Happy Labor Day! In honor of this day of celebrating workers, I’m beginning my series documenting my foray into private practice, and hopefully helping out some other workers along the way. Enjoy!

Since the idea to start a private practice took root in my head, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some pretty awesome music therapists through the internet. You can find many of their links on my links page, and a lot of their inspiration in how I manage my online presence and practice. One person who I look up to as a role model is Kimberly Sena Moore of the Music Therapy Maven and Neurosong Music Therapy Services.

When I finally made the decision to begin the process of creating a practice, the stars were aligned (or whatever fate metaphor you prefer to use), and Kimberly had just began posting a series that she titled Private Practice 101. I hope she doesn’t call me on copying her, but this is the beginning of my own series about going into private practice. Kimberly’s series was wonderfully technical, marvelously helpful, and I don’t think could be done any better. So I won’t. My series will also feature the steps of starting a private practice, but will focus more on the emotions tied to starting a business (part of me is still in psych, and can you blame it, really?)

So, it is with pleasure that I present to you step one: The Idea.

Everything we chose to do in life has some motivator. We don’t always know what those motivators are, but if they are a mystery, figuring them out will help give direction and structure to your plans. Some things to contemplate when the idea of private practice comes into your head:

  • Am I happy in my current situation?
  • Is this my only option?
  • What do I think the benefits will be?
  • What do I think the downsides will be?
  • What was going on when I made the transition from thinking “private practice seems like a good idea” to “private practice is my next step”.

The answers to these questions will help you decide if to move forward, as well as how you will move forward.

Growing up with a father as an entrepreneur, I saw a lot of businesses, and realized that they each have a personality. I saw that the people that were doing the line of business they were in because it was what they wanted to do were oftentimes happier, more honest, and more enjoyable to deal with than the people who were in it because it was their only employment option, they inherited it, or they just wanted to make a fast buck. These things impacted the customer’s perception of the business, as well as the perceptions of the people who worked with the business. It determined whether to trust, not trust, and also referral loyalty.

Once you decide that yes, this idea is no longer just an idea, but the title of a plan, you’ve set the outline for everything to come: How and where your practice will operate, who you will service, how payments will be made, cost, where and how you will market.

The Emotions:

This step is probably the easiest. There aren’t any big decisions to really be made, and if you make any here, you aren’t committed so you can back out. This is really a chance for you to test your feet in the water. I highly recommend speaking to other music therapists who are in private practice, starting private practice, or (like me) have just started private practice. If you do choose to go forward, checking your emotional state would also be a good idea. There will be stress in your future, and I wouldn’t recommend pursuing this if you are in the midst of major life changes (having a baby, planning a wedding, depression, loss of loved ones, uncertain finances). Of course, these things may come up in the midst of your planning, so being a good steward of your own mental health is important so that you can hold together all the little pieces that will end up being your business.

Just ask yourself: Can I truly handle this right now?

My experience: I was miserable in my then current job. I was unhappy with a multitude of things, but it allowed me to see a trend that validated (to me) a positive motivator for going into private practice. What I saw was that children who came to me and did wonderfully with music therapy were then sent home to communities where they either had no music therapist, or could not afford music therapy services. This set into place two goals for my business: One, to be able to provide music therapy services, free of charge, to underprivileged families. This goal is, unfortunately, a long term one. I will search for and apply for grants to see it to it’s completion until it is done (hopefully in the next 1-5 years). And goal two, to provide services to any population that requests them. This is a short term goal and is already being met. It is a business nightmare of mine to have to turn away clients, and for that reason I know my business will eventually grow because I am only one person.  It also helps keep me on my toes because one day I’m playing children’s songs, another it’s hip hop/r&b, and then another day, music of the 40’s!

Happy thinking to you. Next time, we’ll discuss community resources and who to talk to.