Venturing into private practice as a dance/movement therapist, or even contemplating it, can feel daunting and overwhelming. It does not have to be that way at all. Here are some guidelines to consider when thinking about making the transition:
It’s easy to think that as dance/movement therapists, we already have a specialty that sets us apart from other mental health professionals. Yet, it is still vitally important to find what sets you, the individual, apart from others as you begin thinking about joining or starting a private practice. Consider what makes you unique in terms of your theoretical framework and the population with which you feel most successful. Take time to learn where your talents lie and where you may fall short. Find opportunities to provide presentations on your expertise, while seeking out opportunities to strengthen your shortcomings.
It is extremely important to maximize your community involvement and to optimize social media and social groups. Attend professional events within your specialization. Look for opportunities outside of dance/movement therapy (DMT), so that you can be the representative for your modality. Volunteering your services, within moderation, can allow others to see what you do and pave the way for future work. Most importantly, find ways to connect with other mental health professionals. They are going to be your referrals. Think collaboration, not competition.
This can be the most overwhelming piece of private practice: self promotion. You won’t have a successful practice without clients and you won’t get clients without some marketing. The thing to remember is that marketing can be cost effective and even inexpensive. First and foremost, the moment you even think about private practice, get yourself business cards. This is the most crucial way to start spreading your name and occupation. You can make them yourself or find an inexpensive service online. Carry them everywhere – you never know who you might run into! Second, look into creating a website and other marketing materials, but do consider your financial situation. You don’t want to put yourself into debt before you’ve even begun. Marketing materials can always be added as you grow.
4. Business Basics
The number one business basic is to get liability insurance. You might have this from an internship or even a current job, but you will need to make sure you have an updated policy. Next, consider where you want to build your practice. Think about the clients you want to serve and where they are located. Office space can be a huge investment. Look for ways to sublet or share space until your caseload supports a monthly rent or lease payment. Research competitive rates for your services. You don’t want to undercharge and devalue your work, but you don’t want to overcharge either. Also, think about whether or not you want to become an insurance provider. If you do, you will want to get a National Provider Identifier (NPI). This is quick and easy to do.
5. Business Development
It is important to build a supportive environment. Private practice does not mean practicing privately. Surround yourself with other professionals, both in mental health and business, who will be able to answer questions and validate your experiences. Consider reaching out to past employers and colleagues. They might be a referral source or a marketing tool. Always look for opportunities that will support the growth of your practice. This can take the form of speaking engagements, conferences, expos, fairs, and seminars.
These are just a few things to think about as you begin the journey towards private practice. As you consider taking this leap – don’t think for one minute that you have to sacrifice your creativity to be in business! Your creative spirit can be just the thing to entice clients and is also a way to market yourself by highlighting your unique edge. Most of all, private practice does not have to look a certain way. Give yourself the opportunity to think out of the box and you might be happily surprised by the outcome.