The Perks of Being in Private Practice

Meet Sierra! Earlier this week we talked about her journey from agency life to private practice life, and how much she loves being a private practitioner. Read on to learn about how she uses SimplePractice to help establish a balance between her work like and her home life!

Tell us about your journey!

You may already know the story of the selfless, well intentioned, underpaid social worker whose parents were East Coast blue collar workers and taught her an unrelenting work ethic.  And maybe you already know that when you have a family, some of those qualities no longer fit the bill because there are real bills to pay and real mouths to feed.  But what you may not know is that you truly have the ability to create the life you want and that is where my path differs from my parents and many of those around me.

I went from sitting at my desk working for an agency and stressing about how to support my family to creating my own schedule, making more money than I ever thought I would, taking as much vacation as I want, and learning about all the things I want to learn about. No more meetings about policies, having to cautiously ask if I can have Friday off, or wondering if I will get the supplies I desperately need to best serve my patients!

In one shining moment, it dawned on me to open up a private practice, and I haven’t looked back since!  Nothing in my MSW graduate program talked about opening a private practice, so it was never on my radar.  With the support of my colleagues, family, my faith, and a whole lot of self-determination, I successfully have a private practice that not only feeds my family but feeds me in more ways than I could have imagined.

It’s so interesting being a therapist, and being a social worker in particular because it feels a little weird getting paid for giving yourself to your clients. So it’s definitely been a learning curve for me but I realize now that my time is really valuable.

How would you say your mindset has shifted throughout your time in private practice?

I would say my mindset has transformed for a couple of reasons:

  1. I have connected with some more seasoned colleagues and have learned from them about being in private practice. I really didn’t know that many people in private practice to start, since my colleagues were more agency based. It’s been really helpful to meet people that have been in private practice for a long time because I’ve been able to ask them a ton of questions.
  2. The longer I’ve been in private practice and the more successes I achieve with my clients are two things that have given me more confidence in myself and my practice! 

What’s your favorite part of being in private practice?

I seriously love everything about having a private practice! The autonomy, the patients, the selectivity of deciding who I want to work with, arranging my own schedule, building my business, the list goes on.

Having a private practice has really empowered me to set my own schedule. I have so much flexibility and that has given me more time to do important things like accompanying my daughter on a field trip. To do things that I’d ordinarily have to ask to do if I were in a more clinical/agency setting.

I took a three-week vacation this summer and it felt like a really really long time! Just because I haven’t had that amount of time off… in forever. I also made the decision to take every other Friday afternoon off. I set that intention for myself and luckily my practice schedule has allowed for that. If you’re working for someone else you don’t necessarily get to choose the times you work and whether or not you’re going to leave early. Being my own boss is the best!


Sierra Dator Quote

Top 3 tips for getting sh*t done:

  1. Exercise! I work out 4-6x per week to get out the energy I carry from the work we do. When I feel stronger in my body I feel stronger in my mind. I need a strong mind.
  1. I make sure to schedule out my day by the hour. This holds me accountable and gives me perspective on what needs to get done.
  1. Education is key. Trainings, my own therapy, reading, and being an active member of a consultation group all educate me on the way I want to run my practice. When I feel competent, I feel motivated to do my best work!

Can I do 4 tips? There is a lot of sh*t to get done!

  1. I use SimplePractice Reminders regularly. The reminders help me to stay on top of what I need to do so I don’t fall behind.

How do you use SP in your day to day & how has it helped your practice overall?

I really love SimplePractice. It makes my life way easier… I could definitely be the poster woman for SP!

Without SimplePractice, I would be stuck in the stone ages: filing my notes by hand, snail mailing my consent forms, and living in clutter. SimplePractice has really allowed me more time to do all the things I love. I am awfully grateful for my colleague who gave me a half hour of his time to show me around the program and convince me it is HIPAA compliant and well worth the dollars. I have no regrets about joining SimplePractice!

What SimplePractice feature can you not live without?

While I love all SimplePractice features, I cannot live without the automatic reminders for my patients. I used to send them out nightly which was time & energy consuming. Having this feature frees me up and also increases turnout for sessions!

I have a full-time practice and it’s how I support my family. I’m here 5 days a week and when I wrap up at 7, I need to get out the door so that I can spend an hour or two with my kids.

In addition to the text/email reminders for my patients, I love my personal reminders. They’re perfect for my mornings when I’m ready to start work! It’s just like “Oh, I have those two leftover notes to finish up!” or “So-and-so didn’t pay me!”; my reminders are perfect for me because they keep me on track. I’d rather not be surprised at the amount of things that I haven’t addressed from a month back…

Bottom line: SimplePractice helps me spend more time with my family. I love my work, and I have to go to work, but I’m definitely more passionate about my family!

Do you have any words of wisdom for people aiming for success in private practice?

My wisdom may sound hokey, but I am going to put it out there anyway: Have faith in yourself and try! Faith that you can create whatever it is you imagine with your practice. There is as much to learn from our successes as our failures. Having a private practice is both vivaciously rewarding and remarkably humbling.

To  close, what’s your vision for your practice?

My vision changes on a month to month, year to year basis. My current overall vision for my practice is to allow it to thrive. I know what it looks like now and look forward to seeing what the future holds.

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