Starting a group practice is one way to adapt your career as a private practice therapist. Group practice might be especially ideal if you have more clients seeking help than you have time to work with, or if you no longer find working alone fulfilling.
You’ll need to take into account several factors to make sure your group practice thrives. One key way you can help ensure the success of your practice is by hiring skilled, compassionate mental health professionals.
This may seem fairly obvious. However, it’s not always easy to know which applicants will meet the needs of your practice. Your choice might prioritize the therapy approach your practice specializes in, the age or type of clients you treat, or even the schedules of the other providers in your practice.
Here, we’ll go over a few considerations that can help you make the best hiring choice for your group practice, whether you’re searching for one new therapist or several.
How to Find the Right Professionals
Your professional network can serve you well when you begin seeking a new professional to join your practice. If you have a wide network of colleagues in the mental health field, chances are one or more of them know a qualified psychologist or therapist who’d like to try working in group practice. It’s never a bad idea to let your colleagues know you’d like to add a new therapist to your practice, since they can help spread the word. In addition, you may be able to put more faith in a colleague’s recommendation than the recommendation of a professional you don’t know well.
If you intend to advertise on career websites, take the time to write up a thorough job description. Specify exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate, including which qualifications are non-negotiable. Include relevant details about your group practice to help eliminate candidates who aren’t a good fit. For example, your job description might include:
- The modes of therapy your practice specializes in, if any (individual therapy, relationship counseling, and so on)
- Credentials or training you’d like therapists to have (for example, requesting a clinician with a master’s degree or EMDR training)
- Typical population your practice serves (such as children and families, LGBTQ+ community, Spanish-speaking community, and so on)
- Any other important information about your practice (Are you scent-free? Dog-friendly?)
Don’t forget to share your advertisement on your practice’s social media page to help reach even more qualified candidates. Social media has a far reach, but more importantly, your post will be seen by like-minded followers and other professionals in the field who could know the perfect candidate. Sharing on social media allows you to reach many more qualified candidates than you might by posting only on career websites such as Indeed.
Knowing What You Need
Most likely, a wide range of candidates will show interest in any open positions in your group practice. Some of these will be more skilled than others, and you’ll probably be able to eliminate many candidates who aren’t ideal right away. But selecting one or two individuals from a pool of highly qualified candidates often proves challenging. Even the applications who lack some of the qualifications you hoped to find may bring other attributes that could benefit your practice.
Before you decide on candidates to interview, take some time to review the skill sets and credentials you truly need in your practice. If you hire someone who fits well into your practice but lacks one essential skill you need, such as DBT certification or experience working with young children, you may regret the hiring decision later, no matter what other qualifications they have. If you serve a multicultural population, you may want to focus on candidates who have experience working with people who have different backgrounds than themselves.
Many group practices require the care providers they employ to work at least two days a week so that people who can’t make an appointment have the opportunity to reschedule to the other day and still see their usual therapist. Otherwise, missing a session due to illness or other life events can affect therapy progress and may lead to setbacks. You’ll also want to review your billing and scheduling practices with any candidates if you expect them to use the same methods. Going over any other important guidelines or policies during the interview is also a good idea.
You may feel more able to negotiate in other areas, such as years of private practice experience or desired salary. But it’s essential to keep in mind exactly what you’re looking for and stick to these goals during the hiring process.
Red Flags to Watch Out For
Anyone who makes hiring decisions should have an awareness of the red flags that might suggest potential issues. These red flags don’t always mean a candidate will have problems, but you may want to look into them further and discuss them in the interview.
According to the American Psychological Association, noting the following red flags and exploring them with potential candidates, when appropriate, can help protect your group practice:
- Reprimands or other behavioral consequences in a previous position
- Trouble with the law
- Problems with substance misuse
- Persistent financial difficulties that indicate irresponsibility or dishonesty
- Unethical or questionable behavior with a past client
Sometimes there is a satisfactory explanation for what seems like a blatant red flag. It never hurts to ask the candidate to explain the situation, especially if they seem like an ideal candidate otherwise. Note how they respond to your questions. If they become irritable, defensive, or otherwise react poorly, you may want to ask yourself why.
Finally, always take the time to review a candidate’s résumé carefully. Check references and the details they provide. Dishonesty is probably not one of the skills you’re looking for, so any embellished credentials or false references can help you weed out candidates early on.
Creating a Smooth Transition
After finding the right therapist for your practice, you’ll want to consider how your current practice members can offer support as the new member transitions onto your team.
If you don’t require new members to have experience working in private practice, it’s possible your new hire may need some time to get used to spending most of the workday in their own office. People who are accustomed to working alone in their own private practice may find it beneficial to have several colleagues in the same office available for quick discussions about therapy challenges between sessions or longer consultations as needed. But therapists who’ve worked in private practice for years might also not feel accustomed to reaching out right away.
In most cases, the transition to group practice can happen easily when you make sure to check in with practice members. Answer their questions, offer resources, and find out what’s working for them and what isn’t. You might consider setting up a mentor program, matching a seasoned professional working with a new hire for a brief period of time. This may especially help newer therapists who aren’t yet used to working in group or private practice.
Group practice is still largely private practice. In other words, therapists do most of their work individually. But fostering a positive office culture within your practice can help your therapists feel supported and ready to do their best work. Consider hosting teambuilding activities, team lunches, or similar events from time to time. Encourage every practice member to seek consultation from each other and talk about challenges that come up in sessions.
- American Psychological Association. (2015). Protecting your cash flow and preventing theft. Good Practice. Retrieved from https://www.apaservices.org/practice/good-practice/cash-flow.pdf
- Chamberlin, J. (2017). Secrets of a great group practice. Monitor on Psychology, 48(4), 54. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/04/group-practice