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Private Practice: Should I Bother?


In my 20s, I planned a career course that accounted for helping others and not being poor. Social Work (SW) seemed like a natural fit. As a Social Worker, options are broad; non-profit organizations, mental health/substances use treatment programs, traveling SW, macro-level advocacy, politics, Human Resources, private practice & more.


 

Grad school is great for educating students about theories but real-life practice, not so much. Your internship, that's where the magic happens. An internship, good or bad, gives you a window into what your career can look like beyond the textbook. Before interning, I envisioned patients lying on a couch and talking for an hour while I nodded and wrote on my notepad. In my ideal session, everything would be solved by the end of our meeting. It all seems relatively simple until your first time alone in a room with someone looking to you for help with their life. Then the doubts, fear, & imposter syndrome walk into the room. Don't despair, though. You will find your style with time, practice, training, and supervision.


 

Therapy requires patience, understanding, and grace. Remember, this is a complex process that involves a lot of work from the patient and therapist to get to the root cause of the problem(s). However, the small successes, growth, and the opportunity to support someone through their journey, make it all worthwhile.

If you're a problem solver and fixer at heart, being a therapist and deciding to go into private practice probably feels like the natural course of action.


Still I questioned whether I wanted to do private practice. Mainly I wondered:

  • Can I afford to do this full-time?

  • How expensive is renting an office?

  • Is it safe to see patients alone?

  • What if I can't get enough patients?

  • Is this sustainable?

  • How much is malpractice insurance?

  • Will I get sued?!

  • Can I make a living off of the insurance company's rates?

  • Will I be spending more than I make?


These were the questions bouncing around in my head before COVID was even a thing.


 

Jump forward to 2021 A.C. (After COVID), and telehealth became the new normal. Increased telehealth options solved my need for a flexible schedule & Work From Home (WFH) option. I realized that I could also still provide help & support to patients but without the financial burden of paying rent, worrying about my physical safety, and thanks to COVID, my health. So I did what any good SW would do. I started researching, chatting with my peers, and checking resources.

 

All roads led to Headway. If you aren't familiar, Headway is a service that offers access to private practice without some of the things that may be a barrier like:

  • Handling billing & payment issues

  • Finding & managing patients 

  • Getting accepted by insurance companies

My 1st, 2nd, & 3rd questions were, "how much will this cost me?" The website said free. I like free, so I decided to give Headway a try. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the process was easy. So, what do you need to get started with Headway?


Expressed Interest

I completed a quick form expressing interest on the Headway website. Minutes later, I received an e-mail from a rep asking to schedule a call. During my call, we reviewed my practice goals (not currently practicing), preferred caseload, insurance coverage requirements, and the general intake process. The rep explained that Headway is free of charge for the billing, credentialing with insurance panels, etc. Later he sent me an e-mail with resources for various malpractice insurance providers. The call and experience were pleasant, and the rep was helpful.


Preparing

To join Headway, I needed the following documents to provide to my rep:


Applying Once Headway reviewed my documents, I received a link the following day to begin my intake & create my account. The whole application took about an hour (because I was doing other things like TikTok/ lunch/work). The website was very user-friendly, and I completed it on my phone. However, I needed some items handy to complete the process:

  • My resume for employment history.

  • Undergrad & grad school history information (addresses, dates, etc.)

  • Dates & locations for applicable internship/fellowship.

  • A professional photo- no filter, no selfies.

  • A detailed bio describing my experience, treatment style, and what patients can expect.

  • Questions about caseload size, practice setting, i.e., virtual, in-person, or mixed, & hours of operation preference.

  • Questions about therapy modalities, previously served populations, & patient preference, i.e., couples, children, seniors, etc.


Screening 

  • 15-20 questions about criminal history, board/Licensing violations, background, etc.

  • A series of questions about training/development & completion dates.


The Portal

After I completed my application, I received a detailed welcome e-mail confirming that getting paneled with the various insurance companies had begun. When I logged into my account, a cute dashboard showed:

  • The status of my paneling for each insurance company

  • Any follow-up items on my end

  • Next steps (with dates) for my application's final review.

It was exciting to see everything laid out in an easy-to-follow and organized way. Once logged in, I also had access to my:

  • Calendar

  • Patient list

  • Patient messages

  • Payment information

  • Frequently asked questions

  • Settings


Monies

  • Headway indicates that they pay bi-monthly on the 15th & last day of each month.

  • I have received information on every part of the process except Headway's percentage from each session.

  • I'm going to e-mail my rep for information & also do some Googling.


Take-aways

  • So far, getting started with Headway has been painless & free. 

  • The website is user-friendly & their marketing photos are inclusive.

  • I will share updates on my experience once my credentialing is complete and I begin working. 

  • I've included my referral link below if you are interested in signing up.  

  • Transparency: if you sign up & use my link, I will get a referral bonus. 

  • Private Practice Minus the Headaches (referral link)


I enjoy sharing information & making things easier for my fellow SWs. I hope this post was helpful.






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