It’s no accident that the majority of the 32,000 psychologists registered in Australia (Australian Practitioner Health Regulation Agency, 2014) work in some form of private practice. Over 37% of psychologists enjoy the benefits of private practice psychology – on their own, in a group, in a GP clinic or some other form (Health Workforce Australia: Australia’s Health Workforce Series – Psychologists in Focus, 2014). You can too. Here are seven of the best reasons to encourage you to take the leap into private practice:
1. Embrace your inner control freak
Don’t like being told what to do? Private practice is for you. Ok, without turning this into a poor imitation of a Dr Seuss poem, here’s the point: you can do what you want – within reason. Assuming you are professional and abiding by the Code of Ethics, private practice has a lot of flexibility in terms of how you work, who you work with, where you work and when you work. We’ll talk about these in a little more detail in the points below. However, a caveat to this is that there are some limits to flexibility (maybe with regard to who you see and when you work) when you are first starting out in private practice and looking to develop your referral base and cover costs. Once you have a steady flow of referrals, the rest is up to you.
2. It’s not about the money, money, money (but it is, a bit)
Let’s face it, money is freedom. Freedom to have control over your own time. So you want to make more of it, right? In a 9 to 5 job, your income is probably dependent on award rates and/or a salaried agreement. It doesn’t matter if you work more than your standard 8-hour day, your income will remain the same. What’s more, you’ll probably need to wait for your performance review to be considered for a raise (if one is actually available). In private practice, you have the ability to be able to set your own fees and increase the number of hours you work in order to earn more. Your hourly rate will also be higher in private practice than in standard employment so you can work less and have more free time, or enjoy a healthier bank balance for your hard work.
3. Set your own watch
Let’s talk about creating a better work/life balance. Fancy being able to pick the kids up from school or start a bit later so you can walk along the beach in the morning? Private practice let’s you set your own hours allowing you to maximise your personal time. Whether you work less, more or the same number of hours as a standard working week, the key is that you can set those hours around your own schedule. Interestingly, statistics show that psychologists in solo private practice worked the lowest number of hours per week (29.7 hours) when compared to psychologists in other settings (Health Workforce Australia: Australia’s Health Workforce Series – Psychologists in Focus, 2014). This could be because a higher hourly rate offsets the number of hours you work so you get more flexibility without sacrificing your capacity to pay the bills.
4. Take advantage of cheap flights!
When Virgin or Qantas have their next big sale, feel free to take advantage of the dates and times for tickets, because you can take leave when you want to! And maybe more importantly, you can take leave when you need to. The calendar is just a Nikko pen away from being marked up to suit you.
6. Like the view?
Rather not commute for an hour each way? Prefer to be near the city centre? Or medical offices? Or the gym? Your location, facilities and “vibe” of your office space and treatment rooms are completely up to you. Considering the importance of location for the convenience of yourself and your clients will help your practice to thrive.
5. No one does Psychology like you – promote your niche
We go through rigorous training to be able to assess and treat clients with evidence-based therapies but ultimately, you are the product. Your unique brand of being is what allows you to connect with clients. Combining this with your specialist skills and interests in particular problems or populations, you have yourself a niche. Maybe your research was on eating disorders. Or you have experience working with police or military populations. Maybe you’ve designed a program for depression. Whatever it is, spread the word! Referrers are always happy to know that they are choosing the practitioner with the best skill set for their patients and it may be an avenue for drumming up more referrals from other agencies. You can then do more of the work about which you are most passionate.
7. Take your dog for a walk (and then take him to work)
If you don’t have a dog, or you’re simply not overly interested in animals, then please jump ahead to the conclusion. However, if you have to drag yourself away from your dog to go to work, and said dog is calm and well-trained, and you’ve heard of pets being used for therapeutic purposes and loved the idea of it…this one is for you.
I took my dog to work for years. I know he was a hit with clients not just because many came early for appointments to play with him, or leaned over to pat him during upsetting times in therapy, or bought him chew toys, but especially because many clients were upset when I moved and could no longer take him to the new office. I actually had one client call to make an appointment a year after I had last seen her and when I explained that the dog was no longer in the office, she declined to make an appointment (what that says about me as a therapist I will leave for another blog post!).
There are some big caveats to this though.
I would not recommend taking an untrained dog into therapy rooms. All my clients were warned at intake that there was a dog in the office. He was very well-trained (from puppyhood) and sat on his bed unless he was permitted otherwise. The large majority of clients enjoyed his presence, while a few were not fussed (in which case he sat out with the receptionist rather than in the therapy room). If I had my way, I would still take him to work as his presence appeared to be very therapeutic. You can do the same in private practice if your rooms allow and you have the facilities and time to manage the additional four legs.
These are just some of the benefits to private practice. It is important to bear in mind that for all the plusses, there can be drawbacks (see my post on whether or not private practice is a good fit for you here). Hopefully, these points give you tasty food for thought if you’re considering private practice.
About Dr Rebecca Ray
Clinical Psychologist, Writer, recent Earl Grey (tea) convert
Dr Rebecca Ray is a clinical psychologist, freelance writer, and blogger. She studied at Griffith University and at the University of Newcastle. Rebecca holds a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology and completed her thesis on posttraumatic stress disorder in Veterans. She specialises in the treatment of trauma (especially with Veterans and current serving defence force personnel, and members of QLD and NSW Police Services), depression, anxiety and personal development and the use of mindfulness-based approaches, particularly Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
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