If you are setting up in private practice there are some things you should think about early on. We've put together some helpful information so you can navigate setting up your psychotherapy business.
Whether you are newly qualified or moving away from organisation, public sector or agency work, setting up a private practice can seem daunting.
It’s an exciting and challenging decision and there are many options. While we can’t advise you on what choices to make, we can offer some pointers.
You may want to first consider if you are setting up as an individual or in a group practice. Much of the advice we have included on this page will be relevant either way. Whatever your choice, we urge you to use your professional judgement and any resources available to help you.
This will help you:
The gov.uk website has some helpful resources and advice on creating a business plan.
Most occupations are demanding. Providing emotional support to those in distress can take its toll. Ensuring that you look after yourself is fundamental to providing good psychotherapeutic support to others.
Find some useful self-care tips for psychotherapeutic professionals in this blog.
As well as self-care, it important to ensure you put in place support when starting or running your private practice. Discuss your plans with your supervisor. They can act as a valuable mentor and guide as you embark on this new phase of your career. As well as clinical supervision, they will be able to provide guidance on managing your workload, adhering to legal and ethical standards, and balancing your personal and professional life.
You could also:
Setting up your practice can take an initial investment, particularly if you plan to rent premises. You should also consider the ongoing costs of supervision, CPD, membership with an accrediting body, insurance, accountancy fees, equipment, marketing costs, website design and maintenance and any other overheads or unexpected costs.
You will need to consider how your set up your business, look at the options available to you and how to register your tax with HMRC. You can find useful information on the government website here.
You’ll also need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and pay a data protection fee.
When finding a location for your practice remember it must be a private, confidential and a quiet environment for your clients. You want to ensure that they feel it is a safe place. Consider the privacy of the entrance and any waiting area. If you will be working alone, you might find our Guidance on Lone Working useful.
It may be that you’ve decided to host some, or all, of your private practice online or via telephone. If that’s the case, you should assess whether the client has access to a safe and confidential space for your session. If you have decided to hold sessions online, think about the security of your remote working set up, we covered this in one of our past webinars. As a UKCP member you can access past event recordings, a list of these can be found here.
How much do you want to earn? When you start to think about setting your fees, you may be looking at the going rate in your location and the average income of potential clients in your area. While these are important to consider, you should also acknowledge your level of training when determining what you charge. Consider the expenses associated with running your practice – you may need to charge higher fees to cover these costs. Take some time to reflect on your needs, priorities and what feels fair and reasonable. It’s important to ensure that your fees are transparent and sustainable for both you and your clients.
As you establish a clientele you can consider setting your fee on a sliding scale and offering concessions. If you do make any changes to your fees it may be helpful to discuss with your network the best way to implement them.
Having insurance in place means that, in the event of a complaint or legal action, you receive some form of protection from being personally liable and/or legal assistance if faced with disciplinary or complaints proceedings.
The UKCP Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (38) requires registrants to: ‘Ensure that your professional work is adequately covered by appropriate indemnity insurance or by your employer’s indemnity arrangements.’
Trainee members must also ‘confirm that [they] have appropriate professional indemnity insurance to cover [their] area(s) of practice, either personal or provided by [their] employer/NHS Trust.’
To support our members’ professional practice and help manage costs, we have negotiated special rates on professional indemnity insurance.
Our code of ethics and professional practice sets the standards of ethics, practice and conduct which UKCP expects of all practising members to follow. It must be followed whatever your modality of practice and whether you meet clients in person, online or otherwise.
When entering a psychotherapeutic relationship with a client, it is important to have a psychotherapy contract in place. Even if you don’t issue a written contract, you will have some form of verbal contract with your clients.
What should you include in your psychotherapy contract? We have some useful information on our website.
When establishing your private practice, you may want to promote it through blogs, podcasts, magazines or commentary in the media. Your promotion must be in accordance with UKCP’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (11 to 13). This includes clearly and accurately representing your training and services and ensuring all claims you make can be proved. Testimonials from clients are not permitted.
Our how to promote yourself webinar offers some helpful information.
Referrals are also a great way to build up your clientele. Reaching out to fellow professionals, networking, contacting local services such as GP practices, private healthcare providers or local authorities may lead to referrals. You could also consider creating materials such as flyers to promote your practice and share through local businesses. This could be a great and fairly inexpensive way to reach local clients if you do not have much of an online presence.
Registering your services with directories can attract clients. Potential clients use these services to find a psychotherapist or psychotherapeutic counsellor that meets their needs and fellow professionals use them to find a colleague to refer someone to. UKCP registrants can join Find a Therapist on our website – this is included in the membership package for full clinical members. In 2022 we had over 400,000 people visit our Find a Therapist page.
Full clinical members can create and update their Find a Therapist profile through the members area of our website. We have created a guide for members looking to create or update their profile.
If you are featuring on directories or have a website, it is useful to think about the image you use of yourself. Depending on how you practice, you may not think it is appropriate to have images of yourself online, but if you do, you may want to consider investing in photography that professionally and accurately represents you. This can help increase client referrals, and the images can be used in any promotional material or media work.
UKCP trainee members are listed on our trainee directory.
Full clinical members and trainees are entitled to use the UKCP logo to highlight the quality of training and standards that they adhere to. Trainee members must clearly state their trainee status in any advertising and promotional material.
Full clinical members are also entitled to use the logo of the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Care Excellence to demonstrate that they are included in UKCP’s register which is PSA accredited.
The UKCP Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (28) requires registrants to: ‘Have arrangements in place for informing clients and, where appropriate, providing them with support in the event of your illness or death.’
As part of your reaccreditation you may be required to check your arrangements are in place and details up to date, for example the contact details for a Clinical/Professional Executor.
In our My Psychotherapy Career podcast, we talk to UKCP full-clinical and non-clinical members about the setting they work in and what drew them to the therapy profession. Members offer helpful advice based on their professional experience.
Your Organisational Member may have specific requirements about setting up in private practice or have their own additional guidance and support.