Business Advice for Counsellors

Starting a private counselling practice: Checklist

By Kiku

Setting up your own private counselling practice is a really exciting time. However, it can feel a bit overwhelming at first and be difficult to know exactly where to begin. 

In our Private Practice Tips posts we’ll guide you through the main to do list and points to consider when creating, starting and growing your counselling service.

In this post you'll find the bare essentials you'll need to put in place when getting started.

Reflect on your own experiences

By now you'll have plenty of your own experience of being both a client and a therapist, in perhaps a number of different counselling settings, and consequently, you’ll have your own ideas about what worked for you and what didn’t. This is a great starting point when setting up your own private therapy service.

Ask yourself what mattered most to you as a client and hold this in mind when you are both creating your brand, and marketing and running your service. In our experience the services that put their clients at the heart of what they do and stay mindful of the client perspective throughout, are the ones that tend to thrive.

What you'll need first

The business of therapy is pretty straightforward – we provide the services we’re trained to offer and clients pay us for our time. The main practicalities that you need in place before setting up your private practice are:

1.  A confidential, quiet space fo your sessions

2.  Professional indemnity insurance

3.  A unique tax reference number

4.  Registration with ICO

Find a confidential, quiet space

This may be a room at home or a room that you rent. Either way consider the client’s experience of the location before committing. Think about accessibility i.e are there good transport links, is the building easy to find, is it wheelchair accessible? 

Location can play a big part in the success of your practice, so the more accessible it is the better.

Alongside this, the “feel” of the place is also crucial. Does the space feel safe and private? Is it well soundproofed and can you guarantee that there won’t be interruptions? If you’ll be offering early morning or evening sessions, is the entry well lit?

Finding the right space, goes a long way in building a thriving practice. The more comfortable your clients feel, the more likely they are to both return and to recommend your service.

Professional indemnity insurance

A must for all therapists. This is there to support you, should you ever need to defend yourself against any legal claims made as a result of the service you’ve offered, or injuries sustained in your practice.

Make sure your insurance includes public liability and that the cover is for at least £1,000,000, as many insurance and EAP referrers require this level.

If you’re working from home it’s best practice to undertake both a health and safety audit and a fire risk assessment for your records. We'd recommend getting a fire extinguisher, first aid kit and accident book as well, just in case.

Register as self-employed

When you start out in private practice you’ll be classed as a sole trader and will need to register for Self Assessment with the HMRC. At this point, you’ll be given your UTR number, which you’ll then use to submit your annual accounts.

If you intend to manage your own accounts, you’ll need to register with the HMRC and submit your record of sales and expenses each year.

Alternatively, you can enlist the services of an accountant who will register you as a sole trader and will process and submit your accounts each year as your agent.

Sign up with ICO

Once clients start using your service, even if you’re using Kiku or another practice management service to store your client information, you will become both a data controller and processor.

You’ll therefore need to register with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and pay an annual Data Protection fee.

They’ll offer guidance on how to follow GDPR best practice and you’ll need to contact them immediately, should there ever be a breach of data protection in your service.

Get advice on GDPR for counsellors here

Now that you've sorted the logistics, you can start on the fun stuff. 

It's time to create your brand.

Read our top tips here.

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