Lessons learned after 11 years in Private Occupational Therapy Practice

Lessons learned after 11 years in Private Occupational Therapy Practice

November 12, 2013 - 8:27 pm
My story


  • A little over 11 years ago I started dreaming about starting my own private occupational therapy practice after a decade of mostly public work as an occupational therapist


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  • I was training to run a marathon for Team Diabetes in memory of my mother.  When I started to run, I could barely make it around the block.  And quite frankly, I knew just as little about running a business as I did about training to run a marathon.  And had just as little business experience and ability as I did running.  Given that I walk faster than I run, training gave me a lot of time to think and dream and plan about this intended private practice of mine.


  • So, I did what many entrepreneurs do, I created a job for myself and hung out my shingle.  10 years later, I have a team of occupational therapists that has fluctuated between 5 and 10, who work with me in 3 to 4 cities in Atlantic Canada.  They work as much or as little as they want.  And that job I created for myself?  It is now my passion.


  • And after a decade of running my private practice, I also decided to launch eBooks to share my best occupational therapy resources, activities and advice for parents, teachers, caregivers and therapistsnot just our clients.


So after 20 years as an OT, 11 of them in private practice, what are my top lessons learned?


I am not everything to everyone.  To my clients and therapists on my team:  I always try to be the best for you.  But I have learned that I serve you best by realizing that I am not always it!  So, now I always try to ask for and get you the best help, and sometimes I have to admit that I am not the best help even though I want to be.


Not every idea of mine is a good one.  That doesn’t mean you should stop having many ideas.   Or stop running them by caring friends who will always say good things about them.  But my best advice is to run your ideas by people who you don’t think will like them in addition to your ever supportive friends. Good (read critical) feedback will save you your well-earned time and money. Good experience from a bad idea can be helpful, but you are wiser to spend your time and money on the best idea.  I always have ideas on how occupational therapy can help everyone.  I have learned that it is best to only move forward on the great ones.

I used to think, go with your gut.  But now I don’t.  Really.  Neither should you go with the example of someone else, even in your field.  Go with your detailed research.  It isn’t rock, paper, scissors; your research always wins.  To my clients, you are always worthy of my research.  With two decades (yikes!) of being an occupational therapist, I do have a lot of experience, but I always, always want to check in and check-up to be evidence informed with best practices in my work with you.  I read about occupational therapy constantly, local, national and international books, journals, newsletters, social media and everything good I can find on the internet.  It is the best use of my time, because it means in occupational therapy, my OTs and I can do what works best first.


P.S. So, I finished that one and only marathon, upright, smiling, with stories and lessons in abundance to share.  Ask me about it! Someday, I plan one day to cross the finish line of my private practice in exactly the same way.  No worries, there is no impending wrap-up of me being an occupational therapist in private practice!  I plan on a few decades more of fun and hard work to come and a lot more to share with you.


My reflections on being an occupational therapist in private practice for a decade were first shared on this Clinic Server blog post.  I am proud to say that excerpts of it were also used for their Be A #smartclinician eBook edited by inspiring colleague occupational therapist Kelly Lawson.


Share in comments below what you think we should accomplish in our next decade!  We want to hear what you want from private occupational therapy!

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