It is an exciting time to be a professional counselor. The job market is filled with opportunities for counselors. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, jobs for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is expected to grow by 19 percent between now and 2024. Consequently, there will be a number of career options for both novice and seasoned professionals. Additionally, the private sector is expected to grow as well. Thus, it might be the right time to consider establishing a private practice.
In my opinion, there a number of issues that one should consider prior to starting a private practice. First, professional autonomy is very important to many counselors. Owning your own practice is one way for counselors to maximize his or her autonomy as it relates to work. Private practice owners set their own work schedules, schedule their own vacation times, and work with the clients that they choose to counsel.
Second, owning a private practice could eventually present the opportunity for counselors to significantly enhance their earning capacity. For example, if a counselor charges $75.00 per session and sees 6 clients a day, he or she would make $450.00 per day. Working 5 days at that rate would gross $2,250 per week and roughly $9,000 per month. Even if you only worked 11 months, your gross would be $99,000. Some of the fees you would need to consider and deduct from your gross would include liability insurance, usually approximately $730 per year, office space fees can range from $300 to $500 dollars per month, and phone or some type answering service must be considered in your deductions. Other fees to consider would be expenses for a web page and costs for marketing your business. Even after deductions, your capacity to earn a significant amount of money can be greatly enhanced by owning your own practice.
Another benefit of establishing your own counseling practice is that it allows you to tap into your creative energy on a higher level. Most of us were trained to be competent counselors and we learned how to effectively counsel clients and advance the agendas of other organizations. Most graduate level counseling programs do not teach students how to establish and run effective counseling practices. Thus, starting a private counseling practice can affords counselors the opportunity to stretch themselves beyond traditional boundaries.
Therefore, if you decide to start your own practice, I would suggest that you consider the following:
- Identify a seasoned private practice owner to potentially serve as your mentor.
- Join organizations like the Chamber of Commerce or Rotary international to establish relationships with other successful business minded individuals.
- Conduct market research and develop a business plan.
- Find a specialty or niche area that separates you from other practices.
- Consider partnering with someone that you trust to start your counseling practice.
David Staten a Professor of Rehabilitation Counselor Education at South Carolina State University. He also co-owns a counseling practice, MERGE Counseling and Coaching, L.L.C The website is www.merge378.com