Starting a Private Practice in Clinical Counselling

Posted by: Marlowe Lindberg on January 26, 2012 12:03 pm

Greetings, first, let me give you a little background about me.  I have a degree in business, master’s degrees in adult education, and my second master’s degree is in clinical counselling psychology, as well I have a post-graduate diploma in leadership and administration. In addition to counselling at various places, such as: Hospice in Edmonton, a Women’s Crisis Centre, as a High School Counsellor, and with Cowichan Family Life. I also taught part-time in the bachelor of management degree program at Concordia University, Edmonton, and part-time as the co-ordinator and academic counsellor for the bachelor of education, adult education route at the University of Alberta, and as well, I taught many of the programs in the adult education degree program.  In addition, for many years, I was in  partnership with my husband growing our 4 very successful Optometric Eye Clinics.  When he retired, we moved to Campbell River, BC., where I have now started my private practice in clinical counselling.  

The first question you need to ask yourself is: Do you need immediate income????   Before you even consider preparing a business plan, you need to do the math.  How much income do you need to generate in your private practice that would be equal to a full-time salary if you were employed in an agency possibly earning $43,622.00 per annum? 

I checked out the average salary for a family and marriage counsellors for British Columbia and Ontario see website http://www.workingcanada.gc.ca.[i]   The average salary in 2011 was $25.30 (low $17.80 to a high of $35.97).  I would like you to spend time checking out this website it is very informative and will give your stats on every province in Canada, for example, in 2009, twelve percent of this group were self-employed. 

How many clients will you need to see per year to equal a gross income of $43,622.00 per annum?  I took the gross income of $43,622.00 per annum and divided it by an average fee of $80.00.  You will need to provide 545 hours of counselling per year, which would require 10.4 counselling hours/clients per week.   This information is merely a starting point that you can draw on as you prepare you business plan.   

Several places for you to check out over the next week.  www.cra.gc.ca[ii] has great advice for setting up your business.  www.canadabusiness.ca[iii] provides a comprehensive list of businesses assistance programs and services – also check http://www.smallbusinessbc.ca.[iv]  Also check out www.cpa.ca/cpasite/userfiles/Documents/…/PAA%20Guidebook.pdf [v] you will be able to download their book, “A guidebook for starting and operating an independent profession practice in psychology.”  

I want you to start thinking about the type of information you will need in order to complete a business plan.  Another great resource is, “Start and Market a Successful Private Practice”, a Canadian author and CCC, Lucy MacDonald.   Her website is lucymacdonald.com[vi] where you should be able to order her book.  There were three books written by Lynn Grodzki.[vii]  The one I would recommend is her “Twelve months to your ideal private practice” it is a workbook that takes you step-by-step through the process of starting a private practice.  The next blog will discuss your enthusiasm and energy levels, and the time required to network successfully.


[i] www.workingcanada.gc.ca
[ii] www.cra.gc.ca
[iii] www.canadabusiness.ca
[iv] www.smallbusinessbc.ca
[v] www.cpa.ca
[vi] lucymacdonald.com
[vii] Grodzki, L (2003) 12 months to your ideal private practice, a workbook.  W. W.Norton & Company: NY NY




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

5 comments on “Starting a Private Practice in Clinical Counselling”

  1. Ben says:

    When regulation makes its way through BC Is being a RPC (registered professional counselor) accredited with CPCA enough to open a private practice of online counselling? Will every practice need to have a clinical counsellor?

  2. Chris says:

    Hello Karine,

    Thank you for your input. I was wondering where you got the salary average from (website) and what location (i.e. Quebec, Ontario)? Also, what are the specific certification and education to gain that salary? I am in the process of researching all this information and finding it hard in terms of so many different sub-fields in the psychology domain: Master of arts, Masters of Counseling, Masters of social work… These are only a few to start off with.

  3. Cheryl Price says:

    Can you please advise me how to set up private practice?….I’m a counsellor hoping to immigrate from the uk

  4. Dr. Mike says:

    An interesting post but somewhat misleading. The author speaks of ‘economic loss’ but not real loss. For example, when the author gives the number ‘$43 622″ they are forgetting start up, rent, admin ect. Simple economic theory would suggest that if a business were only to calculate economic loss, no business would take the risk and start up. Future potential earnings need to be weighed against current earnings.

    Ok, enough of the business side. One should start a private practice because they love counselling and helping others, not because of money.

    1. Karine Langley says:

      I beg to differ. I believe the average salary is far too low. Generally on line practitioners who dont have extensive overhead and who have a good funnel and niche to attract clients to their site can easily earn upwards of 75-80k without a lot of effort.
      While love of the profession is important, we must never undersell our talents and training. It is not good enough as the site suggests to start to advertise, traffic in on line business is an art in itself and requires additional training.

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