What Can I Do In Graduate School To Prepare For Private Practice?
When I was in graduate school private practice was not something on my radar. I knew it was an option of course, but it just seemed like something I would do when I was 50 not when I was 25. I really do wish my professors talked about it more, or that we had a class or speaker or even a handout on it at some point.
Long story short. I graduated with my masters in 2016, landed a job at my internship site, opened a part time practice in 2017 and left my full-time job in 2019 to pursue the self-employment life.
Once I started working at a local psychiatric hospital after graduation, I quickly noticed I had significantly less free time, and definitely less energy at the end of my days then compared to when I was in graduate school. I was fortunate enough to not have to work throughout graduate school and therefore had a good bit of free time on my hands while I was not in class, studying or writing papers. I wish I could have used that free time to research and plan for my private practice future.
But you can’t do what you don’t know. So I am here to get you in the know so if you want to take action you can start now!
What can you be doing in graduate school to prepare for private practice?
Take advantage of all things FREE
Join Facebook Groups
Professional Organization Groups (KCA, KPA…)
Listen to Podcasts
Think about your ideal client
Right now it is okay to be broad with your ideal client population. IE) teenagers, young adults, children, new moms….but when you are licensed and start practicing you are going to want to dive deep into the specifics of who your ideal client is. Reason being, so your marketing efforts can speak directly to them and you can be sure to call in the individuals you do your best work with.
To figure that out, ask yourself:
• What am I passionate about?
• What traits in people do I highly value?
• Am I more active? Passive? Confrontational? Calm?
• Are there any holes in my areas current counseling market?
• Are there areas of counseling that I definitely DON’T want to work with?
• What does my ideal client look like? (be specific from age, race, interests, career…)
• How does my ideal client show their pain? (not sleeping, irritable moods, erratic bx…)
Be as detailed and specific as possible. The clearer the image in your minds eye, the easier it'll be to draw in that clientele.
Build an audience on social media
Everyone from the pope, to your aunt, to the president uses it, and so should your business (or future business)! Important to note that this is something that is separate than your personal social media profiles. Maybe you create another Instagram dedicated to mental health quotes and positive messages allowing yourself to build a professional audience and then when you are licensed and have a business you can swap your name to “therapybyshannon” or “LouisvilleCounselor” etc. and continue sharing with your already jump started community.
Reasons why: It is free! How amazing, right!? These days you don’t run into a lot of marketing strategies that are free, so take advantage of it.
There are so many different platforms to join so if you hate one of them, then you don’t have to use it. Try Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Flickr etc. Important to think about who you are wanting to attract and where they are hanging out. You want to meet your clients where they are. Meaning if you want to work with adults 40+ you will most likely find best success using Facebook. But if you want to work with adolescents or young adults, Instagram, Twitter or Reddit will probably be a better platform for you to reach your ideal population. No need to have a presence on all of them, work within your comfort zone and pick one or two of them and start building your platform!
In graduate school you are already creating a lot of content (it is just in the format of research and formatted papers). During this time while you are in the “writing” phase, crank out some content that is less clinical and more for the masses. The idea of content creation is to get your work out there in a variety of formats to build your audience, and give you credibility. Maybe it’s a blog, vlog, podcast, audio recording, or infographic. Whatever it is, make sure to focus on topics that your ideal client would be searching for to draw in the right crowd.
Why do it?
It’s free (or low cost)
No need to spend hundreds when you don’t even need clients now. Just be yourself, be genuine and get out there and meet people!
Builds your confidence
Know that networking doesn’t come easy to anyone (even those that make it look easy). The more you do it the more comfortable it will become.
It gets you out into the community and making connections for potential jobs, business building assistance, and just general plug ins to the Louisville mental health community happenings. A great place to start doing this is inside your practicum and internship placements
If you want to start your practice on the right foot, have a nice furnished space and have access to practice building resources, and a close knit community check out b.mindful Louisville. We have had tons of clinicians start their private practices in our offices and have grown their practice quite quickly with our low overhead costs and support provided. Reach out to Shannon Gonter at 502-528-1363 or at Shannon@bmindfullouisville.com for more details.
Have additional questions? Feel free to message me and ask!
I’m Shannon, a professional counselor and understand the importance of having a safe space to practice in, consulting, networking, having a solid referral list, and being around other like-minded professionals.