Private Practice and Empowerment of Caregivers in Speech Therapy with Tinita Kearney PhD SLP 048

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About Building a Private Practice

Have you wondered about the delicate balance between your passion for the rehab profession and being able to support yourself economically? Tinita Kearney, a seasoned speech pathologist, shares her transformative journey from working in a school setting to establishing her own private practice. Her emphasis on the power of community support and meticulous research is a treasure trove of wisdom for any rehab professional who loves this profession and wants to make the most out of it.

Tinita’s emphasis on empowering caregivers brings to light a facet of speech pathology that extends beyond clinical work. Her initiative in creating a book series and educational materials aims at providing practical tools for parents because of the significant influence that parents can have when equipped with the right knowledge and resources.

In this episode you will hear Tinita’s insights into building a successful private practice such as participating in a supportive organization to leverage collective wisdom and navigate the complexities of private practice, conquering imposter syndrome, and being confident in your skills.

Join us as we explore the entrepreneurial journey of Tinita and her journey to private practice. Perhaps you’ll find what you need to make a transition in your career and get more confidence to redefine your professional trajectory.


Transcript of Private Practice in SLP

Intro 00:01

Welcome to the Rehab Rebels podcast. Are you a rehab professional ready to transition to an alternative career? Hear inspiring stories from others just like you and learn the best ways to bridge your career gap. This podcast has you covered. Now here’s your host, doctor of physical therapy and podcaster, Tanner Welsh. 

Tanner Welsch 00:21

Tinita, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the Rehab Rebels podcast. I would like you to introduce yourself, maybe give us a little bit about where you grew up, where you went to speech path school, and then what you’re doing now, and we’ll lead up into how you got there. 

Tinita Kearney 00:37

Sure Happy to be here also. I am Dr Tinita Kearney. Most of my kids call me Dr T, friends call me Tinita. All that’s me. I actually am from New York, grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island. I got my feet wet with my first experience of, if you will, speech pathology type work in high school. One of my guidance counselors suggested that I and another friend of mine work at a school that work with students with autism and I had no prior experience, no idea. But I loved it and forgot that experience existed until I got to college, when I discovered out there’s actually a name to a whole profession that works with this group of kiddos, not just the teachers that I hadn’t seen in that environment. So I remembered all the fun I had in high school and was like, let me explore this a bit more. I actually had started off as a journalism major and quickly switched to explore speech pathology in my undergraduate year and then stayed with it, got all three of my degrees in speech pathology. 

Tanner Welsch 01:46

Perfect. Where did you go to speech path school. 

Tinita Kearney 01:48

I went to school for all my degrees, actually at Howard University. I decided to travel not too far from home, but just far enough. And of course, since I got accepted into Howard, my entire family decided to move to Arizona. So a little warmer, a lot further, but it was good. 

Tanner Welsch 02:07

And what are you currently doing now as a speech path? 

Tinita Kearney 02:11

I still work part-time in the school, so I work in one school three days a week. I do my private practice the remainder of the time and I’ve merged I’m sure we’ll get more into, I think merged or switched rather from therapy-based habit practice more to a different service which I think we’ll dive more into. But that’s how I split my time right now. 

Tanner Welsch 02:33

Awesome. Could you tell us a little bit about, shortly after graduating speech path school, what some of your first, your first job was like, or your first few jobs and experiences you had there? And then we’ll? Then I’ll pop the big question well, what made you decide to open up your own private practice? 

Tinita Kearney 02:50

I have always wanted to be a school-based SLP and so all of my experience so the majority of my experience has been in school. So when I first graduated I was in DC public school system. Then I quickly switched over to the Prince George’s County public school system. Since I moved to Maryland and I’ve done non-public and public school settings in both those areas. So the majority of my time I did a short stint in a home health situation. It was interesting, but definitely not my thing. I like the kiddos, the younger the better. My thing is elementary school and that’s what I was taken to. 

Tanner Welsch 03:29

Well, so what made you want to start your own speech path business? 

Tinita Kearney 03:34

I think, like many of my sisters and brothers did the speech path profession. Working at a school every single day, five days a week, can quickly burn you out If you are in a district that has a large number of kiddos like mine, and so my case slows watching them balloon every year, which is not fun, right, it was taking the natural gift and the love and joy that I had and really diminishing that year after year after year, and so I decided, okay, can’t keep this up. I still want to do what I love, but I need to rediscover why I love it. It’s just take a break from schools and just do it at my pace, pick the clientele and do that from a practice standpoint. 

Tanner Welsch 04:18

What was the pain point that you’re willing to share from transitioning, making this transition to working in the school, setting to open up your speech path, business, and then how did you overcome this challenge or pain point? 

Tinita Kearney 04:31

It was definitely getting into the world of insurance. Right, making that decision. Really, do I accept insurance, do I not? If I do, which insurance do I accept? Is that going to be enough to sustain me? And all those questions. That was the initial pain point with starting the business. Quickly learned that insurance just does not pay you anywhere. What’s your worst at all? The expertise we come with is not rewarded. It’s stuck with insurance payments. And so to get over that, I had to jump over another hurdle, which was okay. Well, I’m liking this freedom, not really enjoying how the pay is not matching up, but I’m also missing the colleagues and being around people, right? So how do I marry the two? So that’s how I got to the point of doing part-time in schools and part-time private practice. That answered all the questions, and checked all the boxes. 

Tanner Welsch 05:29

I love that. I’ve heard the same thing from a couple of other speech paths. I’ve talked to you that the value that you guys are providing and really you know services you’re giving to a lot of the parents too is way more than what the insurance is really willing to reimburse you. And that’s where they realized a no-brainer to go to a cash-based model or something like that, to where you guys get reimbursed really for the quality of service that you offer. What did you say it takes for somebody to build up their own SLP private practice and be successful? 

Tinita Kearney 06:04

My goodness, it takes a lot. I can only speak to. I get my personal experience right. For me, it really took just a lot of front-end research and I got a lot of assistance, a huge amount of support actually, from an organization that I’ve joined for speech without a specific, who have a private practice, but just the listserv alone is a great way to tap into your colleagues all across the nation who are in private practice the same struggle you have and get some tips, avoid some pitfalls from them as well. That’s been just a lifesaver. Don’t ask me what the name is now. It’s an eight-letter acronym, but I can certainly get that to you at some point. But it certainly has been a great resource for me. 

Tanner Welsch 06:49

For sure. Yeah, I’ve included in the show notes for listeners to check out. 

Tinita Kearney 06:54

Yeah, For sure. 

Tanner Welsch 06:56

What’s your day-to-day life, like your weeks or your daily schedule? 

Tinita Kearney 07:01

Day-to-day typically is a three-day. I go into a school elementary school three weeks Tuesday through Thursday I’m going into a building for about seven hours, having a great time seeing my kiddos, doing my work, and then turning all that work completely off. Still the very next day I step foot in that building. But then on Mondays and Fridays, I work from home with more of the private practice-type stuff. So I’m not seeing any clients. I do have one client that I actually see, but outside of that little kiddo, I don’t see any clients. I am working on training materials and services that I provide in schools for school teams. It’s just do that work and then pick my two kiddos up and then switch all work off again, go into mommy play mode, and then hit reset for the next day. 

Tanner Welsch 07:52

Sounds pretty busy. 

Tinita Kearney 07:54

But it’s a good guy. 

Tanner Welsch 07:56

What are some of the services or products that you offer? Who are they for and when would it be good for somebody to reach out for those services? 

Tinita Kearney 08:05

I do offer services and products. So in terms of products, I working in this elementary school setting, it’s very easy and quick to realize that you tend to work on the same skills with new sets of kids right, Especially my kindergartners coming into me. I was seeing them for the same types of things and these were actually some skills that they didn’t need necessarily my expertise to address if their parents and caregivers and communities, before they got to school, were able to use some tools and resources in the right way and still build these skills before they got to me. And so that birthed my book series. So I do have the Lola Koala’s Travel Adventures board book series for the youngest kid I was about to even through school age six, seven to lift the flatboard book, and each book targets a specific language skill that I found I was always working on. 


So the first book targets how to answer who, what, where and yes, no questions Using those lift the flaps, and kids love that. It’s actually that book right there. The second book is coming out shortly I’m excited about it and that will be targeting a whole different skill at the following directions, which is again something I’m always working on with my kiddos. So that’s the product. I also have activity kits that pair with that book series called Koala Kids, and then I have a whole different branch of services that’s targeting not so much parents and kiddos directly but school teams, right, and the other side of the problem, which is OK how do we prepare teachers to also undergird these kiddos with language skills they need? If there is a problem, how can they attack those more efficiently in the classroom and help us not to get these huge numbers of referrals that really don’t always require our expertise to address right? So I do school team training as well to address that side of the issue, as well as some parent trainings and different professional development things for parents as well. 

Tanner Welsch 10:06

I love that. With the school training, is it basically something that all the teachers at the school would attend and you would educate all of them. It’s not certain teachers or a specific group of teachers as a whole. You’re educating all of them. Is that right? 

Tinita Kearney 10:20

That’s exactly right. It is teachers. If you work in a school building with children, at any capacity, it’s appropriate for you, right? That’s administrators, resource teachers, general education and special education teachers, any support staff in the classrooms, absolutely. 

Tanner Welsch 10:37

That’s great. So since you created a book, I got to ask you some book questions. How did you get that off the ground? What’s the pain point of trying to get a book published and author a book, and how did you do it? Can you share some insights with your journey? 

Tinita Kearney 10:53

Absolutely Outside of writing the thing right, which is just a very tricky thing, especially when you’re trying to write a rhyming book that makes sense. That was its own beast, but getting past that it was okay. Yes, how do I get this published? For me, I just found it easier. It made most sense to me to do a self-published route, but there are a lot of options you have when your book is a regular standard paperback or hard copy book. I took it to a level with this board book that had to lift the flaps right. So even more difficulty trying to find out how am I going to print it? Who can I go to to print this? How much is it going to cost? Finding a printer? Print Ninja was the company I went with. It’s very reputable, but that price was extraordinary. So tackling how do I cover this without pulling up my own personal savings? 


An answer to that pain point was to do crowdfunding. So I did a Kickstarter campaign research. What do I do? Before starting it, I had to get an illustrator, whatever you call it. I think it was an illustrator at this point so many years ago. Then getting the enticement for people that want to fund it. Thank the Lord, it was fully funded, and I exceeded my goal. I mean that allowed me truly to get this project off the ground. At this point I’m just trying to continue to get the word out, which is a third pain point, because I’m a speech without just not a marketing expert, trying to balance what’s important to me versus social media posts and things to keep the book and interest alive. It definitely is still a struggle, but building up the team to take that pain point away from me is not to think about it much anymore. 

Tanner Welsch12:33

A lot of struggle with any sort of online presence is how are you going to get the word out and how are you going to market it, and you only have so much time, so finding strategies that work and platforms that work for you and your audience are key. When it comes to that For the crowdfunding, I’ve never done this or really looked into it or researched it, but is that something that you get the funds and then I’m assuming you have to pay the people back that funded it? Is there an interest they get more than what they paid? 

Tinita Kearney 13:03

No, they don’t get anything back. They come into it knowing that they’re funding your idea, your product, whatever it is. So how it works is they fund, they give whatever the donation I guess you will that they want to and then what you give them in return is whatever you promised. So they’re different tiers. For example, let’s say you gave between one and $25, you get this prize. You will Maybe it’s a digital coloring book or something of that nature from the book. If you give between $26 and $50, you get this next level of product or experience from the creator. So that’s what I did. So there were four different tiers of prizes that I gave, based on how much people donated to the project. And then at the end, once you’re fully funded, all you’re really thinking of is okay, how much do you need to allocate to shipping out any of the physical products or creating? If you need to create whatever product, you are promising people, but that’s about it, and the rest goes directly to funding your project, which is the point of the money. 

Tanner Welsch 14:07

So, yeah, that’s cool, nice, I didn’t know all that. Thanks for sharing. We also dived a little bit into being an author and books and some of the processes too, on episode 28 with Monica Rowe. So for Revolve listeners that are interested in learning more about that, that’s another episode that we talk about some of the publishing and authoring and all that stuff. So what is something that you’ve realized? It can be life awareness, so big, open-ended question that you’ve realized from this journey. You know graduating speech path as cool to getting where you are now. 

Tinita Kearney 14:40

Two things. So one I realized really just how passionate I was, not just about doing my job but really empowering parents and caregivers. I think as clinicians, most of us we love children, we love helping them and seeing how what we do impacts their lives. But I love more, if that’s accurate. I’m not sure if it’s more, but equally as what y’all say, empowering the caregivers, I think the more I’ve done this, the more I’ve realized how little influence I have and how much more influence everyone in that child’s life has. So I’m seeing some really great progress and thinking well, taneeta, you’re seeing this and you only see this child want to eat. What greater things can they do if we empower their parents, their caregivers, in a way that was easy for them, didn’t seem another chore for them or seemed too difficult for them to really help them take their kiddo to the next level, and so that, I think, is the impetus for things like this book series, which is useful for speech-fasten teachers but really made for caregivers to do that with their kids at home effectively. So that’s one thing I realized. I’m just a caregiver advocate, right one that’s empowered the children on their own and feel confident in doing so. 


Secondly, which seems an oxybaron, I felt I realized that I was also dealing with imposter syndrome, which I mean I’ve heard this before, don’t? Oh? That sounds so horrible to live that way. That was wait a minute. I think you’re at the same stage here. I found myself getting invited to speak at different places and thinking, well, really, are you qualifying? Is this information really that valuable? And having to face myself that answers these questions remind myself well, absolutely no, you don’t know everything about everything, but what you do know what you do, do you do well? So, away with this self-doubt, operate more in your expertise and own it. That’s very recent for me when it comes to the professional colleague and those services. I had to really walk in that and realize that by myself and in that setting, with those services that I offer. 

Tanner Welsch 17:07

You know, when I hear you talk and listen to your story, you remind me of a gal I interviewed, crystal Sanford. 

She’s a SLP also and she advocates for children with autism and helping their parents create an IEP program and that’s back on episode four for listeners that want to check it out. But something similar happened with her. She was seeing a pain point that something kept coming up and up and up in what she was doing and then she starts educating parents and educating these people and, long story short, now she’s got her own business, she’s got a course to help educate parents and stuff, and it’s an organic, natural thing and we’re all in positions to see these gaps and what’s going on with the services we’re providing and doing more. I think it’s something that we’re all good at in the rehab professions. I love talking to y’all and you guys creating this and filling in the gaps and hearing your stories and I think it’s great. Another question I had for you was do you have any book recommendations? It can be about creating your own speech bath business. Whatever you feel that has been helpful for you on your journey that you’d like to share with the Rehab Rebels audience. 

Tinita Kearney 18:17

There are so, so many books. I did not really read a whole bunch about a profession-specific type books, but I did more leadership development type things right. I love Start With why by Cynic for sure, so that’s one that just pops to mind that I can certainly share. Folks haven’t already read it such a popular book but that one definitely helped me and helps me still to really remember, get less stress, less bogged down about the details of things and focus more on why I’m doing what I’m doing, keep myself reminded about that, to keep me centered and on track with the services and products that I develop and provide. I definitely recommend that book. Start With why. 

Tanner Welsch 19:02

For sure. Well, Dina, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story and taking the time to just talk with us today. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much. 

Tinita Kearney 19:12

Thank you. 

Outro 19:14

Thank you for listening to the Rehab Rebels podcast. If this podcast was useful, make sure to hit that subscribe button and leave a review. For more information about transitioning to alternative careers, head to or follow us on Instagram at Rehab Rebels podcast. We’ll see you next time. 

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