When I first had the inspiration to go back to school and obtain my Masters degree, it never occurred to me to work for anybody else. I imagined from Day 1 that once I graduated, I would be going into private practice.
At the time, I had no idea how crazy the majority of people in the field thought I was!
Through my schooling and my practicum, I heard from dozens upon dozens of people that it was crazy, difficult, impossible, irresponsible, unethical, (you name it!) … to go into private practice as a brand new therapist.
I just didn’t get it. What was all the negativity about?
The more I asked questions, the more I started to understand.
There has been a pervasive belief in the mental health industry that in order to go into private practice, you have to have YEARS of experience as a therapist and that you need to be extremely skilled and successful.
Where on earth did this belief come from?
My best guess is that in the latter part of the 20th century, when the field of mental health support was growing rapidly and just starting to be more widely understood and accepted by the public, being an entrepreneur was an unusual and daring venture.
I’m a child of the 80’s and I remember the adult conversation around me about job security, benefits, and a pension. Lucky for me though, both of my parents were entrepreneurs (my dad owned and operated his own appliance repair business and my mom ran the business) and I learned from a young age that working for someone else wasn’t the only option.
Back then, the only therapists that were in private practice did have years of experience, and were likely very good at what they did.
Fast forward four decades … and we’re in a very different era now.
Today, we are in the age of the entrepreneur. Many of us are sick of working for someone else, on someone else’s schedule, and our hard work going to grow someone else’s business (and bank account!). And with job security dwindling and pensions becoming obsolete, the appeal of job security isn’t what it used to be.
With the advancement of technology, including social media, online videoconferencing platforms, online courses, online counselling, etc. being an entrepreneur (and learning how to do it right) is easier than it has ever been.
There is an enormous shift happening in our society where more and more people are interested in starting up their own business and working for themselves – doing what they love, and being their own boss.
And why not?
The trouble is, we’ve gotten caught in an old way of thinking … that a therapist shouldn’t go into private practice until they’ve had years of experience and are very successful and competent.
The problem with this thinking is that it is based on an assumption.
An assumption that if you’re going to go into private practice, it means you will be all alone. It means that you will be working without supervision, without colleagues and a network of support, and that (for some silly reason) you won’t continue to receive training.
This assumption includes the underlying idea that going into private practice means you have hit the pinnacle of your career.
This assumption is so pervasive, that I almost got derailed by it myself! By the time I was in my practicum, I’d had all those silly fears drilled into me and I was scared.
When it came time to register myself, I applied as a Canadian Certified Counsellor to the Canadian Counselling & Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) as well as a Registered Psychotherapist to the (then brand new) College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). I was scared for months that one of them would find out I was in private practice and come after me!!! In hindsight, this was just ridiculous.
I had a Clinical Supervisor, and I was doing everything right.
And now, I desperately want to debunk the myth that you can’t go into private practice if you’re a new therapist … because it just isn’t true!
This is old school thinking (when being an entrepreneur wasn’t the norm), is from a time when going into private practice probably did mean you had hit the pinnacle of your career.
But it isn’t that way anymore.
My personal experience (and that of numerous friends and colleagues and hundreds of mentees) has been that going into private practice has very little to do with your skills and experience as a therapist, and everything to do with wanting to be your own boss.
A highly-skilled and experienced therapist might have no desire to go into private practice – and they don’t have to. Just as a brand new, fresh-out-of-school young person (or middle-aged person as the case may be!) may want nothing more than to run their own business.
And there is no reason not to.
Let me debunk 3 myths for you.
Myth #1 – You have to be experienced to be in private practice
Lots of people, myself included, have gone straight into private practice once they graduate and get certified or registered. There is no legal or ethical reason why you can’t do this.
Myth #2 – You have to be highly skilled and trained to go into private practice
Going into private practice doesn’t mean you won’t receive further training. You will take on clients that are within the scope of your current training, and refer out ones that you can’t ethically support. Of course you will continue to receive training and become more skilled at what you do.
Most opportunities for training don’t exist just because you work for an organization or an agency. Governing and regulatory bodies offer continuing education courses regularly, and there are thousands of wonderful online and in-person trainings in Canada, the USA, and around the world, where you can further your training and continue to grow as a therapist.
Myth #3 – You will be isolated in private practice
You will only be isolated if you choose to be. Private practice does not need to mean that you are working alone, without any support. If you are newly certified or registered, chances are that you will be required to have a Clinical Supervisor and receive regular, ongoing supervision. There is no reason why you can’t be in private practice and hire a Clinical Supervisor to oversee you. There are lots of experienced therapists out there that will be very happy to do this for you!
You can also choose to create or become a part of peer supervision groups, you can find colleagues and other practitioners in your area or online to connect with. You can also have your private practice in an office building or wellness clinic where there are other professionals you can network with.
The possibilities are limitless … and private practice does not need to mean isolation.
So there you have it. As W.H. Murray says (although this saying is widely attributed to Johann van Goethe):
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Begin it now.