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Bob Walsh and Norm Dasenbrook
Aug 16, 2012

Private Practice: When to Start? Part I

Most graduate students consider or aspire to private practice as a possible career path. Be your own boss, treat the type of client that suits your skills and area of expertise, earn more income, etc. Many new graduates believe they can just “hang out a shingle” and open a practice or can just be supervised by a licensed clinician. Not so fast!

We have had numerous questions from mental health professionals wanting to know how to go into private practice as soon as possible after completing graduate school. Successfully complete a Masters or Doctorate degree is only the first step in the process. The next step is successful completion of 3,000 or more hours of supervised counseling experience. While state laws vary, mental health professionals may need to pass an examination or be issued a permit to begin this accrual of supervised counseling experience. After completing your degree and supervision requirements, states require an examination for licensure. Then you can consider private practice. Independent practice is very demanding and requires extensive clinical experience to provide clients with the care they deserve.

Those students who aspire to private practice need to work with their professors to be informed of the process. Graduate schools need to educate their students on the licensure process, requirements and skills necessary for treating clients in a private practice setting. Moreover, it is up to the professional counselor to know the particular state requirements for independent practice and feel confident that they have the skill set necessary for this most demanding career path.

Read on.

Q: I recently, learned that I could not start an in-home practice unless I have my LPC. Upon graduating, I was under the impression that I could counsel individuals on a cash basis with my Masters Degree in Professional counseling. I was not aware that I needed to get my license prior to starting my in-home practice. Is this correct?

A: That’s correct. It does not matter if you see clients for free. If you practice without a license, you are violating state laws. We are also concerned that you are only finding this out now. This should have been covered in your graduate studies. Licensure information is readily available by having membership in your state and national counseling organizations (ACA).

Q: I will be done with my graduate work in 2012. I can take the NCE exam and have my Masters Degree in Counseling. Now my question is with my degree and LPC would I be able to have a private practice?

A: No. Your state, Illinois, has a two-tiered license. The LPC allows you to work in an agency or institution under direct supervision. You must accumulate 3,000 supervised hours in order to take the examination necessary for the LCPC license. In Illinois, only professional counselors who have the LCPC can engage in independent practice.

Norm Dasenbrook and Bob Walsh are counselors in private practice, consultants, and authors (

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  1. 7 kellie 01 Dec
    So when you say that one must have their LCPC in the state of Illinois to engage in independent practice, does that mean that an LPC can not work at a private practice? I understand that they must have their LCPC in order to open their own. 
  2. 6 Jenny 16 May
    This question pertains to supervision.  I am a fully licensed LPC in Texas.  I work for a psychological corporation who counsels patients in nursing homes.  Our company will not allow an LPC to be unsuperised like the other mental health proessionals including social workers and psychologist.  However, many LPCs have private practices where they do not have supervision.  Please impart your understanding of supervision in Texas.  Thank you
  3. 5 Stephanie 05 Aug
    I have a question about obtaining a first job/entry level job after graduation.  Is it necessary to have completed the NCE/applied for LPC status in Illinois before getting a counseling job?
  4. 4 Imani 12 Jul
    I have the same question as a previous posted, although I am aware this is an old post I was hoping someone could assist me. So when you say that one must have their LCPC in the state of Illinois to engage in independent practice, does that mean that an LPC can not work at a private practice? I understand that they must have their LCPC in order to open their own. 
  5. 3 Christie Roche 13 Jul
    I am looking into opening my own private practice in the state of Pennsylvania, and I was also told while completing my masters that it is legal to do so as long as I don't work with insurance and accept cash only. I am a certified school counselor and passed the NCE, but I never obtained the 3,000 hours to be licensed. Does my masters and certification allow me to open the practice, or do I legally have to be licensed? Lastly, can I simply change the title of my service from counseling to 'life coach' instead? It is my understanding that I might not be eligible for malpractice insurance if I do so. thank you!  
  6. 2 H.A 18 Sep
    Is it true the I can practice counseling, as I am finishing my LPC requirements, with my Master degree in counseling, if I am receiving supervision? 
  7. 1 Latasha Brown 11 Oct
    Hello I'm a Georgia resident 

    I'm received my master's in clinical psychology. I received 1500 hours of supervision at my previous job. I was let go from my previous job after submitting my application to the NCE and was advised I had to resubmit another application since I'm no longer with the company after I find another job. My question is there something else I can do? I feel like I have to start all over. Also, I was advised because my goal is to become a clinical psychologist I don't need a Lpc, but my plan is to own my private practice. Could you provide advice on whether or not I should just apply for my Lpc in order to start my practice.



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