Are you a psychologist, counsellor, therapist or wellbeing / health practitioner and want to be your own boss? Do you dream of having freedom and flexibility with your working hours, your clients, your therapy room or treatment room? Then read on! This series of blogs is all about how to find clients in private practice, how to find a room to rent, how to build up a network with other professionals, how to establish your fee, how to market yourself, amongst other helpful bits and bobs. We are writing this blog from the perspective of a clinical psychologist in private practice in Bearsden, Glasgow but the same principles will apply no matter where you live or what your profession is! First up is:
HOW TO FIND A THERAPY ROOM TO RENT
One of the key things to think about is where you will see your clients. Most clinicians prefer to rent a therapy / consultation room somewhere although some people practice from their home. Things to consider include confidentiality, soundproofing, safety, security, isolation, warmth, and that all important therapeutic feel. Depending on your line of work, working from home might not always be ideal if you have kids around who may overhear or interrupt sessions, attention loving pets or noisy / nosy neighbours!
The therapeutic environment can help clients feel safe, secure and valued by the very room that they are in, indeed if these needs aren’t met then it’s really hard to focus on the actual session. The therapy room is hugely important in terms of the size, facilities available and the therapeutic ‘feel’. We have seen and worked in some counselling rooms that have stains on the walls and floor, have paper thin walls with zero confidentiality, have tired looking uncomfortable furniture and some can feel more ‘clinical’ than therapeutic if they have sinks and examination tables. It’s important to have the little touches (which can often be huge touches) like having art on the wall, having fresh flowers and plants, soft carpeting, fresh neutral coloured paint, comfortable furniture, adequate heating, soft lighting and so on. Soundproofed rooms are also hugely important so sessions can be as confidential as possible.
Despite the recommendations of working from home during COVID, this is not always possible or the ideal solution for both client and therapist. Many clients (and therapists) cannot have sessions from their homes physically or online due to poor soundproofing, confidentiality, children or other family members being at home, loud noise levels, poor WiFi, difficulty using online technology, postal deliveries turning up or the phone going off right in the middle of a session, argh! Yes you may save on some costs but does your home have the adequate physical space, have the professional image you wish to portray, how would you manage the boundaries of clients knowing where you live, and does working from home have any impact on your house insurance or professional insurance? Some clients also find it really hard to talk about certain topics online and it can sometimes be tricky to communicate in more subtle ways when it’s exclusively online. There’s also the nightmare of Zoom suddenly losing connection and stopping the session with no warning (or possibly turning you into a cat like that poor American lawyer!!).
Some clients may also feel a bit uncomfortable with therapists being ‘in’ their home if they are working online. We did a survey in June 2020 and asked clients about what they would prefer and 75% stated they would prefer face to face work, with a further 21% feeling unsure and only 4% saying they preferred online work. Many stated that the journey to and from the therapy venue was really important and helpful to them as it helps create a boundary between the session and then going back home. The therapy room can also be quite a calm, safe and familiar place in a world that is so chaotic and stressful and many clients therefore hugely benefit from face to face work. A rented therapy room can therefore often provide a far more professional experience, for both the client and the practitioner. This should obviously be COVID safe though which brings us to our next point…
IMPORTANCE OF A COVID SAFE VENUE
In 2021 it’s also now really important to think of how COVID safe your therapy room is. Things to consider are rooms being large enough for over 2 metre social distancing, rooms having windows that open wide enough to allow for good ventilation, hand washing facilities in the form of plenty soap, a sink and warm water, hand sanitiser available at the entrance to the venue and in the therapy room. Having face masks available for use is an added bonus although most people bring their own (although it’s easy to forget to bring one with you all the time!). Having a small footfall in a venue is also important to keep any crowds down. Working in small poky rooms with no windows or ventilation would be difficult to justify now in terms of COVID safety. Measures to limit the spread of COVID will be around for quite some time yet so these are all really important points to keep you and your clients safe at this time. Having excellent WiFi at a venue is also a must these days since many practitioners are now working online alongside face to face sessions. Being able to do this from a familiar and quiet therapy space rather than your own home can be a huge bonus.
We have made sure that the therapy rooms to rent at The Wellbeing Rooms in Bearsden tick all these points above and we understand the importance of this. Indeed, many of our renting practitioners have said our venue has been ‘an absolute godsend’ to them and their clients through COVID.
SO WHERE DO I FIND A THERAPY ROOM?
Some people rent a therapy room from an established building which has rooms to rent out. These tend to be business centres or serviced offices which are geared towards any sort of room use so don’t often tend to have client therapeutic needs in mind. We ourselves have had a long road of trial and error regarding finding a suitable therapy room venue. Not so great points of some ‘therapy rooms’ we have worked from or viewed have been tiny rooms with no windows, having to clean up after other people who’ve rented the room, room chairs that are far from comfy, automatic room lights that just randomly switch off to save electricity, other room renters talking loudly right outside our doors, venues that have very little flexibility regarding room booking times, rooms with barely any soundproofing or confidentiality. We once worked in a makeshift room in a private gym which was far from ideal as children would run up and down the corridor outside playing and shrieking, meetings would be held in the room next door with inadequate soundproofing, staff would just walk into the ‘therapy room’ despite a do not disturb sign being on the door! It’s experiences like this that made us desperately seek a better venue!!
Places to look for a therapy rooms include searching the internet for therapy rooms in the geographical area you wish to work from. Websites such as ‘UK Therapy Rooms’ (https://www.uktherapyrooms.co.uk) are great and have listings for therapy room venues in various areas across the UK. Asking around other people within your profession might help you discover places that are recommended. The cost of renting rooms can vary and important things to consider are whether you need a room just for a few hours here and there or whether you will be using it regularly every week. Some room rental buildings require you to pay upfront for (e.g.) 3 months rent plus deposit which can be a fair outlay. Watch out for VAT too that may be added on top of any prices that are quoted! This longer-term payment usually doesn’t allow for any breaks for when you aren’t using the room so this can be quite a pricey option if you aren’t going to be using your room too much or if you are unable to use your room for any reason (like a global pandemic!!).
Other places may use a ‘block booking’ system where you have to agree to pay for a minimum number of hours use a week. This can be a great way to guarantee that you have the same room and same hours each week and can give a feeling of freedom and flexibility with how you use your time within your block, whilst not having the huge outlay to secure a permanent room. The Wellbeing Rooms offers block booking for a minimum of 4 hours a week at a reduced rate compared to ad hoc booking. However, block booking might not suit everyone if their diary shifts around a lot or if they don’t have many clients. Ad hoc booking essentially means you can book a room more flexibly as and when you need it, without having to sign up to a minimum number of hours each week. This can be great if you don’t plan on renting a room regularly but the downsides can be that there’s no guarantee that the room will be available when you want it. It may also cost slightly more per hour compared to the block booking rates. So it’s worth thinking about what sort of room use is best for your own needs, style and practice.
It’s also important to think about how easy it is to book a room. Some places have easy to use online booking systems and others require separate emails to be sent for each request (which can be a total pain especially when there’s no reply… we speak from experience!). The Wellbeing Rooms uses an online booking system called Skedda which is very user friendly and clinicians can book rooms themselves as and when they need to.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I CONSIDER??
With the advent of so many of us now working online and frequently using the internet it’s important to check if the room rental building offers dedicated desk space and WiFi and if this is an additional cost or not. An important consideration is who else is using the building. You don’t want a bunch of workers shouting loudly in the corridors to their colleagues to ‘CAN YOU MAKE ME CUP OF TEA!!!! TWO SUGARS!!!!!’ while you are next door in the middle of a therapy session (again, we speak from experience!). Isolation, safety and security are other important things to consider when looking for a therapy room to rent. Who will be in the building when you’re in? How will you access your room? Do you have to work within certain hours if the building is locked after a certain time? Would you be given your own building keys? How secure is the building? Is there a receptionist or not?
Another massive benefit to working from a rented therapy room is the opportunity to meet other like-minded professionals. One of the downsides of private practice and working from home is the isolation that this can often bring. Renting a room and meeting others who may also use the room or building can help to develop a network of personal and professional contacts who you can then interact with and share work related ideas and even referrals!
Accessibility is important to consider too in terms of wheelchair access, being near public transport links and near good parking spots. Toilet facilities are a must too and working in a building without a toilet would be nigh on impossible both for a therapist working there for many hours but also for clients. Kitchen facilities are a bonus too although in the advent of COVID many people are bringing their own refreshments to work and to sessions.
We are confident that The Wellbeing Rooms Bearsden ticks all of the points in this blog (with the exception of wheelchair accessibility unfortunately due to there being stairs) and we have done our utmost to make it as therapeutic a venue as possible, in addition to it being a welcoming and easy to use place for practitioners. We hope you have found this article helpful and if you are in Glasgow and are seeking the perfect therapy room you may have just found it. Just drop us a line if you wish to discuss anything!