A group practice is one type of therapy business. While a private practice typically involves one therapist providing mental health services to people seeking treatment, a group practice employs multiple therapists and counselors who may have varying credentials and qualifications.
You may consider seeking employment with a group practice when you first start out as a therapist. Or you might think about starting your own group practice if you find yourself with more referrals and potential clients than you have time to see. Sometimes, even the desire for a change to your routine might prompt you to wonder about the potential benefits of a group practice.
A group therapy practice may have less appeal if you prefer to work alone or manage your own business. However, many mental health professionals find group practice offers a number of financial and professional rewards.
Here, we’ll go over a few of the key advantages of group therapy practice and note a few challenges you might come across.
Group Practices: Top 4 Advantages
1. Financial benefits of group practice
Working for a group practice can prove rewarding both for the practice owner and the clinicians working for the practice. In private practice, your income depends on the clients you treat. This is generally the same in group practice, but you could easily see more clients—or a steady number of clients—when working for a group practice. Depending on the type of practice you work for, you might also receive a salary instead of a session fee. A set income can help eliminate worry over financial insecurity and could be higher than what you’d make in your own practice.
Group practices may have higher income potential because operating expenses and administrative costs are shared. The counselors employed by the practice typically won’t do their own billing, which allows for more time spent working with clients and increases the potential number of clients paying for therapy at any given time.
Research from the American Counseling Association suggests that, although group practices don’t always yield much more of a profit than a private therapy practice, a well-managed group practice may net a significant profit. It’s not unusual, in fact, for a group practice on the larger side to draw a yearly revenue of a million dollars. To compare, some more successful private practices might earn a yearly 6-figure revenue—but exceeding this is rare.
Some therapists find private practice a lonely business, though this certainly depends on your personality type and unique need for professional interaction. While you most likely still have colleagues or a supervisor to reach out to when faced with a challenging therapy situation or ethical dilemma, you may struggle to get in touch with someone right away. The American Psychological Association points out that working in a group practice gives you increased opportunities to consult with your peers and share professional experience.
A private practice could suffer if you have an unexpected personal issue or illness that temporarily prevents you from seeing your clients. You might need to scramble to cancel your appointments or find a trusted colleague to whom you can refer people in immediate need.
In a group practice, though, colleagues may be able to cover missed sessions. What’s more, your clients won’t need to worry about finding an unfamiliar location when already potentially stressed by the need to work with an unfamiliar counselor.
3. Shared responsibility of the business side
Skillfully managing a business, however small it is, requires a range of talents. You’ll have to make a lot of decisions for yourself, and you’ll need to oversee all aspects of your private practice. This includes managing your taxes, insurance payments, and any legal issues that come up, just to name a few. You’ll generally also need at least a rudimentary knowledge of business management skills.
If you’re not particularly interested in business, this scenario may not seem appealing. Many therapists want to focus on helping people and avoid business management. A group practice may suit your needs if you have little interest in business and don’t mind having less control over potential clients you’ll work with.
Different people have different strengths, so some group practices might also operate by sharing business responsibilities, such as billing, depending on personal interest. If your practice is successful, you may even choose to forgo administrative responsibilities by hiring a trained manager or receptionist. This may free up even more of your time to work with clients, generating more income for the practice.
4. Referrals within group practice
Having a pool of qualified mental health professionals in the same office can make it easy to provide referrals when necessary. Say you primarily work with teenagers dealing with depression and/or family issues. Your newest client talks about depression in his first session, but in the second session you realize he’s also struggling with an eating disorder. Your colleague in the group practice has specialized training in eating disorder recovery, so you recommend your client continue working with you to address depression while also working with your colleague.
It’s also possible you could begin working with someone, and a strong rapport fails to develop. While recognizing you aren’t the ideal therapist for their needs, you also believe another member of your group practice may be a better fit. Instead of terminating therapy by referring your client to a professional in another location, you might recommend your colleague down the hall as a more ideal therapist. This can help maintain a sense of security and trust in the process of therapy and seem less like rejection for clients, even in cases where the therapeutic relationship doesn’t flourish.
Are There Drawbacks to Group Practices?
Working for a group practice, or managing one, may not match everyone’s personality or career goals:
- Group practice work may sometimes seem overly routine or offer less outlet to choose your own clients.
- If you’ve established your therapy niche and practice a less common specialty, or one that’s not in much demand, you may not easily find a practice seeking your skill set.
- It’s possible to earn a higher income with a group practice, but this isn’t always the case, as many factors can contribute to both revenue and profit.
- In a group practice, you may have little control over any aspect of the practice beyond what takes place in the privacy of your therapy sessions.
- Office politics may be less of an issue in a therapy practice, since your colleagues will probably spend most of their in-office time with clients, but they can still present issues for people who’d rather avoid anything of the sort.
If the above factors don’t pose a problem for you, a group practice could potentially be a good fit. According to the APA, group practice work often serves new therapists well by encouraging professional development and offering numerous other benefits as you begin establishing yourself in the mental health field.
- Centore, A. (2015, March 2). How much money can you make in group counseling practice? American Counseling Association. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/news/aca-blogs/aca-member-blogs/aca-member-blogs/2015/03/02/how-much-money-can-you-make-in-group-counseling-practice
- Eddins, R. (2015, March 24). Starting a group practice: Is it right for you? Retrieved from https://www.counselingwise.com/starting-a-group-practice-is-it-right-for-you
- Meyers, L. (2014, November 15). Look before you leap. Counseling Today. Retrieved from https://ct.counseling.org/2014/11/look-before-you-leap
- Strength in numbers: Advantages of group practice. (n.d.). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apaservices.org/practice/business/management/group-advantage
- Taylor, J. (n.d.). Group practice vs. solo private practice? Which is right for you? Retrieved from https://www.practiceofthepractice.com/group-practice-vs-solo-private-practice-which-is-right-for-you