You are a registered mental health professional. You may also have joined a professional association. You are ready to do your job. You want to start a private practice, but you may not know the best way to start. This article discusses five steps to help you get started in your own private mental health practice.

Step 1: Start with the why:

It is often useful to start by thinking about why you want to start your own private practice and why you want to work specifically in mental health. Your answers may reflect a desire to control how you work, the types of clients you choose to work with and the types of problems your clients are likely to encounter. Your answers may also reflect a desire for flexibility in caring for a young family, school-age children or aging parents.

From there, you may want to think about where you would like to set up the practice. To do this, you may want to consider the location of your professional rooms in relation to client sources, the proximity of referring practitioners as well as the proximity of public transport. You may also want to consider the location of the premises based on the parking convenience of you and your clients.

Step 2: Find and furnish your premises:

The second step is to find your own professional office. You can choose to use a home, office or retail store. You can decide to operate exclusively from a single location or you can choose to operate from several locations. In either case, you may have exclusive use of the premises or share rooms with other colleagues.

When you have the exclusive use of professional rooms, you can furnish them according to your personal tastes and the desired professional image.

Step 3: Obtain permits, registrations, supplier numbers and professional liability insurance:

In the third step, you will need to research and obtain all relevant licenses and registrations that you may need to operate a private mental health practice in your state or country. These licenses and registrations can be in addition to your certification as a mental health professional.

Second, you will want to obtain your own professional liability insurance. Your professional liability insurance should provide adequate coverage, given the nature of the work you intend to do. It should also include adequate civil liability coverage.

Finally, you will want to obtain a supplier number for each location from which you intend to operate. In Australia, for example, you can register for Medicare, Work Cover, Transport Accident Commission and National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Step 4: Hang up your professional sign:

At this point, you are ready to hang a professional sign. When you have exclusive use of the professional rooms, the appearance of the sign will be at your discretion. You can place your sign on the outside of professional rooms. You can also place a sign on the door of your consultation room. If you share space with other colleagues, your sign could be in the same format as your colleagues’. Your sign can also be interspersed with those of your peers in alphabetical order.

Step 5: Prepare your promotional material:

In the final step, you are ready to promote yourself to potential customers and potential references. It will be helpful to prepare your own firm logo, business cards and letterhead, as well as brochures, fact sheets and handouts. Along the way, you may also want to develop your own website.

In terms of style, layout and design, it would be wise to keep each promotional document in line with the professional image you want to convey. Each promotional document must also comply with the rest of the promotional material.

In terms of content, it would be helpful if you could provide information on how you work with your clients, what they can expect from your services, your background and expertise, your hours of operation and fees.

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