Report From the States

Psychological Characteristics of the Private Practitioner

Edward Sodaro, Jr., MD and Jennifer Ball, CSW

Twelve health care practitioners with a commitment to private practice were interviewed to determine common factors in attitude and motivation. Interviewed were 8 physicians, two psychologists, one dentist, and one psychiatric social worker. All were from New York except for one each from Virginia and California. Seven of the professionals studied received less than 50 percent of their practice income from managed care and five had no managed care contracts.

Psychological characteristics present included:

Profound loyalty and devotion to patients: Their patients respond in kind with reciprocal allegiance and loyalty which is very emotionally rewarding for the practitioner.

Commitment to professional growth: The providers studied all stay current with the state of the art. This allowed patients and referral sources to feel confident of clinical competence.

Conviction: Successful private practitioners believe in themselves, in their skill, and in their methods of treatment. They are able to impart a sense of confidence and integrity to patients and to referral sources.

Accessibility: Successful private physicians and other providers were professionally and personally accessible. New patients and referral sources easily gain access to their services.

Entrepreneurial instincts: Successful clinicians have an entrepreneurial instinct for identifying and servicing niches not covered by managed care. They are prepared to diversify as opportunities arise. This may involve getting some specialized training, as needed. They study the ever-changing needs of their potential patient base carefully and professionally. Elective procedures are a major focus of their practices.

Good contracting skills: The complete absence of insurance coverage for services rendered has no relationship to the potential for success. Like attorneys, accountants, architects, and other professionals, these private practitioners negotiate fees personally with each of their clients.

Engagement with society: They have reputations in the community as expert consultants and educators. Speaking engagements are actively sought. The community views the successful private practitioner as helpful and knowledgeable.

Joy and optimism: For private practitioners, their careers make them happy. Patients make them exhilarated, something not covered by insurance. There is a source of emotional strength and a sense of growth in work. Professional and personal life is envisioned as a ceaseless joyful pursuit of excellence.


Dr. Sodaro is a psychiatrist in Amityville, New York. Jennifer Ball is a clinical social worker.

Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1999;4(2);65. Copyright©1999 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)