Use These Five Ways to Protect Your Autonomy in a Group Practice
By Deb Legge, PhD, CRC, LMHC
At some point in your private practice career, you may find yourself working side-by-side with a group of other clinicians. This can happen in a few different ways, including:
- You are renting space
- from a landlord who houses many independent clinicians under one roof.
- You decide to partner up with a colleague and find a place where you can split the rent and divide other expenses as well.
- You decide to work as an independent contractor, for someone who provides clients and practice-management services in exchange for rent.
No matter the situation, whenever you are sharing space with others, it is important to maintain—and protect—your autonomy. Hopefully you’ll be in private practice for many years, so you’ll want to make sure that your reputation isn’t completely linked with whatever group practice you may choose to affiliate with.
It may be tempting to use the name of the established “group” as a tool for
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boosting your own credibility for referrals. But remember that if you leave the group practice, you really want to keep those referrals coming.
From a legal standpoint, your independence is critical. Unfortunately, if things go bad with another practitioner in the group that you’re part of, you could find yourself spending your hard-earned money defending the fact that you are not liable for things that might happen to others in the group.
Here are five tips that will help you hang onto your independence:
- Consider using wording such as “Jen Smith, Private Practice, located at The Counselor’s Corner” on your business cards, letterhead, and other marketing materials
- Remember to follow up on all of your referrals (once those releases are signed), with thank-you letters to your referral sources. Include a few business cards.
- Even if you are in a situation where clients are provided for you, take the time to promote yourself and your practice in your community. Direct outreach will allow people to connect your face with your name (rather than the name of the group practice).
- Be sure to let your malpractice insurance company know the structure of your practice within the group. Many insurance companies have options that will help protect you for very little extra cost.
- Don’t forget that as an independent business, you have HIPAA responsibilities that don’t disappear just because you share space with others. (See Advocate Risk Management article on recent congressional hearings on HIPAA’s privacy rule in this issue.)
For example, be sure your files are locked up separately from others’ files. If you do utilize support services (reception, billing, collections, dictation, etc.), make sure that you have your own HIPAA business agreement with anyone who handles your clients’ PHI (Protected Health Information).
Sharing space can be a great option. Collaborative marketing, group supervision, and having colleagues around to avoid isolation are potential benefits of that arrangement. Enjoy those benefits while hanging onto your autonomy and identity as a private practitioner.
AMHCA Private Practice Library
Getting the information and support you need on the business of private practice can help you to build a successful and sustainable business. AMHCA members are invited to log-in to AMHCA’s Private Practice Library at to read articles by Dr. Deb Legge—for members only—on the business of running a clinical mental health counseling practice:
- “Private Practice Website Tips” (June)
- “Finding a Home for Your Private Practice” (May)
- “Setting Your Fees” (April)
- “Getting on Insurance Panels” (March)
- “Finding Your Niche” (February)
- “Is Private Practice Really for You?” (January)