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How to Find the Right Therapy Clients For Your Practice

A feminine-presenting elder with short, dark hair sits on a couch, smiling and gazing into the camera as a small, white dog reclines across their lap. The couch they're seated upon is a stylish rust color, with decorative pillows, a plant, and a macrame wall hanging displayed above them.

Stepping into private practice is exhilarating, yet daunting. For many mental health professionals, the dream of autonomy collides with the harsh reality of building a caseload. It's a common struggle.

Newcomers face a gauntlet of challenges: Attracting clients, establishing referrals, and more. But perhaps the most frustrating? The difficulty in connecting with the types of clients they're truly passionate about serving.

A scarcity mindset often creeps in, pushing practitioners to accept cases misaligned with their expertise or interests. Slow-moving traditional referral sources only compound the problem.

To help address these common challenges, we recently brought together a panel of experienced practitioners for a candid conversation.

Over the course of our conversation — moderated by Dr. Elisabeth Morray — real Alma members shared their journeys, struggles, and successes in building their private practices.

In this article, we'll walk you through some of the key insights we heard from Gary Hominick, LPC, CSAT, Lucy Romo, LCSW, and Paul Fitzgerald, LCSW.

Takeaways from the event:

1. Push back against the scarcity mindset

When starting out in private practice, it's common to feel a nagging worry about having enough clients.

This scarcity mindset can lead us to accept clients who aren't the best fit for our skills or interests. We might fear turning anyone away, even if we're not the ideal provider for their needs.

But here's the thing: Being more selective can actually benefit both you and your clients.

By focusing on the areas where you truly excel, you're more likely to provide exceptional care. This, in turn, can lead to more satisfied clients and stronger word-of-mouth referrals.

Remember, it's okay to specialize. By honing in on your niche, you're not limiting your practice — you're defining it. This clarity can help you attract the right clients and build a practice that's both fulfilling and sustainable.

2. Clearly define your values

Knowing what you want from your practice is the first step to building a caseload that truly fits. It's about more than just filling slots — it's about creating a practice that aligns with your values and goals.

Before you dive into the logistics of attracting clients, take some time to reflect on what matters most to you.

Set your values in advance and then don't compromise them. Before you even start, get very clear with yourself on what you want your practice to look like - time availability, income, niche, all of that. And then don't compromise it.

Lucy Romo, Psychotherapy, LCSW

Your values should be the compass guiding your practice. By defining what's important to you from the outset, you create a framework for making decisions that support your vision.

This clarity not only helps you attract the right clients but also ensures your practice remains fulfilling in the long run.

3. Use your clients' own words

During the conversation, Gary Hominick, LPC, CSAT, shared a story about shifting how he marketed his practice to be most client-centered.

Initially, Gary's website focused on technical terms: "Sex and Porn Addiction Virtual Therapy in TX." However, he noticed a disconnect between this language and how his clients actually described their needs.

During initial consultations, Gary always asks, "What do you want to get out of counseling?" He realized that clients rarely used clinical terms like "addiction." Instead, they spoke about repairing relationships and personal growth.

This revelation led Gary to revamp his website. He shifted from clinical jargon to language that resonated with his clients' actual goals. The new headline? "Helping Men Repair and Enrich Their Relationships."

This change wasn't just semantics. It reflected a deeper understanding of his clients' journey. Gary recognized that many clients, even after addressing their initial concerns, wanted to improve their relationships further.

By aligning his marketing with his clients' own words and aspirations, Gary created a more welcoming and relatable entry point for those seeking help. It's a powerful reminder that sometimes, the most effective way to connect with potential clients is to speak their language, not ours.

4. Build your referral network

Building a strong professional network is crucial for a thriving practice. Here's some practical advice from our panelists on how to approach networking effectively:

  1. Be intentional and specific in your networking efforts.
  2. When reaching out to fellow clinicians, clearly state your areas of expertise or interest.
  3. Use platforms like Alma's Community Hub to find specific referral opportunities.
  4. Join a consulting group, and consider starting your own.
  5. Focus on building genuine relationships with colleagues and friends in your field.
  6. Cultivate a community that can organically share resources and referrals.
  7. Remember that networking is about quality connections, not just quantity.

5. Reach clients with insurance

Accepting insurance can significantly expand your potential client base, making your services more accessible to those who might otherwise struggle to afford therapy.

This step can not only help you build your caseload but also allow you to serve a more diverse range of clients.

Being able to take insurance through Alma made me feel like it was worth starting in private practice because I knew that I could make therapy somewhat more accessible to people. For me, part of finding the right fit is feeling like I am in line with my own ethics around who I'm seeing and who I'm supporting.

Paul Fitzgerald, Psychotherapy, LCSW

Alma's Insurance Program simplifies the often complex process of getting paneled with insurance networks.

By handling the administrative burden and offering competitive reimbursement rates, Alma enables you to focus on what matters most — providing quality care to your clients while building the practice you've always envisioned.

Find your freedom.

Entering private practice can seem daunting, but it offers a unique opportunity to shape your professional life in a way that aligns with your personal values and goals. While challenges exist, the potential for greater freedom and balance is immense.

During the webinar, Lucy Romo, LCSW, shared a story that beautifully captured this sentiment:

I had my birthday recently, and the way that I spent my birthday felt like any other day, and that was actually a good thing. It meant that I am now living my life in alignment with how I want to be living it, not just on special occasions, weekends, or holidays. I get to actually incorporate the things that I enjoy into my routine every single day.

This is the kind of fulfillment that's possible when you build your practice thoughtfully. By leveraging resources like Alma, setting clear intentions, and staying true to your values, you can create a practice that not only serves your clients well but also enriches your own life.

Remember, the journey to a thriving private practice is just that — a journey. Take it one step at a time, and don't hesitate to seek support along the way.

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A headshot of Kevin Doherty, content marketer at Alma.
Kevin Doherty

About the Author

Kevin Doherty is a marketer and storyteller at Alma, an online platform that aims to simplify access to high-quality, equitable, and affordable mental health care. An alumnus of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television, Kevin specializes in bringing powerful entertainment principles into everyday, real-life communication.

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