Private Practice

Posted by GVT Admin on Nov 29, 2023 10:36:09 AM

Private Practice for licensed clinical social worker

Social workers, especially those specializing in counseling and psychotherapy often lean toward a career in private practice.

“I absolutely love being in private practice, everything about it,” says Barbara Groves, LCSW, who has a private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia. “The flexibility, for example, to write off copays for motivated single working moms and students from low-income homes. The variety of patients in racial, socioeconomic, and spiritual orientation, as well as gender and political affiliation is so rewarding to me. I feel that I make a difference every day in helping patients become more self-aware and to become enlightened stewards of their lives.” (The Challenges of Private Practice by Sue Coyle, MSW, Social Work Today, Vol. 23 No. 3 P. 10)


Ms. Groves introduces the benefits of private practice as she sees them in her career.

  1. Flexibility
  2. Variety
  3. Making a difference in patients’ lives.

Interviews with other social workers who have chosen private practice reveal these additional benefits:

  1. Long term patient relationships.
  2. More personal one-on-one interaction.
  3. Less bureaucracy.
  4. Personalized practice. You choose the specialty, create the marketing, and customize the program for each client.
  5. Self-regulation avoids the burnout of burdensome caseloads.
  6. Freedom to customize therapeutic approaches.
  7. Freedom - freedom - freedom. Some personality types only thrive on their own.

Private Practice is Business

The term private practice focuses on the practice aspect of counseling and other therapies but ignores the glaring fact that a private practice is a business as well as a practice. Social workers by their nature tend to focus on the service aspects of their profession and overlook the business aspects of a private practice. Business is a science and must be learned in the same way that any science is learned. The main drawback to going into a social work private practice is that you are going into business as well, and you had better do your homework.

The Business Aspects

When social workers go into private practice, they do not simply nail up their “shingle” and start seeing patients. Before seeing patients, they have to start a business. Starting a business requires prior and proper preparation.

  1. Finance: It takes money before you bill your first client and ring the cash register for the first time. You have to finance permits, licenses, an office lease, initial marketing, a website, computer hardware and software, and any taxes that might apply before opening the doors.
  2. Legal: You will need to form the proper corporation and insure yourself against a variety of practice and property liability.
  3. Personnel: You might need to hire office personnel, additional therapists, or pay consulting professionals that are no longer part of a larger organization like psychiatrists, lawyers, and accountants.
  4. Billing: Continued financial wellbeing in a private practice means getting paid, either through clients privately or via insurance providers. Both options can be tricky. When entering private practice, a social worker may, for instance, hope to serve a wide variety of clients with a sliding scale payment plan and pro bono cases. However, too much of a sliding scale or too many clients who don’t pay can derail a social worker’s ability to remain in practice.

Many more business details will crop up along the way that you will be responsible to look after. Running a business is time consuming and errors can be costly. Many social workers who attempted to go into private practice in the past gave up and went back to agency work because they couldn’t handle the business end of things.

In Business for Yourself

Be aware that going into private practice is going into business for yourself. Certain personalities wouldn’t have it any other way despite the added burdens. Be sure to ask for counsel before you decide if that is you.

Topics: mental health, social workers

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