Setting goals is an important way to get things done. If you’re a private therapist, or hoping to become one, it’s important to set measurable goals for yourself (that’s not unlike what we do with our patients, right?)
In thinking about goal setting for physical, occupational and speech therapists who treat privately, I came up with five major goals that every Independent Clinician should be thinking about doing as soon as possible.
Goal # 1: Start Treating Private Patients
Actually starting to treat private patients may be the most obvious first thing to do. You’ve been thinking about it for a while. Maybe you’ve been a subscriber and even purchased The Independent Clinician Guide to Private Patients.
Don’t forget, you’ve got the clinical skills so you now need the knowledge of the business end of things. Once you have that, you just need to start. Have the confidence in yourself to know that you’re not going to make a catastrophic error. You’re not going to do something so horrendous that you lose your license as a therapist. You are a competent clinician who is just treating patients in a new setting.
Bottom Line: Start with one patient and see how it goes. If you like it, add more to your caseload. If it’s not for you, discharge or refer to another clinician.
Goal #2: Get a Website
It used to be that to be in business, you needed a business card. Now, in addition to having business cards, it’s getting to be extremely commonplace for any and all businesses to have a presence online. If you’ve been thinking about having a therapy website, chances are you have thought to yourself, “Do I really need a website?” The answer is yes.
Here’s why you need a website:
- Patients and families often look online for information and therapists (i.e. found in search engines)
- Makes your business appear to be very solid and established
- Provide information about yourself, your knowledge/skills, and treatment philosophy can be placed on the site for potential patients to review prior to contacting you
Creating a website can sound daunting, but there are several companies that make it free or cheap to have a website. If you can use Microsoft Word, you can make a site on Fat Cow or Weebly.
Here’s what I recommend: Create a website that has a picture of you, tells about yourself and your therapy treatment abilities and gives your contact information. It does not have to be a ton of information, one page is enough, but think of your website as the initial impression. Instead of giving my phone number on my business cards, I list my website. That way, when patients, physicians, etc. look at my site, they can quickly determine whether I’m a good fit for the patient before they even call.
Bottom Line: You really should have a website and they are much easier and cheaper to create than ever before.
Goal #3: Send Out Marketing Materials
If you’re looking for something such as a new restaurant, a movie, a place to honeymoon, what to do trust more: a stranger or a trusted friend/colleague/doctor? Now think about a typical patient or family member looking for services of private therapists. They would rather have their neurologist say, “I know of this excellent occupational therapist in the area who does private therapy. Why don’t you contact them?” Having someone they trust refer to you means that they will automatically trust you more.
So, how do you develop that trust with local physicians, neurologists, social workers, educators, etc? Simple. You reach out to them and tell them who you are, what kind of therapy services you provide and who your ideal patients are. If you keep in touch with them (sending information at least every other month) as opportunities arise to refer patients, they will think of you.
Bottom Line: If you want referrals from local physicians, educators, psychologists, etc. they need to know who you are and what you do.
Goal #4: Become an Insurance Provider
Becoming a health insurance provider can be an excellent way to boost your caseload and start helping patients who cannot afford to pay privately. I always recommend to start with private pay patients first, but once you’re comfortable with that, it’s a good idea to add private insurance as a method of payment. This increases the pool of patients who you can serve.
Taking private insurance certainly has pro’s and con’s:
- Treat people who cannot pay out of pocket
- Increase your referral source
- May be reimbursed for more than you’re currently charging
- Application process can take months
- May be reimbursed less than you charge privately
- Have to bill the insurance company and keep track of visits
Taking private insurance is a great option for clinicians looking to add to their caseload. Also don’t forget: you can have a mix of private pay patients and some health insurance patients. The policies and procedures of health insurers vary, but I have a chapter in The Independent Clinicians Guide to Private Patients on getting started with becoming a health insurance provider that makes it seem less scary.
Bottom Line: Go ahead and start your application now as it’ll take a few months to get approved. Remember that this is a good way to build your caseload. If you like it, keep going. If you don’t, you can easily remove yourself from the provider database.
Goal #5: Go to a Conference
In order to treat privately, you need to be an expert. I highly recommend that clinicians don’t start treating privately until they have become quite skilled and knowledgeable with a particular diagnosis or therapy technique. One way to boost your knowledge and confidence on a topic is to attend a conference, convention and course. Whether the course is in your area, far away or even online, increasing your skills and abilities is important to keep yourself focused on staying current with clinical information that will help provide an excellent service to your private patients. Remember, your private patients are paying top dollar for your services- it’s important to provide them the best service you can.
Bottom Line: Going to a conference, course and class is a great way to increase your skill set. Oh- and remember to keep your receipt– it is tax deductible!
I hope that these suggestions about how to start or expand your private therapy practice have been beneficial. Remember, the most important part of goal setting is to break the goal down into smaller parts and then just get it done. Remember, you, as a private therapist, have the clinical skills; now work hard on those business skills to build your private patient business!
About the Author: Jena H. Casbon, MS CCC-SLP spends her days treating adults with cognitive-communication disorders and her nights helping fellow speech, occupational and physical therapy providers start and grow their own private practices. Her company, The Independent Clinician, seeks to provide information, community and a confidence boost to those who want to get started treating privately but don’t know how.
Jena’s first book is available now: The Independent Clinician Guide to Private Patients. She is also finishing her second (yet untitled) book for SLP/OT/PT therapists on building a web presence (websites, social media and more) to grow their private practices.
Click here to read more about Jena Casbon, MS-CCC-SLP