Your therapy practice name will be the first information a potential new client learns about you. What should your name communicate to a client? In what areas do you specialize? What names are available? We’ll answer these questions here.
Overall, I would also caution you to not overthink the subject. In an ideal world, you would know the right name for you according to what you think 10 years from now; however, that’s not a possibility. So, you can plan for the long-term, but you can’t know the future, which is one reason to follow a more generic and flexible set of guidelines below. Keep in mind that you can always change or add to your business name in the future in the event, for example, that you choose to become known as an expert in a specific area.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but in general, using your name as the actual therapy practice name risks limiting the growth of your practice or confusing potential clients. If your name is highly unique, then spelling errors become a greater possibility, making it harder for you to be found online and elsewhere by referrals. If it is a more common name, then you’re at risk of being confused with another mental health practitioner who carries the same name. Finally, should other associates want to join your practice, having your name on the door may already be a signal to them not to stay – and instead to take what they learn from you eventually to start their own competing practice (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we can’t in good conscience give you bad business advice).
There are exceptions to this rule: if you are a well-known expert already, you know for certain you will want to practice on your own for the long-term, and/or you have a very unique and easy to spell name. You may also just really, really want to have your name as the actual business name, and if you feel that passionate about it, you should probably follow your heart.
Pro-tip: You can add “& Associates” in the future to accommodate long-term growth if necessary.
If you know long-term you plan to practice in a given area and exactly what you want to specialize in (or even generally), you can consider a combination of the “location” + “area of specialization” as a form of a name. For example, if you are a family therapist specializing in children and divorces in Washington, D.C., your website name could be washingtondcdivorcetherapist.com.
This very literal take on a business name will also give you points on Google and, more importantly, clients will understand exactly how you can help them more quickly. Related, you could also use dcdivorcetherapist.com, excluding Washington, to make it even simpler.
Though your website name may not technically be the name of the practice itself, keep in mind that it will be the first area of association between who you are and how you can help them. Even the process of typing your website address in more than once will likely have a greater effect on the business name they conceive of regarding your practice (outside of looking for you by name, that is).
Similarly, if you anticipate bringing on other therapists with the same specialization, something like “Family Therapists Of Washington, D.C.” might be even better. This is all just food for thought.
The name of your practice, both online and in the real world, will be how people come to know you for years. It also has other unanticipated consequences, such as the ease of eventually selling the practice (should you choose to do so). If the brand is literally you, that’s a more challenging sale than if it the brand itself is a little more targeted or generic (see advice point #2 above), and you just happen to be the primary therapist.
Not surprisingly, the income of therapists in private practice goes up over time, and a key driver of that is the consistency of the practice name (in relation to a perception of quality, of course) over the years. A clear, long-term oriented practice name has the result of turning every single person you contact ever into a possible referral source, partner, or even client that helps the practice succeed. I know this kind of business thinking might seem a crude, but it’s the honest truth.
Your clients, depending on your area of specialization may or may not be looking for something definitively medical. They may not think of themselves as needing something medical. Basically, the words “clinic,” “behavioral,” “institute,” and others that may give the client the perception that they are somehow ill or requiring of study may turn them off from seeking help from you. You probably already know that intuitively, but it’s just something to be aware of.
Legal stuff…yay! No, but really, have a look just to be safe.
And that’s it. Beyond those guidelines, just go with your instincts. Your psychotherapy practice name is you, the most important person in your practice. So, look inward, and you’ll find what is likely a very fine name.