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Tips for new therapists on growing a private practice 

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For this four-part series, therapist.com sat down with Frank Anderson, MD, to talk about his experience in private practice. Anderson is a therapist, psychiatrist, author, and speaker with three decades of work specializing in trauma treatment. Here are his tips on how to take your new practice from tiny to thriving. 

It’s an exciting time to be a mental health provider, but growing a private practice can be really challenging. Luckily it can also be a lot of fun. 

Discover your specialty 

One of the things that I recommend all therapists do is find something that’s unique about you—something that will jog people’s memory when they get the opportunity to give someone a referral. I’m a trauma specialist, so when I got to know my colleagues better, the first person they’d think of was me whenever they had someone with a history of trauma. 

I would recommend taking a couple of trainings in different modalities to discover which modality resonates best with you and your clients. It’s amazing how you’ll find some that feel so much more natural to you. 

Although I was trained in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), it wasn’t a great match for me. I tend to specialize in Internal Family Systems (IFS), but if I’m thinking, “Wow, this client could potentially do really well with EMDR,” then I’m also thinking, “Who do I know that specializes in EMDR?” 

Prioritize networking 

The main way I grew my practice was by connecting with friends and colleagues. I went and had lunch with one friend in particular, and the greatest advice they gave me was this: Just go out and connect. Have lunch. Take a friend out for coffee. Get to know them a little bit better. 

What ends up happening, they told me, is that you pop up in their minds when they’re thinking about referrals. I was lucky enough to work at a clinic where there were a lot of senior professionals around, so I took my friend’s advice and started going out to lunch with some of these people to get to know them better. 

I was never much of a salesperson, so this became a natural and organic way to help build my practice. By getting to know people and allowing them to get to know me, I was able to get them to refer new patients to me. 

Find a mentor 

When you’re in training, you learn a lot of different things, and it takes a while to find your groove, find your people, and find the type of therapy that resonates and works best for you. Only then do you really start seeing the leaders in the field in that way. 

You want to find the people that you look up to and admire. Think about the people that influence you and excite you. Think of them as your mentors. If you can, set up a consultation with them to find out more about their success. 

I just recently set up a consultation with renowned psychotherapist and bestselling author Esther Perel, for example. That’s what I’m doing at this phase of my career, even though I’ve been in the field for some time and many people see me as an expert. I’m still admiring others who are already doing what I’m interested in doing in this next phase of my career. 

Always connect 

Therapy is all about relationships. In addition to client relationships, it’s about building relationships with fellow therapists, colleagues, and mentors. This is also how you develop your specialty. 

Whether you’re looking for new clients or zeroing in on your preferred modality, you’ll make headway when you put people first. In the final installment of this series, delve deeper into Anderson’s journey as a therapist and learn how it’s helped shape the way he runs his private practice today. 

About the author

Frank Anderson, MD, completed his residency and was a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Both a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, he specializes in the treatment of trauma and dissociation and is passionate about teaching brain-based psychotherapy and integrating current neuroscience knowledge with the IFS model of therapy. He maintains a private practice in Concord, Massachusetts, and serves as an advisor to the International Association of Trauma Professionals (IATP).

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