Alumni, Community and Student Engagement Initiatives

Building a Private Practice

 Katherine Allen, M.A.

Going Solo / Part 1: Am I Ready?

When I was completing my MFT studies at Fairfield, I thought I was going to graduate, sharpen my therapy skills with <sigh> maybe an entry-level job and then—watch out world—private practice here I come! Yes folks, as you may have guessed, that was a rose-colored view… after two years doing less-than-glamorous but important agency work, I knew I was ready to move on.

So, how will you know when you’re “ready”?  The 2-year rule of thumb is certainly reasonable. It’s the same kind of advice we give our clients when they encounter a life-changing event. In that time, you will probably have accumulated enough experience, created a large enough network of colleagues, received some extra training and honed your personal style enough to do it.

Let’s say you’re ready to go solo. Now what? You’ll be on your own: how will clients find you? Where will they come from? And, ironically, as clients succeed and move on, how do you replace them? Do you sublease in an established group? Build your own group? Hang out a solo shingle?

I recommend first assessing how much you know about the other practices out there. Which ones A) do you know and readily can list, B) have you been to and have a feel for the environment, and C) are doing well, at least in your perception.

Then I would assess your own personal needs and comfort with risk. Do I need a full-time salary? Do I need health benefits? Am I a good self-starter, organized and able to multitask? Do I need to work part-time and still build a private practice?

In building Marriage & Family Therapy of Trumbull (MFT3), many months of work went in before we started. Be ready for course corrections and unforeseen circumstances. But were we ready? Mostly. Were we a year before? No way. Do we leverage every available asset, i.e., the skills of our friends, family, and colleagues? You bet. Do we have sleepless nights? Not as many as we had 6 months ago!

I personally wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I also know beyond a shadow of doubt that I am better for all of the experience I gained prior to opening MFT3.  We’re a better team, and our clients are getting better clinical care because of the tough post-graduation experience, as well as the planning that went into building the practice.

Tune in next week for Going Solo / Part 2: Introduction to Practical Aspects

Katherine Allen is a graduate of Fairfield University’s MFT program. She has worked in several agency settings; namely FSW Bridgeport, Family & Children’s Agency in Norwalk, and Family ReEntry in Norwalk and Bridgeport. Katherine also brings 16 years of leadership, advertising and design experience to her private group practice, Marriage & Family Therapy of Trumbull (MFT3) Check out the blog at

You can find Katherine on LinkedIn (,, Twitter (@mft3), Facebook (katal1967), and Social Networking for Therapists and Mental Health Professionals ( She is a member of Ladies Who Launch, Fairfield County. Katherine has appeared on WGCH 1490 AM on the “One Smart Mother” show ( and will be a guest again on September 29, at 9am.

Contact Katherine at if you’d like her to consult with you in opening or building your private practice.




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