Posted by: Julia Smith on August 24, 2017 12:31 pm

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It can overwhelming to start a private practice! So many things to consider like website, insurance, business cards, paperwork, finding an office space… ugh! Having started a private practice last year in Halifax, I get how stressful it can be! So, to help all you fellow Canadian counsellor entrepreneurs, I came up with a list of 15 steps that will help you start your private practice. Hopefully, this list will make it a lot more easier for you to begin! Enjoy!

Note: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

  1. Get certified/ licensed

First things first: become a Certified Canadian Counsellor, this will allow you to get liability insurance. You’ll also be able to sign up with a few insurance companies whose members may get reimbursed for their counselling sessions. Ideally, also get licensed so that your can sign up for A LOT more insurance companies that potential clients might have benefits with. Right now Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia are the only provinces where you can become licensed. To learn more: https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/profession/regulation-across-canada/

  1. Get liability insurance

Once you’re a certified CCPA member you can get liability insurance through BMS. Click here to learn more https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/membership/insurance/insurance-details/

  1. Name your private practice

Naming your practice after yourself can seem like a simple solution BUT if you ever want to hire other counsellors or sell your business it can become A LOT trickier. Check out this great article that can help you decide:


  1. Register your business

Check the rules in your province; all I can say is that in Nova Scotia you need to register your business.  http://novascotia.ca/sns/access/business/ready-register-business.asp

  1. Get an HST # for your business

Since we are not regulated in five provinces (yet) we have to charge HST for anything over $30 000. I recommend you speak with an accountant to decide when you get your HST# and when you should start charging.

  1. Find office space

Start off small. Speak to other health practitioners (naturopaths, massage therapists, other counsellors etc.) to see if you can rent a room from them for a day or for a couple hours a week as you build your client base.

7.Get an office phone number

I use Grasshopper, which has cheap rates and allows me to use my personal phone. Check them out at: www.fearlesspractice.com/phone

  1. Get business cards

I use MOO because of their stylish cards. Check it out at: www.fearlesspractice.com/businesscards

  1. Find a niche

Figure out what you are going to specialize in. Hesitant to choose a niche? Read this https://abundancepracticebuilding.com/niche/busting-niche-hesitations/

And then click here to figure out what you’ll specialize in: http://practiceoftherapy.com/creating-niche-counseling-private-practice/

  1. Build a website

I use and LOVE Brighter Vision! They specialize in creating counselling websites  and offer unlimited support, an email address, AND SEO. Check out my website at: https://insightmentalhealth.ca and if you want to try Brighter Vision out you can get ONE MONTH FREE! at https://www.brightervision.com/try/smith/

  1. Figure out how you’re going to store client records

The are many awesome online management systems that offer secure online notes and scheduling. I also keep some parts of client’s files in a locked file cabinet.

Check out Simple Practice at: www.fearlesspractice.ca/Jane or OWL at: www.fearlesspractice.com/OWL (Canadian). Before choosing your system make sure you are compliant with Canada’s privacy laws: https://vsee.com/blog/hipaa-canada-health-information-privacy/.

  1. Develop a paperwork packet that includes consent forms and your business policy.Learn how to create your own or purchase a premade (US) paperwork packet at http://www.practiceofthepractice.com/starting-paperwork-right-private-practice/
  1. Decide on your price for your services

Here’s a great article about how to do so https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/private-practice-owners-how-set-session-fees-your-clients-adams

  1. Join Psychology Today

Many potential clients find counsellors on this site (I’ve gotten many from this site!). Check it out at: https://www.psychologytoday.com

  1. Join Open Path Collective

Give back by offering a couple of slots for clients that cannot afford your full fee. I have found that it gets very complicated and annoying negotiating a sliding scale with clients. This site takes out the bargaining. You have your full fee or your Open Path fee PLUS  it’s free to join.  Here’s the link: https://www.fearlesspractice.ca/openpath

and you can see how I advertise it on my fee page here: https://insightmentalhealth.ca/rates-insurance/

Get MORE Canadian private practice help at: www.fearlesspractice.com/help

For More Information Please go to www.fearlesspractice.ca

About Julia

Julia Smith, MEd, RCT, CCC, is the owner of Fearless Practice. She specializes in consulting with Canadian counsellors and therapists who want to start a private practice. She also owns a private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she helps teenagers and adults who want to be confident and happy but are feeling weighed down by anxiety, stress, and depression.

Learn more about her consulting services at www.fearlesspractice.ca!

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not clinical or consulting advice. E-subscribers and website visitors are receiving general advertising and information about starting a private practice and should not act upon this information without seeking professional consultation.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA