Tag Archives: private practice

5 Steps to Starting an Online Canadian Private Practice

Posted by: Julia Smith on March 13, 2020 11:51 am

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

Starting an online Canadian private practice can be a great option for Canadian counsellors who don’t want to spend money on renting an office. It also allows you to counsel clients from the comfort of your home (or when travelling J). There are many considerations when starting an online counselling business or even adding it to your existing Canadian private practice. In addition to the article: 15 Steps to Starting a Canadian Private practice, the next five steps will help you in opening your online Canadian private practice!

  1. Liability Insurance

One of the main questions Canadians have when starting an online counselling business is if you can counsel clients who live outside of Canada. Though BMS CCPA insurance covers e-services worldwide, all claims must be brought forward in Canada. This means that if a client from outside Canada files a complaint in a different country, BMS will not cover you! Since you have no control where international clients file complaints… it may be wise to only offer e-services to people living in Canada. What kinds of measures can practitioners take to ensure that they are properly marketing their services exclusively to Canadians?

  1. HST Rates

If you are making over $30 000 you will have to charge the sales tax that is required in the client’s province. That means that if you live in Toronto and have an online client that lives in Halifax., you will have to charge Nova Scotia’s 15% HST and not  Ontario’s 13% HST rate. If you have clients that are not Canadian citizens and live outside of Canada, you cannot charge sales tax. Click here for more information about sales tax in Canada. Didn’t you just advise in the previous paragraph to only counsel Canadian clients? A bit confusing… Also, what happens in the case of Canadians who are temporarily residing in other countries? Ex-pats? Snowbirds?

  1. Build a website

Having an awesome website with amazing SEO (search engine optimization) is VERY, VERY, VERY important for an online Canadian counselling business. Your website will be one of the main ways people find you. So, you will want to invest in having a beautiful website that also appears in internet searches. Check out Brighter Vision and Beam Local to get help with creating your website 🙂

To learn more about SEO and why it is so important, read this article: https://www.fearlesspractice.com/website

  1. EMR

It is very important that you understand Canadian’s privacy laws when it comes to online counselling. Video counselling sessions should be encrypted and the content of the video should never be recorded or stored anywhere to make sure that it is secure. Canadian Based EMR (Electronic Medical Records), Jane or OWL include secure video sessions. Ideally, you want to be using an EMR that includes video counselling as it is easier to schedule clients, send appointment reminders, and log on to the online counselling session all from one platform. I recommend using a Canadian EMR like Jane or OWL , especially if you live in British Columbia or Nova Scotia (where you have to have a Canadian EMR) as these platforms follow Canadian privacy laws.

  1. Psychology Today

Ideally, you will have a Psychology Today profile for your online services in all Canadian/US cities. But that can get very expensive! So instead, in your account, you will see the “Edit Profile” icon. Select that and then from the drop-down menu select “Target Your Listing”. You can then choose two more locations where your profile will be advertised for free!

About Julia
Julia Smith, MEd, RCT-C, CCC, is a Canadian private practice consultant who specializes in helping Canadian counsellors and therapists start private practice. She also owns a private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she helps depressed teens build confidence, find happiness, and gain insight.
Click here to get more help with building your Canadian private practice!



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

Locating an Appropriate Office Space

Posted by: Grant M. Waldman, MA, CCC, CIAS III on February 19, 2020 3:00 pm

Is it just me or is locating a space to practice one’s craft a journey of trust, faith and patience?  How many of the readers of this blog have had a similar frustrating experience in seeking an appropriate office space for your counselling practice?  When this writer states, “appropriate”, what I mean is: one that has natural light and is not placed in the middle of a building.  It means paying less than $1,000 per month for 100 to 200 square feet of space; or finding a space that is accessible to both seniors and those with special needs. Is it too much to ask to find an office that is within walking distance of a parking lot?

This writer lives in what I would refer to as a “village” even though others prefer to call it a “city”.  I believe that this has something to do with access to more funds.  The relevance of this statement relates to my dilemma with the lack of office space and the cost of office space in a village that is far removed from a big city environment.  How many of you relate to this quandary?

I now understand why many counsellors choose to share an office space with several other practitioners: to share the cost along with other resources; I also understand that this allows for the appropriate cross referral of clients between counsellors with different skill sets.  I now comprehend why it is quite common for many practitioners to work from a home setting, since it allows them to write off a portion of their home and to not have the pressure of additional rental expenses.

Another challenge that this writer has observed, especially in a smaller locale is the number of practitioners.  The word “competition” never crossed my mind when I changed careers from the business realm to the helping domain; and yet, it is becoming more and more apparent that concepts like networking, marketing and communications are all fundamental to setting up a new practice.  I am thankful that I have these transferrable skills from my old career; however, I would simply prefer to focus my energy on helping my clients.

I am curious to hear other tales that ring of persistence, patience and frustration regarding this topic.  I thank you for reading this writer’s concerns.




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

Sliding Scale Fee in a Canadian Private Practice

Posted by: Julia Smith on January 29, 2020 12:31 pm

There are many reasons why Canadian counsellors opt for a sliding scale fee in private practice. Some counsellors may include a sliding scale because they:

  1. want to offer therapy to those who cannot afford their full fee
  2. want to have a full caseload of clients
  3. are not confident in their session fee price
  4. all or some of the above

Are Sliding Scale Fees Worth It?
Having a sliding scale can solve the above issues but may also create more! If anything, having a sliding scale opens the door for negotiation on your session fee price. That means more administration work of going back and forth trying to negotiate a session price for each client! You also risk not getting your ideal clientele (people who will pay your full fee). When you advertise that you have a sliding scale, people who are looking for a deal will be drawn to your practice. And those that pay the full fee may resent that they are not getting a deal. Sliding scale fees can cause so much hassle and potential harm to your business that I believe they are not worth !

Solution

Offering affordable counselling:
Instead of having a sliding scale … sign up for Open Path Collective. It is free for you to join and allows you to advertise a discounted price for counselling. You can decide how many sessions a month you want to have at the discounted rate and then once full, you can post on Open Path that you are full at your discounted rate. When a potential client inquires about a sliding scale you can just refer them to Open Path. No negation on your counselling fee price needed.

Wanting a Full Case Load:
First and foremost, don’t start a private practice until you have AT LEAST three months of savings and/or have another job to support yourself! It can be very easy to lower your rate and have a sliding scale out of worry that you will not be able to pay your bills. There are many ways to build your private practice caseload that does not include lowering your session fee. One tip is to offer a free 15 minute phone or in-person consultation where you can showcase your value to potential clients.

Not Confident in Your Price:
I get it. The ‘imposter syndrome’ is difficult to deal with. It makes us think we are not worthy. It makes us forget that we have graduate degrees in counselling, experience, and counselling skills that have helped people overcome issues. You are worthy of a fee that reflects that. Click here to learn more about how to set your fee!

Until next time,

Julia

About Julia
Julia Smith, MEd, RCT-C, CCC, is a Canadian private practice consultant who specializes in helping Canadian counsellors and therapists start private practice. She also owns a private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she helps depressed teens build confidence, find happiness, and gain insight.
Click here to get more help with building your Canadian private practice!

 




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

How to Store Client Records in a Canadian Private Practice

Posted by: Julia Smith on November 28, 2019 9:31 am

Keeping client’s notes and personal information secure is a very important task that all Canadian counsellors must do. There are two main ways that Canadian counsellors store their client records:

  1. File Cabinet
    Many Canadian therapists, like myself, started their careers with writing paper-based notes and then storing the notes in a locked file cabinet. In private practice, this can be an affordable way to keep client records. However, as your caseload grows you will need more and more space to store the records! Plus, if you do not have your own office space yet or commute between offices… it can become a very big hassle to store paper-based records.
  1. Electronically
    Since starting my Canadian private practice, I have been using Electronic Medical Record systems, otherwise known as an EMR. Yes, it does cost money… but it is soooooo worth it! By using an EMR you can easily store client records securely on an Internet server. By storing client records online, you can easily access your notes at any location! Plus most EMR’s include other services in their packages that help to grow your Canadian private practice!

Privacy Laws in Canada for Storing Electronic Records

As Canadian counsellors, we have to follow the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) (a federal law) as well as any provincial Personal Information Acts. The main point in PIPEDA for Canadian Therapists is to make sure that you are storing electronic records correctly. Electronic records are stored on Internet servers that can be located anywhere in the world (depending on what EMR you are using).

Since some provinces have some type of provincial Personal Information Act, regulations can be different per province. This means that currently every province (except British Columbia and Nova Scotia) can store their records on US or Canadian servers. This is a good thing as it gives Canadian private practice owners more options when choosing an EMR (you can choose a US or Canadian EMR). Unfortunately, British Columbia and Nova Scotia MUST store their records on Canadian Internet servers (you can only choose Canadian EMRs).

For more information you can read: https://vsee.com/blog/hipaa-canada-health-information-privacy/

EMR Options

There are many EMRs that you can choose from. I recommend that you choose an EMR that includes:

  • Online booking: allows clients to easily book their sessions online without having to call to schedule a session. This feature has helped me build my caseload, as many people would prefer to book online rather than call. Plus, if you do not have online booking and a potential client calls to book an appointment and gets a voicemail… they may continue to search for a counsellor that they can get an appointment with right away.
  • Credit card technology (such as Stripe): being able to charge clients for sessions through your EMR and have their credit card information securely stored through the system, saves you money! It has been very useful for me to have client’s credit card information saved (through Stripe). Especially when a client does not show up for their appointment and I have to charge them. It is also useful if someone else is paying for the counselling sessions but is not attending them (such as a parent paying for their teen’s counselling).
  • Secure online video counselling technology: it can be useful to have the option to provide online counselling. I have found it helpful with client’s that have moved away but still want to have sessions with me.

Canadian EMR Options:

Jane (hyperlink to www.fearlesspractice.ca/Jane)

$74 CAD per month (plus provincial tax)

I LOVE and use Jane for my own private practice! Its platform is easy to use plus it provides you with online video counselling, Stripe, and online client booking! Jane also has an amazing support team 🙂 Let Jane know that Fearless Practice sent you.

Click here to try Jane  (hyperlink to www.fearlesspractice.ca/Jane)

OWL Practice 

$100 CAD per month (plus provincial tax)

OWL Practice is an awesome Canadian EMR that includes Stripe, online client booking, and video counselling if you choose their Premium Video EMR.

Click here to save 50% off your first moth with PROMO Code: FEARLESS

Remember to:
* make sure you have some type of cyber insurance (usually offered as an addition when purchasing private practice insurance)
*check with your organization/regulator to make sure that you are following their requirements for storing client records

About Julia
Julia Smith, MEd, RCT-C, CCC, is a Canadian private practice consultant who specializes in helping Canadian counsellors and therapists start private practice. She also owns a private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she helps depressed teens build confidence, find happiness, and gain insight.
Click here to get more help with building your Canadian private practice!



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

How to Rent a Canadian Counselling Office

Posted by: Julia Smith on November 1, 2019 10:07 am

One of the first things to do when starting a Canadian Private Practice is to find an office space to rent. Renting (or buying) your own office is ideal but for most Canadian counsellors, it is too expensive when beginning private practice.  Luckily, there are many professionals and clinics looking to rent out their offices when they are not using them! Here are two factors to consider in your search for the perfect space:

Location
When searching for office space it is important to consider where it will be located. The main thing to remember is that clients will travel to see a good therapist. However, the more convenient your office space is located… the better.

Many therapists feel that if there is a location with lots of counsellors that they should stay away from that area and find a location that doesn’t have any therapists. But usually, if an area has lots of counsellors, it means that there are lots of people willing to pay for therapy in that area! All of the office spaces that I have rented have been in a city where there are many therapists located. What I have found is that people are more willing to travel to a city to see a therapist than travel from a city to a rural counselling office.

Other things to consider:

Parking
One of the most important considerations is parking! In my first office, there was no parking and clients constantly complained about how difficult it was to find a parking space. This also meant that many clients were late for appointments as it took a long time for them to find parking. So, when searching for an office space… make sure there is parking available!!!!

Air Conditioning
In most provinces, spring/summer (and sometimes fall!) can get VERY HOT! Make sure that the office space you rent from has air conditioning. The last thing you want is to be counselling a client in July when it is 30 degrees Celsius! Clients will appreciate the cool office and the cool air will help you stay focused.

Accessibility
If you want to have the option to counsel all populations it is important to make sure that your office space is wheel chair accessible. Being accessible can also be helpful for clients who are injured (i.e. broken leg). The last thing you want are clients cancelling appointments because your office is not accessible.

Counselling At Your House and/or Online Therapy
Renting an office space will not be an issue if you want to build a private practice at your home or online. There are many legal and ethical considerations for these types of private practices so be sure to check with CCPA and your insurance provider before developing your Canadian private practice.

Starting a Canadian private practice at home or online will save you money but you also might lose clients who only want in-person therapy. I offer both online and in-person counselling and also find it healthy to have an office space that is separate from my personal space.

Rent Price
The price to rent an office depends on what city, province, or town you are located in.  You do not want to be ‘house poor’ when renting space so make sure that you rent is no more than 20% of your income. The three ways that most Canadian offices rent out space are either:

  1. Rent per hour: When a practitioner is not using their office at certain times of the day/night and is looking to rent their office when they are not there.
  2. Rent per day: When a practitioner is not using their office on certain days and is looking to rent their office on those days.
  3. Percentage: Instead of paying rent, a practitioner will take a percentage of your counselling fee. This can be useful at the beginning because you will not have to worry about paying rent. BUT as your business grows… more and more of your money will go towards the practitioner/clinic. For example, if you charge $100 per session and the practitioner takes 30%… every time you see a client you will be paying the practitioner/clinic $30… so the more clients you see… the more money the practitioner/clinic will take. Whereas, if you have a set rental fee, you have the ability to make a lot more money in the long run! The busier your Canadian private practice becomes, the more money YOU will make. Plus, when you raise your prices it will not affect how much rent you are paying.

How to find a space:
The best way to find office space is to start sending out emails to other private practice counsellors in your area and/or health clinics (online advertising services like Kijiji.ca can also be helpful). When starting off, it can be best to just rent a day or couple evenings per week as you build your cliental. A simple sample email could look like:

Hi,

My name is Julia and I am a counsellor that is starting a private practice. I am looking to rent office space and am curious if there are any times during the week or on the weekend when you are not using your office?

Thank you,

Julia

Depending on where you rent, you can then choose to rent more time at the place you are renting from OR find another office space that meets your needs. Start small and grow big!

Happy searching,
Julia

About Julia
Julia Smith, MEd, RCT-C, CCC, is a Canadian private practice consultant who specializes in helping Canadian counsellors and therapists start private practice. She also owns a private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she helps depressed teens build confidence, find happiness, and gain insight.
Click here to get more help with building your Canadian private practice!



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

How to Build Your Canadian Private Practice Website

Posted by: Julia Smith on August 21, 2019 2:47 pm
Note: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. 

Creating a private practice website should be your priority when starting a Canadian private practice! It’s important because most people find their therapist through the internet nowadays. There are so many options when choosing how to build your private practice website. You could build it yourself from scratch, create one through a website builder like Wix or Square Space, or hire a company! The two most important things that you need to consider when building a Canadian website are:

  1.   SEO (search engine optimization) – SEO is fancy tech coding for your website that helps it rank high on internet searches so that people can easily find your website.
  2.   Flexibility – You want to make sure that you have lots of options when developing your website so that when your private practice grows… your website can grow with it!

Because of these two considerations, I highly recommend choosing WordPress to build your Canadian Private Practice website. WordPress websites have AMAZING SEO and unlimited options for creating your website! With website builders you are confined to a template and the SEO is restricted.

Plus, if you choose a website builder, all of your content is stored on their servers, so if you ever decide to switch to another company or take full control of your website… you will have to start from scratch and will lose all your content and SEO that you’ve built! It’s best just to start with WordPress where you can easily switch from templates to having full control of your website.

Recommended Options for Building Your Own Canadian Private Practice Website:

Below are my suggestions on what companies to work with when building your Canadian private practice website. Most of the companies I am suggesting include a domain web address (ie. www.fearlesspractice.com). BUT, for myself, I like to purchase my domains outside of the companies that I work with so that I own them separately. I purchase my domains from I Want My Name as I find it easy to purchase from them and to revenue each year.

WordPress Website Options:

Level 1: WordPress.org ($5.35 CAD per month for hosting)

This option is great for Canadian counsellors who are tech-savvy and have a very tight budget! WordPress.org is hosted on your own server that you purchase through a hosting company. This means that you own your website completely. I recommend Bluehost. Once you have your host you can choose from free themes to help build your website! The downside is that you will solely be in charge of updates, security, plugins, and design which can take up A LOT of your time.

Click here to purchase Bluehost. Click here to learn more about WordPress.org.

Level 2: WordPress.com ($10 CAD per month for their premium plan)

This option is great for Canadian therapists who are NOT tech-savvy and have a very tight budget. WordPress.com will host your WordPress website and provide you with security for your website. You can choose from VERY cheap monthly plans and the best part is, as your Canadian private practice grows and you want more flexibility with your site… you can switch to WordPress.org! The downside is that if you use WordPress.com you will not have full control of your website and you will be limited to what you can create on your website. Plus you still will have to design your website solely by yourself which again can take up A LOT of time.

Click here to build a wordpress.com website! Also, here is a great article that reviews the differences of wordpress.com and wordpress.org.

Level 3: Brighter Vision ($100 (USD)/ $130 (CAD) start-up fee and then$59 (USD)/ $77(CAD) per month)

Brighter Vision is what I use for my private practice. With Brighter Vision you can choose from WordPress templates that have been specifically designed for counsellors! Plus you get free counselling content, amazing SEO, and it’s mobile responsive! Instead of putting hours and hours into designing your website… they do it for you! You also get unlimited support so if you want any changes made… they will do it! Brighter Vision freed up my time so that I could focus on building my private practice rather than building a website.

Click here to get one month free!

Level 4: Beam Local ($1995 CAD to build the website then $79 CAD per month)

I used Beam Local when I created my consulting website because they offer custom designed WordPress websites! I wanted the freedom to design my website instead of just using a WordPress template. Templates can get frustrating when you want to add personal touches to your private practice website. With Beam Local, you can start with one of their stylish templates and then the team will create animated features and design to meet your website needs! They also offer unlimited support, mobile responsive design, and SEO!

Click here to get 2 months free!

Happy building!

Julia

About Julia
Julia Smith, MEd, RCT-C, CCC, is a Canadian private practice consultant who specializes in helping Canadian counsellors and therapists start private practice. She also owns a private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she helps depressed teens build confidence, find happiness, and gain insight.

Click here to get more help with building your Canadian private practice!




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

Building the Practice of Your Dreams: Selecting the Right Space and Paying For It

Posted by: Doc Warren on July 12, 2019 12:34 pm

Selecting space is one of the most important aspects of a practice, whether it is your first location, an additional location or if you are considering relocating an existing practice. Just as in politics and religion, there are many philosophies and schools of thought on this. This article seeks to explore some, but definitely not all the options and considerations. It should help to provide a good framework to build upon, however, it cannot replace what you could expect from hiring a business professional or consultant that can help you develop a comprehensive business plan.

It’s time to find a location and if you are like most folks, you may be feeling just a bit overwhelmed. Should you buy, should you rent, or should you do a long-term lease? You might ask such questions as, how close do I want the office to be to my house? Could my house be converted into two spaces, one to live in and one to use as my office? Would I be allowed to convert my house by law or would I have issued with the local authorities? How big a space do I need? What is my plan for future expansion? How do I come up with a budget and stick to it? How much remodeling will be needed and will they allow me to do it or do I have to hire trades? What’s my ability handy wise? The lists seems endless and your head begins to spin like a dreidel.

Rent\Lease
While I personally am not big on renting or leasing, I have done it while in the process of buying a property or two. There are many advantages and disadvantages to not owning. I’ll start with the common disadvantages of renting/leasing so we can end on a high note:

  • Lack of control over aesthetics: You don’t own it so you are limited in what you can do to change the office. Depending on the agreement, you may or may not be able to change paint colours, may be limited in how you can decorate and what you can hang on the walls (some owners forbid nails or other mechanical hangers on their walls due to the potential need to fill in the holes and make other repairs once you leave). You may have no control over updating dated flooring, wall colors or other aspects of the office. You cannot make structural changes, change door sizes or door locations. Also, depending on when it was last updated, this property may not comply with accessibility standards. Depending on the owner, they may or may not voluntarily make the upgrades. Some property owners may refuse the upgrades which puts the renter in a tough space, others may refuse to pay for the upgrades but allow the renter to do so. It’s best to explore this before signing contracts. It should be noted that is you purchase the property, it all falls on you to make the improvements.
  • You will not build equity: When you own a property you will typically build equity as in most cases real property such as an office building, home, land etc. will increase in value as time passes. Upgrades, additions and other improvements made to the property typically will increase the appeal and resale price of a property. If you do not own the property though, every cent you pay to the owner is traded for the time you used it, it will not ever have a chance to earn you anything in the future.
  • No control over neighbors: This is most crucial in a larger building with multiple office suites for rent. As a tenant, you have little to no say in who your neighbors are. Over the years I have consulted with folks who have found that competitors rented space in their same building. Other times they found that an influx of new neighbors changed the feel of the building and became a detraction for them. One example was when a wellness and recovery program found themselves sharing space with a bar and microbrewery. While there is nothing wrong with bars or breweries, it proved to be a huge trigger for clients who were trying to stay sober. Had they owned the building, they could have done more to make sure that the renters all complimented one another.
  • Your contract may not be renewed: Many folks have found themselves having to relocate from a spot that they held for years and had grown to love due to changes in the ownership of the building, or changes in the use of the building. Once your agreement expires, neither you nor the owner is compelled to sign a new one. Should the owner have a new plan for the space, you may find yourself looking for a new location at the most inconvenient time.

Advantages of Renting/Leasing:

  • Repairs: depending on your contract you may find that you are not responsible for any repairs to the office. This reduces the need for maintenance staff and repairs (though these are often factored in the rental fees).
  • Mobility: As you do not own the property, you are free to leave when you want, though if you are still in an active contract you may receive some financial penalties.  Whereas if you owned the property, you would need to pay and maintain it until you found a new buyer.
  • Remodeling/renovations: Depending on your contract you may find an owner that is willing to build or remodel the office to your needs for no additional cost (though expect this to be a factor when they consider the monthly rental fee). Should this be the case, expect them to want to have you sign a lengthy agreement than 1 year. There may also be a penalty should you try to leave within the life of the agreement.
  • Size of practice: Many times when starting out or adding a location, you will need a minimal space, far less than an entire building. Renting may allow you to rent as little as a few hundred square feet of space and also allow you to expand in the future. Purchasing a property allows you to own it all or nothing. By renting just what you need as you need it, it can be far cheaper than having to buy much more than you will use.

Disadvantages of Buying:

  • Cost: The initial costs of purchasing a property can be daunting to say the least. Whereas renting may cost you a few thousand per month depending on size, location, etc., purchasing a property unless you are able to pay cash or have a super high down payment, will often cost you thousands a month for decades. This may be more than you can afford at the moment.
  • Repairs/ maintenance/ remodeling: As an owner, you will be responsible for all costs associated with the upkeep and improvements of a property. This may require hiring additional staffing and or having various trades on your speed dial.
  • Lack of mobility: Should you decide to relocate your office, you cannot simply move on once a contract has been completed as you could with a rental. Instead, you will offset need to either sell the property or find someone to lease it from you to help offset the expenses of keeping that property and opening elsewhere.
  • Availability: Depending on the market, it may be difficult to find your ideal property in the area that you wish to be located in. In some markets there is a very low inventory of specialty properties for sale. In our case, it took 4 years for us to find the right property, in the right area for a price we were willing and able to pay. This can sometimes be an issue when renting as well.

Advantages of Buying:

  • Building equity: Equity may help fund other projects or give leverage to better interest rates on a loan should you need funding. Some see equity as a nest egg in case an emergency should arise.
  • Build and remodel to suit your changing needs: As the owner of a building you have the ability to change it to suit your needs so long as you can afford to do so and you stay within government regulations. This can help you to totally transform a location as your practice develops.
  • Control your immediate neighbors: Should you own a larger building than you need and decide to rent out other areas, you can have control over who moves in so that they can complement, not compete with one another. This is not usually possible in a rental situation.

How close do I want the office to be to my house?
One of the most common questions that I am asked is how close is too close to have an office? Again, there is no right answer here. Each has its own pros and cons. Close to home offices are easier to get to in bad weather, offer short commutes and familiarity for sure. They can allow you to tap into a community that you already know, which may help with initial referrals but they also can cost you some much needed privacy and make it harder to keep firmer boundaries. I worked and lived in the same town for years and though overall I loved it, I have had some strange encounters such as when a few clients seemed to know my background better than I did. A few knew exes of mine and attempted to discuss the relationship before I reminded them that this was their session, not mine. I’ve also been “spotted” by clients when I was dressed in my worst outfit and trying to find a key part at the local hardware. Others new of my background and were inspired by it. You really need to explore this fully and decide what works best for you. In the end, I only moved my office because I found my dream location and it happened to be in the next town (about 4 miles from the office I had been using).

Is virtual counseling an option for you?
With the ever changing climate and the advancement of technology, more and more clinicians are considering tele-health and virtual counseling as their mainstay in practice. Though regulations vary depending on the country, state, province etc. that you are located, this area promises to be lucrative to those that decide to take it on. It requires that you have the specialized training in the area (many of these trainings can be had via online courses), equipment with the proper privacy software and a quiet room in which to conduct your sessions. I’ve known some clinicians that did this in a spare room and at least one that did it in their bed room; they put a screen behind them to hide the bed and other “private” items. However, virtual counseling is not for everyone. More and more folks are indeed giving it a go, so it is worth exploring. Here in the states, payment for these types of sessions is an issue with only certain insurance companies being willing to cover such care. Be sure to check in your area.

Could my house be converted into two spaces, one to live in and one to use as my office? Would I be allowed to convert my house by law or would I have issued with the local authorities?
Many people are remodeling their existing homes in order to build an office on site. This offers a very low overhead as it typically results in possibly a bit more insurance and an increase in utilities but little else other than the cost of the remodel. It’s important to work with local government agencies however to make sure that this type of use is allowed in your neighborhood. If it is, a separate entrance, separate bathroom and an office area that is separate from your living space is recommended.  Speaking with a tax specialist may be key here as well as there may be tax considerations that may make it more or less enticing. If you hold a mortgage, be sure to make sure that there are no provisions prohibiting the use of the property on a commercial basis as well. It is best to head into this with eyes fully open. Lastly, be sure to be considerate of your neighbors. Be sure that target population, hours of operation etc. will go well within the exiting neighborhood. For instance, working with violent populations such as sex offenders, those with histories of violent crimes etc. would not set well with most suburban neighborhoods. Should this be your population, much may need to be done in terms of educating and working with the neighborhood prior to opening so that you may avoid vocal and legal opposition. Being open and honest with the neighbors is typically the best policy. Please note however that this does not mean that you would ever disclose information on any particular client, just that if your program is to specialize with the above mentioned clientele, it is best to make sure the local laws and those around you are aware so you can calm things prior to opening. For general practices, this is not needed but it is wise to always properly screen clients for proper placement.

How big a space do I need? What is my plan for future expansion?
These questions will help steer the search for sure. How big do you want your office to get? Do you want to have many clinicians or just yourself? For me, I would like to see that every clinician get an office that is at least 12ft by 12ft. There needs to be a bathroom, waiting area and reception/ medical records area (even if you are all electronic, there will be a need for certain forms and other resources.

How do I come up with a budget and stick to it?
Most of us have not won the mega bucks so we need to make sure that we keep our costs affordable. If you are not great with budgets it may make sense to hire a consultant that can assist you with making a basic budget and teach you how to stick to it. Many places that have failed have done so in large part by spending beyond their means. Be realistic with cost projections as well as with income projections. Personally speaking, I try to be ultra conservative when planning on income to fund a project so that I do not find myself overextended. You can always increase your budget later should you have the ready cash. When doing an expansion, I never count on an increase in income as a result of the new space or programming and only spend what I can afford at that time. Many will disagree with this premise of course and may recommend a more aggressive approach. Their way may indeed bring faster growth but it also brings more risk than I personally care to take on. I’d rather grow slowly and surely than risk overextending and closing down after financial failure.

How much remodeling will be needed, and will they allow me to do it or do I have to hire trades? What’s my ability handy wise?
No matter if you rent, lease, own or borrow space, it is helpful to have a solid idea as to what your abilities are remodeling wise. Some projects are expensive to hire out but require little in the way of special tools or advanced skills. Taking these projects on may help you save thousands of dollars. It is imperative however to check with local codes to make sure that you are allowed to do this without a license. Also check with the property owner and get all the permission required. In the case of my program since we owned the buildings and grounds, we were allowed to build a bathroom with a composting toilet system but were not allowed to install our own septic system. We were allowed to do much of the electrical, structural, sheetrock, windows etc. based on our ability. Local codes will vary however.

Case study:
For the first office of the charity I founded, we looked for office space all around our target town. We found that the quality and the price of each rented space varied greatly, with some of the cheaper ones appearing to have better quality. Each office space we looked at however left us saying that we wish it had the feel of the neighborhood where we lived. Eventually, we decided to look into the local laws and found that we could indeed have an office out of our home. Our home offered two floors, each with a bathroom. Instead of paying up to $15 per square foot in rent for 1200 square feet, we elected to remodel our existing space. As we owned the building, we were able to move walls, enlarge the bathroom, paint, and do flooring etc. by ourselves. This enabled us to keep costs low while still being in our target neighborhood. The fact that we still had our own private living area was a real plus.

We kept that space for years, expanding it once to add another office (we remodeled an attached garage into an office) and changing the interior from time to time. The space served us well until finally it became obvious that we needed far more space than the building could offer us. We started looking for a space to purchase as we had grown accustom to having the final say on what we did with our space. After much search and a false start or two (somethings look good on paper or in person but not vice versa) we found what we felt was a diamond in the rough just a few miles up the road from us.

We were able to negotiate a better than prime interest mortgage with only 10% down and to purchase the property well below its estimated value. Thankfully, at closing we had 40-50% equity in the property which gave us a safety net should we ever have to take out a loan for repairs or to help the charity get over a trying time. The building and grounds were rough to say the least and required a ton of work before we could move into it. We started by building a working bathroom, using a composting system, as we did not have access to city sewers and the property lacked a septic system. We then framed the building out for offices and a waiting area and installed basic heating. We opened on a limited basis, a day or two per week at first and made a slow transition with our existing clients. Most made the move without issue though a few were upset with the additional 4 mile commute and were referred elsewhere.

Over time we made more and more improvements to the building and grounds. We added two large greenhouses, added hiking trails, gardens, “pocket areas” that became attractions in their own right, including an interactive animal sanctuary area, meditation spaces, benches, orchard areas and other items of interest. In time the original building which we still owned, became the administrative building and also served as a location that had back up offices should there ever be a catastrophic event the necessitated the short term closure of the main location. The building is currently about 7800 square feet over 3 floors. It contains many offices, a few large community rooms, shop space for occupational training, art based therapy space and several clinical offices. We have elected not to subdivide and to enjoy all the space for ourselves. We initially bought about 24 acres but recently purchased the neighboring 25 acres, this combined with right of way land gives us 50 acres for programming.

Due to careful financial management, we have been able to renovate the property in stages without incurring mountains of additional debt beyond that of the mortgage. The mortgage we took out only covered the purchase price. We elected to pay for the remodeling as we went along in order to keep our monthly payments. Low. As of today, our only outstanding non-mortgage debt is what is left of the HVAC system bill. That amounts to about fifteen thousand US.

In consulting with other programs in the area, we have found that our combined mortgage payments (the main property and the new acreage) are typically far less than some folks are paying for rent on offices that are only a fraction the size of ours and offer little to no outside space.  While our model would not work for everyone, it has enabled us to grow year to year since we were founded. By keeping overhead low but program quality high, we have thrived at a time when many other programs have closed. We have also been able to do so with no formal advertising other than a website and signs for the office.

A dream practice is possible if you are willing and able to put in the effort. I’m rooting for ya.

Be safe, do good

-Doc Warren
“Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He is internationally certified as a Counsellor and Counsellor Supervisor in the USA and Canada (C.C.C., C.C.C.-S, NCC, ACS). He can be contacted at [email protected]




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

Building the Practice of Your Dreams

Posted by: Doc Warren on May 6, 2019 11:50 am

Having consulted with folks from around the globe about building a practice of their dreams I have learned many things. First, dream practices vary greatly from person to person, which is great for the dreamer and the client as it allows for such a wide array of options. Second, funding opportunities vary globally, regionally, and locally so it is a sound practice to investigate options that may be unique to your particular area as no one expert can know it all. In some cases, a town may have money available should you qualify. Third, there are people who are willing to spend a great deal of money buying gimmicks and even more people willing to sell them. Please be sure to do your own homework to help you decide before you buy. Much of what is being sold can be found for free with just a little legwork.

A case in point is that of sample documentation. There are tons of places that are happy to charge you upwards of $1500 or more for a set of sample documentation but you can view and print free versions at sites as well. https://www.docwarren.org/clinician-resources happens to be my page but there are many more to be found as well that also have free information and samples.

There are many reasons for starting your own practice, one of the most common is the desire to offer the public something that is lacking in your area. A chance to make your mark while giving back to your area can help give one the drive needed to tackle such a large task. For this writing, the focus is on developing the key framework for the design of the practice. Future writings will cover documentation, selecting the right space, is it better to buy or rent, maintaining safety in small and large practices etc.

What is your dream?

The first step for most of us is trying to figure out just what it is that you want your practice to look like. Will it be corporate, will it be rural, will it offer a sterile, stainless steel and concrete environment or more of a down home feel; the options are almost limitless.  For me, I typically ask people to think about the practice that they personally would want to go to. What would it look like? Start sketching things out. Once you know what your dream place to go to treatment would look like, think about the population you prefer to work with. Would the two be compatible? If not, what would you need to do to modify it to work? What would be your dream environment to work in? Would this blend in well with the population you wish to serve and the type of place you would want to go to? The more commonalities you find, chances are the closer you are to your dream practice. Don’t be afraid to go outside your normal comfort zone and do not hesitate to do things differently than you are used to. Innovation often takes risks and so long as you stay within the bounds of laws, ethics and consider best practices you should be fine.

As you continue to build that dream practice and have a general idea of the treatment setting you would prefer it is important to make sure you find an area where there is a need. It will be very difficult or nearly impossible to succeed if you open your practice in an oversaturated area. Do some homework. Consider the population you are targeting, the overall population of the area and the number of providers. Though some very large cities appear to have a provider every few feet, the dense population allows for them all to grow their practices but take a small town and add more clinicians and you may find that covering your costs, let alone excelling may be beyond difficult.

Some folks find that relocating will be the best option for them once they flesh out their dream practice. If this appears to be your best option as well, consider the costs of relocation in your start up projections. You need to remember that, making ends meet during the first several months to the first 5 years of your practice can be problematic. The first five years of any business can be viewed as the “bloodletting” stage as the business will have some of its highest outlays of cash and its lowest influx of funds during the time (some exceptions may apply).

Sadly, we have all likely seen some very talented clinical professionals go out on their own only to run out of funds before they are able to lay the proper foundation. Some of the equipment and supplies that are in use at the programs I run have come from “fire sales” held by other programs that failed to thrive. In most cases it had nothing to do with the quality of care provided but more to do with the financial realities that the founders were ill equipped to deal with.  (I’ll be writing about budgeting a practice in later blogs).

Before opening a practice it is important to look at your credentials to make sure you meet the statutory requirements for private, group or community based programs in your province. Some folks have grown comfortable working for other programs and fail to realize that credential requirements may have changed for independent or other programming and that they may not meet the requirements. Should this happen to you it is important to remember that you have options. You may find that you simply fall a few credits short of the credential needed and can take the classes prior to opening or you may be able to hire someone to join your program that has the credentials needed. Whatever the case, be sure that you only practice in a capacity that is allowed in your area.

One of the biggest issues found in new programming is that you get a dedicated clinical professional that decides to open a practice or that is promoted in an existing one to a supervisory role but they lack any training or education in this area. Being a good clinician does not mean one can be a good administrator. Getting training, education and experience in this area can make the difference between success and failure when supervising others. To this writer, a credential as a supervisor is as important to a clinical supervisor as a credential in counselling is to a clinician.

You have a rough idea of the practice that you want. You are ready to write your business plan when you realize that the initial outlay of your practice greatly outnumbers the available cash that you have for this endeavor. Feeling discouraged at this level often leads folks to abandon their dream practice and either stay where they are or to look for a job at another facility. It’s often far easier to work for someone else than it is to build something from scratch and it often costs far more to try to buy an existing program and to make it your own than most clinicians can afford. Here again is where creativity can lend a hand. Can your dream practice be built in stages? Look to what a bare boned plan would look like for you and your dream practice. What can you do to get started on a shoe string budget and what would you need to do to see it blossom in time? Are you willing and able to make the necessary sacrifices? Can you negotiate rates that you can afford to pay your expenses? Think. What do you absolutely need before you open your doors? What can you get after your practice starts to collect fees? Do you know how to break thins down to manageable pieces? If not, this may be a good time to find a fairly priced consultant to help you flesh things out. Do be careful on how much you pay them however as it will likely be coming out of your already limited war chest.

Case study: Community Counseling Centers of Central CT Inc. – Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm.

I’m writing this as I take a break between cutting wood and doing clinical sessions at the therapeutic farm that I founded and that is owned by the charity that I created in 2005 with a war chest of just seven thousand dollars. From the founding of the charity we knew that we wanted to incorporate nature with our therapeutic work and hoped to one day get land to do it on. For the start however we settled for the first floor of our home which I had remodeled into an office (the house is set up much like a two family home. I removed the kitchen and reconfigured the rest of the first floor to work as an office. We still use it till this day). Years before I built a second floor onto the house so we were lucky enough to have a space at the ready for this endeavor, if we did not, we would have had to be more creative.

We did not select this space at first however, as we looked at several options but found ourselves always comparing it to what we already had. Once decided, we used that seed money to do all the paperwork and pay all the fees required to be a charity. I researched the requirements and with the help of a colleague or two I wrote the bylaws and filled out the legal documents. I had a lawyer review them prior to submission. Thankfully, this lawyer had served on a committee with me previously and reviewed the documents on a pro bono basis.

We started with mostly old furniture and a computer that I had used for school. We lacked a fax machine or a fancy office type phone system and instead used a decent home system that allowed for up to 6 cordless phones. We bought a small sign for the front and sent out some press releases that we had opened. Other than cards and pens, we never did any real advertising: we still don’t actually.

Over the years we have changed some of our focus client wise but overall we are true to the day when the plan was first drafted. As income came in we upgraded furniture, bought a fax machine which was required to have by some of our insurance plans and spruced up the office as needed. We always kept costs low and did most all of the construction and remodeling work ourselves.

As time went on we tried to lease or buy land but were often too late. Developers often bought the land before we could get the financing in place. Cash can be king as they say. Still, we were undaunted.  In time we had outgrown our space even though we had added to the original floor plan. We needed a second, larger location.

A family farmer had been thinking of making his farm a nonprofit and we attempted to help him make it happen. After a time he approached us with an offer to sell us his farm one deed at a time. He was more interested in seeing the farm that had been in the same family since 1860 go to the right buyer than to the buyer with the deepest pockets. The farm was overgrown due to a lack of available hands but it had good bones. We bought the first section that was about 25 acres, give or take and it also had a large shell of a building that had been started in the 1990’s but never finished.  That would one day become our main space, offering about 7800 square feet of space. We began by cleaning it out, framing the offices, building a bathroom, fixing the electrical that was there and adding a great deal of new as needed. In time we insulated, sheet rocked, painted and did flooring. We started off with electric heat and then added a pellet stove while finding funding for our HVAC system.  We added a well, two seasonal high tunnels (greenhouses) and some equipment.

We opened the offices when we had just one small section ready and we’ve added areas as they were completed. We now have 6 clinical offices including one that also doubles as an art based therapy area (about 900 square ft). We have two large shop areas and a community hall that is awaiting insulation and sheet rock as we speak.

The program has much left to do before we call it complete, the list actually grows as we check off items. Plans for a large pavilion and additional hiking trails are in the works as our plans to add additional fruit groves and Christmas tree fields. As of today, our attorneys are working out the final details for the purchase of 25 additional acres that are part of the farm. The original farm house and 2 acres of land will be the final purchase that we make from the original owners. Who knows what we may add in the future.

There have been many steps and several setbacks but we are as close to our original plans as we could possibly be.  One of the best parts is that we are not mired in debt. In fact, other than our mortgage, we have less than fifteen thousand dollars of debt and that is due to the fact that we recently purchased 4 new furnaces, ac units and ductwork.

Never let the reality of low funds prevent you from building your dream practice…

Be safe, do good

-Doc Warren
”Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He is internationally certified as a Counsellor and Counsellor Supervisor in the USA and Canada (C.C.C., C.C.C.-S, NCC, ACS). He can be contacted at [email protected]




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

6 Books Every New Therapist Should Read: As Recommended by Other Therapists

Posted by: Natasha Minor on August 30, 2016 3:03 pm

Recently, I’ve been exploring various books that might give new therapists some of what they didn’t get in graduate school – less theory and more insight into what it’s really like to be a practicing therapist.

Below are a few of the books that have been recommended to counsellors and psychotherapists by other therapists in the profession.

The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients by Irvin D. YalomBooks

This book offers 85 chapters and each consists of no more than a few pages. Based on his 45 years of clinical experience, Yalom addressed many practical issues that all therapists have encountered and struggled with, providing readers with profound insight into the therapeutic process.

On Being a Therapist by Jeffrey A. Kottler

“Kottler talks about situations therapists encounter that I found very relatable” says Samantha Greene, a LCSW in private practice from Plano, TX. Being able to relate to the same situations with clients in her own practice, Samantha feels the book “normalizes the experiences therapists may have while treating clients and really encouraged me to continue my professional and personal growth,” she said.

Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom

Another book by Yalom, Love’s Executioner is an account of real interactions he had with clients (edited for confidentiality of course). Many of the therapists I asked recommended this book, feeling that it speaks to the insights and relational moments that are at the core of our profession.

The Healing Path: How the Hurts in Your Past Can Lead You to a More Abundant Life by Dan B. Allender

Although not written specifically for therapists, Tamara Lynn-Hanna Feightner, LPC, says that it shaped her framework for counselling. The Healing Path “normalized the wounded heart, acknowledged the ramifications of betrayal, and talked about hope as risky, brave, and not a simple Hallmark card with a bow on it” The content in this book “confirmed for me the beauty in the resiliency of the human spirit and grace for being a glorious mess – the goal is the journey, not perfection or destination of having arrived,” she said.

Creativity as Co-Therapist: The Practitioner’s Guide to the Art of Psychotherapy by Lisa Mitchell

Joy Elizabeth recommends this book as she says it “speaks to training your brain to get outside the box and be a more present, effective therapist.” Viewing therapy as an art form, this book helps therapists to become more authentic, flexible and to trust in the therapeutic process.

Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk

Lauren Gourley, LCSW, believes that Trauma Stewardship should be “mandatory reading” for anyone who has experienced trauma or works with people who have experienced trauma. The author offers readers practical ways to help prevent secondary trauma, paths for healing and discusses the importance of self-care.

The titles listed above are just a starting point. I invite you to explore the many books that are specifically written to normalize and speak to the unique experiences of therapists.

I’d love to hear what your favorite books are in the comments below.

Natasha Minor, MA, CCC, RP provides counselling and psychotherapy in London Ontario where she specializes in helping overwhelmed women find their voice and believe in their worth so they can create a more authentic, satisfying life.




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

Benefits to Starting a Private Practice

Posted by: Natasha Minor on July 8, 2016 3:49 pm

I’d like to challenge the widely held perception that it is not easy for therapists, and especially recent graduates, to find success in private practice. Most of the existing negative opinions on private practice come from a place of fear. An example of this is when I heard a colleague say they didn’t think that the market could sustain another person in private practice. If I hadn’t done my research, I might have believed what I heard and been drawn into their place of fear – believing that I wouldn’t be successful if I started a private practice.

Well, I do not want to live in fear! I choose to operate my practice from an abundance mindset. I truly believe there are enough clients for those who are able to help them – and I believe these clients can be ideal clients you love to work with. Doesn’t that sound great?!

I’ve put together a few reasons that I feel have made my decision to start a private practice worth all of the hard work.

Freedom and FlexibilityPrivatePracticeWoman

Running your own business is a lot of work. This is especially true in regards to a private practice as you have to market yourself to the world so they notice you and the amazing service you provide. However, being your own boss means that you get to set your own hours, choose the message you are sending and choose the population you want to work with.

It was so exciting to pick my own office space and decorate it the way I wanted. I was the one who decided what my practice policies would be. I continue to make decisions for my business that I am comfortable with as a therapist. Yes, there is a learning curve with this (like if and how you should charge for a late cancel or no show) but once you do it a few times it becomes a lot easier to stick to your policies.

Less Chance of Burnout

Sometimes, working for agencies or other clinicians can be challenging and exhausting. They may require that you work long hours, give you little control over who you see and you might not agree with all of their policies. This can lead to burnout or compassion fatigue and your clients might not get the best care you are able to give them. Since running your own private practice gives you the freedom to choose who you work with and how often, going into the office can be quite enjoyable. In addition, your work week will likely be less than 30 hours which leaves a lot of time for family, friends and self-care activities.

The Money

I know – we didn’t get into this profession to get rich. However, we also didn’t put all that time and effort into grad school so that we could live paycheck to paycheck either. Working for an agency means you may be salaried which limits your earning potential.

In private practice you have the ability to set your own fees and choose the number of hours you wish to work. You can also take on a speaking gig or run a workshop to increase your income. Working for an agency may limit your ability to develop additional streams of income if a non-compete clause is in place. In addition, you might not have the time or energy to put into such things if you are working 40 hours a week at an agency.

I’m not saying starting and running a private practice is an easy endeavor. I’m saying if it is what you have dreamed of then you should not let fear hold you back. I encourage you to take the leap and start living your dream sooner rather than later.

If you have any questions or would like to connect, I’d love to hear from you!


Natasha Minor, MA, CCC, RP runs a private practice in London Ontario where she specializes in helping overwhelmed women find their voice and believe in their worth so they can create a more authentic and satisfying life.




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