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Breaking into Private Practice: A Step-by-Step Guide for Speech-Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists

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Breaking into Private Practice: A Step-by-Step Guide for Speech-Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists

January 18
20:41 2023

The following is an excerpt from the new book: “The Path to Private Practice: A Roadmap for Speech-Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists Considering Private Practice by Jena H. Castro-Casbon, MS CCC-SLP”

“I just want to help people.”

How many times have you said or thought that?

You chose the field of speech-language pathology (SLP) or occupational therapy (OT) because you want to help people and make a positive difference in the world. These fields aren’t just professions-they’re a calling-for smart and dedicated clinicians who want to help children and adults navigate their challenges and live fuller and more independent lives. We are called to serve and are uniquely qualified to help people through our extensive education, training, and clinical experience. As much as we love our profession, many clinicians are frustrated with their jobs.

Problems in the SLP and OT Fields

Problem 1: Clients Deserve Better Care

There are people in every community who need speech and occupational therapy but are going without services or are stuck on wait lists. When they do get therapy, it’s often limited, rushed or provided through a service delivery model that isn’t ideal (e.g., mixed-group therapy). Often, people who need services don’t qualify for long enough to make progress, if they qualify at all. Clients with diagnoses, disorders, and differences that warrant speech and occupational therapy services aren’t usually helped by quick fixes. Our clients often require ongoing treatment in order to make significant progress. School, hospital, and early intervention systems are failing our clients. They deserve more help than most traditional settings can provide, and many seek private therapy (only to find that there aren’t enough providers.)

Problem 2: Clinicians Deserve More

As SLPs and OTs, we long to provide high-quality clinical care without sacrificing ourselves or our families. We want to provide therapy that helps our clients make amazing progress, but we’re often faced with limitations on the type and frequency of treatment we can deliver.

When you don’t have full control over the care you provide, you may feel:

1. Guilty that you’re not able to do more for your clients,

2. Frustrated that school and hospital systems aren’t allowing your clients to get the help that they need,

3. Insecure regarding your clinical competence, and

4. Worried that you’re burning out.

With each passing year, clinicians wonder:

• If this is the year that they’ll be able to make more of a difference;

• If this is the year that administrators will finally understand what they do;

• If the school system will impose caseload or workload limits;

• If the hospital will hire more staff; and

• If they’ll finally get paid more.

Year after year we work hard, suggest changes, and hope that things will get better. School and hospital systems are very hard to change. With bureaucratic and financial interests coming before client care and employee satisfaction, you’re fighting a losing battle. If you can’t change the system, it’s time to create your own system.

SLPs and OTs are hard workers. We work tirelessly for the needs of others, but often losing sight of our own needs.

Many of us choose our professions for the sake of flexibility and a steady job, only to find that our jobs aren’t nearly as flexible as we need them to be and that the pay is too steady-in other words, that we rarely get raises or bonuses. As SLPs and OTs, we are overworked, overtired, and underpaid.

And it’s getting worse.

School and hospital systems aren’t set up for clients or clinicians to be successful.

We face expanding caseload sizes, high productivity requirements and we often spend more time documenting services than delivering them.

Another common problem is not having control over how we deliver client care due to bureaucratic restrictions. Not having control over how you do your job is one of the leading causes of clinical burnout.1 Burnout is the greatest threat to SLPs and OTs staying in these professions long-term.

Additional causes of burnout are “low emotional and intellectual stimulation at work, emotional fatigue, long hours, excessive commitment, and lack of recognition.”1 If you burn out, you can’t help people.

Clients are falling further and further behind; clinicians are burning out and leaving the profession. They are running out of time, and we are running out of hope. If only there was a way to help everyone get what they need…

Private Practice Is The Solution

Private practice is the best way to help clients get access to the care they need and for clinicians to have full control over their professional, personal, and financial lives. It’s like a bridge that helps clients and clinicians get what they need by providing an outside-the-box solution.

Private practice is a win-win for everyone. It’s great for you, it’s great for your clients, and it’s great for your profession.

If Private Practice Is So Great for Clients and Clinicians, Why Aren’t There More SLP and OT Private Practices?

Why aren’t there more SLPs and OTs in private practice? Especially when private practice is so popular in other health professions (ex. Psychologists, physical therapists, dieticians, social workers, etc.)? I’ve considered this question, and I think the answer comes down to three things:

1. SLPs and OTs don’t learn about private practice in graduate school.

2. There are a lot of myths and assumptions about private practice-often perpetuated by people who aren’t in private practice.

3. People are concerned about leaving the safety of their jobs as they transition from employee to entrepreneur.

Because you probably didn’t learn about private practice in graduate school, it’s not your fault that you don’t know how to start a private practice. The good news is that just like you learned the clinical skills necessary to become a clinician, you can learn the business skills necessary to be a private practitioner.

Private Practice Isn’t What It Used to Be

People wrongly assume that you need $5,000-$10,000 to start a private practice, that you need 20+ years of experience, an expensive brick-and-mortar space, and so forth. You can start your practice that way, but I consider that The Old Way to do it. In Chapter 2, I’ll teach you The New Way to start a private practice, which is much faster, cheaper, and simpler than you may realize.

You can start a part-time private practice as a side hustle while continuing your full-time job; this allows you to keep your steady income and benefits. I don’t want anyone to forego income or insurance; that’s why it’s important to build up your practice to the point where you can safely leave your job before shifting into full-time private practice.

Most SLPs and OTs have full-time jobs and are too busy to figure out how to start a private practice. If you have a full-time job and a family, you’re busy! Starting a private practice requires a lot of steps, and it can feel very overwhelming to figure it out on your own. The good news is that you don’t have to.

My life’s work is to simplify the process of starting and growing successful private practices. I’ve helped tens of thousands of SLPs and OTs get started, and I am happy to help you too!

Private practice takes work, and it’s not for everyone. Like any other business start-up, you have to be willing to invest time and money up front in order to have more time and money later. Until recently, there hasn’t been an easy path to private practice for SLPs and OTs. I am on a mission to change this.

My mission is to help at least a thousand SLPs and OTs build successful private practices each year because more practices means more services for the children and adults who need services.

Starting your own private practice will allow you to be the answer to someone’s prayers (maybe even your own!) It will also allow you to be the change that you want to see in your life, your clients lives, and in your profession.

The New Way to Be in Private Practice

Starting a private practice isn’t as difficult, expensive, or time-consuming as most people think.

Gone are the days of having to quit your job and leap into private practice without a safety net. Now there are ways to see private clients without giving up your health insurance and steady pay. There are ways to find ideal clients without spending any money on marketing. There are step-by-step plans that you can follow, and mentorship to make the process of building a private practice much simpler.

It’s completely normal to be excited and nervous at the beginning of your private practice journey. You’re in the right place, and I’m glad you’re here!

You got into this profession to make a difference in the lives of your clients, and you’re a true helping-people person at heart. If you’ve felt unable to help your clients the way they need help, keep reading, because this book has the power to change your life. You want so much for others-but it’s okay to want more for yourself and your family, too. This book will show you how private practice can be a vehicle to help you get what you need and be a hero to your clients, your community, your family, and even yourself.

If you’ve been waiting for a hero to come and save you from bureaucracy and bad administrators, stop waiting! Be the hero of your own story. Your future self is waiting for you to find your courage and start your private practice.

This was an excerpt from the new book: “The Path to Private Practice: A Roadmap for Speech-Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists Considering Private Practice by Jena H. Castro-Casbon, MS CCC-SLP”

About the Author

Jena H. Castro-Casbon, MS CCC-SLP, Consulting Psychologist, American Culture Professor.

Only two years into being a speech-language pathologist I began to feel ineffective, stuck and burned out. So, I decided to start a private practice much earlier than I had planned to. After a few years, I decided to share what I had learned and fill in the business knowledge gap that exists for most SLPs and OTs. Since 2008, I have helped 10,000+ speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists build private practices full-time or “on the side” to have more freedom, flexibility, financial abundance and to live an amazing life as an SLP or OT and family member. And now I want to help you, too.

Find Jena Castro-Casbon on the Web:

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