Whether you work in a school, hospital or clinic, you’ve probably had a patient or family member ask, “Do you treat privately?” or “Can you come to our home for private therapy?”
While most clinicians are flattered when asked such questions, there is often a feeling of panic that ensues. Some common questions that clinicians have are: Am I allowed to treat this patient privately? How much would I charge? Do I need some type of insurance? Should I be documenting the therapy services?
I wonder if I could ever have a private practice?
Almost everyone in the physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech language pathology career I’ve known has started out dreaming that one day they would have a private practice. However, as they started their careers with the safety of a regular therapy job with consistent pay, the thought of taking a risk and going out on their own seemed overwhelming and scary. To be honest, starting a private therapy practice is a lot of extra work, extra responsibilities and headaches but the trade off of high income and more autonomy is very alluring for some people.
Most clinicians think of having a private therapy practice as an “all or nothing.” Treating one to several private patients on the side is considered having a private practice. To many, having a small private practice is an ideal way to test the waters before renting office space or hiring employees, etc. For others, it’s a good way to make an extra $10,000 - $30,000 per year by working a few extra hours each week
Private patients: A great way to start
Most of us got into this field because we love to help people, not because we wanted to make money. Though, as time goes by, the reality of car or house payments, wanting to have extra income for our families, vacations and dreams of financial freedom set in, we become frustrated with our regular salary as a therapist. We long for flexible schedules, reduced stress and the ability to treat our ideal patients. Treating privately is a great way to help more people while making more money by seeing one to several private patients on the side.
How does private therapy work?
At some point, you will know colleagues that are treating private patients and a patient or family member will ask if you can provide private treatment. Private therapy is often requested as a way to:
- Provide consistent therapy during gaps over the summer for school-aged children
- Supplement therapy already being received (kids or adults)
- Continue therapy if insurance won't continue to pay for services (kids or adults)
Most private therapy occurs in the patients' home and therapists are paid either through cash, check or reimbursed through an insurance company. Therapists need to have their own liability insurance, document their treatment, market their therapy services to obtain more clients and pay taxes on their earned income. Most therapists charge between $75-$125/hour for their services.
Is private therapy right for you?
I recommend that you have at least two to three years of experience as a licensed physical, occupational or speech therapist before you begin treating privately. You need to build up your expertise in a diagnosis or treatment technique so that your services are truly valuable to your private patients. Because you'll be doing this on your own, you need to develop a level of confidence about both your clinical and business skills before you start. Starting to see private patients is almost like starting your first job all over again. Once you have some practice and experience, you'll feel much stronger. Some start with private patients and then expand to starting their own free-standing private therapy practice, while others keep a full or part-time job and continue see private patients on the side.
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a private speech, occupational or physical therapist, please visit The Independent Clinician, a website dedicated to teaching you everything you need to know to get started with your own private therapy business.
Click here to read more about Jena Casbon, MS-CCC-SLP