Paying Your Dues?

Raise your hand if you have a strong opinion about whether a new counselor should have to work in an agency before venturing into private practice. Just kidding, we can’t see you.

I have a strong, unpopular opinion. Ready for it?

I’m a fan of starting with the end in mind in business and in personal development. I’m a fan of getting where we want to be sooner rather than later. AND I’m a fan of solid clinical skills. (I feel like I’m on an HGTV episode.... Long awkward pause…) I choose NOT dictating that others have to work at agencies first.

I know what you’re going to say:

New clinicians need more oversight and an agency can provide that… disagree. Sure, in theory. But a solid private supervisor is likely to be more invested in who they’ve taken on than many of the overworked, burned out, stuck-feeling agency supervisors juggling too much paperwork, too many supervisees, too many clients, and too much bureaucracy I’ve encountered.

The ratio of good to bad clinical supervisors I had in agency work is NOT what I want for the new folks coming up in our profession. Once I took on a private supervisor and paid, painfully, out of pocket, I finally got the kind of support I needed to do great work.

New clinicians need to cut their teeth before “earning” the right to private practice… disagree. Why? If they know they want to work with a certain population and the only jobs available are not aligned with their ideal client population, why should they waste their time, the clinic’s time, and their clients’ time not getting trained to do what they really want to do.

I think paying your dues for paying your dues’ sake is bullshit. Maybe it’s the Xennial in me. Obviously I believe in hard work, but I believe in hard, strategic work. Work that allows you to build the life you want. I don’t think it’s fair for those of us who have been in the field longer to make others walk uphill both ways to get where we are when there’s a smarter way.

New clinicians don’t know who they want to work with yet… disagree. Sure, some don’t. But many do. Many suss that out through their practicums, internships, and research.  Plus, because they’ve been privy to some of these private practice resources, they’ve been thinking about it in a way many of us old timers didn’t when we were where they are.

Asking clients to pay good money to have a therapist learn on them isn’t fair to the client… disagree. Then why would it be fair for a client on Medicaid? Also, 13 years out of school I’m still learning on clients and hope I always will.

It’s too much pressure for a new clinician to also take on the business side… disagree. Trying to feel competent clinically and/or in business is a mess for most of us. I don’t think we should dictate what’s best for someone who may have much more moxie, a head for business and higher frustration tolerance than we do.


Make Sure You’re Legal

Some states and licensures require a certain number of post-grad years or hours experience before you can branch out on your own so definitely make sure you know what your specific license allows.


I know many of you don’t agree. I’d love to know what you think either way. Let us know in the comments!


Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. After retiring her individual consultation services, she opened the Abundance Party, where you can get practice-building help for the cost of a copay. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group, and get help from Allison and a small group of new, close friends in Abundance Practice-Building Group. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.



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