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Can I start a therapy practice with only a Masters in Counseling?

March 21, 2014
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Starting a private practice in counseling can be a rewarding career move. Having control over your hours and your rates allows you to practice your profession on your own terms. Also, you are able to control what type of clients you see in your own practice. For many people, the process of getting started as a private counselor is daunting, but setting up your own practice can be fairly simple with the following steps.

Education Needed to Start a Private Practice


You will need a master’s degree to become certified as a counselor. Once you obtain a personal certification as a professional counselor, you are open to practice in areas that comply with your certification. This means that you are free to open a private practice in your area of counseling.

However in addition to your Master’s, another component of education should be practice. Beginning a private practice right after graduating is not a smart choice. Work in a professional counseling setting for several years before you consider opening your own practice. The knowledge that you can gain from other, more experienced counselors will help strengthen your professional knowledge in the field. In addition, having real world experience with patients gives you time to test out your own skills and develop new insights into patient care. Seeing how another facility is run can give you the information you need to structure your own private practice well. You’ll be able to see the strengths of the program as well as the weaknesses, and you’ll be able to make your own practice even better.

Licensing for a Private Practice

When you open your private practice, you will want to make sure that you are licensed by the state you are practicing in. Getting certified shows potential customers that you are qualified to help them. Each state has its own licensing board for professional counselors, so you should check with your individual state to find out the exact requirements. You will need to apply and show proof of your educational background in counseling.

Tips for a Successful Practice

As you begin your practice, you will have a lot of freedom in how to structure it. Choosing a service that is somewhat unique in the community will give you an edge in attracting clients. See what already exists in your surroundings, and create a service that is slightly different.

Marketing your private practice can be a big challenge at first. When you have just opened your practice, you have no client base to draw on. People may be reluctant to choose a service with no reviews. Building your own reputation in the community will be your first task. Getting other counselors or therapists to support you will allow potential clients to gain faith in you. Treat those first few patients especially well, as they will be the ones to spread the word on whether your service is good or not. A good private practice speaks for itself, as satisfied clients draw even more attention to the service. Here is some more information on how to set up a successful private practice: http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/11/private-practice.aspx

Lastly, don’t give up if your practice doesn’t take off right away. It takes years to establish a successful private practice with trusted services and a good reputation. Deliver high quality work, and you’ll steadily gain a following for your practice. In summary, starting a private practice in counseling can be a great idea, but only if you’re dedicated to putting in the work it will take to become established.