter. Consistency with outreach will need to become your friend.

2. Find a Space To Work

When you are just starting out, you don’t need to design your dream office right away. Find a place to sublease by the hour, day, or month. As you get your business off the ground, look for places where you can counsel that don’t require a huge financial commitment, because there are a lot of start-up costs. Some places to consider when searching for a space:

  1. Psychology Today Peercast section
  2. Facebook groups of mental health providers
  3. Ask personal or business contacts if they are aware of office space that you can rent (counseling practices, medical practice, real estate office, etc.)
  4. Ask some local churches if you can rent a room
  5. Ready-to-go office spaces (Regus, etc.)
  6. Virtual: consider counseling people from your home (if you have a private space that won’t be interrupted) using VSee or Doxy.Me

3. Develop a Routine

As you are first developing your practice in your new state, it’s important to develop a routine to get work done especially when you might have more free time on your hands. Here are three things to consider:

  1. Organize yourself using free project management tools like Trello, or do a YouTube search for free excel templates that will help you manage your outreach efforts.
  2. Time blocking:  block out chunks of time to work on a specific task or project instead of spreading it out over the course of a day or week. For example, block out 9-11am to work on your networking campaign, and 2-4pm to develop your website copy.
  3. Batching tasks: it takes a lot of mental energy to switch from one task to another, so it’s best to batch tasks together instead of multi-tasking. When you batch tasks and only focus on that task, it will help you finish the project sooner. For example, if you want to start blogging, then block out time to spend on the “brainstorming ideas” task. Then time block and batch the task of writing initial drafts for each idea.
  4. Consistency: it’s hard to be consistent initially when you might not see the fruits of your labor. Studies have shown that 44% of people give up after one follow-up and the average person only makes two attempts to reach a prospect. However, 80% of sales require FIVE follow-ups. Keep these statistics in mind, especially regarding your face-to-face networking and remember that it takes time to develop a relationship with referral sources so that they know, like, and trust you.

4. Manage Your Mindset

Starting a new endeavor is scary. You are a great therapist, but have likely never launched a business before. It’s common for the insecurity of being a business owner to bleed into your confidence of providing therapy. You may wonder if you have anything valuable to offer, if you hourly rate matches your professional worth, and if you can really make it. Often times, the imposter syndrome and self-sabotage sets in. Here are a few books to begin reading to combat the mindset issues that may get in your way:

  1. The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
  2. The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young (applies to men also but the imposter syndrome is more common in women)
  3. The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
  4. You Are The Placebo by Dr. Joe Dispenza

Starting a new business is difficult, especially when all you want to is the thing you are good at: therapy. It can be overwhelming, especially when you are starting out in a new state. Try to do some homework before you move to begin making connections, start brainstorming where you will do your work, organize yourself and your tasks, and work on turning down the volume of the loud lies that your mind is telling you. You can do this!


unnamedDr. Melissa Leedy, Ph.D., is a psychologist in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and owner of Legacy Counseling Service. She specializes is helping client adjust to health problems, insomnia, depression and anxiety to that they can get back into life fully! She loves to experiment with cooking, to practice yoga, spend time with her family and friends. She also loves sharing what she has learned about starting a private practice with other therapist.