Creating a Business Plan to Grow Your Counseling Practice

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Have you heard the saying that a goal without a plan is just a wish? You don’t want your private counseling practice to be just a wish. You have goals to establish and grow your practice. And the best way to accomplish them is to create a counseling practice business plan.

Why You Need a Business Plan

You’re ready to start your private counseling practice. Or maybe you started your practice and now you want to watch it grow. Either way, you need a counseling practice business plan to help strategically guide your practice. A business plan is basically a roadmap for your practice. It helps you set goals and determine strategically how you will meet them. It’s a good practice to think about these aspects of business and document them so you can track your progress and continue developing.

You need a business plan to:

  • Show Commitment. A business plan shows you’re committed to strategically growing your practice because it forces you to think through exactly how you’ll grow and sustain it.
  • Plan Growth. A business plan will help you plan growth milestones for your practice. Most businesses don’t just grow by accident. A formal plan will help you think through how you want your business to grow, by when, and what you’ll do to make that growth happen.
  • Understand the Environment. Your business plan will help you better understand the market you’re practicing in and the people you serve. You’ll define your therapeutic niche, research others with similar practices, and outline who your ideal patients are and how to reach them. You’ll also be able to think through and articulate why your practice is different or better for your ideal clients.
  • Be Realistic About Finances. A business plan requires you to think about exactly how much your practice will cost and how you will generate that income. Setting up any business without fully considering the financial implications is irresponsible to yourself, your staff, and your clients. 
  • Establish Your Brand. How do you want people to think of you and your practice? How will you establish and market your brand? Your business plan makes you think through and document these critical components of success.

Components of Your Counseling Practice Business Plan

You’re convinced you need a business plan. Now what? Write the business plan. If only it were that easy, right? The good news is that business plan formats are relatively standard. You can use the components described below to understand what to include in your counseling practice business plan. Knowing the components frees up your brain space to really think about how to apply them to your business. 

  • Mission Statement – Who do you serve? What do they need? And how do you fulfill those needs? These three questions are the components of a mission statement. Spend some time thinking about them. Then state them in the simplest, shortest way possible. Write and rewrite your mission statement until you are happy with it. It should be easy to understand and remember, so you and your staff can use it to guide the decisions they make within your practice.
  • One-Year Goals – You have to start setting time-bound goals. Thinking about and documenting what you want to accomplish this year in your practice is an excellent place to start. Set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound. Your goals should challenge you while still being achievable. For example, you probably aren’t going to see 50 patients a week in your first year, but could you see 25? If so, that becomes a SMART goal worth working toward. Once you set your annual goals, think about and document what you need to accomplish each month to meet them. Review these plans monthly to ensure you’re making progress.
  • Products and Services – Define the products and services you offer. Name and explain the services exactly, including how you will perform them. Also, outline the pricing structure for these products and services.
  • Operations Plan – How will your private counseling practice run day-to-day? You’ve probably thought about this plan a lot and have most of it in your head. Now it’s time to take these plans from intangible to tangible. Putting operations plans on paper solidifies them and helps others follow them too. It keeps everyone on the same page. When thinking about operations, consider:
    • Facilities – This part of the plan should address your location, furniture, technology, and any other tangible items that help your office function.
    • Front Office – This part of the plan refers to interactions with potential clients and others who come to your business. How do you want things like intake, phone calls, reception, scheduling, and in-person payments to work?
    • Back Office – What do you want the patient experience to be like during and after their visit? This part of the plan includes documenting patient notes, prescribing medications, making insurance claims, and billing.
    • Your Team – What roles do you want on your team? Include job titles and descriptions. You also may want to think about what’s realistic now and plan for the future. You probably can’t start your practice with a full staff. So, outline what your staff needs to look like now and what your ideal staff would be.  
  • Financial Plan – You need a strong financial plan for your counseling practice to survive, grow, and thrive. Document a detailed plan about how you’ll make money and where that income will go. Include a spreadsheet of startup costs, and fixed and variable expenses. Make a budget for this year, then provide a projection for five years from now. How will you get there? Write down those plans. Be as specific and detailed as possible, adjusting when necessary.
  • Market Research – Include and explain your research showing the need for your services in your community. If you haven’t done this research, you need to. You shouldn’t establish your private counseling practice just because it’s a dream to do so. You also need to know how to carve out a niche where it’s needed so your practice will succeed.
  • Marketing Strategy – Your clients won’t just come to you for the most part. You’ll need a plan for finding them. Consider what platforms you’ll use, like a website or social media, to attract clients. How will you advertise your counseling services? What message do you want to communicate with potential clients? What do you want them to do as a result of receiving these messages? Create specific plans for how you’ll reach clients and grow your business through marketing. 

Creating a counseling practice business plan won’t necessarily be fun, but it is essential. This plan helps you set goals for your practice and think strategically about reaching those goals. It means you’re planning, not just wishing for your practice to grow and succeed. Since most people start their search for a counselor online, you need to have an online presence for your business to thrive.