So you have completed your counselling training, done your practice hours, and are now ready to set up your own practice. Next up is to consider where to practice.
In this article we will cover the essential considerations for finding and setting up a therapy room.
Rent a space
You may be in the lucky position to be able to rent beautiful and spacious dedicated therapy rooms which will amply cater to your needs. However it is worth remembering that this will come at price - a cost that will be passed on to your client - and a luxurious environment doesn’t necessarily add to the quality of the therapy given. As such, consider how important such luxury is for the type of client you expect to attract.
If you are more cost-conscious or financially constrained, community centres are another option and often have rooms for rent as well as parking and a waiting area.
You may also choose to work in a multidisciplinary therapy practice, where rooms are rented by all sorts of practitioners. This works perfectly well, though your clients will share a waiting room with those attending for all kinds of therapies.
If you rent a space within a clinic there may well be requirements such as holding a current Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate. You will have to provide evidence of your certification and insurance, evidence that you are registered with a professional association such as The National Counselling Society (NCS) or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and will also have to comply with their data protection policies.
A first step could be a friendly and professional email containing a brief enquiry about availability and a small amount of information about yourself to whoever manages the building or business. They should then direct you to the person who can tell you what information it is that they require.
You could also choose to work from home on a face-to-face basis. When doing this it is best to have a dedicated entrance for clients and, if possible, a room that is separate from the main house, such as a garden office or an annex.
Whilst this is a cost effective and convenient option, it comes with safety concerns. It is therefore wise to use some discretion when deciding which clients to see under these circumstances.
Working online, over Skype or other platforms that allow video calling, is an option increasing in popularity. It means you are not tied to one locality so clients who would not normally be able to access your services can do. This is brilliant news for those clients who need someone with a particular speciality and expertise. It is also convenient; there is no commute for you or your clients so scheduling becomes far easier.
Like working from home it is also highly cost-effective, though clients may expect lower fees.
Location - Where should I rent?
If working outside a big city, it is wise to have parking available nearby - not only for you but for your clients. Within big cities accessibility becomes more tricky, so look out for places near popular bus routes or train stations.
Consider the rest of the building too - is there a loo on the premises, for example? There should be a kitchen where you can get glasses of water for the clients and make yourself a cup of tea during lunch break.
Booking a room
Block booking is usually advisable to ensure you secure a room, but you can usually hire rooms ad hoc by the hour where necessary. There will almost certainly be at least a 24 hour cancellation policy in place, meaning therapists will be required to pay in full for any slots booked and not used.
Normally the minimum block you will be able to rent will be something like 4 hours per week for 4 weeks, however each practice will have different requirements. Some practices will let you pay in arrears and even offer the first 4 weeks rent free to give you the chance to build up your practice and client base.
Prices vary, and as a new therapist you may want to look at the cheaper options. You may find that a local church has some affordable rooms to rent, and will give you a good rate particularly if you plan on doing some voluntary or reduced rate work in the community.
Many multi-therapy practices offer graduate clinics in which those in the final year of practice or those who have just graduated can rent a room fairly cheaply as well as provide counselling at affordable cost to clients who may not have otherwise been able to afford the main clinic prices. Room rental in a graduate clinic may be something like £5 per hour with a therapy session costing around £25 per hour. Fully qualified practices will usually be around double that.
Counselling spaces should be welcoming, warm, and feel like a safe environment in which clients can get vulnerable and in touch with their emotions.
If you are able to choose the type of paint in your practice room, it’s advisable to choose light, neutral, soothing colours. Shades of green are particularly known for being soothing.
Try to ensure that the seating area for therapist and service user is ‘non-confrontational’ and conducive to dialogue. This means not directly facing each other but at a slight angle, affording both parties enough personal space. Comfortable chairs are preferable to hard, plastic ones but may not be available depending on where you are working.
Windows and plants are more conducive to a positive therapeutic experience in comparison to a windowless room. When possible let sunlight in so the space feels warm, bright, and welcoming.
Try to ensure privacy by keeping exits and entrances as private as possible so that your conversations are not audible to anyone outside your room. If using a shared community space, hang a notice on the door stating that you have sessions in progress.
There will usually be a small table to the side of you with water and tissues in easy reach. Make sure that you can both see the clock with ease so the end of the session does not come as a surprise and so that you do not need to keep turning to look at the time. You may also want to place other therapeutic tools on your table, depending on your speciality.
Try to avoid closed-in windowless spaces, clutter, or anything potentially triggering such as unsettling artwork.