Getting Clients in Private Practice

Elaine Tarsh has been in Private Practice for 7 years. She transitioned to working solely online in January 2020 and completed Learn to Love Online Therapy with Tamara Howell in May 2020. Elaine has a very successful and busy practice and wanted to streamline her processes and her administration online in preparation for her move abroad.

Elaine and I have worked together since July 2020 and I noticed how frequently Elaine got referrals and enquiries. This is why the title is Getting Clients in Private Practice but I knew she would have lots of good advice for Psychotherapists new to Private Practice. Read the interview below, I’m sure it will give you some inspiration and reassurance.

How long have you been a counsellor and why did you choose this career?

I started my training with Relate in 2003, inspired by my own experience of personal and couple counselling.

How long have you been in private practice? 

I started in Private Practice in 2013. Imposter syndrome prevented me from taking the plunge for a long time, and I had a very slow and gentle start. I finally left Relate in 2017 after 14 years.

What is your favourite part of having a private practice? 

The flexibility and independence to manage my time and choose my specialisms and client base.

What is your niche?

My work focuses on relationships, sex therapy and problematic sexual behaviours including porn and sex addiction.

Why did you pick it? Or did it pick you?

Relationships have always fascinated me; when they work, when they don’t and why.  Relate offered me the opportunity to train as a psychosexual therapist, supported by a great supervisor.

How did you find the transition to working solely online?

It was challenging. I’d had the idea for several years and didn’t know where to start. I was motivated by the desire to move out of the UK and continue doing the work I love with UK based clients. In 2015, I did some training around telephone counselling, but despite offering it as an option, I had no enquiries. I did some additional training to work online in 2019, but again found that clients still wanted in-person sessions. The tech glitches also made me nervous about working online.

I started doing loads of research and couldn’t work out how I could get there. Finally I decided to work with a coach (thank you Josephine Hughes) to move my practice 100% online over a 12-month period. That was in January 2020 and we all know what happened next with the impact of Covid-19 on in-person sessions. Zoom has been a saviour for my practice and enabled me to make the shift I had wanted.

I had noticed Tamara Howell’s posts about writing your Psychology Today profile, and when I saw that she was offering a ‘Learn to Love Online Therapy‘ course, I immediately signed up.  That was the game changer for me. Then my coach suggested I should consider working with a virtual assistant. Tamara introduced me to Kim and here I am, fully online, systems streamlined, professional personalised paperwork and a full client caseload.

What helped you with that transition?

Research, networking, working with great people, including you Kim, who knew far more than me.

What professional associations are you a member of?


How do you go about getting clients in Private Practice?

There is no single source that stands out, but a combination of recommendations from colleagues, former clients, listings on directories, my website, Google My Business and Google AdWords (with thanks to Nathan Gould).

Do you suggest applying to be a provider for medical insurance companies?

When starting out I think it can be helpful. 

What directories do you suggest joining to help kickstart getting clients in Private Practice?

I think there are so many variables that make listings work for some therapists and not others, depending on their particular niche and location. I’m on Counselling Directory and Psychology Today. I’ve had a very positive experience with Harley Therapy. My advice would be to try various listings, always ask clients where they found you and keep a spreadsheet. If it doesn’t work for you try something else.

How do you network with other therapists and do you think this is a good way to obtain clients?

Networking is great! Working in PP can be lonely and the support of colleagues is not to be underestimated. I am in two small very supportive peer groups that I value hugely. 

Did you introduce yourself to Psychiatrists in order to possibly get referrals?

No, I didn’t do this. I did GP referral work though the agency that held the contract when I first started in PP. This was great experience but not well paid.

If you had to start your private practice again what would you do differently?

There is some great support available now online and I’d connect with others looking to build their practice too.  

What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?

Take your time, for most it takes time to build up a practice, don’t compare yourself to others (so tempting but not great for your self-esteem), reflect on the clients you enjoy working with most and develop your niche over time.  

You can connect with Elaine on LinkedIn and check out her website

If you are new to Private Practice I would agree with Elaine that networking really is the best way to start and grow. Join Private Practice Facebook groups. Connect with people on LinkedIn. Referring to your network can really build your practice and will ensure you get the right clients for you. Getting your administration and processes in order up front is another thing I recommend. It will ensure you are confident in what you are doing and it will give your clients confidence.

Setting up your systems in advance can be daunting if you are just starting out but we are on hand to help guide you in this process. Our Private Practice set up package can assist you with everything you’ll need to get your practice up and running. Get in touch for more information [email protected].