“Doing something new brings excitement, opportunity and anxiety. Allow the excitement to motivate you, the opportunity to push you forward and the anxiety to quiet down as you learn and implement.”
-Tyra Butler, Early Career Clinician Coach
You’re thinking you’d like to go the private or group practice route to get yourself established and have a money-making practice; but first things first, there are a few preliminary things to figure out and get in place.
- Find out whether it’s legal and ethical in your state of residence to work in a private practice while you’re provisionally- or pre-licensed. In most states it’s perfectly legal and ethical to do as long as you follow certain parameters. These parameters include whether you must be employed as a W-2 employee or serve as an independent contractor, or whether you’re required to be employed by a supervisor or not and where your office space needs to be. Most licensing board web sites will have this information or you can contact your local or state professional association and they can let you know what’s required. Some states allow you to even rent out your own office space and decorate it while other states require that you use your supervisor’s office and will not allow you to furnish or decorate your office.
- Please check this all out for yourself so you have firsthand knowledge of what you’ll need to abide by as you move forward. You need all your ducks in a row in this regard, because you want to start out on the right foot and get started doing the right things.
- Decide if private or group practice is the right fit for you. Here are a few benefits or perks: control over your schedule, freedom with how you invest your time and ability to pick and choose which clients you see, ability to earn more per hour than in any other position in the mental health field, and the opportunity to grow as a therapist/counselor because you can utilize the freedom you have with your time to learn more about your cases, consult and develop and hone your skills. Rather than having to learn how to be a therapist in private practice after your licensed, you’ll be acclimating yourself early. Also, being pre- or provisionally-licensed affords you the opportunity to learn from your supervisor and utilize their systems and procedures for handling administrative tasks, such as forms, billing, note-taking, etc. You have the luxury of leveraging their business and years of experience running their practice!
- Downsides or cons: can be lonely, you have to manage your time appropriately, requires a level of independence so you must be able to motivate yourself. It’s doable, however, it doesn’t come ready-made so it does take investment of time and effort to get your caseload and practice going. You have to navigate your sessions and manage the administrative side, as far as scheduling, collecting payments, note taking and any other issues that arise.
- It’s important to distinguish whether something we want to do will be a good fit. Even though I like to encourage everyone who wants to do this, there are times when it might not be a good fit right now. A couple questions I would ask yourself are:
- Do I ultimately want to have my own practice?
- Am I willing to put in the effort, time and money upfront if it means it’ll result in getting my caseload/practice up and running?
- If I have a hard time with procrastination, do I have a track record of being able to accomplish what I need to do? (For instance, if you’re an achiever and excelled in grad school you probably fall into this category; although getting good grades doesn’t equate to business success. It does show your responsible and a practice requires that. )
- Am I okay with handling sessions for the most part on my own (with the awareness that I’ll grow in my capability)? Do I eventually want to have a full practice that is either the sole source of my income or is a part time adjunct?
- If you answered yes to all or most of these (even if one or two are “I don’t know.”), then getting into a private or group practice is probably a good option for you right now.
For a lot of counselors and therapists, private practice has the been the dream or goal. If it hasn’t been yours, please read more of my past blogs and watch some of my videos because I’m passionate about how awesome it is working in private practice. In my blogs and videos, I elaborate on the invaluable and priceless aspects of it.
Some of what I let you in on is that no where else can you help high-functioning clients to the degree you can in private practice. And when you’re pre-licensed, it’s even better because learning how to operate and run a practice becomes part of your training–as well as practicing how to do therapy for a private pay clientele. As you get a glimpse into your supervisor’s practice, you immediately gain an edge in your career. You have the advantage of learning how to run a practice before you have to do it all on your own. If you know you want to have a practice you will one day call your own, it’s better to start early on and grow it so by the time you’re fully licensed, you’ll have a thriving, successful practice with all your marketing momentum in place.
- If you’re nervous about the prospect of getting into a private or group practice, and feel overwhelmed at the idea of it, notice that as fear trying to keep you from reaching your dreams or goal. For many of us, our issues or tendencies that hold us back percolate when we embark on something new and perhaps risky. We may go into overdrive–overthinking, panicking and becoming perfectionistic. Notice it and then do what you need to let it go and work on yourself in the process. Don’t give up simply because you feel a little fearful or worried you won’t make it. If you’re able to invest the needed effort, time and little money required to get started, then work on allowing yourself to feel the fear and do it anyway. Work on yourself with a counselor/therapist, journal and just do the next indicated step. You were made for greatness—you were made for such a time as this, to start and grow your caseload and help the people who are hurting and suffering in your surrounding community!
- If you must be under supervision, which in most states you will, what are the resources in your geographical area for finding someone who’s qualified? What connections do you already have from being in school or practicum that you can leverage to help you find a qualified supervisor in private or group practice?
- Its important to figure out how difficult or easy it might be to find one ahead of time. And since you don’t want just any supervisor, it’s imperative to find one that’ll be a good match for you, given this person will have a significant influence on your development as a clinician.
- If you have trouble with this, don’t worry. There are techniques and little-known places where high quality supervisors abound. Universities, psychoanalytic institutes, professional associations and networking groups are just some of them.
- Continue to learn and implement the specific tasks required to get started. If you’ve figured out that it’s legal and ethical in your state of residence and you have a registration or associate number, then your next task is to find your ideal supervisor, or a competent one who is willing to supervise you. The next blog will outline that for you. Sign up for my blog to ensure you get articles like these!
Tyra Butler is a licensed therapist and founder of the Facebook group Early Career Clinician Community where she gives some of her best tips to succeed on the road to licensure. Sign up for her weekly email where she delivers her blogs and other valuable resources. 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. 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.