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How to Be an Associate in Private Practice on Day One

Private practice isn’t a “reward” for years of struggling. Being an associate in private practice is an attainable goal for new therapists. So why don’t we learn more about this career path in grad school?

We’ve all heard a fellow therapist say, “They didn’t teach us this in grad school!” And it’s true. Graduate programs for MFTs (or any clinical license) focus on making you a good therapist, NOT a good business owner. Why don’t they throw this in? Because running your own practice isn’t for everyone, and when you look around at fellow cohort mates only a few will end up being successful business owners.

Key Topics

man and woman sitting in opposite chairs speaking with each other

Finding Purpose

If you are a “baby therapist” just learning the skills needed to be effective in the therapy room, it may feel intimidating to think about being completely solo in a private practice setting. This is a valid concern, which is why it is so important to get into that space while you still have the luxuries of supervision and mentorship. Finding your purpose for being in this mental health setting will be core to your work and business. Being an associate in private practice means being able to learn from a seasoned therapist, gain more experience working with aligned clients, and build your brand from day one.

Networking

Getting to know colleagues and peers may seem like an obvious skill needed to be successful in a business, but it is even more important for new therapists. Networking won’t just get you your first clients, but it will get you your first job. There is no private practice as an associate (at least in California) without a supervisor who is willing to hire and train you. Networking prior to the transcript being finalized or the associate number coming in the mail means more likelihood of hitting the ground running when you are able to start seeing that first client.

Business Finances

A huge part of a successful business is actually keeping your finances “in the black”. Associates in private practice often have little control over the cash flow they experience, but once you get that certificate of licensure that may change quickly. Setting yourself up with a plan to make ends meet, as well as a plan to save for that initial transition can make the process of becoming a successful business owner that much easier.

Time Management

When deciding to go into private practice as an associate, you have to consider the time commitment you are making. Collecting hours towards licensure is often the only thing on a new associate’s mind, but being in private practice can make this process quicker or much longer depending on your time management skills. Learning how to set up a schedule that fosters growth and supports your goals, as well as having an employer who supports your goals is critical.

Marketing

You learn ZERO helpful things about marketing in grad school, but if you know anything about running a business, you know that marketing is at the center of bringing in paying customers. As a therapist marketing looks a little different from the traditional business model, so having support with learning which marketing strategy is going to produce a steady stream of referrals for your business is essential.

If you are still pumped about starting your own practice and know you have what it takes to be a successful CEO, take the leap. Get started today to find the key components of your journey to private practitioner. All of these points are highlighted and taught in depth in the “Associates in Private Practice” course being held this summer. Sign up below to get a head start on the skills you need to make a dream a reality!

Associates in Private Practice

This group cohort class teaches the fundamentals of getting a head start on your ideal practice, while still collecting hours as an associate therapist. Sign up now!

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7 Steps to Owning a Private Practice

For many therapists, owning a private practice is the ultimate dream. Being your own boss, creating your own brand, and serving the population that speaks to you can be such a rewarding experience. Getting to that place however, often feels like a fantasy. My journey to owning a private practice was definitely a stressful one, but I knew that at the end the reward would be sweet. If I had known about these steps to private practice sooner, it may have saved a few headaches.

woman in gray long sleeve shirt sitting on couch

My Journey from Graduate Student to Owner of Simplee Therapy

It ultimately took six, long years to reach my goal. For some the steps to a private practice are easier, and for others it is a long, stressful process. That is the thing about building a business. It will always be unique to you and will happen when you are ready to put in the work necessary to build it.

My process looked a little something like this…

  • Summer 2015: Started my graduate program at San Diego State University.

  • Summer 2016: *Found out I was having a baby!*

    Owning a private practice & creating my own schedule became even more of a priority.

  • Winter 2017: *Had my darling, daughter!*

    Summer 2017: Spoke with my clinical supervisor about my desire to own a private practice as soon as possible. My supervisor gave me the number of a colleague (also an alumni of my program) who was thinking of hiring an associate.

    Fall 2017: I blindly called this alumni to ask if she was hiring associates in her practice. She said she was considering it, but wasn’t actively hiring.

    Started my blog “Simplee Therapy” when I realized the information I was looking for wasn’t readily available. So I began writing down what I learned. (This blog was created alongside my Instagram page, and my therapist community quickly started to grow.)

    Graduated with my Masters in Counseling!

  • Winter 2018: Waited (forever) for my associate number to be processed.

    Got a call from the alumni of my program expressing that she was interested in bringing on an associate therapist and to let her know when my AMFT # was finalized.

    Spring 2018: Signed an agreement to start working in her private practice as a Supervised Associate.

    A few weeks later I also got offered a job at a school based mental health program (also thanks to a referral from another alumni from my program). The power of networking!

  • Summer 2019: Due to working two jobs, I was about 80% of the way to the 3000 hours needed to apply for my license.

    Fall 2019: *Side note: I got married!*

    I started setting aside more time for building out my therapist community via social media & my website. This proved to be very beneficial in the long run.

  • Spring 2020: I reached my 3000 hours for licensure!

    *The world shut down.*

    I finalized my 3000 hours and sent them to the BBS with hopes to have them approved fairly quickly (surprise, surprise…it wasn’t quick).

    Summer 2020: Got notified that I could take my licensing Exam!

    Passed my MFT Exam and received my licensing number!

    Simplee Therapy officially opened for business!!! My blog was easily transitioned into a site for hosting information about my business.

    Fall 2020: Due to the pandemic, I had to let go of the office space I used up until that point for seeing clients. Teletherapy was going to have to work.

    I had a little extra time during quarantine, so I created and published a journal for clients to use during therapy.

  • Summer 2021: I officially transitioned to Full Time private practice owner!

    Plus, I hosted the first “Associates in Private Practice” online course!

The Steps to Building Your Private Practice

1. Identify Your “Why?”

From my undergraduate days, I knew that private practice was my long term goal. I valued autonomy and being able to decide what my work environment & schedule would be. When I realized having a flexible schedule would be much easier to manage with a little one at home, I decided to push up my original goal of starting a practice 7years after graduating, to starting a practice as soon as I got my license. My “why?” never changed, just the timeline did. Deciding your “why?” is what will ultimately fuel your passion.

2. Identify People in Your Support Network that can Provide Mentorship

Mentorship is so important when running a business. Whether you find a mentor who is just super business savvy or a therapist who has successfully built a practice, doesn’t really matter. What matters is they have information and tools that can help keep you on track towards your goals and educate you along the way.

3. Talk about Your Goals

You don’t have to keep it a secret that you want to start a business. Talking about it with friends, family, or colleagues from day one means having people that will start associating you with that business. Ultimately, they will start sending referrals, resources, and opportunities your way that may help that business idea grow into a thriving practice.

4. Make a Plan for Reaching those Goals

You can’t have a business without a business plan. There are key elements of any good business plan: partnerships, marketing, research, resources, costs, revenue streams, and opportunities for growth. Creating a clear plan helps keep you on track, and allows you to make small edits along the way to maximize your time.

5. Follow Through on Said Plans

This should be a no brainer. If you make a plan, follow it. If you feel that something isn’t working it may actually be because you have strayed from the plan. Re-access along the way, and see where you strayed so you can get back on track.

6. Stick with it Through the Tough Times

Bumps in the road are inevitable. Life happens and sometimes we have to make significant changes to the plan. Don’t give up during those trying times. Stick it out and make tweaks as needed.

7. Bask in the Sun!

Once you set goals, create a plan, and follow through you will begin to reap all the rewards. It is bliss being able to work your desired hours, take breaks when you want to, expand and reach goals that maybe you never knew were possible.

As a therapist, I know that we learn very little (if anything) about starting a business and creating the career you dreamed of. That’s why I wanted to help other new therapists understand the steps to building a private practice. If you can dream it, you can build it. Private practice is for those determined to create their own lane, and I’m here for it!

Analee Phang, LMFT Owner of the private practice, Simplee Therapy
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Associates in Private Practice


Registration Now Open!

*Seats are limited.*

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Do You Know Your Therapist’s Social Media Policy?

Understanding Therapy Consent Forms

We continue our series on informed consents for treatment in therapy with the discussion of social media policies. If you want to read more about informed consent for treatment check out our previous blogs here.

Over the past few years there has been a significant increase in the amount of therapists in the social media space. Whether a therapist is on Facebook, Instagram, or even TikTok, they probably have some form of a social media policy in place to protect you and themselves from a breach in boundaries.

So what exactly is a social media policy, and why is it important?

woman with curly hair holding smartphone

A social media policy is a layer of legal/ethical understanding put into place in order to protect the therapeutic relationship between a client and their therapist. Therapists will often list this policy on their social media pages, in an informed consent, or through a verbal acknowledgement in session. This policy often looks something like this:

What a Social Media Policy looks like…

“In order to prevent breaches in confidentiality and the creation of any dual relationships, the therapist will not accept any “friend requests” or “follows” on any social media platform by any current or former client. If following a business account associated with the therapist, the therapist highly recommends to not engage in comments or direct messaging through these social media platforms as these are not regularly monitored and may put your confidentiality at risk of being breached. The therapist may not reply to any contacts made through various social media platforms. Do not use these platforms to request emergency resources.”

You may also see a version of these policies listed as “disclaimers” on a therapist’s social media accounts. These disclaimers often describe how to engage appropriately with these social media pages, expectations of interactions, ways to maintain confidentiality, and resources in case there is an emergency that needs immediate attention. Reading these policies and disclaimers is an important part of being informed as you enter into a therapy space.

Ultimately, these social media policies are in place to prevent the forming of dual relationships. Dual relationships are an ethical concern for mental health professionals, as it can deteriorate the professional relationship formed with a client. The professional and therapeutic relationship formed between a therapist and client should be the ONLY relationship formed between a therapist and client. Therapists should not form business relationships, friendships, or romantic relationships with their clients due to the risk of harming the client’s therapeutic progress and degrading a therapist’s professional lens when treating a patient. Therapist’s should always prioritize your growth and what is most therapeutically helpful.

If you aren’t sure if your therapist has a social media policy, always feel free to ask, so as not to cross a boundary that is ultimately in place for the betterment of your therapeutic work. For therapists, always be clear about what boundaries are in place to protect your client’s confidentiality and therapeutic process.

peace love happiness, Lee

man and woman sitting on bed using laptop

What is a “No Secrets” Policy?

Understanding Therapy Consent Forms

The first step in starting therapy is always looking over and signing a consent form about the treatment you will be receiving. By nature, most people skim over these documents and go right to the signature line, but do you really know what you are signing off on? These treatment agreements outline how therapy can help, what to expect about your confidentiality, your fee for services, and so much more. Today, I want to focus on the “No Secrets” policy that is often included in consents for couples or family therapy services.

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Who does a “No Secrets” policy apply to?

This policy is in place for couples or families participating in therapy together. If you are in individual therapy, this policy most likely wouldn’t affect your treatment. However, if you are entering into therapy with someone else to work on a relationship, this policy may be in place.

What is a “No Secrets” Policy?

This terminology is used by therapists to describe a unique policy in place for couples & family services. It is intended to prevent information important to a relationship from being hidden from either party participating in services. It comes from the understanding that when a couple or family are participating in services the “relationship” is the client, not one or the other participants. So in order to uphold what is best for the “relationship” the therapist will not hold secrets for one or the other participants.

Where would I find information about a “No Secrets” policy?

Now this is one of those questions where “it depends” is the only answer. Personally, I include this policy in my informed consents because I want clients to be well informed about this aspect of therapy prior to starting services. However, every therapist has differing ideas on how or when to tell a client about a “no secrets” policy. Some only verbally inform their clients of this policy once they enter into therapy, some will post this policy online or in their office without actually including it on a consent form. While other therapists may not utilize this policy at all, and are open to keeping certain “secrets” a secret.

When would a “No Secrets” policy be implemented?

The policy only gets implemented when something pertinent to the relationship (or detrimental to the relationship) is shared with the therapist by one participant in treatment, but not the other participant. For example, therapists may separate a couple for two individual sessions to assess for certain dynamics within the relationship. If one spouse discloses that they are having an affair in this individual session a therapist may invoke the “no secrets” policy because the information shared would be detrimental to the treatment if not shared with both parties of the relationship.

Why would a therapist have a “No Secrets” policy?

Ultimately, it is to keep the therapy space an open and honest one. When two people consent to participating in therapy treatment it has to be a space where they can both trust the therapist. If the therapist is holding a secret from one participant, it can become a breech of trust not only between the partners, but in the therapeutic relationship as well. Rapport and trust is the foundation of any therapy relationship, so upholding these things are of the utmost importance.

Understanding the consent forms is an important first step in starting the therapy process. Check out my understanding therapy consents series by reading more of the blog here. If you are interested in starting couples therapy reach out for an initial consultation here.

peace, love, happiness, Lee

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How Do I Find the Right Therapist?

The Difference Between Various Mental Health Providers

If you have been trying to find the right therapist for your needs, you have likely run into a lot of acronyms that look like a bunch of gibberish. Have you asked yourself, “What’s the difference between an LPCC, LCSW, LMFT, PsyD, PhD, MD, or PMHNP??” What you didn’t realize are those little letters behind someone’s name can tell you everything you need to know about the education a mental health professional has and what their specialty and training is in. Let me explain what those little letters mean, and why it is so important to be able to distinguish them in order to find the right mental health professional for you.

Key Providers

therapist office, right therapist, waiting room

What if they don’t have any letters behind their name?

You may have come across a lot of Instagram pages giving out amazing mental health advice from someone who calls themselves a “Mental Health Advocate” or a “Coach”. These accounts can be positive additions to your IG feed, but they shouldn’t be relied upon for professional mental health treatment. Mental health advocates and coaches have good intentions, but are not legally allowed to diagnose or treat any mental health conditions. If you are looking for someone who will provide direct advice and personal anecdotes about how to cope with stress in your life, these individuals may just be a good fit. However, if you want to have a professional assist with your mental health management and treatment, keep reading.

What’s the difference between Licensed Professionals like LPCCs, LCSWs, and LMFTs?

Each of these acronyms stand for a different licensed mental health provider with at least a Masters level education in their perspective fields. They also distinguish between those that have passed their perspective licensing board examinations and those who are still associates (AMFT, APCC, ASW, etc.). Counseling, Social Work, and Marriage & Family Therapy are all closely related fields with slight variances on how they approach treating clients’ needs.

A LPCC stands for a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, and their education focuses on treating mental health illnesses in individuals. They often treat co-occuring substance use and mental health diagnoses, and focus their treatment around the individual and their unique needs. LPCCs often provide individual therapy or group therapy treatments.

LCSW is short for Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Licensed Clinical Social Workers can identify and implement a treatment plan that incorporates multiple community supports. These professionals can diagnose and treat individuals or families, and are great at navigating community systems and seeing how larger systems impact a family dynamic.

As a LMFT myself, I know a great deal about the treatment I can provide as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. LMFTs hold at least a Masters degree specializing in marriage & family therapy, and can recognize the impact family of origin and larger societal constructs can have on an individual. LMFTs do a great deal of studying how relationships form, interact, and influence each individual involved, and utilize this knowledge to assist in the treatment of both individual’s mental health and couple’s/family’s mental health needs. We work with individuals, couples, and families on navigating life’s stressors, childhood trauma, parent-child relationships, pre-marital or pre-natal counseling, and often specialize in couples counseling. LMFTs can diagnose using the DSM-5 and often times collaborate with other healthcare professionals to make sure you are getting the most well-rounded treatment for your unique needs.

What’s the difference between a PhD and PsyD?

This is a question that I hear a lot, and actually has a very important distinction between the two. A PhD stands for a Doctorate of Philosophy, while a PsyD stands for a Doctorate of Psychology. It is important to distinguish what the PhD is in (such as Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy, Theology, etc.) due to the fact that one may have a PhD, but not be licensed to practice in a certain state. For example, someone may go through 4 years of additional schooling to get a Doctorate of Philosophy in Theology, but not be licensed as an LPCC or LMFT, and be unable to diagnose and treat mental health illnesses. So when you see “PhD” behind someone’s name, do some additional digging to decipher if they also have other credentials to meet your specific needs.

A PsyD distinction means someone has done the research and/or additional clinical work to attain a doctorate of psychology. They often have an extensive knowledge of mental health diagnoses and pharmacological needs of clients, and have studied in depth how the mind works. However, it is important to note that the presence of the acronym PsyD does not mean a practitioner can prescribe medication for mental health needs. Depending on the state you live in, a PsyD may or may not be able to write a prescription for your mental health needs.

What about PMHNP or MD?

These two distinctions address the professionals who have the medical knowledge to treat mental health diagnoses in more traditional healthcare settings. PMHNP stands for Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. You may recognize the nurse practitioner designation as those medical professionals at your PCPs office or at a hospital that provide basically all the care that your primary care physician would. These individuals usually have Masters degrees and/or doctorate degrees in nursing practice, and can diagnose, prescribe, and treat mental health diagnoses.

A MD is a Medical Doctor, but doctors that specialize in diagnosing, researching, and treating mental health diagnoses are known as Psychiatrists (not psychologists). Psychiatrists can prescribe and treat mental health diagnoses using the latest research and medically backed practices. They often provide condensed forms of therapeutic interventions alongside medication management to help manage a client’s mental health needs, and refer out to other licensed mental health providers for ongoing therapy treatment.

So, who is the right therapist for me?

All these little groups of letters basically give you a snapshot of a professional’s resume. Making note of the type of professional that will be the right therapist for you can minimize your search time and maximize your time in therapy. Before running through the lists of profiles on the various directories out there, this can help narrow down your search and match you with the right therapist for you. Finding a good fit is one of the most important aspects of your mental health journey, so I’m glad I could help you navigate this important step.