Starting a Private Practice in Counseling: 3 Strategies You Can Use TODAY!

Picking a name for your private practice isn’t such an easy thing.


You may think you already know what you want to call your private practice, or you may feel totally lost. Either way, the name that you select will have a big impact on your future, so it’s worth taking some time to really think the decision through. But don’t get stuck agonizing about this decision!! Once you’ve decided, move forward with confidence and don’t second-guess yourself!

We can break the options down into two basic categories, each of which have both pros and cons.

-You can use your personal name as your business name
-You can choose a unique name

Using your name as a business name has the advantage of being very straight forward, which can be very appealing for some people! Also, if you are already well known, it is a good way to build on your reputation and build your brand.

However, there are some Cons to consider as well.

Using your own name is straightforward, but it can also be limiting. If you later want to grow, bringing in other therapists to work under you, calling the practice by just your individual name may not feel right. Also, more and more practices are growing to include a variety of services. What if you someday want to offer your patients art therapy, or yoga? What if you start hosting group counseling with a variety of leaders coming in to coordinate the groups? Using your personal name as a business name is an implicit promise to clients that, when they come, they will always be dealing directly with YOU. If you aren’t 100% sure that is the kind of practice you envision for the long run, then you may be better off with a different approach.

The other option is picking a name which in some way represents you and the approach and tone that your practice will have.

The great thing about this is that the possibilities are endless! And the big challenge is . . . you guessed it . . . that the possibilities are endless.

It can feel very overwhelming to try to come up with a unique name. To help you break through the overwhelm here are a few brainstorming strategies to help get your ideas flowing, and hopefully help you zero in on the name that is the perfect match for your practice.

  • Ask yourself what your central VALUES are as a therapist. What feeling, skills, or abilities do you most want to impart to your clients? Are you trying to help them find hope, healing, renewed enthusiasm? Write out a list of 5 – 10 things that you want your clients to achieve during their time with you. Then take out a thesaurus (or use the one on your computer) and look at synonyms for all the words that you’ve written down. Take note of any that you especially like.
  •  Think about a symbol, such as a logo, that you might one day want to have. I’m not saying that you should rush right out and pay for a logo – that isn’t something that you need to spend money on right away! But symbolism is very powerful, and you may find that certain images or symbols really resonate with you, and that may help to spark an idea for your practices name. Is there an animal, plant, tree, flower, or other object in nature that you find deeply meaningful? Such as a lotus or a certain bird? Make a list of what these symbols might be, or draw them out on a piece of paper. Think about how they could become or be included in the name of your practice.
  • Think LOCAL. Is there something unique about the area where your practice will be located that could be part of your practice name? What about your city’s name, or any landmarks nearby?

Once you have a list of a few names that you like, do a little research. Make sure that no one else in your area is already using that name. Practice saying the name out loud. This may feel silly, but it is easy to pick a name, not realizing that, though it looks good on paper, it is a bit of tongue-twister to say! Talk to a few people whose opinions you trust, and ask them which of the names they like. If you feel comfortable, you can even create a poll on Facebook and get feedback from friends or family. This might also be a great way to share with the people in your life that you’re starting the journey toward private practice!

A few things to keep in mind: although step two of this process is reserving your domain name, you may want to check domain availability before you get your heart too set on something. Also, always google any name that you are considering. If the name is extremely common, already in use in your area, or in anyway connected to something that you don’t want your practice to be related to, then make another choice! A few minutes of research now can save you a lot of frustration latter!!

Once you’ve found something that feels right, stick with it!

Agonizing and spending hours and days (even weeks) trying to find the perfect name for your business can actually be a very clever way of procrastinating taking the next (and sometimes scary) steps toward your big goal.

Now that you know what name you want to use, you can jump right into reserving your domain name. You don’t want to wait on this, because you never know when someone else might grab up the domain name you want to use!

Which brings us right to step TWO of this process: Reserving your domain name!

Reserving your domain name is simple, and not too expensive. You can simply go to a site like Bluehost.com and type in the name you want to use. If at all possible, reserve your practice name .com, rather than .net. The total cost should be less than $25.00.
What if the domain name you want is already taken?

Sometimes there can be a simple work around to this. Can you add a modifying word, a location, or make some other small change? Use caution here, because you do want consistent branding. You want to be sure that people who are looking for you can easily find your site.

Once those two steps are taken care of, it is time for step three:  setting up your LLC!

This step can seem hugely overwhelming to people, because it can seem vastly more complicated than it is. But, like many things in life, you can keep it extremely simple, or go more in-depth. The great thing is that it is entirely up to you!

The most basic approach is to simply register your LLC yourself. This isn’t actually hard to do, simply google “Register an LLC in ___” and your location. Your local government website will walk you through the (surprisingly simple) steps. The fee for the registration will generally be between $100 and $150, depending on where you are.

Alternatively, you can use an online service, like Legal Zoom or Rocketlawyer.com, and have them put the paperwork through for you. You will be paying an additional fee to them for putting the forms through.
Or, if you feel that you have in-depth questions or concerns, you can consult with a lawyer. This can either be simply for a consultation before you go ahead with setting up the LLC yourself, or you can have the lawyer set up the LLC for you.

It’s true that lawyers can be prohibitively expensive! But there may be resources in your community that can help. In my area, the Maryland Women’s Business Center can provide an hour of consultation with a lawyer free of charge. There is also SCORE, a mentoring organization that provides free mentoring to new entrepreneurs. If speaking with a lawyer is important to you, do a little research. You may be surprised by the resources that are available to you!

Taking these three steps is just the beginning, but getting started is one of the hardest parts! Having the courage to take these steps is the beginning of an exciting and empowering journey into your future.
I can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish next.

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