Building Your Ideal Private Practice:
A Guide for Therapists and Other Healing Professionals (2nd ed.)
by Lynn Grodzki
Review by Matthew Dahlitz
One deficit among many of the graduate and postgraduate courses in psychology, psychotherapy, and counselling today is the failure to adequately prepare students to become business owners. Yet many of the graduates will be exactly that—business owners running a private practice—even if this represents only part of their overall income. Untold hours and personal resources are poured into learning theory and practising skills, yet once qualified, it is business savvy that will separate those graduates struggling to make a living from those who will thrive in their profession as successful private practitioners. Thankfully, Lynn Grodzki fills the gap in this much-needed business training area with her book, Building Your Ideal Private Practice, now in its second edition.
Grodzki approaches the subject like a true therapist, with self-reflective exercises and cognitive challenges, while maintaining the entrepreneurial mindset of a savvy businesswoman. Unlike some other “set up your business” books I have read, this guide speaks to therapists in their own language, and inspired me on many levels. Setting up a practice can be overwhelming, with the business details often unfamiliar and perceived as a distraction from what you have been trained to do—help people. Grodzki steps us through the cognitive, emotional, and practical steps required to go from blueprint to finishing well in private practice.
In Part One, “Preparation”, Grodzki talks about the initial process of defining your approach to practice, in an exploratory coaching style. Addressing fears about the business aspect of private practice, she attempts to dispel commonly held beliefs about business that may conflict with the values of a healing professional. As someone with a business background, I thought I was philosophically comfortable with the necessary business of psychotherapy, but found my thinking shifting to an even more integrated place as I was led to revisit some of my assumptions. Grodzki encourages the development of an entrepreneurial mindset, but goes about it in a way that makes you realise you can be an entrepreneur without being a “hard-nosed” business person who cares about profit over people. Entrepreneurship is about looking for opportunity, being positive and persistent, and having a mindset of abundance. It is not a mean-spirited grab for a bigger slice of the pie. Grodzki is not only philosophical in her coaching approach but is also very pragmatic, giving us plenty of “to do” lists as we create vision, values, and strategies for a sound practice.
In Part Two, “Building Blocks”, we learn about keeping our business legitimate, ethical and safe—elements that are key to reducing risk as well as increasing return on investment (your time, money, and expertise). Grodzki gives some very practical tips on “branding” and how to communicate your brand to others in a natural way that will generate referrals. The subject of marketing and having an online presence is tackled from the perspective of a health care professional—something that is missing in the more generic books on marketing that can seem overly aggressive or downright unethical to a healing profession. Grodzki also talks about how to retain clients in a generation where clients are inclined not to accept fees or even how you practise without questioning, but to challenge and compare you with the next practitioner on Google. How to maintain integrity and connection without being intimidated is a very interesting discussion pertinent to every private practitioner working today. Grodzki also does a good job of contrasting the pros and cons of fee-based and insurance-based practices. Refreshingly, she steers clear for the most part of details in law and accounting that I have found an unnecessary burden to the foreign reader in other texts—a welcome change indeed for many readers.
In the final part of the book, “Finishing Touches”, there is an exploration of styles of working solo or developing a group practice. Through this section the reader can quickly clarify what type of practice he or she identifies with most strongly and dismiss ideas of setting up other types of practice that may not be suitable. If you have ever wondered if you should be in a different type of practice, this section is for you. Grodzki also provides a very interesting discussion and practical tips on moving from a medical model (we are here to fix psychopathology) toward a growth/coaching model (we are here to help you optimise your life). In today’s competitive world, there is good reason to recognise the value we can add to people’s lives by helping them to thrive in life rather than merely attaining a nonpathological state. Grodzki finishes with advice on sustaining a practice and oneself for the long haul, including help on planning to sell a practice on retirement.
I found Building Your Ideal Private Practice an inspiring, relevant, intelligent, and practical resource that had me excited about what I can do with my own private practice. It helped me further resolve the perceived incompatibility of a money-making enterprise and a helping profession, and dovetailed them together for me in a way that gave me a renewed confidence to get out there and make more of my practice. I would like to see this as compulsory reading for every graduating professional in our field—helping new clinicians avoid unnecessary confusion, pain, and even financial loss through the recognition that they are as much business people as they are healing professionals.