Updated: Sep 24, 2019
Joining a group practice is a happy medium between private practice and agency work. A group practice is a therapy practice created by other therapists who want to create their own community of therapists and offer a place where families and individuals can get their needs met. Some group practices focus on one area such as a Lifespan Integration practice where each clinician provides this techniques or they may be a more generalist practice where there is a range of clinicians with different expertise.
Barriers to Joining
One thing to know about group practices is that it can be difficult to join one right outside of graduate school. Many group practices are seeking Licensed clinicians and will put that on their job listings. If you think a group practice would be best for you. I encourage you to apply and write a letter of interest expressing your desire to join their team and what you have to offer. I began in a group practice without being fully licensed and have had many colleagues do the same.
More Clinical Focus, Less Business Management
Having a business that is already created and up and running is one of the major benefits of a group practice. Those who created the group practice are the ones typically managing all of the business side of the practice which allows you to focus on your clinical work. While this is a wonderful benefit, it also means you have a boss. The group practice owners have the ultimate say in how the group functions and practices and that may not always be in alignment with your view of therapy work. It is very important to know beforehand what are must’s and what are areas you are willing to be flexible in with a group practice so that you can find a practice that matches your values.
With the group practice owners managing the business side, it also usually means there is less overhead expenses which are rent, office materials, furnishing of offices and other things. Some group practices do charge for these things so it really is important to know what you are willing to commit to if this is a route that would work best for you. Less overhead expense means potential for more income as you will not have to be calculating these expenses into your hourly charge.
Typically a group practice takes a percentage of what you make from sessions and it varies with each practice. They take a percentage to cover the overhead expenses and for the system they have created for you. I advise that any percentage where you make over 60% and the practice owners make 40% or less is a fair percentage. Once again, it is up to you on what works best for you and what you are willing to make as you begin this work.
If you join a group practice, you will most likely sign a contract with the owners. This contract dictates legally what you have to abide by in the practice. Each contract is different and it is important to read it word for word. Some contracts do not include supervision or allow you to take clients with you if you decide to leave. Violating the contract could result in legal involvement so be sure to consider this when choosing a group practice. In private practice, we discussed how you have autonomy or control over what works best. You may still have some autonomy in a group practice, but not full control. Check with your values and make a decision that works best for you.
Being a part of a group also means a community of people. You will have co-workers and people to interact with when they are available. Having co-workers creates opportunity for consultation on cases that may be difficult or that you need help with. Some group practices also offer group supervision so that those in the group are assisting each other. With having co-works, that also means an increase in referral sources. Not only will you receive referral sources from the group practice owners, you can also receive more as your co-workers learn more about your work and the areas you enjoy to work with.
Benefits are a possibility
Not every group practice offers this, but some do offer benefits which is an added bonus if that is important to you. There is also a possibility of being paneled with insurance companies at a group practice. As you start off after graduate school, many insurances will allow you to be paneled under another clinician as long as they are in the office while you are meeting with these clients. The group practice owners will manage this process and assist you with getting paneled rather than doing it on your own. This is all dependent on each group practice so consider these as questions to ask when you are considering a group practice and deciding what works best for you.
Types of Client
While private practice allows you to work with your ideal clients, a group practice may not necessarily meet this need. You will most likely get to work with ideal clients, but you may also have to work with clients who are not ideal due to referrals coming in and needing to be assigned. Be aware of this and ask the practice owners how they handle referrals and assign them.
A group practice has a lot to offer and varies depending on why the owners created the practice. If you are considering this route, it is important to do your research and spend time knowing what you need out of a group practice and what you want. Going into your search for what's next with a clear understanding of what you desire to learn, what you need to get started and what you want will help guide you into a place of employment that is alignment of your goals and values.
As we did in the beginning, I want you to stop what you are doing and close your eyes. I want you to think about what you envision for your next steps. Imagine yourself in an agency and pay attention to what comes up in your body and how you feel. Imagine yourself in private practice. And then imagine yourself in a group practice. When you feel ready, open your eyes and jot down anything that came up for you that you want to remember.