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The Practice of Therapy Podcast ( helps therapists, counselors, and other mental health clinicians start, build and grow in their private practices.  Whether you are just starting into private practice or have been in it a while, The Practice of Therapy Podcast will give you information to help you grow and succeed!

Jun 11, 2018

Dayna Sykes- Making the JumpIn this episode of the Practice of Therapy Podcast, Gordon talks with Dayna Sykes, LPC about making the transition into private practice from agency work.  In particular, Dayna talks about being able to start doing the kind of work she is really passionate about and doing things her way. Dayna also talks about the big learning curve for her as she moved into private practice, especially since she is a solo practitioner.  Gordon and Dayna also talk about getting on and OFF insurance panels and what that process has been like for Dayna. Dayna also talks about how she developed her niche and the transitions she made around that. They also talk about the importance of not being too isolated in your practice and drawing on the support and help of others.

Meet Dayna Sykes

Dayna Sykes, LPC-MHSP is the owner of Gordonsville Counseling & Play Therapy in Gordonsville, TN (cool name by the way!). Her website is   Dayna specializes in working with teens who are struggling with anxiety and depression.

Dayna received her B.S.W. in Social Work at Middle Tennessee State University in 2002 and was able to jump right into a career with an agency working as an In-home Family Counselor. This job equipped her for her specialty in teenage issues and parent training. She worked there for 7 years in several different positions to include In-home Family Counselor, Crisis Counselor, In-home and Transitional Living Supervisor, and Clinical Consultant and Trainer for the Middle Tennessee Region. While working for the agency, Dayna started attending Argosy University where she obtained her M.A. in Professional Counseling and worked to complete requirements for her License in Professional Counseling, which she completed in 2010.

Dayna says, “I’m a Private Practice Owner, Licensed Child and Teen Therapist- small-town practitioner with big dreams!  Wife and mom of 2, baseball mom, farm life, spend my me time running and reading.”

Why Private Practice

One of the main reasons people make the transition into private practice from being at an agency is out of a desire to be more independent and be their own boss.  For Dayna, her decision to go into private practice was mainly motivated by her desire to have more time for her family. She made the transition to private practice after having her first child.

For others, the motivation to move into private practice from an agency setting is around being able to set your own niche and doing therapy your own way.  Many times, agencies have a certain model or method of doing therapy that they expect their clinicians to follow. Not to mention the amount of time spent with clients and being able to give some extra attention to cases.

Other motivations for private practice come from being more financially independent. Earning potential for many agencies is based solely on getting raises and/or company wage standards.  In private practice, especially for owners of the practice, you have more opportunity to increase your income and determine when and how you want to work.

Beating the Learning Curve

Going into private practice, especially as a solo practitioner, requires learning a lot.  There are so many processes and logistics to learn from the beginning. Hopefully, we don’t have to learn too much from our mistakes, but they do help us learn nonetheless.

Dayna and Gordon talk about being able to draw on supports to help with the learning curve.  Things like this podcast and others can provide so much needed information to help counselors and therapists in their private practice journeys.

Finding the Right Niche

Dayna also talks about how she developed and found the right niche for her in her practice. For her, she had a passion of play therapy that she developed in graduate school. When she was working for the agency, she felt limited by what she wanted to do with clients.  

Originally she had intended to just work with adults in her private practice.  But as she saw the need, it helped her to reconnect with her former passion. This helped her to create her niche which ended up being a better fit for her after all; working with teens using play therapy.

Working With Your Ideal Clients

When we work with our ideal clients, it just makes us do better clinical work. If you are working with populations that of people.  If you find yourself working with people that you have difficulty connecting to or just simply don’t enjoy, you should probably do something else.

Working with your ideal client will help you stay energized and actually look forward to going to work every day.  A lot of times, that is the missing piece for people when working for an agency.

Drawing On Supports

One of the mistakes that many people new to private practice do, is trying too hard to go it alone.  As was mentioned, being in private practice, especially as a solo practitioner, can be lonely and isolating. That is why it is so important to be intentional about connecting with other practitioners and collaborating.

Another point to consider about collaboration is to get away from a mindset of seeing other practitioners as competition.  It’s a mindset of scarcity rather than abundance. The truth of the matter is there are more than enough potential clients for all of us. They will come to us or our colleagues based on any number of factors.  People choose therapists based on who they see as a good fit for them. We don’t have to compete for clients. In fact, it’s a “win, win” when we refer to each other and help potential clients find the best fit for them.

Take Home Points:

Be willing to accept being on a “huge learning curve” when you are starting out in private practice.

  • Know your reasons for going into private practice
  • Figure out your ideal client(s) and base your niche on that ideal client
  • Don’t let  yourself get isolated; reach out to colleagues
  • Collaborate rather than compete


Resources Mentioned:

Dayna Sykes, LPC-S. MHSP –

Session Note Helper™-

Apply to join a Mastermind Group –