Untangling the Thread
NASW Member Shares Tips for Opening a Private Practice
A highly utilized benefit of NASW membership is the online discussion forum, MyNASW. And questions surrounding going into private practice are a regular occurrence on the forum. That’s because members know that in addition to reviewing NASW standards and resources for private practitioners, asking others who have been there before them is a great way to get a real sense of what opening a private practice is like. Miriam Erdosi, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in Orange County, CA and a new NASW member, is one of those social workers who has used the forums to get advice on opening her own practice.
Erdosi is new to private practice. She decided to embark on a second act four years ago after working in public health as a healthcare lobbyist for many years. She obtained her LCSW and specializes in children, adolescents and young people. While establishing her practice, she worked as a therapist for a telehealth company.
Even though Erdosi felt confident in launching a business, thanks to her husband’s support and previous experience of running a business, she says it's still a lengthy, detailed process and help from other social workers is important.
“You have to go through a lot of steps to open a business—you have to find space and secure leases, insurance and NPI,” she explained. “Basically, you have to check a lot of boxes.”
She found NASW and its members to be a wealth of information to establish her marketing plan, figure out how to set herself up to accept insurance clients and even decide which electronic medical records system she’d use.
Erdosi advises those contemplating private practice to make sure they get everything completed that they need to protect their business.
“With a solo private practice, you have to be prepared. You have to think about how you are going to get clients, that you’re in good standing with the state and that you have the necessary insurance,” she listed.
Another thing to consider is that some skills required for successfully running a business may not be a therapist’s strength. She urges them to think about all aspects of the business, such as how will you deal with billing.
“I think we have an ethical commitment to take some insurance,” she said. “It’s our obligation to do so, and so I set up credentials with insurance carriers and I use their platform and they do the billing at their contracted rate.”
“I think it can also make you more marketable if you can take insurance,” she added. “It’s another platform for people to find you.”
If you don’t have capital for an office manager right off the bat, she notes there are a lot of third-party resources to enhance your practice—such as outsourcing charting and billing functions—which makes starting a private practice much easier than it would have been 30-40 years ago.
Finally, Erdosi recommends leaning on the MyNASW forums for support on all kinds of questions. The advice there comes from old and new therapists, people in rural communities and city communities and often includes things you don’t think about.
“I just recently posted to find out about other people’s perceptions on seeing siblings,” she said. “I have my opinion on what I think the answer is, but want to hear other social workers' opinions and why.”
The opportunities to find career support on MyNASW are endless. Become an NASW member to join the community!