The Guide renamed: The 14 Concrete (but not so hard!) Steps to Private Practice

A Quick Guide to Starting Private Practice has been renamed to celebrate its newest version!

The Guide is now titled:

The 14 Concrete (but not so hard!) Steps to Private Practice: 14 concise steps with tips and resources for Social Workers and Marriage Family Therapists Starting a Sole Practitioner Private Psychotherapy Practice (LCSW & LMFT edition)

-Plus, six more steps to consider

The Fourth Edition is now available and weighs in at 179 pages! Helpful formatting changes, additional information, and more of my experiences have been added.

It’s still designed to get you started quickly and confidently!


The Fourth Edition of the Guide includes an improved sample introductory letter and six common forms. Check out the Appendices at the end of the Table of Contents.

PLEASE NOTE: The Guide is a digital .pdf product only. Upon purchase, you will receive a confirmation email and then another email from Bonnie with the Guide attached as a .pdf. You must be able to read .pdfs on your device. The Guide is best viewed on a computer screen (rather than a phone or e-book reader like a Kindle). There is no “e-book” version available at this time.

You will not receive a printed copy. You have Bonnie’s permission to get the Guide printed at a local store for personal use only. Alternatively, you may choose to print only certain pages.

You have Bonnie’s permission to get it printed at a local store for personal use only. Staples has great printing deals. There are a few pages in the guide you might choose to print individually without printing the whole guide. It is not necessary to print the Guide in order to use it successfully.

Pdfs are best read on a computer screen rather than a cell phone.

With this digital .pdf version, you will also appreciate the links to reading assignments to deepen your understanding during each step of the way. If you work from a printed copy, keep your digital version easy to find on your computer so you can click a link for further information as you read. It is important that you know why you need to do things a certain way which is why there are so many links included.

Please contact Bonnie with any questions about your purchase.

Please do not share your link or the .pdf with others as this is a copyright-protected publication. I’ve spent more time than you can imagine creating, editing, and updating it.

If you think a colleague would like the guide, please help support my ability to continue offering this guide by sending them to to purchase their own copy.

Please add bonniemckeeganlcsw @ to your contacts to ensure you receive the Guide after ordering. 

Be sure to check your SPAM if you don’t see an email with the Guide in your regular inbox within 48 hours.

Guide Value:

Why this Guide? Because it is worth far more than the price tag!

  • For a fraction of the Medicare allowable for a regular session (90834 – the “50-minute hour”), you will have in your hands the exact steps with extra details to start your practice relatively quickly and be ready to see your first client for less than $1,000 (assuming you sublet a few hours a week to start).
    • If you hire someone to help you get on insurance panels (called “credentialing and contracting”), pay for consulting with attorneys, or pay for coaching or other services, your cost will be higher.
    • If you choose to start with your own full-time office, your start-up cost will be substantially higher due to rent. **see below for more information regarding average session rates across the U.S.**
  • This guide will save you time and the frustration of figuring out what to do next.
  • The current edition includes a few sample practice forms you can use to help you begin to visualize creating your own paper documents. Disclaimer: I highly recommend searching the internet for forms packages by other therapists because there are MANY more needed than are included in this guide:
    1. Introductory Letter to use for marketing
    2. Client Registration Form
    3. Diagnostic Evaluation / Biopsychosocial Assessment
    4. Payment log
    5. Confidential Psychotherapy Notes
    6. Superbill / Invoice
    7. Progress Note
  • You get a complimentary text, phone, or online video conferencing 30-minute Q&A with the purchase of the Guide (worth $45). There is a ton of information in this guide and the steps for getting started are laid out in detail. However, you will still have questions related to your specific situation along the way. Let’s be honest, no single book can answer every question that comes up, and if you found one, it’d be so big you probably wouldn’t want to read it! This is not a sales-pitch session. It is your session, your questions. *You must take advantage of this offering within two months of purchase.*

Another reason you should buy this guide…

Because my success can be your map! Step by Step I’ll show you the way. Plus, the guide offers alternatives that can also work or help you explore different ideas you have.

By the end of Step Fourteen, you will be set up to see your first client. Then, there are six more steps included for you to consider.

You can accomplish this goal relatively quickly, without breaking the bank, and have tons of information at your fingertips to help you start and grow your practice.

You will have more information than I had when I started out, plus you’ll benefit from my mistakes!

The Guide is offered as a .pdf only at this time. You will receive it as a digital .pdf download link that you can use to get started immediately. If you do not see the email with the Guide link after payment, check your SPAM folder, then contact Bonnie as soon as possible if it is still not there.

If you’d like to hold a book in your hands to write directly in the guide, you may choose to have the whole thing printed by a local printer or print only select pages as you go. There are a few pages in the Appendices you will be prompted to print or replicate on paper or in the electronic form of your choice (Word, Excel, etc).


This is an action-oriented guide. Your success will depend on completing the steps with thoughtfulness to your goals and situation.

Starting a private practice, or any business adventure for that matter, requires homework in the form of reading (lots of reading), talking to people (you’ve got that down!), patience (aren’t you practicing patience already?), problem-solving (you are an expert!), and getting out into your community (networking – you’ve got this!).

The guide offers numerous links to resources including other coaching websites I’ve discovered along the way. Some of them have more information on their websites than I could possibly offer. I highly recommend you take the time to read the resources suggested, even if on a site that is geared for another professional license.

Here’s an example of reading you will be asked to do:

**Your first session is typically charged as a Diagnostic Evaluation (90791) which is reimbursed at a higher rate than a normal session. Check here for your state’s median therapy rates: You will return to this in the Set Your Fees step in the guide. You can use this information now to get an idea of income potential. Median session rates (the rate set by the clinician – not the contracted rate with insurance panels) for 90837 range from $100-$200 across the U.S.**

You can get an overview by looking at the table of contents first. It is good to have an idea where you are going, but don’t get caught up in the details. There’ll be plenty of time for that later ;-).

Feeling overwhelmed might be the reason you are looking for help. Don’t add to those feelings by thinking you need to understand all the details before you get there. 

If you get stuck, take advantage of my offer of a complimentary 30-minute telephone or video Q&A with the purchase of the guide.  This is a No Sales Pitch Q&A to help you succeed. If you ask about consulting services, I’ll be happy to tell you what I offer after your questions.

Your Private Practice Story Has Already Begun!

Are you ready for the next new horizon in your career?

Starting a practice involves a new learning curve. Like most jobs, it might be a full year before you feel fully confident. That’s okay, though. It’s the experiences along the way that will build your competence to run your own business and sit confidently in your therapist chair as a business owner.

As a private practice therapist, you are taking the pilot’s position and as such will have the opportunity to set your itinerary and schedule while creating an environment according to your needs and preferences.

Be patient with yourself as you learn your new job. The moment you take the first step in this guide you become your own boss! Perhaps, you already are.

Success Factors

I’ll be honest here. I worked hard to achieve success. It took time, reading and studying infinite details and options, sustained focus, talking to other therapists, networking with local agencies, and lots of belly breathing.

I set my intention. I set realistic goals. I persevered even when I was in the dark about what to do next.

A large part of my success was the fact that I chose to Enroll as a Medicare-eligible provider, became a provider on several commercial panels and Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid), signed up with Quartet Health for referrals from physicians in a local major healthcare system, and networked early on with agencies and people serving the population I was interested in working with. 

It’s true, many therapists have successful Private Pay Only practices! If “private pay only” is your plan, you can skip the action parts of Step Sixteen – Start Applying to Insurance Panels, but you will still need to read it. You will need to understand basic information about how insurance reimbursement works for your clients (even if you do not provide a superbill), so DO read all the information offered.

This is not a marketing guide, however, during a few of the Steps you will be doing just that – marketing naturally by connecting with other therapists.  Step Seventeen – Get the Word Out has some helpful tips for marketing. 

This guide is designed for setting up your practice relatively quickly. As added bonuses, additional general information is included in Steps 15 – 20. They cover basic information about applying to insurance panels, Medicare & Medi-Cal/Medicaid, home visits, telemental health, establishing your professional will, and self-care.

I Wrote this Guide for You and Me

Helping others is part of who I am and what I do. Writing about it is fun, too!

Because of my success, others started asking me for help starting their practices.  Scratch notes weren’t gonna fly for long!

The 14 Concrete (but not so hard!) Steps to Private Practice explains how to do what I did. Step by step with enough details that you can follow the map with confidence.

This guide also includes information and details I learned along the way (still learnin’!). You’ll have a better view of what to do next and more information about your choices than I had.

Part mentor, part coach, and part consultant, in these pages I will guide you through the process. You can call me your Private Practice Navigator.  The only caveat is that you have to do the work. I will share what I know, point you to others that know more than I do, and I will encourage you to blaze your own trail.

You will make your choices and put them into practice. If the stars are aligned, you will create your own success story.

Some of the details included in this guide are specific to California, but the steps for starting a practice are essentially the same across the U.S.

The other reason I wrote this guide is to keep track of information I learn along the way. Over time, I expect the guide will evolve as I integrate even more new information. Today, it’s offered in its 4th version.

​About the Author

Bonnie graduated with her Master’s in Social Work degree from California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) in 1998.  She became licensed in California in 2006. Bonnie’s journey to private practice included working in several environments including substance abuse treatment, community non-profit, adult county mental health and disability advocacy in outpatient mental health and a PHF unit, outpatient medical case management, Level II Trauma Center medical social work, and a non-profit hospice agency. 

Helping others start their private practice is part of Bonnie’s natural desire to see others succeed. Bonus for Bonnie: Writing about it is fun!

Contact me for more information.

cover of guide

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