ACA Blog

Joan Phillips
May 11, 2010

The pitfalls of contract work

I currently supervise several counseling licensure candidates and many if not all of them work at jobs where they are “contract” therapists doing either school or home-based counseling. In our state the use of contractors has developed into the mainstay of how Medicaid funded counseling takes place and this really has had some pros and cons. One major “pro” is that it gives new graduates a job! But as a clinical supervisor to the contractors, I have noticed some endemic issues they face and have few resources to address. One is the issue of how to document business expenses such as mileage, computer and phone time, etc.

They are required by the agency they contract with to have access to internet and use their own phones etc- but as we all know- most graduate training never covers “is that tax deductible?” I am not expert in taxes either, but will be soon hosting a continuing education workshop featuring a CPA to discuss these issues with us all and begin the learning curve for my supervisees (and continue it for me). Another contract issue is the isolation that happens when you work outside an agency or facility. There are some meetings where they all are present, but these are few and far between and for the most part the clinicians function very independently. I think group supervision has been invaluable just in allowing time for connections and sharing to take place in a routinely scheduled way.

I would be interested in hearing others experiences as both contractors and as supervisors for such. It’s not the world I started practice in- with a full staff, weekly meetings, consultants on-site etc to learn from in a more protected and supported environment. Nowadays our new counselors are out there literally on the frontline of mental health and community issues- and theories and techniques of counseling often aren’t enough to address the financial, personal, familial and community issues that they face as independent contractors. I think they are pioneers in this new frontier of service delivery when money is tight yet services are so badly needed in so many sectors. I for one applaud them!

Joan Phillips is a counselor, art therapist, and marriage and family therapist. She maintains a private practice and teaches at the University of Oklahoma.

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