If You Build A Private Practice The Clients Will Come (well…maybe)

Posted by: Lucy MacDonald on December 5, 2011 4:03 pm

In the movie “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner and Amy Madigan released in 1989, an Iowa farmer has a vision about building a baseball diamond in a cornfield.  Against all reason he proceeds, encouraged by the promise that if he builds a baseball diamond, the baseball greats of the past will come to play another game. “If you build it, they will come” became his mantra when faced with criticism and self-doubt. He did build it and they did come.

Unfortunately, “if you build it, they will come”, does not work in private practice. There is a mistaken notion in the counselling profession that if you want to help others, the clients will want your services. Wanting to help others is definitely a necessary component, but it does not follow that just because you set up a private practice the clients will be there.

             The business success statistics for small businesses are not encouraging. There has been a steady increase in self-employment in Canada since the early 1980’s due primarily to technology which facilitates the operating of a small business and which has created a more equal playing field between small and large businesses. Sixteen percent of Canadians are self-employed and 80 to 90 percent of all individually owned businesses fail. [1]

 As health care professionals, private practitioners are not serving their communities if they cannot stay in business. In order to avoid business failure private practitioners need to educate themselves about all aspects of running a private practice.

             Over the past few years I have met practitioners who want to be in practice full time but only see one or two clients per week, and others who see seven clients per day, five days per week.  How is it that some are successful and others are not?  The desire to help others is there but the clients are not. How do practitioners succeed? How are the successful practitioners able to stay in business?  What makes a successful practitioner?

Over the next series of blog posts I aim to answer these questions, and more. If you have questions you would like to pose, or areas of interest related to private practice that you would like me to write about I would be more than happy to hear from you.

 Lucy MacDonald, M.Ed.

Private Practice Advisor

[email protected]


[1] Your Own Best Boss? Maybe Not. Article in the National Post January 7, 2006.




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

2 comments on “If You Build A Private Practice The Clients Will Come (well…maybe)”

  1. Trish McCracken says:

    I find in rural Ontario that working for EAP helps to build a positive reputation as does being on association websites such as CCPA, BESTCO and EMDR Canada. Clients search for the specialized skills today.

  2. Siri Brown says:

    Question: I am considering renting an office for private practice and am torn between renting it “full time”, and sub-renting to other clinicians, or just renting a day at someone else’s office…I anticipate working full-time in private practice by year’s end (Dec.2012) and have some money saved to help with costs. How easy is it to find other’s to rent? (I am aware it will vary significantly city to city – I am in Vancouver, BC). Any help or suggestions would be welcome!

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