Since I left grad school and got my license, life has taken me all over the place. I’ve been up and down the west coast and in and out of various therapy jobs. I’ve moved three times, gone on maternity leave twice, and taken time off for cancer treatment. And finally, I left a job I actually loved to start my private practice. That’s a lot of two-week notices.
I’ve given notice well—and not so well at times. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons about how to professionally quit a job. If you’re thinking of leaving your current job to start a private practice, there are some things you can do to set yourself up for success.
How to Professionally Quit a Job Without Feeling Guilty
People leave jobs all the time—whether it’s to start a new one, start their own business, or even go back to school. But even with how common it is to give notice, it’s a really difficult thing to do for a lot of people. Here are my top five tips for how to professionally quit your job and launch your new career respectfully and guilt-free.
1. Adjust your mindset first.
When I was preparing to leave what I thought was my dream job at a university, I spent a great deal of time focused on my own mental debate about whether the benefits I got from this job outweighed the fact that I was paid so little that I qualified for food stamps. I grappled with whether the security of a bi-weekly paycheck was more valuable to me than the potential gains of starting my own private practice. Fear and an outdated mindset were holding me back.
I sought mentorship from peers who were already successful in private practice to help me explore the thoughts that held me back, and I did a lot of self-reflection. I wrote extensively in my journal as I prepared to take the leap into private practice. When I could talk about my goals and trepidations without mental dissonance or a pit in my stomach, I knew I was ready to submit my resignation.
If you’re in the same position of wondering how to professionally quit your job, the prompts I used may be helpful for you too. Jot down what comes up when you read each statement. Explore any resistance you have to them. If you need to, discuss them with a trusted peer or mentor.
- It is okay for me to become wealthy through my work as a mental health clinician.
- I can work less and be paid more.
- My agency will know what to do with my clients when I leave.
A lot of the hesitation that comes with quitting a job is of our own making. If you’re also feeling held back by fear or wondering what comes next, take the time to explore those feelings.
2. Remember that you don’t owe anyone anything.
As therapists, we naturally build rapport with others. In an agency or group practice, that skill can accelerate deep relationships among our peers and supervisors. When it’s time for you to move on, it can then feel like you are leaving your friends high and dry, or like you owe it to them to stay and help with the client load. The truth is though, that you don’t owe anyone anything. You’re allowed to quit your job.
In some cases, it pained me to resign while knowing that the agency I worked for was already understaffed. To ease the transition, I provided my supervisor with ample notification and offered to support the incoming therapist with training if they hired someone before I left. At one agency whose model was short-term solution-focused work, I offered to temp as needed to help with the waitlist until my practice filled up. I set boundaries around this and limited the temp work to one day a week so that it would not impact my ability to schedule new private clients.
It’s important to note that this decision isn’t right for everyone. Some people need a clean cut from their job, and that’s especially important if your job is causing harm to you in any way. My offer satisfied the people-pleasing part of me, while also allowing me to set boundaries so I didn’t get sucked back into the environment on someone else’s terms. I was doing this to ease the transition because I wanted to and there was a mutual benefit, not because I thought I owed it to them.
If you don’t feel comfortable making the same offer to your job, don’t! When you’re thinking about how to professionally quit your job, you’re under no obligation to ease the transition for your employer. You can simply give your two weeks notice and walk away cleanly without sacrificing your professionalism in any way.
3. Try to maintain amicable relationships.
If you’re leaving your agency job to start a private practice, you’ll want to try to keep your referral streams wide open. A simple way to do this is to add a note to your resignation letter, such as: “I very much value the personal and professional relationships that I have developed in my time at this position. I hope to maintain communication with you and the rest of the team, and refer to one another when appropriate.”
Hopefully, your employer will be happy for your new opportunity, or at least understanding that it’s time to move on. But it’s important to remember that just as you don’t owe anyone anything when you leave a job, they don’t necessarily owe you anything either. If your employer doesn’t maintain the relationship after you leave, don’t take it personally—it doesn’t mean you did anything unprofessional by leaving.
4. Build a network of other private practitioners.
My best friends from high school are also therapists. We live states apart, but we keep in touch regularly. As I was preparing to start my own practice, I would video chat with them almost every day so I could vent about my fears and questions about how to professionally quit a job.
They’re all at various stages of their careers in private practice, which offered me different perspectives. One has been in private practice for over 10 years, and told me “Bree, it will never feel right to leave your current job for the riskier option—but the reward can be mind-blowing.” Without their mentorship, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to leave.
If you don’t have therapist besties in your life, I highly suggest joining a local or online group for therapists in private practice. Ask if anyone is interested in mentoring you through the process of launching your own, or even if they’d be interested in getting coffee and chatting. Building up relationships with other entrepreneurs will help you realize you’re not alone, and that they all also probably have had to give notice once or twice.
5. Build a strong foundation.
In order to feel fully confident leaving my nine-to-five job, I had done a ton of foundational work on my business. This allowed me to hit the ground running, and ensured I wouldn’t spend months just getting my practice set up before I even saw clients. By the time I finally gave my resignation at work, I had seven cash-paying clients and was getting more calls each week. I also had a business coach lined up for myself, and goals ready that helped me imagine what my practice could look like—if I just let go of the thing that was holding me back.
This piece of advice isn’t exactly applicable to how to professionally quit a job in the sense that it doesn’t prepare you for that exact conversation with your employer. But it does prepare you for taking that leap because it gives you peace of mind. If you have the foundation of your next venture already built, you’ll have an idea of where your next paycheck is coming from, which can make it easier to give your notice.
Writing up your resignation letter and sitting face-to-face with a supervisor to give notice can feel terrifying. Years ago, I was supporting a client through the process of leaving their job. I used mindfulness tools to help them reduce anxiety through breathwork and visualizations. In a parallel process, I too was preparing to leave my job. As I wrote the note for my client session, I realized that I wasn’t using my own skills or tools to prepare for my transition. When I did, my confidence expanded and I was at peace knowing that the decision wasn’t only the best for me, but also for the agency I was leaving. They could now hire a new clinician who was enthusiastic to learn and grow from the fast pace, high-intensity environment that I was ready to move on from.
As clinicians, it stirs our emotions to resign from a therapy job. We’re not only leaving a team of coworkers, but also our clients—and that can be uncomfortable. But it’s also true that we do our best work when we’re excited to show up and hold space for those clients. The environment you work in, salary, benefits, and schedule are all part of what feeds our drive to sit with clients hour after hour.
If things at work fall out of balance and you start to hear the whisper that it’s time for you to start your own practice, it’s time to listen. These tips on how to professionally quit a job, combined with your own incredible skill set, give you everything you need to plan your resignation and move into the career of your dreams.