In this assignment I will look at how I would prepare for and set up a counselling practice. I will look at what are the essential requirements for a successful private practice and what will contribute to the quality of the service that will be provided.My vision for practice is having the necessary systems in place so that I am available to practise counselling and be able to generate an adequate income for myself. I will accept a broad spectrum of client issues from stress and anxiety to depression and bereavement.
I aim to provide a reduced rate service off peak with a standard charge during peak times. These charges will be based on the local norm. I have a three year plan in order to work toward BACP accreditation. My plan would include continuing to work as a support worker, offering my services as a counsellor on a voluntary basis to charitable organisations and dedicating time to see private clients.
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Working this way would allow me to build my private practice gradually while being able to support myself financially.As a support worker I am able to choose my hours of work. Although reducing my hours will reduce my pay I would still be able to generate an income high enough to allow me to dedicate as much time to counselling as I need. My split shifts on weekdays would allow me to work as a volunteer or see private clients between 10:30 and 13:30 each weekday. I would also be available for client work from 17:00 every weekday.This would be to accommodate working people who would want to access my services at the end of their working day and it is here that I would expect to be my peak times. It may require me to work until 20:00 or 21:00 during weekdays and this may require me to change my own social routine.
In the short term while I build my practice it may be seen as very long work days for me but as this is a gradual approach I would reduce my support work hours as my private clients built up. I would then only need to replace clients when they no longer required my services on a regular basis.In the long term working weekends is something that I would try to avoid but I understand that it may be necessary to do this in the first couple of years of starting a private practise. That said there may always be times at the weekend when it may be necessary to see a client that is in need but is unable to attend during the week or finds themselves in crisis and unable to cope. Judgements such as these would need to be made on a client to client basis at the time and would be in keeping with the BACP ethical framework.Providing my services as a volunteer to certain charitable organisations will allow me to form a network of professional contacts. I will also gain experience and develop my skills working with certain client groups. This will give me the confidence to expand my services into more specialised areas of client work.
There may also be the possibility of paid work through this process should a paid counselling position become available within an organisation. Should this situation arise it will be necessary to consider how taking a paid position within an organisation will affect my ability to practise privately. With all unpaid work it will be important to ensure that supervision is provided by the organisation or to limit the number of clients that I see per month on a volunteer basis to ensure the cost of supervision is affordable.In order to market my practise I would take multiple approaches.
I would approach local G.P. surgeries and request to post literature regarding the services that I offer on their notice boards and I would also leave business cards with contact details.
Visiting the surgeries on a regular basis that were open to my advertising presence will allow me to network with the various staff and hopefully the practice managers and G.P.’s themselves so that I could build confidence and promote my services. My offer of reduced rate, off peak service would be used to attract work from this area for people on the local talking therapies waiting list.I would also explore applying to be registered on any employee assistance programmes or EAP’s, in the local area.
Organisations such as the Civil Service have these programmes that allow their employees to access counselling services for a time limited period each year. This is paid for by the respective company’s EAP with the benefit to me being that the ‘referrals come to you, rather than you having to generate your own work’ (Pritchard, 2006:28). This could potentially lead to further work either as a continuation of this time limited period, the future self referral of a previous client or new self referrals via positive word of mouth from an EAP referred client. Should EAP’s not be available at a particular company I would make business cards available and leave details of the services provided should this be allowed.It may also be worth considering a leaflet drop in areas of local, privately owned businesses such as hotels.
This could be done two or three times a year to coincide with the start and finish of the holiday season and in the middle of it. Privately ran hotels are often manned by their owners during the day as this is their off peak times so it would be worth considering providing a service at the clients premises. This would minimise the disruption to them as they may find it hard to find the time necessary to come to my practise. The extra expense of time and travel may require me to charge a full, peak time, fee for this service.I plan to work from home which is located on the south side of the town in a largely residential area. It is situated on a main road with a large amount of street parking. I have a long drive so it would be possible for clients to park even if there were no free spaces on the street.
My counselling room would be in a downstairs reception room located off the main hallway. There may be costs associated with a health and safety risk assessment in order to show my duty of care with this regard and compliance with the Equality Act 2010 will certainly be required to work with organisations should I be registered with an EAP. Having worked with people with reduced mobility the purchase of a portable ramp for wheelchair access would allow for improved access should there be a need.The exterior of the house and driveway will be kept tidy with only a small plaque next to the door to announce the practise.
This will be small and unassuming so as to attract little attention to all but those that know its purpose. The environment inside, from the hallway to the counselling room, will need to be kept clean and tidy at all times. It will also be necessary to remove personal effects such as family photographs from walls in these areas. According to McGuiness (2009) ‘a key consideration in creating therapeutic space is the balance between professional and personal’. The therapy room itself will be sparsely furnished with three chairs of equal dimensions positioned at angles to each other as to avoid ‘potentially confrontational face-on eye-contact’ (McGuiness 2009:3).I would include a desk for a laptop and a lockable filing cabinet. McGuiness states that ‘a lockable filing cabinet may remind the client that notes are kept, but kept securely’.
Securing the client files in this way also helps to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 which states that you should ‘design and organise your security to fit the nature of the personal data you hold…’ (ICO, 2012:1). The use of non-flowering potted plants ‘can be useful in providing colour or decoration, concealing filing cabinets and softening other hard, impersonal edges.
..’ (McGuiness 2009:4). I would also place a small table between the chairs where I could have a small clock and tissues. The addition of some cushions in the room would also allow a client to make themselves more comfortable should they require to or even sit on the floor.Professional indemnity insurance is required to protect me against ‘claims for loss or damage made by a client [should you be found to have made] mistakes or are found to have been negligent in some or all of the services you provided’ (Business Link, 2012:1). It is also a necessity to have public liability insurance in the event that a client should be injured while in my practise. Additional contents insurance may be required should anything be damaged or stolen from the premises.
McGuiness (2009) states that ‘household policies are unlikely to include parts of the home used for business activities’.It will be important to take tax advice from an accountant as to what can be claimed as expenses with regards my private practise and my voluntary work. This is also important as I will continue to have a paid income. The business will need to be registered with the HMRC and the local council will need to be informed as there may be an additional council tax liability for working from home. All of this will require accurate bookkeeping particularly with regards expenses and income tax. Other expenses to be included would be the requirement for ‘regular and ongoing formal supervision’ (BACP, 2010:6) and the need ‘to keep up to date with the latest knowledge’ (BACP, 2010:6) through CPD.
The costs of starting out in private practice for me will be modest and, because I do not require any form of loan or other financial assistance I have not produced a business plan. Should my practise be particularly successful whereby I no longer require my job as a support worker I may decide to expand my house with an annex. The president for this has already been set with the house next door already having been expanded in this way. This would essentially separate my practise from my home and allow me a dedicated space for client work.In this eventuality I would require financial support from a bank and this would require a business plan to be drawn up. At this point client numbers would be more accurate to predict as I would have a working history to back up a plan.
By undertaking this there may be addition liabilities with regards capital gains tax should I sell my house and I would need to discuss this with my accountant.Ultimately I believe that it will be the quality of the service that I provide that will lead to the success of the practice and this will take time above all else to achieve.