Hello there, and welcome back to the Mountain Practice Journeys podcast!

I’m your host, Cindy Norton.

Here in Episode 1 I’m going to discuss the most popular question asked by new private practice therapists – “How long will it take for me to get full in my private practice?”

Let’s get started.


Podcasts are growing in popularity and there are already so many great private practice podcasts out there. If you join the Trailblazer community via my seasonal newsletter you will receive a free A-Z download that includes a list of my favorite private practice podcasts.

I hope that the Mountain Practice Journeys podcast will earn its spot in your regular podcast listens.


See below for the episode show notes links and transcript…

Episode 1 Show Notes Links

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Therapist and Counselor Recommendations

EHR: Simple Practice [FREE 30 day trial and $50 credit] (https://www.simplepractice.com/?p=38db1586a4)

Quality Business Cards: MOO [25% off 1st order] (https://refer.moo.com/s/blissfulgratitude)

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Google Workspace: [10% off first year] (https://referworkspace.app.goo.gl/Bdo3)

Book: Building Your Ideal Private Practice (https://amzn.to/2QyrPjP)

Note Taking: TUL Junior Notebook (https://amzn.to/2F5JjBF)

Apparel & Fundraising: Bonfire (https://www.bonfire.com/welcome/8319ca11e93a4/)

Therapist Directories

Therapy Den (https://www.therapyden.com/benefits)

Mental Health Match [Use code MPJ2021 for 6 months FREE] (https://mentalhealthmatch.com/for-therapists)

Being Seen (https://beingseen.org/tour?ref=cindy@avlcouplestherapy.com)

Open Path (https://openpathcollective.org/?ref=1169)

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Book: Profit First (https://amzn.to/3juQguX)

Spreadsheet: Old School Financial Spreadsheet (https://mountainpracticejourneys.com/old-school-financial-spreadsheet)

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Microphone Boom Arm: TONOR (https://amzn.to/3kVRCj2)

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Recommended Reading



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Links to other websites, products, and services do not endorse or guarantee the services, products, or information contained at the other sites. The information, products, resources, materials, services, and documents found here are not intended to be a substitute for legal, financial, or other professional advice, nor does their use establish a professional relationship between you and Cindy Norton or Mountain Practice Journeys.

Episode 1 Transcript

Hello there, and welcome back to the Mountain Practice Journeys podcast! I’m your host, Cindy Norton. Here in Episode 1 I’m going to discuss the most popular question asked by new private practice therapists – “How long will it take for me to get full in my private practice?” Let’s get started.

Have you been wanting to start your private practice, but you can’t seem to take that first step? Maybe you’re afraid of failure or lack confidence, or maybe the idea of running your own practice is overwhelming. I’m Cindy Norton, owner of Mountain Practice Journeys and I help therapists and counselors to love the business side of private practice. I’ll share with you practical skills and advice along with a healthy dose of inspiration so that you can be on your way to the practice of your dreams. Put on your hiking boots, and let’s get going.

If you haven’t yet listened to Episode 0, I urge you to do that. It’s an introductory episode that shares who this podcast is for, a little about myself, what you can expect in future episodes, and provides some inspiration for you as you are on your private practice journey.

Now, let’s get to that burning question “How long will it take to for me to get full in my private practice?” I’m going to give you the most annoying and frustrating answer ever – it depends. But I beg you to stay with me and let me explain. I promise that you will gain a greater understanding of private practice as a result.

The “it depends” answer probably brings up within you a sense of insecurity. It’s so unpredictable and full of unknowns – which can be very scary – especially when it’s your business, and your livelihood is banking on your success.

There’s nothing that I can say to prevent you from being anxious about your new venture. You have a unique journey ahead of you. A journey that will be unlike any before you, and there’s probably not going to be one like it after you.

In spite of all the uncertainty, I will help you by giving you real numbers and timeframes, along with special considerations that will help you to formulate realistic expectations for your own business.

Before we get to specifics, I want to share with you how the business of therapy can be different from other types of businesses. As private practice therapists we have certain ethical guidelines we must follow, which can have an impact on the way that we market to our potential clients.

There is also some lingering stigma related to mental health treatment which can sometimes prevent more open discussions related to therapy (although the stigma has significantly decreased in the recent past).

Related to this topic of how the business of therapy is different, I was thinking about all the times that I have been walking around in public and strangers come up to me to compliment my tattoos and ask who the artist is. I happily tell them that it’s Kimi Leger at Sacred Lotus Tattoo here in Asheville, North Carolina, and I highly recommend her to anyone who will listen. What great marketing! It’s like you have a live business card walking around.

However, this doesn’t happen to me in my private practice. People are not coming up to my happily coupled clients on the street asking, “Who is the therapist that helped you to have such an amazing relationship?” All jokes aside, although the stigma around mental health treatment is decreasing, therapy still isn’t something that typically comes up in a conversation with strangers. And it’s not something that is as visible as a tattoo. Although the results of therapy are amazing, they are often subtle.

I’m sure you are ready for some timeframes, so I’m going to dig in now. Any time that I offer timeframes or numbers, I always say “don’t quote me on this.” There’s a reason for that. Everyone’s situation is different, and there are too many factors to even begin considering to get a “normal” timeframe or estimate for anything private practice related.

Variables may include area, availability, specialty, insurance, private pay, expenses, training, approach, quality of website, strength of online profile, office location, social media presence, advertising, amount of networking, skills as a clinician, business know how, marketing strategy, and a million other things.

With that being said, here are some numbers and timeframes. Don’t quote me on this, but I’ve heard consistently that businesses will often have a loss their first year, break even their second year, and begin to make a profit their third year. Remember that these are averages, and you may have an experience that falls outside of these timeframes.

Don’t quote me on this either, but I’ve heard consistently these timeframes related to building your practice. For insurance-based practices, many therapists report that it takes them 6 months to a year and a half to become consistently full. For private pay practices, many therapists report that it takes them a year and a half to 3 years to become consistently full.

There are always going to be outliers, so don’t put too much stock in these numbers and timeframes. Also, please take this information with a grain of salt. As I shared earlier, there are way too many variables to have any reliable data on building a private practice.

If you’re ahead of these time frames – good for you! You are either putting in the effort, or the stars aligned for you, or both! If you’re lagging behind these time frames, it may mean that you are doing everything you can to grow your private practice and there are factors that are just out of your control.

Or it may mean that there are some things that you can be doing to improve, and it may be helpful to seek out the support of a business coach or consultant to help you identify strategies to grow your practice. Sometimes we are so close to our practice that it just takes an outsider’s perspective to get the ball rolling.

If you are in the beginning stages of your private practice and are starting to feel impatient, know that this is normal. However, you also need to take a step back and realize that it takes time to build a full practice. I’ll talk more about how you can do this in the next episode.

I want to give you a big shoutout. Yes, you. You’ve got this! Hang in there, believe in yourself, don’t expect to be an overnight success, and put in the work. You can have a successful practice!

There are not many therapists out there who are trained to run a business. I am an in the minority with a Business Management degree, so don’t be so hard on yourself when the business stuff doesn’t come naturally to you. It’s not supposed to. You are wired as a helper. That’s what I’m here for. That’s what this podcast is for – to help you with the business side of private practice, so you can focus on the life-changing work you do as a therapist.

You may be curious if my practice fell into the timeframes that I have quoted in this episode. It sure did. I have a fully private pay practice and reached my goal of being full after two years of being in full-time private practice.

By having these average timeframes in mind when I started my private practice, I was much less worried and stressed out than my colleagues. I attribute this to having realistic expectations about private practice. When I started out I gave myself three years to reach my goal of having a full caseload.

This meant that I could not worry about how empty or how full my practice was until the three years were up. If I reached the end of the three years and I was failing in my private practice, I could honestly say that I gave it my all and it didn’t work out and move on to something else. But that obviously didn’t happen. I was pleasantly surprised that I reached my goal in two years.

However, I could have made things much worse for myself had I not had realistic expectations. If you don’t have the information that I have provided you in this episode, it can be easy to believe that you are failing if you are three months into your private practice and only have a few clients.

If you are three months into your private practice and have a few clients – CONGRATULATIONS! You are doing awesome! Did you know that it took me 5 months to get my first client in private practice? I was even doing all the right things. I had been networking with local therapists and writing a relationship blog targeted at my ideal clients for a year before I even launched my practice – and still had to wait 5 months for that first client.

I’m not saying that private practice success is a guarantee if you do it for X number of years, as there are various factors that can’t always be measured. However, I have yet to meet a therapist that gave private practice their all for at least two years and was not successful. But I have encountered therapists who gave up their new practice after 3 months, 6 months, or 9 months because their expectation was to be consistently full after a few months.

After you finish listening to this episode, let the information sink in and think about what your timeframe is, and ask yourself “Is it realistic?”

I’m now extending a sincere invitation to you to join the Mountain Practice Journeys community. Are you in? Subscribe to this podcast and we’ll hike the mountains and valleys together.

During each episode I’ll be giving you one small take away, action step, or mindset shift. I call these acorns. Listen to episode 0 to get the scoop on what the acorns are all about.

The acorn from this episode is a reminder to not compare yourself to others. Comparison truly is the thief of joy.

It can be difficult to have realistic expectations when you are comparing the growth of your private practice to someone elses. This can get messy when you are taking a broad look at what all of your colleagues are doing at once.

You may have a colleague who has an amazing presence and following on Instagram, another who just launched a profitable online course, and another who has a full practice of their ideal clients. Looking at what everyone else is doing will often leave you feeling inadequate – even though this is not the case. You are more than able to accomplish anything that anyone else is doing.

Each one of these accomplishments takes time and effort. It may have taken your colleague 5 years to grow that Instagram following, or 2 years to fully develop the concept for that online course, or a year to fine-tune their practice in a way that serves their ideal clients.

Redirect the energy that you are wasting on comparison and instead use it to fuel your own dreams and passions.

Give yourself time to develop. Choose one focus, put on your blinders, stick with it, take it one day at a time, and you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

While we’re on this topic, I highly suggest reading the book The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. You can find a link in the show notes.

As I outlined in episode 0, I’ll be alternating between a fun fact and ‘what I’m digging’ segment with each new episode.

For the first What I’m Digging segment, I have to mention Simple Practice. When I’m asked about what has been the most helpful product or service in my therapy business, it would be definitely be Simple Practice. The name says it all. It has truly helped me simplify my practice and save so much time. Simple Practice is an Electronic Health Record system that offers all you need to smoothly run your practice. Not only can you securely store your notes, you can bill insurance, send automated text and email appointment reminders to reduce late cancels and no-shows, allow for online scheduling, store client payment information and set up automatic billing, provide telehealth services, and much more.

If you are interested in trying out Simple Practice for yourself, check the show notes and I’ll provide you with a referral link that will get you a free 30-day trial and a $50 credit.

Thank you so much for joining me today on your private practice journey.

For episode 2 I am going to introduce the three P’s of private practice success which are Passion, Patience, and Persistence. I dig into each characteristic, how you can cultivate it, and why each is necessary as you start and grow your private practice.

Don’t miss the next episode, or any others for that matter, and hit the subscribe button now.

And a special shout out to my bff Jen Pace Dickenson. She purchased some of Trailblazer apparel that I have available as support for the podcast. Jen has always been there for me and is one of those friends who I can always count on. I hope all of you have a Jen in your life.

If you’re interested in getting your own Trailblazer apparel, you can find a link in the show notes to grab a t-shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie, or tank top.

There’s no way you can know how much it means to me that you choose to join me here as I share all things related to private practice. Please subscribe so you don’t miss a step. For more information about this episode, please visit the show notes page at mountainpracticejourneys.com/podcast I truly appreciate you Trailblazers. Your mountain is within reach. Journey on.

I Want You To Be Successful In Business & In Life!

Starting, growing, and maintaining a business is a big deal. It's super-exciting and super-scary all at the same time. I created Mountain Practice Journeys to support you through the difficult and muddy terrain, and to celebrate with you when you have reached each summit of the many mountains you will conquer on your journey.

Happy Climbing, Cindy

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