15 STEPS To Starting a Canadian Private Practice
Note: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.
1. Get certified/ licensed
First things first: become a Certified Canadian Counsellor, this will allow you to get liability insurance. You’ll also be able to sign up with a few insurance companies whose members may get reimbursed for their counselling sessions. Ideally, also get licensed so that your can sign up for A LOT more insurance companies that potential clients might have benefits with. Right now Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia are the only provinces where you can become licensed. To learn more at:
2. Get liability insurance
Once you’re a certified CCPA member you can get liability insurance through BMS. Learn more at:
3. Name your private practice
Naming your practice after yourself can seem like a simple solution BUT if you ever want to hire other counsellors or sell your business it can become A LOT trickier. Check out this great article that can help you decide:
4. Register your business
Check the rules in your province; all I can say is that in Nova Scotia you need to register your business if it is not your name:
5. Get an HST # for your business
Since we are not regulated in five provinces (yet) we have to charge HST for anything over $30 000. I recommend you speak with an accountant to decide when you get your HST# and when you should start charging. Learn more about HST numbers at:
6. Find office space
Start off small. Speak to other health practitioners (naturopaths, massage therapists, other counsellors etc.) to see if you can rent a room from them for a day or for a couple hours a week as you build your client base. Learn more about how to rent Canadian office space at:
7. Get an office phone number
I use Grasshopper, which has cheap rates and allows me to use my personal phone. Check them out at:
8. Get business cards
I use MOO because of their stylish cards. Check it out at:
9. Find a niche
Figure out what you are going to specialize in. Hesitant to choose a niche? Read this:
And then click here to figure out what you’ll specialize in:
10. Build a website
I use and LOVE Brighter Vision! They specialize in creating counselling websites and offer unlimited support, an email address, AND SEO. Check out my website at: www.insightmentalhealth.ca and if you want to try Brighter Vision out you can get ONE MONTH FREE! at:
And click here to learn more about building your Canadian counselling website:
11. Figure out how you’re going to store client records
The are many awesome electronic management systems (EMRs) that offer secure online notes and scheduling. I also keep some parts of client’s files in a locked file cabinet. Get free trials when you try:
Simple Practice at: www.fearlesspractice.com/simplepractice (US)
OWL at: www.fearlesspractice.com/OWL (Canadian)
Before choosing your system make sure you are compliant with Canada’s privacy laws: https://vsee.com/blog/hipaa-canada-health-information-privacy/.
12. Develop a paperwork packet that includes consent forms and your business policy.
Learn how to create your own or purchase a premade (US) paperwork packet at:
13. Decide on your price for your services
Here’s a great article about how to do so:
14. Join Psychology Today
Many potential clients find counsellors on this site (I’ve gotten many from this site!). Check it out at:
15. Join Open Path Collective
Give back by offering a couple of slots for clients that cannot afford your full fee. I have found that it gets very complicated and annoying negotiating a sliding scale with clients. This site takes out the bargaining. You have your full fee or your Open Path fee PLUS it’s free to join. Here’s the link:
and you can see how I advertise it on my fee page here:
Disclaimer: The information provided through this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not clinical or consulting advice. E-subscribers and website visitors are receiving general advertising and information about starting a Canadian private practice and should not act upon this information without seeking professional consultation.
Julia Smith, MEd, RCT-C, CCC, is the owner of Fearless Practice. She specializes in consulting with Canadian counsellors and therapists who want to start private practice. Julia has a part-time private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia and works as a part-time counsellor at Dalhousie University. She also blogs for the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. You can read more articles about Canadian counselling and psychotherapy at www.ccpa-accp.ca/blog/.