Starting a Practice

Practice Management for Psychiatrists:  the Basics

Created by the American Psychiatric Association’s Office of Healthcare Systems and Financing, this online handbookprovides APA members with an overview of many of the things they need to be aware of as a psychiatrist.  Although specifically designed to meet the needs of Residents and Early Career Psychiatrists (ECPs), the information it contains may also be of value to those who have been in practice for years.  Review the Table of Contents.

The handbook is divided into seven sections.  Each section has been reviewed and revised as necessary.

  • Starting Out: information on how to find a position or decide where to go into private practice and how to obtain the necessary licensing and certification
  • Establishing Your Own Practice: practical issues involved in establishing a private practice.
  • Maintaining Your Practice: ongoing issues encountered in private practice.
  • Patient Care Issues: specifically related to your contacts with patients, including confidentiality, duty to warn, informed consent, civil commitment and medical records.
  • Managed Care Issues: a framework for psychiatrists who want to work in managed care networks; summarizes those topics most often addressed by the Office of Healthcare Systems and Financing on behalf of the mentally ill and those issues most often cited by APA members calling the Managed Care HelpLine. We begin with a definition of managed care and then proceed from signing a contract with an MCO on to appealing denials and getting help.
  • Professional Issues:  ethical issues encountered in the practice of psychiatry, as well as managing relationships with patients, reducing malpractice risk, and practice guidelines.
  • Legal Issues: key legal issues encountered by psychiatrists, including information about Medicare and Medicaid, definitions of what constitutes fraud and abuse, a brief discussion of ERISA, antitrust issues, and an introduction to the National Practitioner Data Bank.

The Handbook also includes a bibliography and a glossary as well as twenty-six practical appendices.  Of particular interest may be Appendix D, Utilizing the APA and Its Resources, which provides a compendium of the services the APA offers along with phone numbers to access them.

If there are any issues we haven’t touched on in the handbook that you feel need to be covered, or if you have any other comments, please contact us at the APA’s Office of Healthcare Systems and Financing. You can reach us by phone through the Practice Management Helpline at 703.343.4671, by fax at 703.907.1089, and by e-mail at


More online/print practice resources supported by OHSF:

Quick Practice Management Guides – Documents exploring common practice management issues encountered by psychiatrists.

Information on Mental Health Parity can be found on the APA website under Managing A Practice or on the APA co-sponsored site