This content is provided by zynnyme, an affinity partner of AAMFT. This information is not necessarily the view of AAMFT and should not be interpreted as official policy.
You have your degree, supervision hours, training experience, and licensure… but what about a Marriage and Family Therapy private practice? Even though you’ve already invested a LOT of money into your education to become the kind of therapist who makes a real impact on clients, you feel completely out of your element when it comes to the business side of things.
And then there’s the dreaded question:
How much is a Marriage and Family Therapy practice actually going to cost!?
The good news: Much less than you might expect. In fact, all of the money spent on getting you to where you are today in your profession is the greatest expense you’ll need as a therapist. Yes, it’s true that you’ll need to invest some money into private practice, but it’s totally doable.
Your Marriage and Family Therapist practice costs LESS than most businesses.
That’s right — you don’t need hundreds (or even tens) of thousands of dollars to start a successful, values-aligned private practice. It’s all about starting for a low cost and growing as you build a steady caseload of ideal clients to learn from and serve.
So, let’s get right to it!
Here’s how much starting a Marriage and Family Therapist practice really costs…
Checklist: Cost of Starting a Marriage and Family Therapist Private Practice
To make this easy for you, we’re going to cover things one at a time. You’ll be able to check off each of these items once you have what you need, so you can avoid confusion and overwhelm.
Alright, here we go…
- A Physical or Virtual Marriage and Family Therapist Office
Whether you prefer to see clients in person or with secure, HIPAA-compliant telehealth software for online sessions, you need some kind of private space to practice therapy.
If you choose to go the in-office (or hybrid) route, look into subletting an office for $100-200 or less per month. The specific number depends on the area you’re practicing in, of course, but you’ll likely find it’s a lot more affordable than you might’ve expected!
Plus, you won’t have to pay for expensive furniture and may even negotiate a deal where you only start paying for office space after you start seeing clients. My personal experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist was that I only paid for the space when I had clients, and there was an hourly fee that only went up to a max of $75 for a couple night’s worth of rent per month.
> Download our free Office Space Checklist for your private practice
- Private Practice Business Licensing Fees
This depends on where you open your Marriage and Family Therapist practice, but you may need to pay a business licensing fee. You can contact your city to find out, and even if they do require one, the average business license is under $100, so it won’t break the bank.
Investment: $100 to get started
- An EIN and NPI Number
Assuming you have a cash-pay practice, then you don’t even need either of these. But it’s not a bad idea to get an EIN and NPI number anyway — especially since they’re FREE. You can get them online within a few minutes or so, and you’ll need them for any CMS-1500 forms or superbills for client reimbursement… AND if you’re an in-network provider.
- Liability Insurance
I highly recommend you’re protected with liability insurance. You should have access to a range of insurance plans that let you get in a specified number of hours in clinical practice before your annual fee is increased, and there’s general liability insurance you can get as an add-on.
This isn’t something I did when first getting started as a Marriage and Family Therapist because I wasn’t making a lot of money (and, from my perspective, wouldn’t be worth suing), but please consider your own situation when making this decision! We have been a fan of CPH Insurance. In fact, you may already have a liability policy with CPH you received as part of a benefit of your AAMFT membership as a student.
Investment: $450 annually (even with add-on general liability insurance)
- Your Own Business Phone Number
Look into call forwarding services that allow you to reserve one number that automatically forwards all messages to your mobile phone. This’ll save you from the hassle of needing multiple phones, simplifying the process and making it more affordable.
You can even find services where calls outside of business hours are automatically sent to voicemail, which means no disruptive phone calls when you’re not working.
Check out free software like Google Voice, but just be aware of the gray areas of using it — please do your own research to determine what’s best for your needs. Worst case scenario, there’s always an explicitly HIPAA-compliant service for under $20 to get started with.
Investment: $0 + $20/month + cost of your cell phone
- A Secure Email Account
Try out something like Google Workspace for a HIPAA-compliant business email for your Marriage and Family Therapist practice.
- A Private Practice Website
Squarespace, my personal favorite for website hosting, security, and analytics, is one of the best (and easiest to use) options for therapists. WordPress is another option that’s popular, but I don’t recommend it, since the learning curve is a lot higher, and there are greater security concerns if you’re not tech savvy and prefer solutions that require less expertise and setup.
- Practice Management System
Don’t believe the rumors that you don’t need a practice management system to get started as a business owner. Trust me, you definitely do. Not only does it provide a secure, HIPAA-compliant portal for clinical notes; it also organizes your finances, keeps no-shows at a minimum, accepts credit card purchases, eliminates printing costs, and a whole lot more!
This is like hiring a receptionist or assistant for your practice from day one! While the investment of $29-99 might seem high when you think about it as a software, if you think about this as your first hire, there’s no better deal! The Sessions health EHR starts at $0 when you have 3 or fewer clients, so there’s no excuse not to start out on the right foot!
- Clinical Forms
Getting your documentation — informed consent and policies — organized is essential. Good news, your practice management system subscription includes standard informed consents as well as intake forms.
You may also have access to professional organizations like the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) or AAMFT that offer additional templates to their members. Plus, you might even be able to get your paperwork reviewed as another perk of membership!
We recommend whether you have an in-person or virtual practice that you have all clients sign documents online prior to the initial session. This saves time during the intake session, allows clients more time to digest the informed consent, allows them to cancel if they’re not ready to consent, helps secure protected health information, and saves you money on getting a printer!
- Referral Source(s)
As much as I LOVE getting you to the first page of Google through search engine optimization (SEO), there’s nothing wrong with some old-fashioned IRL (in real life) referral sources.
This is especially true if your niche is more on the broad side and the competition to rank on the first page of Google will require months (or years) of effort.
Consider your current and past relationships with therapists and reach out to anyone who you can support in providing (and receiving) referrals for new clients.
NOTE: You want to figure out what works best here for your specific Marriage and Family Therapist practice. That might be in-person referrals or that might be climbing the search engine rankings through SEO by focusing on specific words/phrases your clients are searching for — area-specific therapy, challenges they’re facing, etc. What matters is discovering what works for YOUR situation and clients. Don’t worry about what “everyone else” is doing to get referrals!
- A Wireless Printer
This isn’t a must-have, but it’s a good backup plan if you need to provide physical documentation to clients, such as a credit card receipt for the latest session. Consider investing in an affordable wireless printer if this is an area you think makes sense for you.
- Access to the Internet
Whether you’re using a desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, or tablet, you want to be able to get on the internet and easily access things like your practice management system. You DON’T need anything fancy, but you definitely want to have some basic technology accessible. You can always set up your personal device to be your initial access point for your secure practice management system access.
Investment: $300 for a device + the monthly cost of internet
- OPTIONAL: Business Cards
Let’s be honest: Most people communicate via the internet now, and establishing connections through business cards is a lot less commonplace. If this is important to you, then feel free to invest a little bit of money into physical cards, but the thing worth prioritizing here is to ensure you’re taking other therapists’ cards so you can reach out via phone or email to send a personalized message and start making meaningful professional connections.
- Professional Association Membership
You’re probably already a member of at least one professional association as a Marriage and Family Therapist (if so, make sure to check if you can get a discount on liability insurance!), but if you’re not, it may be worth joining one for the potential benefits and connections.
With that said, only join a professional association if you’ve looked over what membership includes and decided it’s actually worth it for you. Simply being a member of one for the sake of the title is NOT going to help, and you want to save money where you can.
- Private Practice Trainings
The truth is, your graduate program likely gave you eight hours or less of training in how to run a business. And your private practice is just that: a business. Most traditional business trainings don’t cover the nuances and the special legal and ethical requirements of starting a Marriage and Family Therapy practice.
But, we have good news! You’re not alone. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We’ve got 15+ hours of free private practice trainings made by therapists, for therapists. Some of these are even CE-eligible and include checklists and worksheets inside of our Private Practice Trainings Library.
Here are some special trainings you have access to as part of your AAMFT membership as well: (link to the AAMFT recordings we have available where you have them linked on your site)
Additional Costs to Consider
Marriage and Family Therapists in private practice have the opportunity to invest in all different things as they’re building their businesses, such as networking groups, professional certifications, high-level trainings, paid directories, etc. Like most things in life and business, it comes down to deciding what makes the most sense for you.
The Total Cost of Starting a Marriage and Family Therapist Practice
Let’s add up the numbers and leave some extra padding:
- An initial investment of annual fees and purchases: $5,000 or less*
- Initial monthly fees: $400 a month or less*
*Includes a bit higher cost of expenses for padding.
Here’s the GREAT NEWS about what this actually means:
Even in a worst-case scenario where you only have one weekly client that pays $150 per session, you’re already breaking even in your business. That means you can pay off the initial investment for your Marriage and Family Therapist practice in less than a year. With only ONE client!
(Especially if you have a cash-pay client and don’t have to deal with insurance.)
Ready to get started with your own Marriage and Family Therapist practice? We’d love for you to join us in Business School for Therapists, where you’ll have access to all the business-building resources, community, and support you need to start and sustain a thriving practice. Learn more about Business School for Therapists today!