Category: Tips for Therapists

October 26, 2017

By Steve Litt, LCSW


No one prepared most Clinicians for the rigors of private practice. There surely were no classes discussing chairs, love seats, couches, art, plants and lighting, waiting room music, magazines, sound proofing and lighting. That’s what I, in all humbleness, want to offer in this post. These are my views after 50 years of being a therapist and sometime client. I did visit Freud’s office in Vienna and while I loved seeing it I disliked it to my very core. See Photo.


First, a waiting room should be inviting and give a good first impression. Make sure it is really sound proof. If clients can hear what’s going on in another office, how secure can they feel about confidentiality? Magazines should be kept current. Music helps if its chosen wisely and softly. Radio is not preferred.

A children’s reading area is helpful and keeping the books clean and replacing torn or defaced books is necessary. Keep adding new children’s books.

Lighting should be moderate. Dim lighting is depressing for most people and too bright lighting is not relaxing. Some reasonable art is useful but don’t make it an expense. Comfortable chairs and maybe one love seat are my recommendations. Chairs allow clients to choose more than a sofa or love seat, but one works for those who want closeness in the waiting room.

Paperwork can be in the waiting room or you can send it out via email. I prefer to have clients fill it out once they show up. That way I can answer any questions and calm any concerns that the emailed form may produce.



Plants, live ones, show you can be a person that keeps things alive. Dead, dying and plastic plants don’t reflect well on you. Your art work should not be too personal, but don’t be afraid of letting your clients know who you are and what you enjoy.

I prefer chairs rather than love seats and sofas. I want to be able to move people around easily. I like having my own chair that is different from the client chairs. It’s a boundary thing.

An orderly desk, book shelves, handouts, and my card are always present. I like a refrigerator in the room and offer water to any client once. After that, I tell them its OK to grab a bottle of water when they want to. I am surprised how many bring their own water anyway.

The lighting in the room should reflect the same ambience as the waiting room. Low lights are depressing and bright are too harsh. Natural light supplemented by moderate indoor lighting sets the tone.

Sound proofing is a big deal and should be paid attention to as much or more than anything. I want my clients to raise voices, cry, and laugh without being self conscious or restrained. Most importantly I don’t want them to hear other clients or therapists if we have a moment of silence.

My first office was a good coat of neutral colored paint, a bunch of plants, a handful of directors’ chairs and a few framed posters. I must have spent $400 (in today’s dollars) on decorating my office. I loved it and so did my clients. You don’t always need to spend a lot to make your clients feel safe and relaxed when they visit.

ANY Questions or Comments?

July 24, 2016

By Steve Litt, LCSW

If you are starting a private practice you probably know there are many ways to fail. Here I give you 50 that occur to me. I am open to hear any additions you might have. PLEASE!!

Of course, I have made a lot of mistakes in my 49 years of practice, the biggest may be telling you how many years I’ve been at this. Some are obvious and some you may not agree with. The idea is get you thinking about how to be successful.

I want you to succeed. My life has been wonderful and a great deal of that is a direct result of my private practice and the flexibility and freedom it has offered me.

The 50

1. Spend too much on furniture and rent.

2. Rely on someone else to build and maintain your website.

3. “Specialize” in everything.

4. Only go into the office when you have appointments.

5. Only do PR when your caseload is low.

6. Only bill monthly.

7. Only take insurance.

8. Refuse to take insurance or learn how to help your clients with claims.

9. Stay in your office and only go to required CEU workshops.

10.  Work alone and don’t share your struggles with others.

11. “Coach” folks and avoid the problems of a state license.

12. Dress like the dork that you really are.

11. Take your time returning calls because you are only working those hours.

12. Limit yourself to a structured week, let others be flexible around you.

13. Don’t keep up with current theories, those you learned in grad school were enough.

14. No need to get supervision after you get that license…YOU’RE A PROFESSIONAL.

15. Do all your own finances.

16. Don’t worry about disability insurance.

17. Get the least expensive liability insurance.

18. Have long deep conversations with new callers who want to find a therapist.

19.  Decorate in the most expensive way you can to show how successful you hope to be.eames+3

20. Practice outside of your area(s) of expertise…I mean its called PRACTICE, isn’t it?

21. Tell addicts you can’t work with them unless they get clean/sober first.

22. Work alone and don’t mix in with other therapists.

23. Avoid reading in the field. Just stack the old books in your office.

24. Do the minimum post degree education.

25. Rely on just a few good referral sources.

26. Don’t let your clients know anything about you.

27. Tell your clients all about you.

28. Don’t bother knowing the ethical or legal standards of your profession

29. Get as many credentials as you can and plaster them on the walls

30. Answer phone calls during sessions. It might be a new referral!!

31. Fall asleep in a session.

32. Personal Hygiene isn’t important. Especially that spinach in your teeth after lunch.

33.Tell couples that are tough to work with that maybe they weren’t meant to be together.

34. Have inappropriate financial or sexual relationships with a few “special” clients.

35. Spend more time talking than your clients. After all they came to see you and you’re smart.

36. Always refer to your life story for inspirational examples to share with clients.

37. Don’t communicate with others who work with your clients. What do teachers, doctors, former therapists have to offer, anyway.

38. Don’t take vacations, You don’t get paid, so only take off when you have no appointments.

39. Locate your office far from public transportation.

40. Find a cheap office that has no handicap access.

41. Don’t provide water, kleenex, or snacks.

42. Don’t read the newspapers in your area.

43. Avoid joining other professionals in study groups.

44.  See as many clinical hours a week as you can schedule. No need to pace yourself.

45. Don’t ask about messy problems that might make you uncomfortable.

46. Never learn your weaknesses and ignore feedback.

47. Never submit to getting therapy for yourself. You couldn’t possibly improve yourself.

48. Eat meals while talking to clients. That is really efficient.

49.  Never ask for help from other therapists.

50. Ignore everything on this list. What the hell does Steve know?