Should I Go Solo or Join a Group Practice?
You know you are ready to step into private practice. But, do you do it all on your own, or should you join a group practice first?
As business coaches for therapists at ZynnyMe, we get this question ALL THE TIME.
The answer can be complex, just like everything in business. But that also means this is an opportunity for you to do your due diligence and lay a foundation for a solid future in private practice.
Understand what a group practice is, and it isn’t.
Group practices come in all shapes and sizes. When people think of joining a group practice they think of joining a team, stepping into something ready-made for them to just show up and see clients, and to be able to have more freedom with their schedule and who they work with.
Truth be told, there are many different iterations of group practice formats. While many therapists join group practices as a stepping stone to open their solo practice, there is a lot to consider.
When you step out into the land of private practice, you need it to be a financially stable decision but some group practice arrangements are not financially healthy for the employee or the contractor. We have met many therapists who were actually PAYING to work at a group practice once they ran all the numbers.
Most of these group practices are not trying to be predatory, but if they haven’t set up their business plan properly- they may not be making money either, or they may not be fully aware of how their arrangement is actually playing out in the real world.
Group practices are not often set up as training vehicles. There are some group practices that are developed to help train you to open your own practice, but not many. And, expect that those arrangements will be less financially viable to you. Why? Because the training, onboarding, and filling up of a new clinician is often NOT profitable for the group practice owner.
Group practice owners can make MUCH more money just taking new clients themselves or getting paid to do consulting. Group practice owners bank on investing in you for the first year or two and hope that you might work for them for 3-5 years so they can benefit from that training. If you join a group practice, get full, and then immediately take those clients into solo practice, you may actually create a rift between you and a referral source. You also may not be allowed to depending on the agreement you make with the group practice owner.
Here are a few more myths and realities about group practices:
- They will magically fill you up. Reality: Not all group practices refer clients to you, or refer you high-quality clients. Some group practices will ask you to do the marketing for your own clients. They provide the office space and tools but the clients have to come from your own hard work. Others may have lots of clients to refer you, but you can’t pick which clients you work with or have control of your schedule. So you may fill up but it doesn’t mean you fill up in an ideal way.
- They will get you on closed insurance panels. Reality: Depending on reimbursement rates from insurance panels-once the owner takes a cut for all of the administrative and overhead costs, you may not be making a living wage. In fact, many therapists that are solo struggle to make a wage on certain insurance contracts. Be SURE that the insurance panel you are banking on filling you up reimburses at a level that you (and your group practice owner can make a living.
- You will learn about how to run a business. Reality: Just because a business is big, full, multiple locations, has lots of employees, etc. does not mean that it is a healthy business. Many people learn what NOT to do. Most group practice owners also have a non-disclosure agreement, meaning that the tools you use in their group practice cannot be used elsewhere. If you are being hired to see clients, then most likely that is what you will only do. They aren’t going to take the time to show you all the processes and organization that it takes to keep the machine running.
- This will be a great way to “ease” into private practice. Reality: Depending on the dynamic- you may be burnt out, overworked, and underpaid and not have time or energy to pursue your own private practice.
So why work in a group practice?
Gosh, it sounds like group practice is not for me! Well, it can be a great next step if you aren’t sure you really want to own a private practice on your own. Owning a private practice and working in a private practice setting is not a competition or hierarchy. One is not better than the other. You want what fits for you and your life dreams. Sometimes people just love being an employee, showing up and doing therapy, and not having the headache of the marketing or running the business side of things. If you are a person who loves the art of therapy and is not interested in the rest of running a business, creating something from the ground up, then you want to seek out a group practice that provides the clients, pays a great wage and allows you to do what you do best.
Do your due diligence and really understand what you are agreeing to:
- Talk to other employees that are currently working for the group practice, and employees who have worked there in the past.
- Get clear on what the job duties entail beyond the clinical work.
- Do some math and really work out what you’d get paid at minimum, at maximum, etc.
- Make sure you really LIKE the other therapists that you’ll be working with. Community is powerful.
- Choose a place you can really see yourself growing and loving over the next 3-5 years (at minimum).
If what you REALLY want is to open a private practice, then learn how to open a private practice! We’ve worked with tens of thousands of solo and group practice owners from around the world- and we can tell you- the best way to learn about running a business is to sit down and learn about running a business.
There are free and paid courses you can take that will guide you through starting your business from scratch and getting its momentum as quickly and efficiently as possible. AND, those courses allow you to create a plan for profits and for you to really understand your business. (Some of them even show you how to expand into a group practice and make sure it takes care of you and your employees!)
Whatever you decide to do, know that there are more clients out there than we can all serve and your community needs you. There is no other therapist like you, with your skills, personality, and talents. Your clients need you, whether in a group practice or on your own.
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