Ursula Kerr: Take a Risk, Start a Private Practice, and Be Your Own Boss | Ep 87

Ursula Kerr took many risks and leaps of faith, and through those moments of struggle and uncertainty, she has now created a thriving private practice that she enjoys working in each day. Life is not about working, but creating a job that you love doing is a great way to add value (and income) to your life!

By hiring a consultant, getting professional help or advice, and working in your passion and niche, you can create a workplace that you are excited to work in each day. You will do your best work when you feel supported and rested, and even though it can take a while to get there when you are your own boss, it is 100% possible and doable. Take the leap! 

In this podcast episode, Ursula and I discuss her Canadian private practice journey from breaking out of the golden handcuffs of an agency job into building her dream practice. We talk about common struggles, tips, and ways for you to become inspired to take the next step.  

Jane is an all-in-one health and wellness practice management platform designed to be helpful to you, no matter how or where you practice. Available online and on any device, Jane offers branded online booking, beautiful scheduling, insurance management, customizable charting, online intake forms, patient reminders, integrated payment processing, online appointments (telehealth) and more! Use the code FEARLESS at signup to receive your first month completely free!


Ursula is a social worker and therapist in British Columbia with over ten years of experience. She specializes in helping people address feelings of anxiety, with a focus on social anxiety, and trauma. She has a background in child welfare and has done extensive research on human trafficking in Canada. She’s an active member of her community and believes that advocacy work is an essential part of running an ethical practice. When she’s not at work, she can be found buying books she’ll never have time to read and exploring nature.

Learn more about Ursula on her website and Psychology Today profile

In This Episode

  • Getting into private practice 
  • Navigating online and in-person counseling 
  • Be willing to take a risk 
  • The value of a consultant 
  • Marketing tips

Getting into private practice 

At first, the counselling on the side was a source of extra income that Ursula wanted to create. 

After some time, even though Ursula was working in a good agency job, she started to notice that she looked more forward to going to her counseling job than the government one. 

‘I would go to my part-time counselling work and be energized and excited and I would spend time working on the business and I loved it [but] I would not be enjoying going to the agency job, so I knew [that] it was time to make a change.’ – Ursula Kerr 

Ursula had a busy caseload and a waitlist, so there was no lack of work there. She was working in a small town so people knew her well, she had built strong connections within the community, and had been telling people that she was going into counseling full-time. Everything was ready for her to take a risk. 

Even though she had a full caseload, there was a moment of uncertainty and financial strain when Ursula moved from her agency job into full-time private practice. 

‘I had already done it for enough time to know that this [was] normal. It’s normal to have a slow lull in August, it’s normal to have really busy Decembers … I knew what the pattern looked like so that made it much easier.’ – Ursula Kerr 

Navigating online and in-person counseling 

Before the pandemic, Ursula – like most counsellors – primarily worked with her clients in an in-person, one-on-one setting. During and after the pandemic, Ursula also had to quickly learn how to adapt and change her systems to accommodate for the lockdown to offer virtual therapy to her clients. 

However, now that the world is shifting and in-person is becoming more desired again, Ursula is interested in reverting back to working with her clients in reality and not solely online. 

‘I’ve stuck to virtual counseling while I set up my practice in my new town. Truthfully, I love in-person. There’s a feel about being in the same room as somebody, and also, one of the things that’s helped me in my private practice is thinking about the client’s experience from start to finish.’ – Ursula Kerr 

Many of Ursula’s clients have social anxiety, and for them in the beginning of therapy having virtual sessions works great! But for some, being away from a challenging home situation and in the safe environment of Ursula’s in-person offices is more beneficial for other clients. 

Because renting (and furnishing a space) is an additional cost, Ursula has had to budget and plan with her partner about how it can be done. But now that she has moved to Vancouver Island she has chosen to do a percentage split and work at a clinic where she won’t have to worry about billing, booking, or furnishing a room.

Be willing to take a risk 

For Ursula, advocacy is a life value. She incorporates this value and the intentionality that it comes with into her private practice. This type of work and value can seem like a risk, but she made it work, and it brought a whole new aspect of her practice to life. 

Apart from incorporating your values, with Canadian private practice, you can choose your hours, your fee,your preferred niche, and much more! Work does not have to be a struggle and cause burn out. 

‘You just have to be a little bit more willing to take that risk and it almost always works out … in typical agencies there’s very little risk involved in terms of finances … but I have yet to have the experience of it not [working] itself out. The clients will come, you’ll figure it out.’  – Ursula Kerr 

There will be hurdles and struggles every now and then because that is simply a part of life. However, when you are willing to take a risk that could pay off, open new doors for you, or shift your life in a way that you want it to be shifted, then those struggles are often worth the effort. 

‘With a business, with private practice, there needs to be some calculated risks [that are] taken and if you don’t make those calculated risks then you could end up in a spot that isn’t enjoyable for you.’ – Julia Smith 

Quitting the agency, going online, or raising your rates; all of these aspects are risks but they are worth the stress when they go well, so it is worth a shot if you see them within the bigger picture. 

The value of a consultant 

Taking a risk is also where working with a consultant can be a huge help. These people have first-hand experience in going through what you are about to, and they can give you valuable insight and encouragement. 

‘[Consultants] were able to provide me with a lot of guidance. Things that I had never thought of before [they showed me] … it was all of this knowledge that I didn’t know to look for before.’ – Ursula Kerr 

Working with a consultant also helps you to build a practice that is both successful but also ethical. They know what’s required, which documents are necessary, who you should speak to professionally, and which legal papers to get to protect you, your clients, and your business.

Marketing tips

One of the best marketing tips is to create high-quality content like videos and filmed footage for your website. 

Get great quality photographs taken of you in your counselling office, or create videos yourself talking about your work to the camera to give clients a feel of what it would be like to speak and work with you. 

You don’t have to do this alone either! Hire a professional photographer or videographer for an hour and see it as an investment. These pictures and videos can be used all across your social media and present you – and your Canadian private practice – in the best possible light; approachable and professional. 

Connect With Me

Resources Mentioned and Useful Links:

Ep 86: Allyson Gassner: From Practicum to Private Practice | EP 86

Learn more about the tools and deals that I love and use for my Canadian private practice

Sign up for my free e-course on How to Start an Online Canadian Private Practice

Jane App (use code FEARLESS for one month free)

Learn more about Ursula on her website and Psychology Today profile 

Rate, review, and subscribe to this podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, SpotifyAmazon, and TuneIn 

About Julia

Julia Smith, MEd, RCT, CCC is a registered Counselling Therapist who owns a group private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is also the owner of Fearless Practice Consulting and hosts the Fearless Practice podcast. Through the Fearless Practice podcast, she provides invaluable insights and practical advice on starting and growing a successful Canadian private practice. Julia’s wealth of knowledge also extends beyond the podcast, as she provides personalized one-on-one consulting to therapists who are feeling burnt out and overwhelmed with their solo or group private practices. With Julia’s expertise, therapists can confidently navigate the complexities of owning a private practice and find work life – balance. 

Julia also has written articles for the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy association. You can learn more at www.ccpa-accp.ca/blog/.