Counselors help people going through mental health problems and difficult life changes. Mental Health counselors can work in any number of environments, from hospitals and substance abuse rehabilitation facilities to colleges. However, if being your own boss sounds appealing, you may be considering starting up a private practice. While there are many benefits of running a private practice, the process of establishing and maintaining a private practice requires hard work and discipline. You will have to complete a degree program, acquire a license and perform the day-to-day work of managing a practice.
A Counselor's Education
The first step toward opening a private practice is to complete your education. A bachelor's degree in psychology is often a good starting point, but to obtain a position as a counselor, you will have to earn a master's degree in counseling or counseling psychology. Your coursework will include studies in mental health disorders and counseling techniques as well as supervised experience requirements.
Obtaining a License
Because licenses are issued at the state level rather than any national level, the requirements for obtaining a license vary from state to state. However, some qualifications, like a formal education, are common across most, if not all, states. The most common requirements are completion of a master's degree in a relevant field, supervised experience and passing score on a written examination such as the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination, according to the National Board for Certified Counselors.
Running your own private practice can be a big commitment. It's often a good idea for newly-licensed counselors to continue gaining experience in counseling and learn as much as possible about the administrative duties of managing a practice before they decide to venture out on their own.
The Pros and Cons of Self-Employment
There are many advantages to being self-employed. You have the opportunity to set your own schedule. You can choose the location of your practice or even establish multiple offices in different locations, if you want to do so. You can decide on the office dress code and choose your employees, if you need to hire any. You may even be able to complete some work from home.
However, managing a private counseling practice can be difficult. In addition to actually working with patients on an individual or group level, you will be responsible for all of the administrative tasks associated with running your practice. You will have to schedule appointments and handle billing, including submitting bills and paperwork to insurance companies if a health insurance policy is paying on behalf of your clients or patients.
Running private practice is a challenge, but it can be rewarding for self-motivated counselors. If you are intending to open a private practice, make the most of your education and work experience to prepare yourself for success in counseling. By being a skilled counselor and an organized businessperson, you can make your dreams of running a thriving private practice into a reality.
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