The prevalence of mental illness in adults over a year is more than 22%. Worse, nearly 50% of adults experience a mental health condition over a lifetime. It’s no wonder the US is in such great need of counseling professionals.
If you’re considering starting your own counseling practice, you may be wondering: what are the private counseling practice requirements you have to fulfill? You’re in luck because, today, we’re answering that question and more.
Are you ready to learn the steps of how to open your own counseling practice? Then keep reading for the top seven items that should be on your checklist.
1. Get Licensed and Certified
The first step toward starting up your counseling practice is to obtain the proper licensing and certification.
The National Board for Certified Counselors provides counseling certificates. This national body governs standards for counselors holding a certificate.
To apply for this certificate, you must have a counseling Master’s degree. You must also complete 100 hours of supervised counseling and 3000 hours of counseling experience in total. Plus, you must also pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
States further require counselors to seek a state counseling license. The exact requirements for a state license vary by state. However, all states mandate that you have a Master’s degree in counseling, counseling experience, and a passing score on the NCE.
Once you receive your state license, you can take on the official counselor title. Depending on your jurisdiction, this could mean an LPC, LMHC, LCPC, or LPCC title.
2. Hire a Business Lawyer
Once you’ve attained your national certification and state license, it’s time to hire a business lawyer. Why? Because a business lawyer will help you navigate your state and city legal processes surrounding starting up a new business.
There are zoning laws, business licenses, and incorporation requirements to consider. A business lawyer will also help you understand your malpractice rights and whether you need professional liability insurance.
3. Apply for a Loan
It’s expensive to start up a new counseling practice. That’s why many new counselors seek out a loan.
You have to pay for your office lease and that’s not even to mention the furniture you’ll need to fill it up and make your clients feel more comfortable. A loan will also help cover phone and internet service, employee salaries, and even self-employment taxes.
Part of applying for a loan is coming up with your business plan. This plan will sketch out how much liquidity your practice will need to stay afloat and your marketing plan. The lender will also want to see your business goals for the first year and first 5 years.
Additionally, you’ll need to explain how you intend to pay back the loan. This is called a loan repayment plan and it’s vital to closing a deal with a vendor.
4. Find Your Counseling Office
Once you’ve secured your business loan, it’s time to find the perfect office space.
Counseling offices are unique. They don’t just serve as your place of work, but also your clients’ place of healing. You want your space to be secure and confidential to make your clients feel most comfortable.
Plus, you’ll need a location secure enough to store sensitive patient records.
Keep in mind that a counseling office shouldn’t have to break your budget. Your new office could be something as simple as a room in your home. You could share an office space with another counselor, too, to cut costs for both of you.
5. Hire Administrative Staff
Depending on how many clients you have, you may need to hire administrative talent to staff your office. These experts will create and administer the forms you’ll need every client to fill out. For example, you might need forms for client intake or insurance reimbursement.
Think hiring administrators will be too pricey? Think again because the time you’ll save not doing administrative tasks will more than cover your administrative employees’ salaries. That way, all you have to do is focus on what you do best— care for clients.
6. Market Your Counseling Business
The penultimate step on our list is also arguably the most important. Without a solid marketing plan, how will you ever find clients?
The good news is you don’t have to be a marketing expert to get the word out about your counseling practice. Networking with other counselors and providers that could potentially provide a reference is virtually free for you.
It’s also free and easy to join insurance provider panels. This means that you become one of the in-network providers payers refer their customers to. They’ll advertise your service for you.
To join a provider panel, check your local insurance companies’ websites for instructions on how to apply.
Good marketing in 2020 isn’t just about traditional marketing. Digital marketing can also attract clients with little effort on your end. Counselor websites are a cheap and easy way to start spreading the word about your new business.
7. Provide Quality Counseling Services
Last but certainly not least: you’ve got to provide high-quality services to keep clients coming back. Plus, impressing clients may mean they refer you to someone they know.
Providing quality counseling begins with your counseling degree, certification and licensure, testing, and training. Yet, counselors should always strive to be lifelong learners. Staying up to date with the latest research and completing continuing education courses are just two of the ways to keep your counseling skills fresh.
Fulfill These Private Counseling Practice Requirements and Start Your Business Today!
These private counseling practice requirements are all that’s standing in the way of you and your new, profitable counseling business. So, what are you waiting for? Check off the items on this list to start practicing today!
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