Download MSW Program Information

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My Journey to Private Practice

Social Work Private Practice
Social Work Private Practice

by Heidi Abernethy, owner of Healing Way Therapy, a private psychotherapy practice in Tallahassee

Lao Tzu, a famous Chinese philosopher, once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” When I think about the road I’ve traveled to get me where I am today, Tzu’s statement is extremely relevant. After graduating from Florida State University with a Master of Social Work degree, I knew I wanted to open my own practice. However, the thought of doing so seemed overwhelming and exhausting. I had a metaphorical thousand-mile trek awaiting me to get my licensure and eventual business ownership. My goal seemed as if it would take forever to accomplish. I knew I had to get ready by breaking each step into small, achievable and practical accomplishments. Once I envisioned the journey as steps, relief washed over me. I could do this. After giving myself permission to breathe in that enlightenment, I put one foot in front of the other and got busy stepping.

First, I got licensed. After licensure, I acquired a different job that required an LCSW. I prioritized self-care. For me, this meant running, biking and doing yoga regularly. I knew how long I had to wait after licensure before I could open my own practice. However, I remembered to be patient with the process and more importantly, with myself.  

When I felt courageous enough to risk success or failure in going it alone, I began the process. First, I identified a name for my practice and created an LLC through Florida’s Division of Corporations. I opened a business checking account and decided which accounting system to use. I found an office space to rent and furnished it. I ordered business cards, and I began marketing my services through Psychology Today and other professional networks. I developed all of the necessary business forms (informed consent/confidentiality, intake and assessment forms) as well as a fee structure for payment of services. When doing so, consider if you will take insurance. I don’t take insurance because of my love/hate relationship with the DSM and because diagnoses become part of a client’s permanent medical record. Additionally, consider documentation, whether you’ll use a web-based documentation system or not. I still, admittedly, like to use a paper system and my old school approach saves me a little bit of money monthly. Finally, I took one last step that I continue to take daily. I had faith and trusted myself. I had faith that my professional reputation and marketing strategy would bring clients my way.  

Even though my initial thousand-mile trek to private practice has been completed, another one has already begun. The new journey is called Private Practice, and I’m excited to see where this path takes me!