Finding a high quality or ideal supervisor who will mentor you in private practice is about as valuable as getting a business loan, minus the high interest rates and debt.
This is a person who says they’re willing and able to help you with your goal of starting and growing your practice/caseload, in exchange for a percentage of your income. And even though what they’re offering you is incredibly valuable, I advise you to balance the value you’re getting with making a decent income yourself–don’t worry, I’m going to teach you how!
Starting to work in a private or group practice while you’re pre- or provisionally-licensed usually requires you work with, or for, a supervisor. What you need to do is check with your licensing board’s requirements; then you’ll know if you’re required to be under supervision and what other parameters you’re expected to follow.
Your next task is to figure out where and how you can find a supervisor.
I encourage you to seek out your ideal supervisor with the recognition that you may not find someone who matches all of your wants. My reason for using the term “ideal supervisor,” is to encourage you to look from a place of what you’d ideally like to have in a supervisor. If you could have all the traits and qualities in a person you’re going to learn from what would those be? If you could have an ideal situation (with where they’re at geographically, education and training, office environment, overall arrangement, etc.), what would that look like?
So if you blend a dash of idealism with realism, then you’ll be in a better position to seek out what you truly want rather than settling for something that’s less than optimal. Being too eager and willing to work with just about anyone could result in a situation you have to leave, whereas being too rigid and not open to other possible candidates and situations could limit you from ever getting started. We’re looking for the sweet spot where you can find someone and something that’s a wonderful situation overall!
Now, let’s break down some important points to know at the outset:
-if you’re required to be employed by a supervisor or practice, that means they must be incorporated themselves. They have had to either file an S-Corp. or other file of incorpation where the state in which you live acknowledges the entity as a corporation. Either way, being incorporated allows them to employ supervisees and other personnel. They’ll need to sign you up for payment and tax purposes under their payroll. So, if this is the requirement for the supervisor situation in your state, when you seek out one, ensure they’re incorporated and can employ you as such. When you start to see clients in a practice, you’ll turn in all the money you bring in from clients to them–and can even have a credit card app and account linked to their account on your phone–and they’ll cut you a check or have you on direct deposit.
-In some states the licensing boards require you to have a supervisor, but you don’t have to be employed by them (a W-2 employee)–you and the supervisor get to choose whether you get paid as an employee or independent contractor. For instance, in Texas you must have a supervisor but they can either be an employer where you get paid by them or you can pay for their supervision sessions only, and perhaps any rent you pay them–a la carte, meaning you’re an independent contractor (1099).
-In Florida, for instance, you aren’t required to do either but there must be what they call a Qualified Supervisor (supervisor’s are required to go through some training to become one) on site where you practice. So, if you’re able to find office space you can afford and there’s a Qualified Supervisor on site, then it’s a viable option if you’re in Florida.
-In California, supervisees in private practice must be employed by the supervisor, and he or she must work on the same premises as the supervisor. For every 10 clients seen, the supervisee must have one hour of one-on-one supervision or two hours of group supervision. Supervisees aren’t allowed to furnish their private practice office and they cannot pay rent. Therefore, all of that must be accounted for in the financial arrangement.
There are two ways you can go when seeking out a supervisor for private practice:
- Find an individidual practitioner in their own private practice, hence the emphasis on “private.” This is someone who works for themselves and for supervision purposes will usually be incorporated, though in some states that’s not required.
- Find a group practice, or individual practioner at the group practice who qualifies as a supervisor that fits your licensing board’s requirements. This would generally be someone who started their own private practice and then partnered with one or more other licensed therapists or counselors to create a group practice.
There are pros and cons to both which I’ll elaborate on in another article, but suffice it to say that each practitioner and group practice are unique, meaning they’re owned and operated by individuals rather than the county or state-funded programs. Personally, I wouldn’t set out to choose a private or group practice. What I suggest is to seek out the supervisor that seems ideal for you and go from there. If the person is someone you’d like to learn from, then find out more about the overall business arrangement. Keeping an open mind about where you’ll set up shop (whether in a private or group practice) will keep you nimble and able to weigh all the factors that make it a good situation or not.
Big factors to consider:
-Their clinical training, philosophy of therapy, experience and personality
-Office policies and procedures
Keep in mind nothing is set in stone (unless you enter a contract with someone). You ideally want to find a great supervisor and situation to start with but that’s not always possible. Sometimes to get started you have to find someone and somewhere that is good enough–a situation that’ll allow you to get started and grow. You can get training and consult on your cases outside of supervision so your supervisor isn’t responsible for teaching you everything. And, if need be you can always move on and find another suitable supervisor and situation.
Two Loving Truth Bombs
One of the most important points I encourage you to remember as you explore your options is: This is a growth process! You’ll be training and growing with each client you see and with each supervision session–hopefully. There is something to learn from each supervisor, and this person will contribute a lot to your professional and personal growth as will your clients.
Don’t expect who you are now as a counselor or therapist to be who you are six months from the time you start or even three years. You have the opportunity to grow into more of who you are, access parts of yourself you didn’t know were there and be stretched emotionally and mentally. Seeing clients in a practice seems like it’s all about helping and serving others but what you might be pleasantly surprised by–and sometimes begrudgingly–is how it changes you.
Up next is what are agreeable fee splits and where can you find a supervisor in private practice, so be sure to sign up for the email list so you get the rest of this series.
Tyra Butler is a licensed therapist and has an email list that she delivers her exclusive content to, including blogs, powerful motivational and inspirational pieces, free advice, consultation and other valuable resources. Sign up for her list here. She works with pre-, provisionally-licensed and early career therapists to help them find paid work, start and grow their practices and make important decisions and career moves. She offers coaching and consultation, and as a professional writer provides copywriting coaching to create web site, marketing content and formulate innovative ideas to create additional income. She’s also the founder of the Facebook group Early Career Clinician Community where she gives some of her best tips and inspiration to succeed on the road to licensure. Tyra has been in private practice for 10 years, with 15 years in mental health, business and professional copywriting. Learn more about her services and blog here. Contact her here.