What They Don't Teach You In Grad School

img7207If you're a graduate student in the mental health field planning on going into private practice, here are a few things that you won't learn during your program. Most of what I learned about psychotherapy and private practice came after I graduated. After 17 years of practice, here are a few things I wish I'd known earlier:

1) Clients don't care about your degree

I'm rarely asked what degree I hold or what school I attended. I've found that very few clients know the difference between an MSW, MFT, PhD, MFCC, PsyD or any other degree. What clients really want to know is that you're qualified to do therapy, and if you can help them.

2) You'll learn more from supervisors than coursework

Getting my MSW was a license to actually do what I wanted, but the most valuable learning came from my post-graduate school clinical supervisor. It's important to seek out an amazing supervisor and mentor to train you in how to actually do therapy and how to run a practice. Seek out a  private practice internship setting that closely resembles what you envision yourself doing in the future.

3) Keep all of your research papers and course syllabi

Even though you may want to purge yourself from anything related to graduate school, you may want to hang on to those papers. I just used a research paper from my MSW program as my writing sample for my PhD program. You can also re-purpose papers for future blog posts and articles to publish.

If you ever decide to go apply for a doctoral degree or an advanced training certificate down the road that requires transcript evaluation, you may be required to submit your course syllabi to provide details of the course content. Also, keep a copy of the official course description in the school catalog for the years you attended. When I applied for doctoral programs, some programs had difficulty determining what my classes were and required official course catalog descriptions.

4) Stay in touch with your supervisors and colleagues

I can't tell you how many times I've asked my former supervisor for letters of recommendation for various certifications and applications through the years. Keep connected with a select your professional relationships. They're not only good referral sources but to provide job references and professional recommendations.

5) Take business courses

A common sentiment among mental health private practitioners is "I wish I knew more about business." It is rare that mental health graduate programs offer business courses, so students interested in going into private practice need to seek out workshops and courses.

What did you learn after grad school? Do you have any advice for graduate students? Post your comment below.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Proctor Archives


Happy Holidays To My Fellow Shrinks

As 2011 comes to a close I am incredibly grateful to John Grohol PsyD and the PsychCentral team for the amazing opportunity to create "Private Practice Toolbox" blog this year. It's been delightful to get to know so many therapist and learn more about the ups and downs of your private practice experiences and I look forward to an amazing 2012! Let me know how I can be a resource for you to build your dream practice.

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Multiple Income Streams Soothe Therapist's Financial Anxiety (part 2)

Developing multiple income streams is crucial to maintaining income stability in private practice. "Having different income sources allows me to be a bit less stressed when my main funding source, private practice, takes a dip," shares Jill Kristal, President of Transitional Learning Curves. Reducing financial anxiety is not the only benefit of developing additional income avenues. Multiple income streams allow therapists to fully express their many talents, gifts, and passions.

Writing and speaking provides former actor Frank J. Sileo, PhD with creative fulfillment as well. "I used to be an actor in a past life so getting up in front of others has helped get that need met, " Sileo adds. Additionally, multiple income streams allow therapists to make a difference on a larger scale, reaching far beyond the therapy office. "I had a desire to have more impact on troubled eaters than one-to-one sessions or even workshops and talks could provide," shares therapist and healthy eating expert Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed.

If you missed "Multiple Income Streams (part 1)" click here

Here are more potential income streams for you to consider as you seek a stable income and fulfilling career.

Teach classes

Therapist Mary Pender Greene, LCSW-R has created paid opportunities through giving workshops, webinars, retreats, seminars, training sessions, keynotes and public speaking engagements that have grown out of her passion.

These streams naturally grew out of my private practice and at the core, are centered on the struggles of adult human interaction… such as improving communication, expressing feelings, reflection, solving problems and refreshing relationships.

Michael Heitt, PsyD of Heitt Clinical & Corporate Consulting, LLC adds to his income through teaching masters students at Johns Hopkins, doctoral students at Loyola University and facilitating an online licensure prep course.

Provide professional training

After several students urged Dr. Carol Clark to teach a sex therapy program, she launched STTI, the Sex Therapy Training Institute, and then expanded it to Addictions Therapy Training Institute, and eventually published a book.

As I taught and counseled, several concepts and interventions really solidified and I realized that these themes were incorporated in everything I did with students and clients, so I spent seven years putting it all into my book, Addict America: The Lost Connection.

Therapist and faith leader The Rev. Christopher L. Smith offers supervision/consultation with other mental health practitioners and other faith group leaders as an additional income stream.

Become a paid TV contributor

After a year of contributing on a local women's lifestyle TV show, Studio 5, I was offered a position as a paid contributor. One of my personal and professional passions is using the media to educate and inspire, so not only has this opportunity created an additional income stream, it's allowed me to doing something I love to do anyway and get paid.

Provide supervision to students and interns

Have you considered leveraging your time by hiring students and interns to provide clinical services through your practice? I started hiring therapists under supervision about 5 years ago, and graduate students a few years ago. Its been a great way to provide clinical services to additional clients without having to increase my direct care hours. My Wasatch Family Therapy colleague and play therapist Clair Mellenthin LCSW, RPT loves supervising therapists. She says that in addition to providing income, "One of the unexpected joys of providing supervision is forming relationships with new therapists and helping them to develop confidence and competence."

Public speaking

From community events, corporate settings to professional presentations, public speaking and presenting is another common income stream that you may want to consider. Dr. John Duffy speaks regularly on parenting issues, and also to corporations on team-building and relationship skills.

Do any of these income streams jump out at you?

What income streams are you developing to add stability to your practice?