Have you ever met someone who has a super successful business, but doesn’t seem to have a healthy private practice? I have!
These therapists, on paper, have thriving private practices. They have plenty of clients, are growing and hiring employees, etc. But, they often feel quite dissatisfied with their experience of running their practice, and their work-life balance.
So, if “successful” doesn’t always mean healthy, what are the signs of a healthy private practice?
I want to share 3 ways to know if your practice is healthy or not.
3 Ways To Know If You Have A Healthy Private Practice
You will notice that these signs are less about the numbers around private practice. They are not focused on how many clients you have, how large your income is, or your pace of growth.
These are, of course, very important to keep track of and to create goals for. But, you may be able to point to signs of success in all of those areas, and still not have a healthy private practice.
The signs I’m about to outline have less to do with the numbers and more to do with the internal, emotional, and relational factors involved in running a practice.
1) Business Practices Align With Your Values
Do you make your business decisions based on what aligns best with your values?
This is in contrast to making decisions based on guilt, or what you feel like you are supposed to do even if you don’t really want to.
Especially now, as there are more and more tools becoming available to start and grow private practices, we can hear someone present a model, internalize it, and feel like we have to align with that model/advice. Or else we are doing something wrong.
A lot of times, what might be best for you, is something totally different than what is best for another private practice owner.
If you find yourself trying to do what you think you are supposed to do, trying to grow to a certain number, or holding a certain boundary that doesn’t sit well with you, that will often lead to unhealth. Especially if it becomes a pattern in how you run your private practice.
If all of the decisions you make in the business side of your practice align with your values, then you are setting yourself up for a healthy private practice. This includes how many clients you see, how much you charge, whether you take insurance or not, or any other decisions you make for your practice.
2) Loved Ones See Alignment
Do your loved ones feel like your business aligns and has a positive effect on the rest of your life?
To put it another way: your loved ones don’t feel like your business is having a negative impact on the rest of your life.
I’ve seen instances where a therapist may feel like their practice is healthy, but their loved ones feel like they are overworking, are never around, or are always prioritizing their business over other people/responsibilities.
If your loved ones are noticing a pattern that your work life is taking away from your home life, or other aspects of your life, then that is a sign of an unhealthy practice.
When we have a healthy approach to our practice, it has an appropriate place in the rest of our lives. And within our sense of identity.
For me, my private practice is such an important part of my life. I get a huge sense of reward and even identify from the work that I do with my clients. But, it’s not all there is to me. And it’s not the only thing that matters to me.
If our practices can live appropriately amongst all the other things that we care about (family, community, hobbies, etc.) then my loved ones can see how my business enhances my life as a whole.
3) Overall Sense of Contentment
Do you feel a personal sense of contentment with your work?
I don’t necessarily mean this as: did you reach a certain income or caseload size you were hoping for?
Rather, wherever you are in reaching your goals, do you feel like how you are investing your time is aligning with who you are?
If you are feeling a sense of discontentment with your practice, that could be due to any number of things. So I’m not trying to prescribe what it says about you, your practice, or the people you work with.
But if you are feeling discontent, it is worth looking into. Could it be something about your practice or how you are doing things that feed into that discontentment?
Bonus Sign: Employees Feel Respected
This is for those of you who have employees, contractors, or business-adjacent professionals that you interact with in the work context.
- Do those folks feel respected in whatever capacity you are interacting with them?
- Generally speaking, in a healthy practice environment, anyone who is working alongside or with you should feel respected, cared for, and valued as an equal.
- If you run a group practice, and you have 10 employees who are all feeling disrespected and dissatisfied, that is a clear sign of unhealth.
I realize that only naming three signs of unhealth can feel a bit reductionistic. Each of these points could be a longer conversation. And, there are so many more signs of unhealthy and healthy private practices.
But, I wanted to share these three signs to help us all start to think about and assess if the practices we run are healthy or not. And if you are ever in doubt: consult, consult, consult!! Then you can adjust accordingly.
You Can Run Your Business Your Way
As I mentioned above, one way to be content in your business is to make sure you are running it in a way that you feel good about. Not having to shape your practice in the same way as everyone else is one myth I want to debunk. I have an article on 13 other myths about starting a private practice that can help you feel like you have permission to build the practice that fits you.
If you have or hope to have your own practice, I hope you feel empowered to have a practice that aligns with who you are that is healthy, fulfilling, and brings contentment.
Until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well.