If you have a deep passion or calling for providing your community with specialized Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy services, and you have reached the point where you want to break out to start your own ABA practice, then this ultimate guide to starting an ABA Therapy practice is the perfect place to start. If you are a BCBA then you have likely had the chance to supervise behavior analysis as well as mentor other ABA therapy providers. Though when you start your own ABA clinic, this level of experience and expertise is taken to the next level.
Understanding The Competition for Your ABA Therapy Practice
Starting your own ABA practice comes with a lot of benefits that go beyond financial gain. Not the least of which is to serve your community, with compassion. Though to do so, you need to recognize the local and regional competition to position yourself against it effectively.
The good news is that ABA therapy is one of the fastest-growing segments within the mental healthcare sector. Especially since it has proven to be the gold standard for treating patients with autism spectrum disorder.
Though this also means that there is more than a fair amount of competition for new ABA clinics. So, you will have to be prepared to deal with things like:
- Competing clinics and practices at the local and state level
- Mental healthcare franchises with access to broad-spectrum marketing
- Private equity-owned mental healthcare corporations
Though even in the face of all this, being able to offer locally based ABA therapy services helps position you against the competition. Especially if that competition doesn’t have a clinic at the community level. Families are far more likely to partner with a local ABA practitioner who is at the local level over traveling to a regional clinic, which often has the stereotype of being dispassionate with their care.
Understanding the Administrative Side of an ABA Therapy Practice
While operating your own ABA therapy practice is personally rewarding, you still need to mind the administrative aspects of running what is still essentially a small business. Launching your own ABA practice starts with a significant financial investment. While the administrative side of operating your own ABA therapy practice might not be the most exciting aspect for you as a therapist, you can always turn to other professionals to help manage the financial details.
This could mean hiring your administrative staff, including an accountant, a receptionist, and other administrative specialists. Though a lot of small and solo ABA therapy practices these days are outsourcing to third-party vendors to handle things like medical billing services, at a cost that is far lower than hiring an employee to do so.
Finding The Right Type of Funding
Regardless of whether you are starting a small, local business, or you are looking to build out a franchise, you will need funding. There are several pathways worthy of consideration. This includes:
- A self-funded practice
- Seeking investors with a profit stake in your practice
- Securing financing through specialized lenders or banks
- Applying for grants through organizations like SAMHSA or HRSA
Securing an SBA Line of Credit
Finding funding from local government and private company grants
Creating A Sound Business Plan
Every successful business needs a strong business plan. This is especially true for an ABA therapy practice. Your business plan should serve as a guide for the business aspect of your practice and should include metrics that help you track your goals and achievements. It’s also worth bearing in mind that investors will want to see your business plan before signing off on any funding. Ideally, your ABA therapy practice’s business plan to include:
- The practice’s value proposition
- Your practice’s mission statement
- Your vision for the practice in the long & short-term
- A sound financial forecast
- Target market insights
- An honest competitor analysis
- The unique selling points that separate you from the rest of the market
Choosing Your Business Model and Registering Your ABA Business
Choosing Your Business Model
Just like any startup or small business, you need to choose a business plan that best fits your vision for your ABA therapy practice.
A sole proprietor means that you are the only owner of what is essentially an unincorporated company. This also means that you only pay personal income taxes, and can keep the rest of the profits. It also comes with unlimited liability, which might be an issue if you need to secure capital funding.
Equal partnerships, limited partnership, and a limited liability partnership each business type that can share profits and risks with one or more co-owners. This might be another ABA therapist, or someone else in the mental healthcare industry from a different, complementary discipline. It also means that paying taxes, profits, losses, and liability is shared among the partners.
A Limited Liability Company
An LLC is a legal entity that is regulated by prevailing state laws. An LLC can be treated as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation, depending on the number of owners. There are a lot more rules, paperwork, and documentation that come with operating an LLC. Though this business structure can help protect you financially if your ABA therapy practice suffers significant losses.
A lot of solo ABA therapy practices choose an LLC business model over setting up a sole proprietorship or partnership, as it offers the legal protection to operate with peace of mind. Though you might need to also factor in the costs of retaining a lawyer early on to ensure that all the paperwork and documentation is handled correctly.
Establishing Policies, Contracts, & Compliance Standards
Another important component of starting a thriving ABA therapy practice calls for establishing policies, active legal contracts and compliance standards to clearly define the relationship between you as the ABA provider and your clients. This includes things like:
Billing & Fees
A lot of payment models include fee-per-service as well as predetermined per-person payments. These contracts need to outline billing schedules, cancellation fees, and accepted payment types
Privacy policies with terms and conditions of service are essential to any mental healthcare practice. It also establishes procedures for how you handle sensitive data such as a patient’s medical history and conditions.
As an ABA therapy provider, you need to be mindful of your liability risks. Identifying them as part of your business plan and including waivers for certain services can help protect you from legal action later.
Deciding On An Administrative Staff
A lot of solo ABA therapy providers struggle with handling the nuts and bolts details of administrative tasks. Yet bringing on employees comes with additional risks and costs that can make it hard to scale your practice in the early years. Outsourcing your administrative needs to third-party agencies can help reduce your burden while allowing you to stay focused on treating your new patients.
This is one of the big reasons why a lot of ABA therapy providers will partner with Operant Billing Solutions to handle their coding and medical billing needs. The cost is often far less than bringing in additional administrative staff, while also maximizing your clinical hours to keep your small practice growing.
You also get the benefit of knowing that your medical billing needs are being handled by highly trained and experienced professionals. This goes a long way toward preventing claim rejections and denials that can hamper your revenue stream.