Most of my content is geared towards therapists looking to launch their own solo private practice, but I haven’t done much to address the pros and cons of group practice vs. solo private practice. I have a bit of experience in all three main types of practices available, so in this article, I break down the pros and cons to consider with a group practice vs. solo private practice.
Solo Private Practice, Group Practice, or Independent Group Practice?
A big question that often comes up when therapists consider private practice is whether it’s best to explore joining a group practice or launching your own solo private practice.
I don’t often hear people reference this, but there’s also a third option of joining an independent group practice, which really captures the positive aspects of both. I’ll get into what that looks like a bit later.
I launched my fully solo practice in San Jose in 2016, but prior to that, I spent a year working in a group practice as well as five years in an independent group practice. I’ll share from my experiences as well as what I’ve heard from y’all through Instagram about the pros and cons of each of these options.
Let’s start with the pros and cons of a group practice.
The Pros and Cons of Group Practice
- No Marketing. Often in a group practice, your referrals and sometimes even your schedule are managed for you. This is great! You can show up on day one and already have clients ready to meet with you.
- No Business Savvy Required. Compared to launching a solo practice, this is a huge win! The entire business structure is already set up for you.
- Built-In Support. Often group practices have great structures in place, such as built-in consultation groups and easy access to colleagues when you need support.
- No Overhead Expenses. You likely just take home a paycheck each month, without needing to pay rent or cover other expenses.
- Lower pay. Since in a group you are employed by the group owner, they receive a cut of your client rate. Not only do they take enough to cover their overhead, but they’re likely making a pretty profit in exchange for doing all the branding and marketing on your behalf. Often employers will take around 40 percent of your client rate, leaving you with about 60 percent left to keep before taxes (this varies from group to group, so be sure to inquire!).
- Less Autonomy. Often in group settings someone else is in charge of your schedule as far as what kinds of clients you work with. Depending on the group, you may not have much say as far as who you meet with.
- Likelihood of Burnout. Though this is a tendency both in group and solo practices, it seems to happen much more commonly in group practices. This is often a byproduct of employers focusing more on the bottom line rather than your self-care.
I worked in a group practice for a year as a pre-licensed trainee. When I finished my hours, my supervisor offered me to stay on as an employee once I was licensed. At that practice, I often saw 8-10 clients per day and I only got to take home 60 percent of my rate before taxes. I didn’t have any say in what clients I worked with, and I didn’t feel cared for there.
This isn’t true of all group practices, but if you’re interviewing to join a group, be sure to know what type of work environment and what cut of your rate you get to keep before agreeing to join!
I opted to exit that practice because I felt like I was getting a bad deal. But you have the freedom to make choices based on what works best for you!
Now let’s talk about the pros and cons of solo practices.
The Pros and Cons of Solo Private Practice
- You’re in Charge. And when I say you’re in charge, I mean you’re in charge of EVERYTHING: Your rate, your schedule, your brand, what clients you work with. You have full authority over every aspect of your business.
- Higher Pay. Since you’re in charge of setting your rates and making decisions about your expenses, most therapists in solo practice earn significantly more income per hour than in group practices.
- Easy to Dip your Toes In. You don’t have to dive in full-time to launch a solo practice. It’s really easy to sublet a room for cheap to get your toes wet and see how you feel before diving in full-time.
- Requires Business Savvy. Private practice is in every way a business. You either need to get trained on how to run a business or you need to be willing to pay someone to help you with the business side of things.
- More Isolating. Many therapists in solo practice feel isolated. This option requires intentionality as far as making sure you have healthy community supports and consultation resources.
- Greater Risk. In a solo practice, if your business goes south, you go south with it. Some people find this risk too big of a burden to face and prefer to have the security that comes with working in a group.
The Independent Group Practice Model
I mentioned that independent group practices can offer a happy medium between these two options. They really do offer the best of both worlds!
The independent group practice allows you to work in a group setting, while legally you are fully in charge of your own business. I worked in a setting like this for my first five years in private practice, and it was the best launching point for me. I had the communal support of my colleagues while also being able to fully set my own rate and hours. In this setting of having community holding my hand along the way, I got to really learn the business end of private practice such that after five years, I was more than ready to launch completely on my own.
I hope you found this article helpful as you explore whether you’d like to work in a group practice vs. a solo private practice.
Ready to dive deeper into starting a private practice? I have a free guide for that! Check it out here to grab your free guide: Start a Private Practice in Counseling
Until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well!