How Much Money Can A Counselor in Private Practice Make?

Building a Six-Figure Counseling Practice:

How Much Money Can A Master’s Level Counselor in Private Practice Make?

According to Salary.com, the average Licensed Professional Counselor working in Cambridge, Massachusetts makes $39,778 a year*. That’s beyond bleak. For a city where a 900 square foot apartment can run over $400,000, it’s dismal.

Want to see How much You can Make? Try out our Profit Calculator – How much you can actually make as a counselor.

Is this our fate? Financially speaking, are counselors better off getting jobs at Wal-mart?

I don’t think so.

With good practice planning, counselors can do better. For many, earning over $100,000 profit in year two of private practice is an obtainable goal. In this article, we’re going to look at the financial aspects of running a private counseling practice.

Note: the following numbers are rough estimates for a single practitioner in private practice. For your purposes, you may need to adjust expenses, client fees, and volume based on your own personal practice goals, and on the costs of living in your area.

Client Fees

Looking for a Counseling Job – We’re Hiring!

Client fees vary depending on location, and payer.

For example, In Cambridge Massachusetts, if one is accepting 3rd party payments (insurance), the average intake appointment (90801) pays about $100 for a clinician with a Master’s degree. Ongoing appointments for individual therapy (90806) pay around $75-87, and appointments for couples counseling (i.e., “family therapy with patient present”, 90847) pay about $10 more.

For this article, let’s estimate your average fee to be a modest $80 per session, and a full client roster is 35 client sessions a week (note: if you’re providing 45 minute sessions, that’s only 26.25 hours a week of therapy!).

In addition, let’s say that you give yourself a generous 4 weeks of vacation a year.

 

Number Crunching:

35 (sessions a week)

x 48 (weeks a year)

>_____________________

1680 (sessions per year).

* * *

1680 (sessions)

x $80 (fee per session)

_____________________

$134,400 (gross yearly revenue).

Advertising and Marketing

Looking for a Turn-Key Counseling Practice? Thriveworks is Franchising!

There is no “correct” amount of money to spend on marketing and advertising. In fact, many counselors get by without spending hardly any money at all. However, for the sake of this exercise, let’s say that you take 7 percent of your gross yearly revenue and pour it into marking and advertising for new clients.

Number Crunching:

7% (marketing and advertising)

of $134,400 (yearly revenue)

__________________________

$9408.00 (or $784.00 a month).

* * *

$134,400 (yearly revenue)

- $9408.00 (marketing and advertising)

__________________________

$124,992 (net revenue 1)
Medical Billing

>While many counselors do their own billing (remember, you’re only spending 26.25 hours a week in session), if you are accepting insurance you may wish to hire a company to handle the billing for you. The average cost of billing is 8% of what the billing company collects, which comes out to around 6% of one’s gross revenue (it’s only 6% because billing companies don’t usually take a share of deductibles, or co-pays).

Number Crunching:

6% (billing company)

of $134,400 (yearly revenue)

__________________________

$8064 (billing company fee

* * *

$124,992 (net revenue 1)

- $8064 (billing company fee)

__________________________

$116,928 (net revenue 2)

Office and Miscellaneous Expenses

There are plenty of small and seemingly hidden costs to running a private practice: from patient parking, to offering water and coffee, to organic tissues, to printer ink. Here are some ballpark numbers for outfitting the solo private practice.

Rent (one office): $500 a month = $6,000 a year

Office supplies (computer, phone, furniture, printer, coffee, etc.) = $3,000 a year (note: purchasing furniture will be an initial outlay of several thousand dollars, but amortized over 10 years, you can calculate it as a few hundred dollars a year)

Professional dues, continuing education, liability insurance = $460.00 a year

Other Miscellaneous = $540.00 a year

Total Office and Miscellaneous Expenses: $10,000.00 a year

Number Crunching:

$116,928 (net revenue 2)

- $10,000.00 (yearly miscellaneous expenses)

__________________________

$106,928 (final net revenue)

And there we have it: a 6-figure private practice. A far cry from Salary.com’s $39,778!

Independent Variables

In an experiment, the independent variable is the variable that is varied or manipulated by the researcher.

While the above provides a rough outline of a six-figure private practice, your counseling practice won’t exactly mirror the example above. To help you determine more accurately how your practice will look financially, below is a list of variables that you can modify, to observe their financial impacts.

  1. The “final net revenue” above does not include the cost of health insurance, retirement planning, or bookkeeping services, which are often partially covered by an employer. Purchasing these services will detract from your expendable income.
  2. Conversely to item (1), owning a business has tax advantages that one doesn’t receive as an employee. For example, if you purchase a new laptop, it will likely be counted as a business expense. Hence, it’s paid for with pre-tax money (that’s about a 30% discount).
  3. The estimates above assume that one will be able to maintain a client roster of 35 client sessions a week by year two. Low new client volume, high client attrition, cancellations and client no-shows can reduce your weekly session count (subtract up to 30% revenue).
  4. To expedite the building of a caseload (hopefully in year one), more money could be invested into advertising (or time spent professional networking). It is not unusual for companies wanting to grow quickly to spend 10% of gross revenue on advertising and marketing (subtract 3% revenue).
  5. After building a strong reputation, establishing active referral sources, and developing good client retention, you may be able to eliminate advertising and marketing (reclaim 7% revenue).
  6. If you see some or all cash-pay clients, you can reduce or eliminate the billing service (reclaim up to 6% revenue).
  7. If demand for your services outweighs supply (that’s you!), you can raise your cash-pay rates to $99, or higher (add $31,920 revenue, or more?). Note: you can also add a second clinician, but that starts a whole new series of mathematical calculations.
  8. The estimates above do not account for unpaid session fees (subtract up to 4% revenue).
  9. If you will accept credit cards, subtract about 2% revenue from whatever percentage of session fees you expect to process with plastic.
  10. If you decide to spend 30 hours a week in session, that’s 40 appointments (add $19,200 in additional revenue).
  11. For a final financial boost, consider reducing your vacation time from 4 weeks to only 3 weeks (add $2800 in gross revenue).

As a rule, numbers are not very exciting to counselors (did you enjoy psyc-stats?). So, thanks for hanging in there. I look forward to your comments, questions, and thoughts about the ideas presented. Recommended Comments: Are you a counselor in private practice now? Are you earning the revenue described? Are your expenses higher or lower that what was suggested? Have you found additional sources of revenue? Or new methods for financial success? Please share your experience!
Warmly,
Dr. Anthony Centore, CEO of Thriveworks
*Retrieved on Mar, 23, 2011 – http://swz.salary.com/SalaryWizard/Licensed-Professional-Counselor-Salary-Details-cambridge-ma.aspx

66608 Total Views 162 Views Today

Comments

  1. Justin Feasel says

    To all the naysayers out there,

    I am writing this on my phone, so please forgive typos. I started my solo practice two years ago. I have owned group practices since 2008. I frequently go above 35 clients a week, and do so without feeling drained. My goal is to go to 45 a week. I am self avowed computer nerd and have done the vast majority of marketing online. In fact, I soared past the 20 clients a week mark in 6 months.

    It is truly about learning how to be business people who markets therapeutic services. Those are the ones who survive. In my career, I have seen plenty if therapists fail because they lack the business skills to succeed.

    Thank you for writing this blog

    Regards,

    Justin

  2. Angie Wright says

    I have been a clinician for 25 years, own a group counseling practice and own a medical billing company. This article is misleading. I have never known anyone to maintain a 35 client per week case load. To even have 35 clients per week show, you would need to schedule 50 clients per week, taking into account the national average no show/cancellations you would get. This isn’t realistic. Especially after 2 years of practice. It will take an entire year or more to even be accepted by many managed care companies. Secondly, the lowest you will ever pay for a decent billing company is 8% of gross, including deductibles and copays. It’s inaccurate information to state otherwise and indicates your lack of research. Also the average managed care reimbursement for a master’s level counselor is between $65-70, not $80. I’m all for promoting this field, but get real, and do it in a way that won’t mislead people interested in counseling. 8% of private practice counselors succeed in their business. These are real statistics. I love my field but no one will love it if expectations are not realistic.

  3. Mark Myers says

    I am not sure how one could assure themselves of 35 clients a week. That is realistic figure to work with. First, a lot of clinicians would consider 30 clients a week to be working at full capacity in regards to their ability clinically. I have been in the field over 20 years and rarely do I see therapists go over the 30 session per week , and never have I seen or heard of a therapist doing it for 48 weeks. This would roughly be a 50 to 60 hour work week, at best. That is not clinically realistic nor a figure you would want to develop a business plan around.
    Secondly, most Managed Care contracts are $60 per session so I am not sure where $100 session came from. Third, if you are looking at therapists working outside the insurance, asking them to pay $100 per session for self pay as opposed to $10 to $35 copay for insurance, in today’s economy, a hard sell. No shows, vacations and cancellations are also factors to consider as well. I realize you address but thought I would mention anyway.
    Again, maybe in your part of town things are different. I am just basing this on my experience.

  4. Mark Myers says

    I am not sure how one could assure themselves of 35 clients a week. That is realistic figure to work with. First, a lot of clinicians would consider 30 clients a week to be working at full capacity in regards to their ability clinically. I have been in the field over 20 years and rarely do I see therapists go over the 30 session per week , and never have I seen or heard of a therapist doing it for 48 weeks. This would roughly be a 50 to 60 hour work week, at best. That is not clinically realistic nor a figure you would want to develop a business plan around. Secondly, most Managed Care contracts are $60 per session so I am not sure where $100 session came from. Third, if you are looking at therapists working outside the insurance, asking them to pay $100 per session for self pay as opposed to $10 to $35 copay for insurance, in today’s economy, a hard sell. No shows, vacations and cancellations are also factors to consider as well. I realize you address but thought I would mention anyway.
    Again, maybe in your part of town things are different. I am just basing this on my experience.

  5. Ron says

    Hi Anthony,

    Thank you for this post. It was a very eye opening read. Over the last five years I become extremely fascinated by psychology, so much so that am now looking at getting into the field either as a marriage counselor or as a licensed therapist. I live in Salt Lake City, UT, so there should be no shortage of clientele either way (if you get my drift). One thing I am conflicted about, though, is whether I should get a masters in clinical social work or a masters in counseling (or clinical) psychology? From what I have heard, those who earn a MCSW make more money, are more employable, and are accepted by more insurance providers, but that a masters in counseling psychology will better prepare you for actual work as a counselor. Ultimately, my goal is to get into private practice as soon as possible, and I will take whatever path will get me there the quickest and with the greatest financial benefit. Any advice?

  6. Kim says

    I am shocked but not surprised about that naysayers who say having a successful private practice in not possible. It is and I know several people who are quite successful. I recently obtained my LCSW and look forward to the challenge. I don’t think its going to be easy. It takes hard work, dedication, learning from others who have done it. It’s not for everyone. And yes not everyone will be successful. It’s a business like any other and you must be good at it. You must learn how to market, etc. And yes maybe in the first few yeara you may be working more than 35 hours a week to learn the ins and outa of practice. Networking, etc…but what do you think you don’t need to put in any effort? And clients come to you when you hang a shingle? There are good therapists and ones who can become good ones. Patience, belief you can do it! And persistence is key. I don’t think the first several years will be easy or 35 hours but eventually when you are seasoned I’m sure one can more easily navigate and get things done in an hour. 35 clients is feasible and not unethical. maybe draining depending on your energy level. Different things work for different people. Yes be realistic but don’t say impossible when many others have done it
    with a good sound plan it’s feasible

  7. Bailey Miller says

    I am currently doing an internship at a tribal voc. rehab. department in OK. I will start graduate school this fall to pursue a degree in human services counseling. This degree will set me up to be a CRC or an LPC. I am leaning more towards LPC because I feel there are more job opportunites for that option. Since I live in southern OK there is not a booming population and I am kind of weary on how many individuals I would get on my case load if I were to go the private practice route. My questions I have been asking myself include the following:

    1. Should I try to obtain my LPC and my CRC
    2. Should I just stick to one licensure
    3. Should I settle for around $35,000 annually having a masters degree when my husband makes way more with only a high school diploma!
    4.Most of the clients only means of paying will probably be through insurance. Is that even going to profitible?

  8. Tiffany says

    I recently just graduated from high school and I want to Major in Psychology and Minor in Business Admin. But as for psychology I am getting my PhD. but I am not sure what to go into. Private practice or work for a firm/hospitals? Which is cheaper but pays more? I’ve always wanted to do Family/Marriage Counseling but at the same time Clinical sparks my interest !

  9. Thomas Kaufman says

    There are quite a few options available for online learning. However, before you enroll within a program, you will want to check your state’s regulation and licensing requirements. Some states require a CACREP program, others just a regionally-accredited program. However, most require some sort of practicum/internship that allows you the opportunity to put into practice counseling and psychological theory.

    With that being said, Fielding Graduate University offers a good program, as well as APA-accredited doctoral programs. Walden University, Capella University, and Grand Canyon University also offer courses that could meet most state requirements.

  10. Robin says

    Thank you for this thread. I am a LPC that has been working with SED children and adolescents for the past thirteen years. This article gave me hope when I had lost it, to start my own private practice. The last agency that I worked at required 40 hours of face to face time for a home based practice, even though we had to travel 10-15 hours per week. My experience has been that there are a lot f therapists who will tell you that you won’t be able to make it in private practice. Thanks so much for giving me hope again. What are your thoughts about a all cash private practice ?

  11. Sean says

    Ben,

    My therapist–an Ed.D.–took on 11 patients a day, 5 days a week when he started years ago. Since then, he has cut back to 9 patients a day (45 min. sessions). He is constantly booked and has a list of people to call when a cancellation is made. He works hard and is good at what he does–not to mention that, obviously, he loves his work! I think the determination to help paired with an excellent work ethic makes 40 patients/sessions a week (8 sessions per day) highly doable! It’s been done, at least. My therapist lives a happy life and does not consider himself overworked. He works in private practice so he works as much as he does willingly. I look forward to following in his footsteps!

    Just wanted to offer this perspective and let you know that, yes…it is very doable to see 35 patients a week!

    -Sean

  12. Deborah says

    I am looking at an LLC in GA start up. I have been working on the business plan, and am confused as to where I might be able to get marketing stats for the business plan. I have contacts for two of the populations I want to serve, but would like to break into the crisis workers/first responders therapy. Any good resources for seeing what those types of contracts look like? I’d also like to offer a contract to hospitals since our state is breaking up funding to each county hospital for mental health after care (nice for the people, as the monopolies of the past have not been very beneficial). I’m a visual learner, so if I can’t see it, I really struggle with understanding it. Thanks!

  13. Jesse says

    I know I’m late to this board but it is full of info and I’m full of questions! I’m currently a high school teacher with a masters in education. I have been looking for a career change and I think counseling is where I want to go. Seeing these numbers has been helpful because I currently make $59k and I was afraid to leave that when I saw the other salary figures out there on the internet.

    As far as where to start though, would you recommend an online program? I have a 10yearold so I need flexible hours while doing my coursework. If so, do you know of the best schools to look at?

    Also, since I have my masters, would I go for a second masters or only complete the extra credits necessary for licensing? I don’t want to sign up for a program only to realize I made the wrong move.

    Thanks!

  14. says

    I have been in the field about 8 years and up until recently I was pretty pessimistic about the financial opportunities for a master’s level counselor. I recently joined a group practice and a year later I am seeing about 25 people a week which has renewed my hope in the field. Here are my recommendations for those looking to start a practice:

    1) In the beginning join a group or get on as many insurance panels as possible. There is a big movement of counselors who are moving away from insurance panels because they can’t make enough money or confidentiality reasons with insurance companies. Here is the bottom line unless you have such a specialized niche or you are servicing those who can afford to pay out of pocket consistently over months then get on panels. I have been pleasantly surprised by how well insurance companies reimburse per 60 minute sessions instead of the 45 minute codes. If you do not get on panels you will have a frustrating experience more than likely unless you are specialized or work with the wealthy.

    2) It is possible to see 35 people a week but not for everybody. Some people’s tolerance will top out at 20-25 hours a week which is pretty standard for full time. Personally my goal is 30 hours a week which means I will need to book 35 a week to get 30 hours because there are always cancellations. I think what will separate out those who can see 30-35 vs 20-25 is making sure you are working with an therapeutic approach and with a population that brings you energy. This bit of self knowledge is very important.

    3) I have found that seeing about 25-30 per week after taxes, overhead etc comes out with a 85 dollar collected fee will bring me to about 80 K a year. My plan to take myself to 100 K is to run specialized groups on various topics and use the groups as a place for feeding my practice as well.

    4) Keep you eyes on the upcoming changes in HealthCare Reform that will be slowly changing the industry over the next 3-5 years. We are stepping into a new stage of private practice and you need to be ahead of the ball and not assume that the way insurance companies pay us will stay the same in the future. The old fee for service model is moving out and a model that emphasizes showing outcomes for clinical care and cutting costs is the way of the future. Be on top of this trend. In future months I will have information on my website at http://www.thelifechart.com with a new model for the future of mental health care.

    5) Finally it is good to see a blog discussing the possibilities of private practice just know that you need an infra-structure or you will become disillusioned as I have many times in my career. We need to believe that we can make a top notch living but we must have the skills and mindset to back it up.

    Bill Wilder, M.Div., M.A., LPC

  15. Shane McHan says

    I start my degree plan tomorrow for a master’s in professional counseling. I have been asking questions and researching online about income with a private practice. There seems to be a lot of confusion out there with income potential. I did some of my own numbers and roughly come up with the same numbers expressed in your article.

    I was also thinking that having a group session once or twice a week has the potential to boost ones earning potential even more.

    How about hiring other counselors or post-graduate interns, is there any extra income to be made?

  16. Ben says

    She knows exactly what she’s talking about, and you’re being disrespectful. The idea that most therapists are averaging 35 client sessions a week—a ludicrous scenario you somehow paint as normative—is indicative of the extent to which you’re either meaningfully ignorant of how this all shakes out in the real world, or simply motivated to inflate the numbers.

  17. Georgina says

    Where can I find the insurance panel reimbursement rates for Licensed Psychologists in CA? I am deciding what panels to join , if any, and cannot locate the info on-line. Would appreciate some info, thanks

  18. Lori says

    Thank you for this information and offering your perspective on income capabilities. Very helpful!

    I was conducting therapy in a group practice and earned a 50/50 split with the owner. The practice provided some referrals and had billing. Is this an ideal situation? I usually made about $40 per client. I am very new in the field and am not really sure what to expect in terms of financial compensation but I felt like I was making much less than I had anticipated. I am currently on an extended maternity leave, although eventually want to get back to therapy and just contemplating long term goals.
    Thank you!!

    • Anthony Centore says

      Hi Lori, good question. I don’t know where you’re based out of, but $40 per client at full-time of say 35 clients a week, at 48 weeks a year, is $67,200. If this is what you’re able to earn, I’d say you’re right on for most areas.

  19. dee says

    Hi,
    I am a licensed clinical social worker who has worked many years as an employee for companies; but I am now moving into a contractor position. It is a wellness group and I am the first psychotherapist they have hired.

    We are trying to decide if I should get on boards for insurance of have people pay out of pocket. When I tried to get info from the insurance companies, they said they won’t tell me what the rates are until I am accepted as a provider. I am in the DC area, and no one I know in private practice takes insurance so I have no point of reference.

    Is there any way to find this info out before going through the whole app process? Or is there anyone out there who might know the rates in this area?

    Thank you for the information you provide on this site; it is greatly appreciated!

    • Anthony Centore says

      Congratulations on your new position, it sounds like an exciting opportunity! You are right about insurance companies–they don’t want to tell you what they’re willing to pay until after they approve you for their panel. It seems that they think they have better negotiating power if they don’t publish their rates. The thing is, for providers in small practices (or even medium practices) such as yourself there’s usually not much negotiation anyhow! Anyhow, while we don’t publish reimbursement rates online, we’ve credentialed providers from all 50 states. If you want to give us a call at 1-855-4-THRIVE, we may be able to pull some numbers for you. I hope this helps!!

  20. Nicole says

    I know we don’t like talking split or percentage but I am in the same boat. I am working for/with another LMSW. We have a 70/30 split but I pay all my taxes. It confusing to me because I am self employed but in her business. I am responsible for my own billing. Initially I thought this was a lot because seeing 25+ at $70 seems greater than paying $350 in rent for everything and keeping everything else. Which do you think is a better deal. I am thinking about two offices and dabbling in the second option.

    I do agree it mostly about time management and being efficient. I am working on that but I am setting a 6 figure goal and I have no doubt it’s feasible.

  21. Deb says

    I’m so sorry to hear that your therapy ended so abruptly. I have to say, your situation is exactly why I don’t make more than I do… I just can’t, in good conscience, charge so much that it prevents people who really need help from being able to come in. I get especially frustrated when I’ve got a teen girl who wants and needs help, but her parents can’t afford the cost of weekly therapy for her. I didn’t enter this field bc of the money, but I have to admit that my husband (who takes care of the business part of my practice) does get frustrated when i give clients a reduced rate, and he wishes I would charge more. It’s truly a hard balance.

  22. Moe says

    hello. i have been in the field for 15 years and always had clinical supervision, however never got licensed (have masters in Ed., counseling &dev.). If I hire a clinical supervisor and get paid out of pocket vs. insurance, am I able to have my own practice. Of course, I’d be upfront that I am a Masters level clinician and not licensed.

  23. A client says

    Using even modest calculations, after my therapist has mandated two raises this last year, totally about 20%, for all of his exciting (and new clients)… in the worst possible scenario he is making $150k. I completely went in to the wrong field! He has doe his time, has excellent skills, a wonderful client base that works primarily on referrals with insurance from his wife’s job…and because of all the tax breaks I’m assuming there will be 0% tax paid? I’m a little resentful but, glad he’s paying for his kids college, making sure he’s out of debt, paying for his vacation and suburban home and prepared for what I hope will be a relaxing retirement. It makes me feel worthless going in to discuss my financial crisis, which as a professional (in another area) myself… making about 75% less than him.. supporting myself, etc… it’s just weird to discuss that with someone who can arbitrarily decide when they want a raise (again). The therapy is worth it, and it has been long psychodynamic therapy due to the nature of my issues… but, it’s time to go (financially, for me because of insurance changes) and it makes me heart sick…. but I’m just another dollar sign wandering out the door. I know in the end it is business, it is money… it just sucks part of my healing is left partially unfinished as I’ve learned to trust there is hope in humanity and I have to sever that this month with much less of a goodbye than I wanted it. It’s hard, but… how can a guy making that much… professionally ending and creating relationships as a job really care. It’s hard to carry the sense of security with me… like I wish I could have done leaving for college from my parents. I’ve learned a lot (and wouldn’t have outrageously paid if he was not worth it). But to end over money is so cold, so final, so “good bye $x, let me know if you find referrals” rather than the longer goodbye I felt I needed. I’ve always gone to therapy knowing it was finite, and business but yikes.. I wish I could say and honor the goodbye to the work rather than… my hurting emotionally and him pre-planning his income. But such is the business.

  24. Sonja says

    Thank you very much for this article. It was encouraging. My goal is not necessarily to make 6 figures but the example that you laid out was clear and complete. I opened my private practice in Texas in April 2013. I am on several insurance panels including BCBSTX and together with copayments/coinsurance from clients, I earn roughly $80 per 50 min session. Although I’m still building my practice, I see these figures as entirely possible to achieve now I’m actually doing the work. My rent is only $380 for a nice sized office with an executive suite office set-up. I am on the border of 4 cities in the suburbs of Dallas. Right now I answer my own phone, do my own billing, manage my own website. Maybe that will change as I increase my client load.

    It seems that many people who posted negative comments or insisted that this goal was not possible to achieve were people who had not gone into business for themselves yet, were either still in school, or still working on licensure and took a more pessimistic view. I would guess due to their own fears about private practice. I know several therapist who see 8 to 10 patients per day for 3 days per week. If you can’t get what you need done in the 4 four days that you have left in the week, you’re doing something wrong. I saw 8 patients per day working at an agency during my LPC/LCDC internship. So this is not unusual in my opinion.

    Mr. Anthony was only providing a basic run down of private practice. There is no way that he could list everything that is needed to be successful. But just like any business, there are lots of decisions to make and you have to find out what will work for you in your specific area of the country, state and city that you live and work in. You can’t be afraid to work hard and spend some money on start up costs. But most of all, you have to believe that you can do it. You may not make over 6 figures but you will definitely make more money that you would working for someone else.

  25. Deb says

    Wow, lots of interesting conversation as people challenge the idea of being financially successful as a licensed therapist. I’m a licensed, master’s level therapist, and I own a private practice. One thing I didn’t see in your calculator is the major cut taken by taxes. I realize you’re only looking at profit prior to paying taxes, but I do think it’s important to at least mention them. What I bring in and what I actually take home are pretty (frustratingly) different. Thoughts?

  26. Monique says

    Thank God for this thread! I am about to make a career switch at 30 and newly married with my undergrad loans just now almost paid off and I have been racking my brain regarding how I will not come out of this next degree into a position (after licensure of course) where I am making pennies, in loan debt and not financially contributing to my family.

    I love that you present the possibility of a 35/wk case load. I have zero experience in the field yet and that number even struck me as daunting – mostly emotionally exhausting. But, all of this conversation has been very helpful in helping me shape my perspective and I also think there may be an interesting business problem to solve here. In theory, I agree that there must be a way to make 25+ hours of actual session time per week work. I currently work at an investment bank where people work 100s of hours/wk all of the time. This is not ideal by any means, and not the life I want as a therapist and wife/mom. I also understand that banking is not the same as counseling, but there are many parallels in the client servicing, reputation management and relationship building aspects of the jobs. In banking at least, I think much of the need for excessive hours at work stem from institutionalized inefficiencies in the banking industry. I often see ways that our bankers could work smarter and with far more scheduling flexibility than they do if the organization/industry were willing to think about the work differently. I’m wondering if this is similarly applicable in the way therapy and counseling traditionally functions?

    Any how, I love this site and I look forward to learning more and joining additional conversations.

    Thanks!

  27. Sarah says

    Hi Jae,

    It has been my experience that if you are seeking licensure, you want to pursue a Master’s degree in counseling rather than psychology. Your undergraduate work should not necessarily matter. My undergraduate work is in psychology and my master’s is in counseling. Currently, I’m working toward licensure.

    Typically, a counseling master’s degree requires more credits (necessary for licensure) and valuable practicum and field experiences while a psychology degree will guide you more toward research and eventually either a Ph.D. or Psy.D. After working in higher education for a few years and making a shift toward become a licensed professional counselor, my advice is to head for counseling if you are aiming for licensure. I hope that helps. Good luck!

  28. Steven Palmerton says

    Hello,
    I know I might be a little late on this post but I have some questions if you’re still answering! I’m a freshman in college and majoring in Psychology, I have learned that i’m not as interested in the research aspect as I thought I would be. I don’t want to endure those long hours to be doctor of psychology because I don’t think that’s the right for me. That being said, I still want to counsel people and assist them. Social work seems like a great place to do that, but is that going to pay my bills? maybe not at first, but based on your number crunching it seems rather intriguing. If I wanted to open a private practice after achieving a masters in social work, what is the process? I am unfamiliar with all of the acronyms and abbreviations in the posts’ in the thread. If that could be dumbed down slightly, i’d truly appreciate it!
    Thanks,
    Steven

  29. Eddy says

    Great article! I truly appreciate the time taken to offer a realistic goal in this field, with accurate information. I have been working at a youth program for 2 years now in western Mass and recently filed my paperwork to receive my licensure (and promoted to director! (-: ). The idea of working in a private practice and ultimately running one (hopefully in the Boston area) has always appealed to me. Any tips on what initial steps I can take and what to avoid?

  30. satori says

    Anthony,…that is for phd level and for bcbs…they dont panel lmhc..yes bcbc in ny pays same in ny..but other major carriers in ny, where costs are higher pay an average of $60…for masters level..so it is unrealistic to use $80 a session unless you can advise which carriers pay $80…for masters level…heck cigna only pays $55 for 90834.

    • Anthony Centore says

      Satori,
      BCBS of MA (Masters Level)
      90791 – $139.52
      90834 – $72.95
      90847 – $79.44

      I hope this helps. If insurance is paying less in your area, you will want to make adjustments.
      Cigna is perhaps the lowest payer in the country. I don’t really have a dog in this fight, I’m just trying to provide the data I have.
      Even at $60 — remember, $60 an hour x 35 hours a week x 50 weeks a year = $105,000. You will be under 6 figures for sure, but will still be way above what salary.com lists as your likely income :-)

  31. Satori says

    My point exactly….it is only BCBS paying those rates and not for Masters level and they won’t credential LMHC. So why use $80 as the average in your figures when more realistic rate is $60. That is why I asked who is paying $80 other than BCBS and you can’t get paneled??

  32. Satori says

    Anthony,
    In Dutchess County NY only BCBS pays $80 for 90834.
    Most of the other major carriers pay $60.
    And BCBS wont accept LMHC,s on their panel.
    What carriers are paying $80?

  33. Leslie says

    Hafiz,

    I am very much in the same boat as you! I am 39 and also thinking about a career change, but the thought of devoting another several years of my midlife to this is a bit discouraging. I am eager to hear what advice Anthony has for us.

  34. Patricia says

    Hi,
    I am considering returning to school for LPC, and am considering an online school. This school is accredited. How do you feel about online schools in the counseling field?

  35. Hafiz says

    Hi – I really enjoyed your numbers. You are right…hate numbers : ).

    Here is my situation. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business and an MBA from a renowned school in International Marketing. I make six figure salary and have 2 little kids. I am evaluating if being a therapist is realistic for me. What kind of schooling would I have do given I have non-phsyc education? Would I have to quit now to go back to school. I would like to get into therapy for the love of being able to help someone. I would be ok with some financial sacrifice, however at 40, its hard to turn your life 180 around. Appreciate your guidance.

    Regards,
    Hafiz

  36. Paul says

    Your article was very refreshing. I’m currently a MFT intern with about 1,000 more hours left to go out of my 3,000. My goal is to do a cash only private practice. It’s nice to see a breakdown of everything while a majority of the time I hear people complain of low pay and “how hard” it is to do a private practice. The only way to find out if it’s possible is to go out and do it! I live in the Los Angeles area. I just need to work on getting clients once I’m ready. I enjoy helping people, but want to make a living while working for myself as well. I believe it can be profitable!

  37. Tanya says

    Hello..My name is Tanya [changed] and I am currently completing my licensure hours for my LPC. I am interested in starting my private practice, but the thing is, I have no experience running a business. I am learning a lot from reading the comments and REALLY appreciate your advises. However, I am hearing impaired and the population that I have experience working with vary, most of them have dual diagnosis…that always ends with something + deaf. My fear is most of these deaf individuals are unemployed because of the lack of support from employers and a lot of them have medical assistance. For that reason, I would like to extend my services to them as well. I need guidance because believe it or not, there are not many people who are willing to support a person who is DEAF like myself. I have undergone the same educational training but still face the barriers that my clients face. I don’t want to go on and on about this. I have understanding about mange care, boundaries, dual roles being that the deaf community is large but small, I learned about billing and fees through my work experiences…but just seem that something missing.

  38. Jonathan says

    I appreciate the numbers breakdown, the question I have that wasn’t mentioned (or at least I didn’t see it) about how much should we deduct for having an assistant? or is an assistant even needed with 35 clients per week?

    • Anthony Centore says

      Jonathan,

      Great question. If you are seeking to hire an assistant, it can be costly. And you are right, for times when you are in session or otherwise unavailable (even you need a day off once in a while), you are missing calls without a secretary. But you are going to have to pay for:

      Recruitment / Training
      Payroll tax (7.65% of wages!)
      Unemployment and workmen’s compensation
      Healthcare benefits
      Holiday time / Vacation time / Sick time / Overtime / Bonuses
      Workspace and equipment
      Wage increases / Raises
      And the cost of doing it all again when (not if) the employee resigns!

      So we built Thriveworks Reception and Scheduling. This helps you still earn that 6 figure salary and have a personal assistant.

      So how does this help you – and answer your question?

      You can use Thriveworks’ scheduling and reception, and it will cost you only a fraction of what hiring a secretary would cost you.

      We figured out that if clinicians were going to succeed, we were going to need consistent telephone answering from trained (HIPAA Compliant) staff who knew practices inside and out. We needed multiple receptionists standing by so that we wouldn’t miss calls, and we needed staff who would represent our company extremely well. Also, we needed staff who could screen and schedule new (and ongoing) patients. This was expensive to build, but it was worth it! Today, we have a small chain of medical practices in four states along the east coast, and our patients and potential patients always can get a hold of a team member.

      For more information about Thriveworks Reception and Scheduling (our Medical Answering Service on Steroids) Call us at 1-855-4-THRIVE (847483).

  39. Jae says

    I know I am a little premature in asking this question, but I am just trying to get all my ducks in a row. I am 35 years old and enrolled in a university without really knowing what I wanted to do. I have to come to realize that I want to be a Marriage and Family Therapist (regardless of the pay). I changed my major to Psychology only to find out that my university does not have a Master’s Degree that will provide me the courses needed to obtain my license. I spoke to another college and they told me I do not need to take Psychology. I need to take a counseling course. I can not seem to figure out what I am supposed to do at this point. No one that I have spoken to is really helping me figure out what classes I need or how to go about obtaining my ultimate goal. Everyone just seems interested in me being at their school. Any advise will be of great help.

  40. Hope says

    While 35 clients a week can be doable, is it ethical. I do not think so. Sessions are 50 minutes with 10 minutes for writing notes etc. That means you have 5 hours a week to do marketing (no matter how successful you are marketing never goes away like you say it does in this article), billing, training and reading for working with current and future clients. In school and in talking with over therapists, 20 clients is the norm. You say 20 clients is part-time, but if you are a good therapist, you are taking the other hours to train and support your practice. You also don’t mention the emotional toll of being present for 35 clients a week. I find this article very misleading and unrealistic. I know from the previous comments to posts that you will say thank you for your comment, but it’s doable and 20 clients are part-time, but it is a full practice.

    • Anthony Centore says

      Hope, I won’t thank you for your comment because I think you’re foolish for calling any counselor with a full caseload unethical. Ah heck, thank you for your comment anyway.

  41. Jenn says

    Funny. The new insurance rates are much less. $71 an hour is pushing it and less or same for family or couples sessions. Spending any more than 30 clinical hours a week whether 45 minute sessions or an hour, you are talking major burnout and no use to anyone. There are huge other costs. $500 for an office in Cambridge? Where did you find that? And what about utilities? phone, electric, internet? Start up costs and setting everything up is a lot of work. If you are new to the field and have not acquired good enough retention skills, I don’t recommend trying this. Flexibility, a sense of humor, good resources, supports, coping skills. You really can’t be in this field for the money or you will not be successful and the clients will know it.

    • Anthony Centore says

      Funny. The new insurance rates are much less. $71 an hour is pushing it and less or same for family or couples sessions.

      –Show me an example of where insurance pays less for couples/family therapy than individual therapy.

      Spending any more than 30 clinical hours a week whether 45 minute sessions or an hour, you are talking major burnout and no use to anyone.

      –Untrue. See many examples of people who do this every day. 30 clinical hours = 22.5 hours a week with clients. That’s not a lot.

      There are huge other costs. $500 for an office in Cambridge? Where did you find that?

      –Right next to Harvard University, in a beautiful building in one of the most expensive areas in the country.

      And what about utilities? phone, electric, internet?

      –They are accounted for in the math in the article.

      Start up costs and setting everything up is a lot of work.

      –Yes it is.

      If you are new to the field and have not acquired good enough retention skills, I don’t recommend trying this.

      –Either do I.

      Flexibility, a sense of humor, good resources, supports, coping skills.

      –All important things.

      You really can’t be in this field for the money or you will not be successful and the clients will know it.

      –That being said, you can make plenty of money in this field. If you are poor and unsuccessful and unable to manage your counseling business your clients will know it.

  42. Mary says

    I am under supervision for LPC licensure at a private practice and I currently have about 5 clients. We have arranged a 50/50 split with my supervisor for all the clients she refers to me. I keep 100% of any clients that I find on my own. In addiiton, I pay the supervisor $50 for weekly supervision sessions. Is this a fair arangement? I am not looking into making huge profits since I have another full-time job and my priority is licensure. I just graduated in Dec. All clients are self-pay since I cannot take insurance with a PLPC license.

    • Anthony Centore says

      Hi Mary,

      Yeah, in my opinion I’d say that’s a decent arrangement. Really what matters however is how much you’re making, not your percentage. You didn’t say whether these clients pay $20 or $150 a session. That is often more important that the % split.

  43. Robert says

    Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for this article. I did some similar math before entering private practice, and distrusted my own estimates after hearing so many people in the field complain about having difficulties making money.

    I have been in private practice now for about 3 years, and make well over 100K/year – even without having reached my maximum caseload, which I’d put at about 35. I also teach as an adjunct instructor at a local university.

    Mostly I’m responding to the large number of people here who are writing about what constitutes a manageable caseload. In my experience, most of my colleagues have a caseload of at LEAST 35. 35 is average for a therapist in private practice. Some of the more ambitious therapists I know have caseloads of up to 50 (which I would not recommend). As you have said repeatedly, this all adds up to an average workweek in terms of time, even when you include the time for administrative tasks, which are minimal compared to what’s required in agency settings.

    I would like to politely suggest that those who find it difficult to keep or manage a full day of clients consider additional training (particularly institute training, if it is available in their area). This provides practitioners with the skill set and network to build and emotionally manage the work.

    With the right foundation, these numbers are more than realistic.

    • Anthony Centore says

      Robert,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! We get our share of comments from counselors who don’t understand what a full time caseload is, and who don’t believe that anyone can run a successful practice. It’s great to have some commenters be counselors who have succeeded in private practice!! :-)

  44. jason says

    I found your article and love it.. I recently decided to go back for my MA in professional counseling and then pursue licensure. My plan is to finish some ebooks as well as get something published as well as do local seminars on goal setting and relationship building with a blog and online newsletter so when I am ready I have the needed caseload. I also have an inlaw who is in private practice to use as a distant mentor. I know that success is my choice in this field. Do you have any other advice?
    P.s. I am nearly finished with my personal memoirs which chronical my life..including 15 years doing autism therapy as well as family-based therapy as well. How else to ramp up a steriod powered P R platform??

  45. Michelle says

    Hi,
    I was very intrigued by the article. I found it valuable with a lot of good information, as were some of the above comments. I am hoping to get some advice and guidance. I am looking to possibly change careers. I have a BA in Elementary Education and I am looking to go back to school for a Master’s Degree. However, while I know I want to enter into the counseling world I am honestly not sure which type of degree (LPC, LMCH, LICSW, or LFMT) is the best one to shoot for in terms of earning the most money in the profession. I do realize with each type of degree comes different areas of specialization, but I am looking to enter into an area that will be in high demand and will be the best investment for me as student and professional. Would you be able to assist me in sharing the differences in the types of degrees in terms of how they sit in the profession financially?

    I have to be honest, I am worried as I hear people talk about their student loan debt in the 100,000′s, and on the flip side I am reading how many can chip away at that debt with a successful practice. There are many reasons I am considering going into the profession. Money is obviously not my top motivator as I want to help people and make a difference in the lives of others. However, like many, I would like to be comfortable in life. Taking a risk and making and investment in a Master’s degree is a scary thing because in this economic state you want to be in something secure. Are there any companies or jobs that will pay for you to go back to school and get a Master’s degree in counseling?

    About how long does it take after graduating with a Master’s degree to get to the point where you can think about getting your own practice? Once you graduate are the chances of you finding steady income in this field good? I suppose I have been scared from the Education field where I worked hard and graduated only to find out there are absolutely no jobs in the teaching field. Counseling has always been a passion for me and I think I am not ready to explore it as an option. For someone in my position that is just considering going into this career field I want to be the most informed about how the career field works. Where can I find this information? I guess I am just trying to find out where to start and what type of degree to even zero in on? Thank you so so much for all of your help in advance! Any and all advice and guidance is greatly appreciated!

  46. Jim says

    Some of the problems with the > $100,000 idea through a high caseload:
    1. you will need to either contract with a govt agency or be on every low paying panel imaginable to come close to meeting this caseload.
    2. who is answering your phone and booking your appts for free? i would like to hire her, because she has never applied here. my secretaries demand at least $9 an hour because of all of the confidentiality headaches they have to put up with
    3. i live in a small town of 200,000 with some of the lowest commercial rents in the nation (my husband is a Realtor) and there is no way i can find non warehouse space for lower than $1.50 per rentable square, add in load factor and you are looking at $800 for a 100 sq office somewhere in the ghetto.
    4. churn – the median number of appointments kept is “3″ according to the apa
    5. clients that have money or insurance only are available monday – friday 6pm – 9pm with a few willing to book weekends. maybe some other people live in places where their clients do not have to work and can come anytime of day. here people either have jobs and can come after work, or cant pay.
    6. back to back 45 minute appointments sound great! but what about progress notes? shuffeling clients in and out? going to the bathroom? if the therapist is ethically doing their job and proper case management then there is no way to see more than one client every 55 minutes.
    7. monthly bills – commercial phone 2 line with voicemail $123.00, commercial internet required for checking email (needed for contracting) $98.00, commercial alarm $48 + $12 city police alarm tag fee, water & gas $100 monthly summer or $175 winter, electicity $250 summer $175 winter, copier rent $50 or so depending on number of copies, commercial liability insurance $863 every six months, yellow page ad $55, county tax stamp $75 a year, bi monthly carpet cleaning $125, bi yearly lobby chair cleaning $300, sanitrol bathroom service $45 weekly… add to all of this the cost of replacing worn out or broken office furniture, computers that become old or obsolete, christmas bonus for secretary, resubmittal fees, debit card percentages taken out fees, bookeeping, cpa, lightbulbs, watercooler, ink cartridges, paper, pens, post-its

    I am in no way saying that it is impossible to net $100,000 a year, however i do not think it is practical to expect anywhere close to that in a private one person practice. Of the twelve independants I know in private practice, only two actually would turn a profit if they did not own thier own building or thier husbands were not paying for thier offices. For the most part this job is a fun hobby for many independent practitioners who have wealthy husbands who support their practice.

    as for me? i turn a profit but barely and see a little over the median national average of 20 clients per week. if i needed to make the big bucks i would get a bigger place and open an intern farm, but all i really need from my practice is it to pay for itself and occasionally buy me a nice pair of shoes. i think most in private practice are looking for the same.

    • Anthony Centore says

      Hi Jim!
      Thanks for reading AND for taking the time to comment! While we disagree on nearly every point (LOL), we like that you’re commenting! Our numbers are both accurate and realistic–we know, because we’ve done it (over and over again), and we’ve helped lots of other counselors do it to. It’s not pie-in-the-sky, it is straight up fundamental practice operations and accounting. That being said, I’m happy to approve your comment so that readers can read your perspective!! Jim, we’re dying to know…regarding your shoes, who are you wearing? :-) Respectfully, your friends at Thriveworks

  47. Maria Walther says

    I just came across your site and appreciate the candid information offered, thank you! I’m a mental health clinician in BC, Canada working within a regional health authority, have two Master degrees (MA, MSW with specialization in clinical counseling) and for the past 5 yrs. wanted to branch out and start my own practice. I may be too timid in my thinking but the way I see it, even earning 70% of the 6-figure salary is an improved version of what I see most counselors in the public sector earning, and it would still be compatible with my personal social work ethics of balancing survival/comfortable living needs with meaningfully helping others vs seeing their misery/crises as only a potential profit margin. Thank you, enjoy all your comments!

  48. PA says

    I have to say I disagree. I see your logic though the reality of counseling is much more demanding on time and energy than simply adding up 45 minute hours and assuming that the quarter hour you are left with amounts for anything at all. I agree with your other page about finding a higher paying position within an organization. Most of those that can, do. The quest for 6 figures via a high case load is a pipe dream. Good luck to those that believe it is sustainable. If you can charge $150 an hour then you may be in business. Otherwise you are destined to be a slave to every dollar you earn during the 45 minute hour.

    • Anthony Centore says

      PA, while I don’t agree, thank you for the comment! I appreciate your perspective, and taking the time to share it!

  49. PA says

    These financials sound promising though they are all based on seeing 35 clients per week. Anyone who has any experience as a clinician knows that this is not a sustainable number by any means. Realistically carrying 20-25 clients is already a very full load considering all note writing, making contact with other health care providers, and office management tasks. If you carry 35 clients per week you are destined you burn out or be terrible ineffective as a therapist. Simply an impossibility in this field.

    Also, if you are being paid via a third party (insurance provider) you will have to correspond often with them and fill out ther forms. This will usually limit your clients’ total number of sessions, nearly double your working hours, and most likely reduce your per client take home. Obviously it is possible to make six figures if you are willing to work 80 hours per week or overcharge wealthy private payig clients. However, the vast majority of counselors do not, and will not, make such a salary. It’s unfortunate but realistic. No use in offering false hope to those checking out the site.

    • Anthony Centore says

      Thanks for the comment PA! 35 clients per week is exactly 26.25 hours per week of actual face-to-face therapy. This will give a clinician plenty of time to do the other tasks you describe (14 hours per week, for a basic 40-hour work week!). While it might be the right fit for you, 20-25 sessions a week does not a fulltime caseload make.

  50. Chrissy says

    Hi,
    I’m an LCSW and I have a interview with a private practice on Tuesday. Can you please tell me a fair breakdown in regards to salary. For example is it the norm to see a 60/40 split? (With me getting 60% of the session). What do you think is fair?

    • Anthony Centore says

      Hi Chrissy, what is fair depends on a lot of issues. What is the average session fee? What is your real income potential? What are your responsibilities? What are the benefits, perks, and work environment like? You are making a common mistake–to look as % split instead of your actual likely compensation. If you are paid only 10% of session fees, this could still be a great deal if session fees are high enough…so it really depends. But, to answer your question, in most cases 60/40 is a very good split. Congrats!! :-)

  51. H.B. says

    Hi Anthony,

    First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to help, advise, and respond. I am just about to start a Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling. I have a few questions for you and I hope you are able to respond.

    I would eventually like to start my own practice, but like many other new grads I will probably work at a facility first. Do you know what the demand is as well as a realistic salary for counselors not in private practice?

    I am a former medical student but my school closed down before I could obtain my degree. I obviously have a lot of debt and I worry about taking on more with the possibility of little reward. I am not going into Counseling for the money, but I need to know that I won’t be putting my family in jeopardy by making this career choice. I thank you in advance for taking the time to read this.

    PS. I plan on practicing in NJ if that helps at all with your reply.

  52. Dana says

    Hi Anthony (and All) – I apologize if this is a bit off topic, but I’m going to ask for your thoughts anyway :) I am in the process of applying for licensure as an LPC (all of my paperwork has been submitted), and I am looking to join a group practice. The goal is to learn about how practices operate and then ultimately open my own. I have a couple of interviews lined up, and I am wondering…What kind of income can I make as a contractor within a group? Also, what amount of pay would be reasonable to ask for per session?

  53. Sue says

    Hi – I am a LCSW who recently began working part-time for a non-profit agency in the Chicago area doing private therapy… The agency keeps 55% and pays me 45% of my income. I have 8 years experience as a school social worker, but no experience in therapy until now. Does this percentage seem fair to you and what percentage do agencies normally charge their therapists? (They provide the office space and billing… I provide my own insurance). Thank you!!!

    • Anthony Centore says

      Greetings Sue! The split seems a little on the low side, but really the split percentage means very little. A practice might give a low percentage, but have a reputation that commands higher than usual fees. Hence, you might be getting a slice of a bigger pie–so to speak. What you want to look at, instead of percentage split, is what you’re earning. If you’re just getting started at the practice, the best way to determine your true earning potential is to ask what the other clinicians are brining home a year. Some practices will claim that you can make over $100,000, but in reality no clinician at the practice has ever managed to hit 6 figures. So, sorry for the rant on this one (still having my first cup of coffee this morning). Take a closer look at your real earning potential and ask yourself “Am I satisfied with this level of compensation?” Ignore the actual percentage, as it means very little. I hope this helps!

  54. Erin says

    I’m a masters student who left the business world to go back to school and change careers. I’ve actually come back and read this article more than once to remind myself that it’s not all low pay….maybe when you start out, but I’m a firm believer that as counselors we can use our skills for a multitude of things. For example, I consult on social media and marketing in my spare time. Counseling skills are ESSENTIAL when doing online community management. So for someone who is interested in trying to make more money, there are ways. Have faith!

  55. Tamara says

    WOW!!! Thank you SO much for this information and taking the time to respond to everyone’s questions! VERY informative. I finished my undergrad in counseling and am going through the application process to get my Masters in Professional Counseling. It mimicks CACREP accreditation requirements, but is NOT CACREP accredited. Everything else about the University seems great and I do want to pursue my masters there. I don’t think this will be a problem for the state I am living in (SC) but could you tell me if you foresee any potential problems? I know a couple of counselors in my area who have a very well-established counseling career and both graduated from non-CACREP schools, but wanted to know if you have any insight on the topic. Many many thanks!

    • Anthony Centore says

      Good question! I would not worry about CACREP accreditation at this point. More often than not the rule is that your college courses must meet CACREP standards. While some things are changing, and perhaps CACREP accreditation is becoming a bigger issue, I think a much larger issue is whether your program provides the courses necessary for you to be licensed in your state (and perhaps, be eligible for licensure in any other state that you are interested in working). — That being said, I am not an expert as is relates to CACREP standards!

  56. Elise Fuller says

    This sure is a busy thread. I agree with many other professionals in private practice that 30-35 clients per week would be utterly exhausting physically and emotionally. I see that Anthony incorporated “some” time estimates and/or financial estimates on all the other aspects of running a practice in addition to ACTUAL COUNSELING time. But, it is not realistic. Here are a few points.

    1) Marketing doesn’t just take money, it takes time! If you are working to have lunches, conferences, build or create marketing materials, answer forums, write blogs, meet with potential referral sources, or host any kind of free seminars, etc. You can expect to make significant time contributions.

    2) There are tiny costs that happen every day not included in the additional expenditures estimate. What about the cost of resubmitted denied claims, or calling insurance companies to verify insurance and get claim status. What about keeping up with credentialing. What about the monthly cost of a scheduling and or electronic medical records system? You included rent (500.00 cheap for even Texas if I might add), but not utilities if applicable. And phone service for you business line, voice mail, any answering services, fax lines. How about internet costs monthly? No way you achieve all professional dues, and liability insurance for 460.00 a year.

    3) I disagree with your part-time estimate of liability insurance. Call you company and ask again. Yes part-time is 20 hours (combined direct and non direct hours). A therapist seeing more than 10 clients a week or avg of 40 clients a month is considered full time liability in Texas. This insurance alone for a fully licensed provider is 250.00/yr. If you added license fees and ceus you are way over 460.00.

    I could go on for miles. I pride myself on remembering the details of my clients sessions without having to take extensive notes. This would be difficult with a 35 clients a week case load. And let’s be honest. No shows, rescheduling, declined credit cards etc happen more than you are figuring into your loss percentages.

    If you made your estimates work. You would be an excellent counselor with incredible referral power in an under served area, with somehow clients/insurance that pay decent fees, but CHEAP commercial rent costs. With the most efficient ability to work in your free time and almost no need to market with your own time! And the best CPA in the state. You’d be working on a timer to keep up with that tight schedule and no room for error. Not the kinda of lucrative private practice dream most grad students dream of. And 4 weeks of vacations (Which in your estimate includes holidays and sick time… if hardly GENEROUS). I think most people in business for themselves look forward to a lot more freedom than that.

    Take it from me folks. An LPC-Intern working my butt off in private practice near Dallas, Texas. I regret my professional choice so regularly. I have a low income for how educated I am and how hard I work. I’m emotionally stressed an exhausted after 20 clients some weeks. I have NO BENEFITS of any kind. No constant dependable salary!

    I love what I do, and my clients make my day. If it weren’t for a dream to do this work it would never be worth it from a business stand point. I dream of where Ill be 5-10 years from now. Maybe own a bigger group where I rake in % from all the counselors underneath me and have filled my practice with, finally, much smaller marketing contributions. Then, maybe then, I will feel secure.

    • Anthony Centore says

      Hi Elise,
      Thanks for the comment! What can I say? You don’t know what you’re talking about. This is to be expected–you are an intern and you’re not successful in private practice. I’m not saying that to be mean, you say that yourself in your comment. And you state that the only way to be successful in counseling is to “own a bigger group where I rake in % from all the counselors underneath me.” Elise, you really don’t know what you’re saying–and I’m shocked that at your level you’d rather attack those who have been successful, and claim that success is not possible, rather than try and learn more from them.

      Elise, the issues you have about the article: the cost of filing claims, “tiny costs” of practice…these are addressed in the article. Indeed, your comment shows that you don’t yet know what you’re doing; the cost of rent (is reasonable at $500 a month, even in Dallas), the time it takes to market (are you a marketing professional?), how many sessions a counselor should see each week (at an intern level, it indeed should be less than 35. The article was written for professionals in the field, where a full time caseload of 35 sessions (which is only 30 hours of therapy) per week is standard).

      Elise, I recently wrote another article about “Emma” a clinician who in 3 weeks of practicing in one of the most competitive therapy markets in the country got her practice to a revenue of $10,000 a month. You can find it here: http://thriveworks.com/blog/what-it-takes-to-succeed-in-private-practice-a-tale-of-two-counselors/

  57. Stephane Larose says

    In order to understand this article, can someone tell me the average number of clients in a caseload and the frequency these clients are seen?

    • Anthony Centore says

      30-35 a week is full time (at 45 minutes per session that’s only 22.5-26.25 face to face hours). Most clients are 1 sessions per week, but some attend less, and some more. –Hope this helps!

  58. Bradley says

    Hi,
    I found your site and am very impressed with the detail you have put into your site. I am currently working on my Masters in Counseling and wondered how the new health care law will impact counselors billing/payments- if at all. Thanks for any info. Great site again!

  59. Lisa says

    Hello Mr. Anthony Centore!!

    I wanted you to know that I agree with you and your financials and number cruching that a private practitioner that has attained their LPC or MSW, can earn a 6 digit salary couseling approx 6-7 clients per day… Yes, I hear the concern about burnout, and I plan to never short change my clients in order to give them the very best in counseling I can. :)

    I am currently finishing up my CACREP Masters of Science Program in Psychological Counseling and pursuing my LPC. I currently have 39 credits and onlyn 20 more to go!! still must do practicum, and 2 internships with required supervision in addition to 1 year of post grad supervisory hours… Sounds like alot right?? But here is my plan! I was wondering if I can start my own practice and hire an MD or PHD to work in the practice as my supervisor as I do the counseling portion and this Licensed supervisor would 60 percent of the 60/40 split for the first year as payment for his mentoring and supervision… Just think about it!! I can be establishing a clientele of my own within my first year of practice as what is know as a Licensed Associate Counselor,which is the first step, and then for my second year when I obtain the LPC status I will already have built part of my practice etc!! Then the MD or PHD person could either A) stay on board with me and keep his practice within mine,in which I would regain my hundered percent revenue in exchange for him to pay lower rent fees, or something creative…B) may be ready to start on his/her own as well… So this would potentially work well given the Md or the PHd is a recent graduate or someone that is retiring or soemone that just left a practice!! and trust me these people are out there!!

    7 clients a day would look like this in my practice

    Start my day at 830 am (coffee voicemails etc)
    First client at 9:00 am
    2nd @ 10
    3rd @ 11
    4th @ 12
    LunchBreak> No clients from 1-2:30(eat, do paperwork from morning, and/or dictations)
    resume 5th client at 2:30
    6th client @ 330 (possibly will book child/teen) at this time for right after school time)
    7th client @ 430 (possible child/teen at this time as well )
    8th client @ 5:30

    Whole day is a 10hr work day using this schedule, however many people need night hours so you can do this schedule maybe twice per week and you will have 15-16 clients there and the other two days a week you can do late hours such as this

    12pm – 8pm (seeing 7 patients total) per 2 days a week equals 14 total patients here..

    So far we are up to 30 pts approx at 4 days per week… and then of course you can do 1 half day ( usually wed’s ) from 8:30-1:30 and there is your other 5 patients to make a total of 35 patients!!!

    Sounds good on paper and can work in reality if you make sure you give yourself enough mental breaks during the day.. I schedule the hour so when I am done seeing that patient for their 45 min appoint I may have that 10-15 minutes to regroup… to be the best I can be for the next patient.. I used to work 10 hour days so that is why I put that in my proposed schedule but of course to each is own, and depending on the clients needs your schedule will be altered. The demograpics as well as the population youn wish to serve may also dictate the type of time schedule that works best for you and your clients..

    kEEP IN MIND THIS IS ONLY ONE EXAMPLE OF HOW 35 PTS CAN BE PUT INTO A SCHEDULE FOR A ONE WEED WORK WEEK… THERE ARE MANY OTHER WAYS TO DCO IT.. FOR EXAMPLE YOU CAN DO SAT MORN AND HAVE A DAY OFF DURING THE WEEK EVEN!! OR DO ONLY 8HRS 5 DAYS A WEEK!! BUT ITS DOABLE!!

    I’d like to thank you Anthony for helping me to see that this can be done and I will be able to handle the patient load!!

    My only question I would like to leave you with is the one from the start of my email: Can I get my supervisory hours done in that way ? by having someone hired in my own practice?? or No not doable due to state regulations and that I would have to be creative in the way that I pursue this?? I am from New Jerse, as the laws are diffetrent in every state….

    Thanks for your words of wisdom and any information that you can provide me and the others on this website blog..

    Lisa :)

  60. Richard says

    I am contemplating returning to school to do a Masters in Counseling to become an LPC. Grad school is not cheap. I was considering completing the degree online instead. What are your opinions on doing this degree online instead of on campus? Is it frowned upon in the industry?

  61. Carla says

    Thank you for your quick response. I started doing some research and noticed that many of the Ph.D & Psy.D degrees take up 5 years. Is this normal?

  62. Carla says

    This is a great article, and I enjoyed reading the responses along the way. My question is, can a clinical mental health counselor with a masters degree obtain a PhD? If so, what in?

    • Anthony Centore says

      Carla,
      Good question. Yes they can. It is sometimes a Ph.D. in Professional Counseling. It doesn’t always give them the ability to bill insurance at the psychologist level, but it is often helpful for those wishing to teach at the University level. Others get an Ed.D. Others are able to begin a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, or Psy.D., and transfer in some credits (normally not many, though). I Hope this helps!

  63. Sarah Edwards says

    I posted a reply to a comment above and would like to follow this thread if possible.

    CC of the Reply I posted

    Sarah Edwards · Psychotherapist at Private Counseling Practice

    I have to agree with Barbara here that your estimates are inflated. I am a licensed LCSW and PhD psychologist in private practice in CA in my community for six years. I bill at $135/hr. I’m in most all of the major networks and her rate of payment is much closer to reality here than yours. Some pay as low as $37 plus the co pay of $5 – $30, depending on the clients coverage. Some are better, up to $50 or $60, plus co-pay. I might add that seeing 35 clients a week is really a stretch, when you consider that there are always cancellations and nearly a day per week is needed for admin {billing, reports, researching, scheduling) for every 2-3 full days of clients. And 4 weeks of vacation! That would be a dream. I have just taken a week for the holidays as the first vacation in 1 year and a half. I book about 30-32 clients a week and have about 25-27 actual appts. Working 6 full days a week I find this is difficult workload to handle, but still I cherish private practice and hope it won’t be eliminated under the new intergrated health bundled payment approach of health reform.

    • Anthony Centore says

      Thanks for the Comment Sarah!
      Here are my thoughts.
      35 clients a week is a mere 26.25 hours a week in session (they are 45 minute appointments). That allows for 14 hours per week for paperwork and admin, to keep a 40 hour week. Admittedly, some who own their own practices put in more than 40 hours a week (as do many people in general, who work for a living). To deal with no shows, one can create a no-show policy as to not lose revenue. Alternatively, one could book 40 clients per week, with the understanding that up to 5 might cancel (recommendation: do your notes during those gap hours, and between sessions). Regarding reimbursement rates, I’m sorry to hear that you are working with an insurance company that pays as low as $42 per appointment, with the co-pay included. I have never seen a private insurance company pay such a low rate. Many of the companies we work with pay quite well (some do not, and we opt not to work with them). For instance, Blue Cross in Boston pays Psychologists (as of 9/1/12):
      90801 – $162.20
      90806 – $89.75
      90847 – $106.99
      90846 – $85.62
      And Tufts, another major payer in Boston Pays:
      90801 – $100.00
      90806 – $80.00
      90846 – $77.00
      90847 – $88.00
      In Philadelphia, Aetna pays MASTERS-level providers:
      90801: $105
      90806: $75
      90847: $75
      And the list goes on….
      I hope this helps!

  64. Courtney says

    Hi Anthony. I think your business is just what I need. I’ll be done my MSW in May 2014 probably taking the licensing exam in January of 2014. I want to start now getting things in order so I can begin accepting clients in June 2014. I’ve been a broke social worker for so long that I want to get into my practice as soon as humanly possible. My goal is to bill insurance for services, no cash payments when I first begin, is that smart? Can you give me an idea of what steps I can start now? Or is it just too early to do anything? Thanks.

  65. AVY says

    Hi,

    Thank you so far for all the great information and would love a little feedback on this situation I’m in. I’ve started working as a private practice MFT Intern in San Diego, CA. My supervisor is on insurance panels and charges $110/hr. I am doing cash pay only (no insurance) and she has structured my fee at $40/hr which she then takes 60% of. For groups, the price is $20/client, which she also takes 60% of. My long-term goal is to own and operate a private practice, so I understand paying my dues and learning from others, but this does not seem like an income I can realistically live off of. There is only 1 office and some group clients are provided, but most is up to me to find. There is the potential to have individual/couple/family clients referred, but none guaranteed. Though some advertising and marketing is also provided, a lot is also left up to me. I understand the value of experience, but can you please provide your input on this? It seems like most other MFT Interns in private practice settings in my cohort (relatively same level of experience) are charging much more per hour and also do not take insurance. Thanks.

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Avy, if you call our offices at 1-855-4-THRIVE, we can absolutely put you in contact with someone who can help you process those questions!

  66. Michelle S. says

    Hi Antony. Well I could use some advise and direction. I had a part-time private practice in New York City (had many connections and was Secretary and President Elect of the Metro Association of AMFT) and moved to Michigan a year ago and am finding it very difficult to jump back in. In New York I only provide fee for service and had a decent practice without a ton of effort (mostly client referrals kept me going). I was also recognized as an “out of network” provider by many insurance companies. I would code 92310 then and have no idea (after a years hiatus) what 90801, 90806, and 90847 are? So my first questions are: Where do I find codes? Is there a code in this modern area of having “skype” clients (as I did when I first moved here) and are we still on the DSM-IIIr? My husband thinks I should try and find a practice (in a pretty small town) to try and “buy into” when we get some money…I would like to rent an office by the hour and start marketing myself and see if I can continue with fee for service clients and build it up slowly. Also, would you recommend that I call the insurance companies and fill out applications to see if I can get on their panels. All the therapists I spoke with when I first landed here told me the ins. companies have a quota that is already filled in the area. What do you think?

  67. Ehsan says

    I am so glad you continue to put your knoewldge and expertise out there’ for other therapist’s to learn from! It’s almost like class has never stopped for me – Jon Domachowski, MA, PLPC Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis

  68. Jason M says

    Hello,
    I am about to get my Associates in Science. My goal is to get a Masters in counseling and eventually open my own practice. My question is what undergrad degree or degrees would best suit me for my goal? Any help would be great, thank you.

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Jason,
      I’m not sure if you need a bachelors in psychology to move on to a Masters in Counseling…Maybe some of our other readers can speak to this.
      This question would probably be an easy on for your academic advisor at your college, or looking at the entry requirements for some Masters programs you’re interested in… Hope this give you a direction to move toward!

  69. Ayesha says

    Also as an add on to the above comment, I’m looking for a job for this year while I apply for masters programs. What type of job would be most helpful in terms of boosting my grad school application as well as providing some insight into private practice counseling? thanks again!

  70. Ayesha says

    Hi, I just completed my Bachelor’s degree and up until recently I was considering going to medical school. I wanted to pursue psychiatry but due to a number of factors I’m considering doing my masters in social work or counseling. I feel like this is the best option since I want to go into private practice counseling, but as others have expressed above the salary isn’t exactly inspiring. I’ve heard that in terms of insurance reimbursement the LCSW route is more favored by companies. Any advice that you could offer on the difference between the two programs, especially in terms of salary later on would be extremely helpful. Also, after completing my masters, what would you suggest as a next step? I read above that it is frowned upon to do internships for private practice, so what would be a good option for someone wanting to consider this path. Thanks for any help!

  71. Donna says

    Hi, I am a recent graduate of Mental Health and Counseling program here in Boston and have signed on as a fee for service with a non-profit agency. I was offered .30/hr per client, along with a supervisor for licensing purposes. Based on my ability to network and collaborate with other local agencies, i.e., homeless shelter(s), I was given possiblity(80)clients to work with. Now, of course it would be impossible to handle 80 clients alone, therefore I am working with the agency to provide other clinicians to work with me. My question is if I have the ability to obtain this level of clientele coming in 30/hr, (they are wiling to neg), What is a reasonable negiotable amount I should expect the agency to offer?

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Donna,
      I am trying to understand your situation. You were offered .30/hr? Do you mean $30 an hour? :-) $30 an hour would be much better than 30 cents an hour. –Donna, in fact, what the agency (For Profit, noted) is offering isn’t bad for a clinician that is not yet licensed. You might find that the potential for 80 clients, in reality, ends up being much fewer. It is very difficult for intern-level (pre-licensed) clinicians to find placement these days, for congrats on your success. Again, I don’t think you’re getting a bad deal at $30 an hour. Anyway, I hope this is helpful!! Warmly, Anthony

  72. Dr K says

    Greetings: This will be my 2nd Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling Therapist-I am currently working on my Masters in the Therapist. I will be graduating next year in August. Right now I am making plans to open up my own practice. Can you provide a lay out of contracting with the insurance companies: also I a considering opening up the practice in another part of my home separated from the normal part. Is there anyway you could email the various insurance companies, I believe in planning ahead and building money now. Very informative to my future.

  73. Amanda says

    I have read your article and although it seems very nice, I’m not sure how to feel about it. I will grad with my bachelors in psych in May 2013 and start my masters program in MFT or MA in Counseling (not sure the difference in pay yet). However, after I get my masters I understand I need 2 years/3,000 hrs before getting licensed. My husband is going to Medical school the same time I will be graduating with my masters. We have 3 kids and I am worried about being able to support my family on my own straight after grad school. How much money does a MA MFT make (estimate) straight out of school and is it possible to not be struggling financially while my husband is in med school? He will not be working during his schooling so it will be all on me…any advice will be greatly appreciated, thanks.

  74. Randall Cripe says

    I am an LPC in MI and started a part-time private practice immediately upon graduation. The two best pieces of advice that I could give are 1) do your research and 2) know yourself. The question of whether or not you can make six figures as a counselor has far less to do with this profession specifically, as much as it has to do with whether you, individually, have the skills, experience, passion and business acumen to be a successful, six-figure income earner. In other words, if you can’t imagine making a six-figure income in a different business venture, then I would suggest that you likely won’t make that income in this profession either. You either have (or are at least willing to learn) the necessary entrepreneurial business skills to become a top-achiever, or you don’t (or at least are not willing to learn them and/or stretch you too far past your comfort zone).

    In addition, it’s disheartening that some persons have made such sweeping blanket statements regarding how many clients are “too” many. First of all, everyone is built differently in terms of the number of clients that they can handle and secondly, the type of counseling that one conducts (career, family, trauma, etc.) significantly influences the “drainage” factor that all counselors experience. I believe that you are the only person who can ultimately define your professional and ethical limits.

    So, the potential to earn six-figures as a counselor is clearly here. It’s now up to us to determine whether or not we will make it a reality. Henceforth, if we’ve already pre-determined that we’re never going to make six-figures, then no amount of proof or evidence will prove us wrong – we’ve already decided upon the final outcome.

  75. Rob S says

    The article and feedback are extremely informative. I am in a totally different business – I own a small financial services consulting business. Due to some recent personal events, I’ve become more familiar with counseling & psychiatric services. I’ve seen some really good things and unfortunately I’ve also had some unpleasant experiences. The latter was partly due to the fragmented mental healthcare system. As a result, I’ve been inspired to consider changing careers. I am exploring the possibility of starting and managing a private outpatient counseling & psychiatric practice. The general idea would be to have 15-20 counselors and about 5 psychiatrists in one office that would accept private health insurance. I would provide all administrative services (regulatory changes, scheduling, billing, offices, advertising/marketing, insurance, patient referrals, etc), so that the practitioners could spend all their time with patients. There are numerous pros and cons for patients & practitioners.

    Patients
    - Pros: Counselor & Psychiatrist are in the same office & collaborate. So meds are more effectively managed if required.

    - Cons: Some patients prefer a more private setting with a counselor who has her own office and little or no patients in the waiting room.

    Practitioners
    - Pros: All administrative work is done for them. Practitioners just have to meet with clients.
    - Pros: Healthcare reform and regulations are managed for practitioners (i.e. ACO participation)

    - Cons: Less autonomy as individual practitioners are part of a group.

    Questions:
    - Would many practitioners consider this type of arrangement? I would imagine newly licensed counselors, those that have recently moved from another geographic location and practitioners that do not want to deal with any of the administrative/regulatory aspects required might be interested.

    - Where can I find prospective practitioners to join my group?

    - What % of billable revenue would be reasonable to charge for such services (…10%, 20%…)?

    - What type of structure do you recommend – 1)LLC where all practitioners are partners 2)practitioners as employees…?

    - I have an MBA, but I do not have any healthcare management experience, education or certifications. What education or certifications would you recommend?

  76. Nicole says

    Hello , I graduate with a Professional counseling degree next year in May. I’m current working on starting my own mental health agency (out-patient treatment). Is this possible to do with an LPC degree?

  77. Alicia says

    The logic behind the math is sound but the variables you mention vary by region, of course. The reimbursement rates by third-party payors in my region (South) are abysmal and attempts at negotiating better rates are not usually fruitful if one is a solo practitioner without the leverage of huge volumes seen by larger practices. Also, the expense of running a private practice with a professional image costs a bit more than your figures suggest– providing a professional, safe, discreet, and desirable location costs more than renting a dimly-lit office in a decrepid old building. Locating and setting are an important variable in retaining new clients. First impressions are important.Additional taxes, licenses and business fees run costs somewhat higher than your $3000 a year estimate for expenses. As a dually-licensed mental health professional with over 25 years’ experience, I have no problem exceeding the $100K in revenue as long as I see 35-40 clients per week, even with the abysmal rates and my collection rates are consistently at least 95% (the uncollected fees are generally no-show fees that don’t get paid and the client drops out of treatment). It’s the enormous cost of maintaining a successful practice as a solo practitioner that depletes the profit! Administrative time involved in maintaining books, resolving claims issues, collaborating with other professionals involved with the patient, and documentation pushes office time into the 55-60 hr/wk range which lowers the actual income per hour worked (involves much more than just therapy time!). Enjoyed the article, however, and it illuminates at least some of the costs to be considered in operating a successful private practice..

  78. Lauren says

    I found your article really interesting! I just graduated with my BA in Psychology and I am set to start a CACREP accredited LPC-track program in Mental Health Counseling in NJ this September. I have been battling anxiety due to the trend of low income rates for an LPC in my state. While I do believe that counseling is what I was meant to do, I find myself wondering if all the hard work that goes into getting this degree and license, and all the debt I’ll accrue will feel worth it if I’m only making 30,000 a year – barely enough to live comfortably. I often think maybe I should have jumped straight into a Ph.D program. Do you have any advice for students on my track? My family is apprehensive, to say the least, about me beginning “this journey into a lifetime of debt and living hand-to-mouth”, and I’d love to be able to show them that making six figures or close to it is an obtainable goal. I’m a big planner and I’d love to hear your thoughts! Thanks!

  79. Chris R says

    Hello, I am a LPC in NJ, have a interview on friday for a E Therapist postion- They job is a pay of 60/40, in favor I get 60%.. This makes me nervous, I have worked last 10 years in psych always in a ‘salary’ postion.. I knew what what was coming in! This is a a at home postion, so I REALLY want to make this work, its a ideal situation for me- any way your could break down the numbers how you did in the org, example- it was excellent! This site is really helpful! thanx so kindly in advance!

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Christine,
      A 60/40 split is a good one. However, your concerns of not getting enough clients for the split to pay your bills also makes sense! Getting an online therapist gig that goes fulltime is rare. Perhaps you will want to talk to a few of the company’s other clinical staff, and see what they make per year. That often leads to a realistic prediction of your income. I hope this helps!!

  80. Christine rehman says

    Hello! I am a recent lpc in nj I have a job interview on Friday for a therapist position and the Job is a 60\40 job I get 60. I am nervous always been a salary therapist and know what to expect. Any breakdown of numbers you could provide as u did in your org. Example it was great! It’s a online therapist position where I would work from home so I am hoping I could make it work! Thanx in advance!

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Christine,
      A 60/40 split is a good one. However, your concerns of not getting enough clients for the split to pay your bills also makes sense! Getting an online therapist gig that goes fulltime is rare. Perhaps you will want to talk to a few of the company’s other clinical staff, and see what they make per year. That often leads to a realistic prediction of your income. I hope this helps!

  81. Joyce says

    I am a LMHC in private practice for over a year. I see 30 clients per week, and feel I would have no problem seeing five more. I also teach two college courses and conduct research. I charge 40-70 per client on a sliding scale, and have been considering getting on insurance panels.
    I think my post graduate experience working on a psychiatric unit for four years contributes to my diagnostic and clinical skills and without that experience first, I would not be as successful as I am.
    Before beginning a private practice, I would advise working in a hospital or clinic for a few years. Gaining experience with individuals dx with personality and psychological disorders, doing mental status exams and progress asssessments is invaluable to any mental health professional who plans to venture off into private practice.
    Good luck

  82. Suzanna says

    I live in the West and see job listings starting at $57k for MSW and MFT grads, this is the starting salary while licensing requirements are being met. In CA these jobs start higher than that. $38k sounds like a median salary for a BSW. There is no LCP status in my state NV.

  83. Benjamin says

    Thank you Anthony for your article. It meant a lot to me because I am considering applying for a graduate program in my school on clinical mental health counseling. But I was a bit worried if I would be able to make a living, safe for retirement and marry of course. But reading your article gave me hope, though it may be difficult to make six figures to go on for it. I love helping people and I believe this profession is right for me. Right now I work with a state agency that cares for the deaf and blind and other developemental disability. I was hoping someday I will be able to move on, maybe higher. Please tell me that I am making a right choice. Secondly, tell me which is best or better, private practice or employee in an angecy?

  84. Liz says

    Hi, I just have a quick question for you, perhaps advice for anyone who may be knowledgeable. I am an LLMSW (almost ready to take my L exam!) and I currently do homebased CMH work with children/families. I have the opportunity to take a contractual outpatient position at a CMH agency closer to me, and they provide the referrals. I wanted to work about 35-40 hours a week, and they offer a 50-50 split. According to your math, Let’s just say I have 35 clients that I see weekly, which seems like a reality here. It seems like I would be making more than I make now in my salaried position. I’m not looking to make 6 figures by any means, but if I’m doing my math right, it seems like this could be a lucrative position comparatively. I’m wondering if I’m correct in thinking this? Do you know an average payout of a CMH payer to the service provider? I know that 3rd Party therapists at my current agency make about $30/session flat rate. But it seems that I would have the opportunity in the near future to take on some BC/BS clients once my licensure goes through.

    I just want to make sure I’m not giving up a salaried position if I won’t be making enough to cover my monthly expenses. And I would like to make a little more money overall than what I currently make.

    Thanks for any advice/help/suggestions you can give!

    • Thriveworks says

      Greetings Liz,
      It’s really difficult to give a reliable answer because I don’t know what companies you will be working with, or exactly what services you will be rendering. However, I think that the best way to determine your potential wages at this new job is to inquire about what other full-time providers at that practice are bringing home. Sometimes there is a big difference between how much one “can” make, and how much people are actually making.

      –I hope this helps!!

  85. says

    Aloha,
    Your article is very informative and details a realistic amount of income a private practice clinician can make. I’m a LMHC and been in private practice for 1.5 years now, averaging 20-25 clients per week now, and continue to learn how to get more referrals (EAP’s and networking with local clinics / clinicians). Just show up, introduce yourself, and give them twenty of your biz cards!
    Plus the admin costs can be completely deleted, when you have a couple 3-inch binders where you put copies of your completed CMS-1500 forms and another binder for the insurance paystubs/receipts. Another binder for CEU junk, lol.
    With the right attitude, competence, and drive, I believe a six-figure income is absolutely achievable for licensed counselors in private practice. It’s important to have your own website, be on a lot of insurance panels, and take credit cards through Square. good stuff

  86. Robert says

    I have a MS in Leadership. My desire is to start my own business counseling, not consulting, CEOs and executive level corporate officers. I plan on adding a MS in Business and Organizational Management Counseling and Family and Marital Counseling degree on my way to being licensed as a Professional Counselor. My belief is that most of us cannot compartmentalize or separate what happens at work from what happens at home and vice versa. Therefore, I believe there may be a need for working with high level executives on helping them better cope and balance the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical, and social aspects of their lives. In a nutshell, treating holistically. Evidence from my online research finds many individuals/companies that do leadership consulting but none that do leadership counseling. Without a counseling degree, I believe many consultants would be ill-equipped and unqualifed to make suggestions or offer advice that would lead to effective change in their lives. My vision is that my role would be as much accountability partner as counselor. My question is, “Do you believe I might make a living counseling leaders? Also, do you know of anyone presently doing this kind of work or marketing their counseling services to this select group? Do you have any suggestions as I embark on this journey?

    Thank you,

    Robert

  87. Emily says

    I am studying for my BA in Psych right now with University of Phoenix, then I am planning on getting my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy after I am done in two years at Indiana Weslyan. I am wondering, though, how I could possibly get a position with a counseling practice/center that could be more helpful in my learning. Any ideas? I just have never seen a position listed on any of the job sites and thought that there might be something I am missing.

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Emily, I don’t think you’re missing something obvious. :-) It is true that most counseling practices are looking for licensed providers with at least a masters degree. However, I do have an idea of where you might be able to get some additional experience– try searching for positions in “residential care” or “residential counseling”. These jobs often help young therapists to be gain some experience, and they are often looking for BA level providers. I hope this helps!!

  88. Lauren says

    Thanks for this info. I am just starting to research the field of counseling as I am ready for a career change and would like to have more meaningful work. I have been a commercial and residential interior designer for the past few years since getting my BA in that industry. My heart is not in it but I know I love working with people and feel that I could do well. Of course I need to do some volunteering to make sure but it is something I am pursuing now. Like everyone else going into counseling, I would like to eventually have my own private practice and because I have a love for art, I would love to incorporate art into my therapy. Sorry for my long comment.. Just thought I’d explain my personal journey and investigations. Thanks again!

  89. says

    Hello and thank you for your wonderful website of information for couselors. I will be going for my Masters Degree and would love to eventually have a private practice. Can you advise me on the best direction for my Masters. I want to work with (counsel) all individuals and with groups in the mental health field. Would a degree in family and couples therapy be best for what I am looking for? What if when I attain my License business is slow to start. How can I make a living? Would an MSW with a license be better just in case I do not have the clients at first? With an MSW I can work for a company. Yet I want to make sure that an MSW would allow me to also counsel in a private practice with familiy and couples therapy. Can you help? Thank you.

  90. Deola says

    I am a physician about to finish residency this year in another specialty other than psychiatry. I enjoy my specialty but not as much as I enjoy counseling.

    I have considered switching specialty to Psychiatry but that would involve another 3 years of residency.

    I am now considering continuing with my current specialty while at the same time doing some kind of counseling part time.

    What route will be the path of least resistance ( as far as time commitment) into a career in counseling, if the income from counseling is not a big issue. What do you think about life coaching? Thanks

  91. Starr says

    This article was awesome! I am a PhD in the process of obtaining my LPC and I needed some guidance, so your article was a great help. And the “organic tissue” made it fun.

    Where is a good place to get an office, $500 seems like a great rate.

  92. Roxanne says

    Hello, I would like to open my own counseling practice, but I hold a MS in Human Services and I have my Humans Services Board Certified Practitioners Certification. Can open a practice with this degree and certification?

  93. Maria says

    Hi! I just have a quick question. I’m an undergrad student right now, majoring in psychology. I’ve always wanted to further my education with grad school, at least with a Master’s Degree. However, i’m having some doubts. School doesn’t come all that easy for me, I really have to put in the effort. Is grad school as difficult as everyone says? How will I know if it’s right for me? I’d love to be a licensed therapist and own a private practice one day. I’ve always felt underestimated when it comes to school, which makes me feel incapable of grad school. Is it extremely difficult?

    • Thriveworks says

      Greetings Maria,

      It sounds like you have some big decisions in front of you!
      I can’t say whether graduate school, or having a career in counseling, is the best move for you. Some people find grad school very difficult, others seems to take it in stride. I can tell you that a degree in counseling is heavy in writing–so if you’re a strong writer, you will have an advantage over students who struggle in the area of writing, specifically.

      I hope this helps Maria!

  94. Arni says

    Hi Paul. I have been an LMHC for 20 years, mostly in administration but for the past 6 years I have had a part time private practice and just found out Beacon Health strategies pays LICSWs $12 a session more than LMHCs. Over the course of the year this adds up. What do you know about these discrepancies with other insurance companies and is there something the LMHC community can do to rectify this?

  95. Lana says

    Can a non-licensed individual open a group private practice and hire psychologists, psychoanalysts, LCSW’s, etc. to work in the practice to provide care on a fee for service basis? Thank you!

    • Thriveworks says

      Lana,

      Yes, generally. A person can open a practice and hire qualified professionals to provide the clinical care on a fee for service basis.

      We hope this helps!!

  96. Nando says

    I am entering a MS in Mental Health Counseling (CACREP Accredited) but am worried about whether or not I will make enough money to pay off my student loan debt that will be just over 100k when I am done and still make a living. Any advice on this?

  97. Wyatt says

    Hi there,
    I just finished up my undergrad and have a year to wait to get into grad school (my own mistake in procrastinating on the GRE) I currently work as an office assistant in a private counseling practice. Some of the counselors see up to 10 clients a day, so seven is probably what I’m aiming for when I get my degree, i don’t think that’s burn out if you fill out your progress notes during or between sessions, then scan them into an online billing program during paper work time (this is what I do for the providers)
    My question is regarding insurance credentialing. I have heard from some people that certain insurance companies will pay for supervised sessions by a Bachelors level “therapist”. Is this true? I live in WA state. Thankyou.
    Wyatt

    • Thriveworks says

      Greetings Wyatt,

      While there may be an exception to the rule—it is extremely rare. The short answer is “no.” one will need to be a full-licensed clinican before they can accept insurance / get credentialed.

  98. says

    I have been in private practice for 28 years and I found this article to be quite accurate. The number of patients/clients seen per week (35) is quite manageable. Having a very good billing person is quite important. Also, putting boundaries on availability by phone and having only scheduled appointments helps to keep things functioning smoothly.

    I found that the key to success is to establish yourself in a regular job and gradually move into private practice. Network as soon as you start working in the mental health field. Do a lot of lunches, give talks, meet with EAPs, connect with other medical pros, as well as other mental health settings, and keep in touch with all of these people. I have found this approach to be more successful than advertising. Also, make yourself unique and appealing to the public by establishing an interesting specialty. Send press releases out if you wish to get into mass media.

    But, here’s the most important thing to do. From day 1 of your private practice, provide the best service you can to your clients and always be warm, compassionate, kind and friendly. Be organized, on time, alert, and offer state of the art/science services. You only need one person who thinks the world of you to spread the word. Good luck out there. You are or will be in an honorable profession.

    • Thriveworks says

      Thank you Dean, for your comment! We have gotten some feedback from professionals who say that 35 clients a week is unreasonable. It’s great to have some counselors with a counter-point! much appreciated :-)

    • Alicia says

      As a practicing mental health professional (LPC and LPA) for the past 25 years, I completely agree on every point you make. Well done!

  99. Bryan says

    Anthony,

    I am trying to figure out what the average percentage of new clients might be per year. In the scenario you describe above, a therapist with the 35 sessions/wk, how many clients would I typically have in total? My guess is greater than 35.

    Some of these clients will leave the practice for any number of reasons.

    Obviously marketing and reputation will come into play, but if “the machine” is working how many new clients would a practice of this size need to attract per year to match standard attrition rates.

    Great article, thanks!

    Bryan

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Bryan,

      A great question! It depends entirely on client attrition. The math is pretty simple. If the average client stays 10 sessions, one will need…roughly speaking…a few clients a week to build and maintain a caseload. It seems, that the longer a clinician is in practice, the fewer clients they need to build/maintain their caseload. That is because every once and a while a counselor will get a client who will be interested in a much longer course of care (years), and eventually, clinicians’ caseloads can be comprised primarily with longterm clients.

      I hope this answer helped!

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Simone!
      That’s a hard question to answer–Impossible really, but I’ll try anyway. In most states an MSW is not a licensed provider…the terminal licensed is a LCSW or LICSW. And LPC is often a fully licensed provider–so he/she would have the advantage in the marketplace. :-)

    • says

      I am a LPC. I previously worked at a mental health clinic and I am currently in private practice. My employer would not permit me to start a practice on the side so I had to quit the employment in order to start my private practice.

      Regarding the LPC vs LICSW: Someone with a LICSW, would be eligible to accept Medicare (as a LPC, I am not eligible until legislature eventually changes the eligibility criteria). Also, the LICSW tends to have more employment options (e.g. at a hospital or the Veteran’s Administration) — but they don’t usually do as much “counseling” as a LPC would.

  100. Steph says

    Greetings, I have become fully licensed (LICSW) and credentialed in the past year and a half. I currently work at a non-profit mental health agency. We easily see 30-35 cts per week if full time, this althought this can be stressful at times, I make sure that I use my paperwork hours in a very structued manner and I never have to do my work outside of work hours.

    I am also working on opening up my own private practice, fee-for-service only, and although I am a bit nervous about this, I have done quite a bit of research and there are many successful therapists out there who do not take insurance. I am also very excited to be my own boss, set my own hours, etc!!!

    BTW, a standard 90806 is considered 45-50 minutes so both of the above are correct.

    Any marketing tips or ideas for obtaing cts.

    Thx!

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Steph,

      We have an article out there called “40 plus ways to build a caseload”. Google it–That might help!! :-) Thanks for reading!!

  101. Kay says

    Hello, I am grateful for your article; however still disheartened. It seems that all who have positively commented are prospective Licencees or even prospective grad students. Those who are practicing have said this is an unrealistic overview, and of the two responders who are “doing well,” one claims that is is not the lucrative, and the other implies the need for years of experience to make that kind of money in a private practice. This is not congruent with your second year private practice number crunch. I love the field, and thus am not going into it solely for the money, but my question to you is this: Is there a reputable website (other than salary.com) where one can find actual information about income potential for different counseling liscensures? Thank you for your reply.

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Kay,

      Sorry that you’re still discouraged. Some providers have commented in agreement that people can make a living in private practice (with a lot of hard work!). The numbers are there, calculate them yourself and see what you come up with! :-)

  102. Lacey Hanson says

    Just wondering if you have any thoughts on whether to establish as an LLC or not? I can’t get an attorney to call me back on this one. Also how do I find out how much liability insurance I need. I have always got mine through HPSO and it has a 1,000,000 each claim and 5,000,000 aggregate. If I open a private practice do I need additional coverage to protect say if someone trips on the sidewalk outside my office that I rent? Thank you!

    • Thriveworks says

      HI Lacey,
      Many providers do establish LLCs. But you will want to get real counsel before making a decision on whether or not an LLC is right for your situation. Regarding liability, HPSO offers profesional liability insurance (1 mil, 5 mil is slightly above industry standard). To protect yourself from someone tripping on premises, you will also want to acquire “general liability insurance.”

      I hope this helps!

  103. Mat says

    Thank you so much for this article. I am in the process of getting my Master’s in Clinical Psych and this article gives me lots of hope for my future. I will certainly be checking back for more of your articles. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  104. says

    I would like to know if I could get started counseling with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice? If not I need more information about schooling graduated in 2002 so it has been awhile. Thanks in advance will be waiting for your reply.

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Beatrice,

      I don’t think that counseling with a BA in criminal justice would be a good thing. You would definitely want to pursue graduate education in counseling/psychology and even clinical licensure first.

    • Nicold says

      I also have a bachelors in criminal justice, but I went back to school for my masters in counseling. I don’t think criminal justice prepares you for a career in counseling. Getting my masters was the best career choice I’ve ever made!

  105. Robyn says

    Thanks for providing such a great article! I will be graduating with my masters in counseling degree this May and I have recenty started to consider opening my private practice as soon as school is finished. Up until recently, I did not think this was possible to do without first having my license. However, I have a co-worker (where I’m completing my practicum) who did this and it seemed to work for her. She did admit that the first couple years she had very few clients, and she had to pay for supervision (to gain her 4000 hours for LPCC) but now it’s going great for her. My question is this: Would you suggest opening a private practice right away before getting licensed? Or do you think it’s a better idea to get a low paying job at a counseling agency, hopefully with supervision included. Or….could I do both at the same time, since I wouldn’t expect many of my own clients within the first couple years? Thanks!

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Robyn,

      I can’t speak for your state, but in some places a supervisor needs to be on site if an intern-level provider is offering counseling. The American Counseling Association has made official statements that they disapprove of interns working in private practice, let alone private practice for themselves. However, what you are suggesting may be legit depending on the rules and laws of your state. You will definitely want to talk to you counseling board before move forward. I hope this helps!

    • says

      I strongly encourage new counselors to get a few years of experience working at a mental health facility. It can provide a solid foundation to prepare you for virtually anything you might encounter in private practice. I worked at a community mental health clinic for 5-1/2 years (prior to going into private practice) and the experience has proven invaluable!

  106. Cathy says

    Hello! I have been in the mental health field for 35 years and finally decided to go for it in private practice…. all of my prior experiences (inpatient psych, outpt in hospital settings, chemical dependency experience, crisis intervention, emergency room social worker, drop in center, managed care environments and mental health agencies….) are an advantage in experience to pull from…like any other field, time and some seasoning make for a wider repetoire to draw from. Anyhow, the pay is good and the freedom in constructing what I do is fabulous…and as always, I enjoy the client contact and the helping profession of social work. I am an LISW-S and also have an ACSW of long standing.

    • Cathy says

      I just wanted to add the following re: being in private practice and the level of experience one has. Private practice is an avene that wasn’t designed to begin one’s profession in. Rather, it is a statement about acquiring different hats of experience over time that allows someone to be able to service clients on a private practice basis. It takes experience and sound mentoring in order to adequately provide the level of care in an independent environment. In my opinion, after 3 decades in the field, I would encourage anyone to accumulate at least 8 to10 years before jumping in to the private practice arena. The pace in our practice is fast and the time available outside of seeing clients back to back is minimal. If someone doesn’t have the experience behind them, what are they pulling from?

  107. Dana says

    Thanks, The information was very helpful as I’m trying to decide what degree I should go for. I also looked on salary.com and got upset but this gives me hope.

  108. says

    Thanks so much for the info.. after years in sales I decided to follow my heart and go back to school for a career in counseling. Earning over $70k now and reading about the salaries for counselors was a little disheartening until I realized that if you google sales salaries you’ll see numbers all over the map. People who are good at what they do in almost any field find their way to the top somehow.
    I had thought the numbers seemed very low based on my own quick math but thought maybe I was missing something.. your article confirmed my thoughts. Thanks so much, can’t wait to get started getting paid for something I feel rewarded for!

  109. says

    I’m a private practitioner in Charlotte, North Carolina and our reimbursement rates (for masters level clinicians) is significantly lower than your estimation. I wish I was averaging $80/client!

    Regardless, this is an informative article and I look forward to continued browsing!

  110. says

    I completely agree that 35 clients per week is not realistic. (In my area, by the way, 50-minute sessions are standard.) I see 6 clients per day (plenty!) and work four days per week in the office. One day I work from home on marketing/administration. I’m sure I could make a lot more money seeing 35 clients, but most therapists I know don’t even attempt to do this.

    • Thriveworks says

      Dear Marilee/Mary,

      Thank you for your comment! What you are describing is a caseload of 24 clients per week. With 50-minute sessions, that’s 20 hours a week of client work.
      There is nothing wrong with this, but it is a part-time caseload (even by the standards of one’s professional liability insurance, I believe part time goes up to 20 hours a week).
      Mary, if you are working a 40 hour workweek, you are allotting 3 hours a day for administrative work, as well as another 8 hours on Fridays (if that’s the day you dont see clients).
      Hence, for your 20 hours of counseling per week, you are spending 20 hours on administrative work. With respect, these numbers seem out of balance. If you were able to streamline your administrative processes some, you would be able to effectively help more clients.

      Warmly,
      Anthony

      P.S. With 50 minute sessions, 35 clients a week is 29.1 client contact hours per week. That offers 10.9 hours a week for administrative work (in a 40 hour work week).
      This is a busy schedule, but still a 40 hour work week, and a far cry from “not realistic.”

  111. says

    I currenlty have my own private practice in which I am a play therapist, therefore I work with children (& their parents) only. I consider myself to have a successful and thriving practice that I love. I think it may be helpful if you explained what populations this income and stats would best work for. When you work with children, and want to provide true quality care, it is very diffiucult to maintain such a large case load. The professionals that I collaborate with agree that approx. 20 client hours is capacity. This is b/c so much case management and collatoral contacts are necessary, e.g., DFCS/ DHR, Attorneys/ DA’s office, school counselors, teachers, psychiatrists. Although I do charge based on time spent with these collatoral contacts and for reports that are requested, it still would not comparable to your math. I am meticulous in doing all of my own bookkeeping using QuickBooks, and your numbers may work for an adult therapist, but not for a play therapist. I need to have a larger office to ensure that I have a waiting room, a play therapy room, and a separate space to do paperwork and to meet with teens who are not comfortable in the play therapy room. The cost of juice & waters, craft & paint supplies, replacing/ updating toys & therapeutic books/ games, and maintaining the RPT credential adds up a lot over the year. My accountant sure could vouch for that! Also, even though the majority of my clients are all self pay b/c I refuse to get on any panels, there is a lot of time spent with billing matters for clients, bookkeeping for the practice, as well as all of the things formerly mentioned…keeping me either at the office or working from home for a minimum of 50hr/wk+. Thanks, I just wanted to share another perspective.

  112. Wegs says

    I’m afraid that you’re only looking on one side of the private practice environment. I share Dave’s concern that 35 clients per week is not only difficult to reach, not to mention maintain, but would also lead to serious burnout. True, if using a 45 minute session, one would only have 26.25 hours of client face-time each week; however that does not account for time for note-keeping, record maintaince, treatment planning, office paperwork, etc. The need to keep extremely detailed notes alone, given the loads of information you would have to stay on top of with 35 clients, would dramatically increase the amount of time spent thinking about and focusing on each client. Furthermore, 7 back-to-back clients per day is a work load that would be difficult for even the most seasoned counselor, much less a neophyte that is just starting out!

    Although it would be nice to say that making a six figure income is not that difficult, the tough reality is that without outside sources of money from public speaking, consultation, or perhaps publishing, making that much money is inordinately difficult for counselors. While I can appreciate the intent behind your article, it seems clearly aimed towards graduate students and those still deciding if a counseling career is right for them. I feel that you are not presenting the full picture and may be filling them with a false sense of hope and inflated income.

    Counseling is a profession that requires sacrifice, both personally and financially, and should not be entered into if one’s goals include making tons of money.

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Wegs! Thanks for your thoughts! I still disagree that 35 clients a week is in anyway extraordinary, or overly burdensome. Yes, it is 26.25 hours of face to face time AND paperwork and other business tasks on top of that–with a standard 40 hour work week, that gives one 13.75 hours for paperwork. Still, thank you for your input! We ara approving the comment and think it will help readers get some more varied perspectives! Again, thanks so much for reading and contributing!

  113. Julie says

    This information has been very helpful. I am in my first semester in a LPC program. I have always wanted to be a counselor however, I took a different route after high school which lead me to an 18 year career in another aspect of medicine. When contemplating returning for another Master’s degree, I checked salary.com and was less than thrilled. It was a relief to see a higher salary was attainable since I make $70K per year now. My goal is to open my own practice and I didn’t see how I could live off half my pay. Thank you so much for the information.

  114. Dave B - Freshwater says

    Hi. As much as I liked the idea of this article, I found it hard to believe that 35 clients a week is not going to lead to serious burn-out and confusion. As we know clients need to develop trust and feel heard in the therapeutic relationship.
    I’m not sure how it is done in the US but maximum of 12-15 would be the norm here I imagine. I would feel unethical filling my week like this.
    Thoughts?

    • Thriveworks says

      Hello Dave,

      Thanks for your comment. In the United States, sessions are generally 45 minutes in length.
      If one were to maintain 35 client appointments a week, that would be a total of only 26 hours and 15 minutes of face-time with clients a week.
      We hope this helps!

  115. Nichole says

    I was JUST stressing about my future last night, as I have a baby on the way. I am in debt $100,000+ from undergrad, interest and a prestigious counseling CACREP program. I love my degree, love working with people and I know I’ve touched lives and helped others in their lives. And there is no better high than that. As I was stressing on how to even begin paying off school, this email popped into my inbox almost as if to say “What’s wrong? We can help!” I make $46,000 as a Director and apply my counseling skills when needed. I miss sessions and need my L still, then hours. I was offered another great position within my agency as soon as I get my L too. I’m also hoping to write a book/article in the near future. I feel as if I wasn’t given much financial guidance and/or direction as to what this degree would bring (debt, low paying jobs, etc). I also wish I had known that if I’d worked somewhere long enough I could have gotten it paid for. (Doh!) Instead of being upset about it, your article helped me regain my energy about the field I knew I’d be a fit for. Thank you for this!!! I needed this pick-me up and the numbers seem realistic should I go down the private practice route. I may not make 6-figures to pay off my 6-figure debt in a few years but I may just make enough to keep me happy and financially stable, and being in private practice could be my reality once I get my L. (I intend to do the online counseling as well). Keep your eye out for me! :)

    • Thriveworks says

      Nichole,

      Thanks for your comment! Yes, there is hope for paying off your student loans (and making a living). And congrats on the baby that’s on the way!

  116. Edward says

    Excellent information. I am currently working on my Master’s degree in Professional Counseling and this type of specific point by point information is very helpful. Thanks again, and I will check back here frequently.

  117. Liza says

    Great Article! When we break the figures down it’s easy to see that it is possible to make a good living as a therapist.
    Just imagine if the therapist writes ebooks, does talks, etc. that’s even more money coming in.

  118. Anne says

    I have completed my masters degree, and am looking to work in a private practice. I had an interview, but the owner’s terms seem pretty tough to me. He wants a 60/40 split, but would like me to negotiate something even less because he would be supervising me. He wants me to cover the fee ($25) to have an HSPP sign off on treatment plans for Medicaid clients, and there is no offer of health insurance.
    Is there an industry standard for contracted therapist’s fees in private practices? I live in Indiana.

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Anne,
      It’s a tough place, that gap between finishing school and being licensed. Tough for you, and for your employer.
      The offer of 60/40, with you paying for your supervision seems very fair. The $25 fee for the HSPP to sign off…is that per session, per case, or per week?
      It seems that you are being offered a decent 60/40 split, and your prospective employer is sending the cost burden of your unlicensed status back to you. In principle, this seems fair, but you’ll want to look at your own financial situation to see what works for you. Good luck!!

  119. Rachel says

    I am preparing for grad school in the next year and I am considering a clinical mental health counseling program (accredited by CACREP). By the time I finish grad school I will have almost $100,000 in student loans. How can I pay off my student loans if I work for an agency making less than $40,000 a year (not to mention support my family)? Private practice seems like the only option but I know that I won’t have a thriving practice right out of school. I don’t want to give up on this and work at “Wal-Mart” — I really believe this is my life calling. It seems like my instructors agree given their feedback and my GPA. How do others manage? Do you have any advice? Thanks.

    • Thriveworks says

      Rachel,

      Thanks for your comment and questions. It’s a difficult situation for many masters-level providers, to be sure. In any industry, there are people who make the average, some who make less than average, and some who make more than average. If you can connect with good professionals who have done well in counseling (and there are many), learning directly from them is a good place to start!

    • says

      It is possible to get help with your student loans:

      1) If you are willing to work in an “under-served” area as designated by the National Health Services Corps (nhsc.hrsa.gov) they have a scholarship program and a loan forgiveness program – or –

      2) If you are willing to work in the public sector for 10 years (studentaid.ed.gov) they have a loan forgiveness program.

      Note: In most states, you must have a minimum of 2 years post-master’s degree work experience and supervision before you can get a LPC (for private practice).

  120. Regan Dougall says

    Hi thanks for the info. I am looking into a Masters Program right now. Do you have any advice on if it would be better to go the LIcensed Marriage and Family therapist or Mental Health Counselor route. I would love the opportunity to work with couples and families although I have other niches that would seem rewarding as well within the counseling realm. Are there any distinctions between the two career paths as far as insurance coverage, financials or certain doors that may or may not be opened. Any guidance you could give would be greatly appreciated!:)

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Regan,

      You present a good question– which is the best route to choose, LMHC/LPC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor / Licensed Professional Counselor), or LMFT (Marriage and Family Therapist).
      In terms of Reimbursement / Payment for services, they are both, equally, at the very bottom of the licensed behavioral health provider ladder!

      It’s true. If you look at the reimbursement rates for insurance companies for behavioral health services, one makes the most if they are an MD (Psychiatrist), second most if they are a Licensed Psychologist, and then the least if they are an MA-level provider. Note: Some insurance companies, such as United Healthcare, offer more money if you are an LICSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)–an sum between the lowest MA rate (LPC / LMFT rate), and the Licensed Psychologist rate.

      In terms of what you can do with the degree, it is (basically) exactly the same. Both LMFTs and LMHCs can provide care to individuals, couples, and families. Both can diagnose and treat mental health issues.

      We hope this helps!

      Sincerely,
      Dr. Anthony Centore, and Your Friends at Thriveworks

  121. Jessica says

    Hi, I was wondering how much money is needed in order to start a practice. Also, need info on how to obtain referrals especially cash pay only. I want to do this, but am a bit scared that things will only go wrong and I get myself into trouble not knowing how to start and how to run the business. Thank you.

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Jessica, you present some very large questions here! Starting a counseling practice can cost as little as a few thousand dollars, or a lot more. And finding clients is difficult–especially if you are looking for cash only clients! We do have a number of articles on that topic on the site though! Anyway, if you’re interested in talking, please feel free to call us a 1-855-4-THRIVE, perhaps we can give you some pointers!

  122. nikki gillespie says

    Hello my name is Nikki gillespie and i found your article very interesting. My goal in life is to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. I recently finished my Bachelors in Educational Peychology and i plan on going to grad school within the next year. I was told that the counseling program is going to take a significant amount of hard work. I just hope it pays off and after I am done i want continue to struggle financially as I am doing now because I heard the mental health is not a good paying career.

    • Thriveworks says

      Dear Nikki,

      Good luck in grad school! Counseling is a field that people get into because of their love for the work/people, and many counselors are poorly paid.
      It is possible to make a living as a counselor, however!

  123. bob says

    Wow, that must be nice to not have to pay any taxes on that income. Where I am, there are federal, state, and city taxes. Oh, and $460 a year for professional dues, liability insurance and CEU’s- that a joke right?! Professional dues alone are that much, never mind the others. Rather than give pie-in the sky numbers, I would recommend you be a bit more realistic.

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi “Bob”,

      Dear “Bob”, we were reluctant to published your comment because of your fake name and fake website. But we decided we would approve your comment and respond, so that we could address your points :-)

      About taxes–yes, of course you need to pay taxes! You need to pay taxes whether you have a $100,000 salary, or your private practice makes $100,000. This does not detract from the accuracy of our math at all. About professional dues, to answer your question we are not joking. Membership with the American Counseling Association (ACA) is $130.00 a year. Membership with the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) is the same (it might be $125). These are both well within the budget we detailed. As for CEUs, it one keeps their eyes and ears peeled, one can find lots of free and deeply discounted opportunities for CEUs. Plus, CEUs in most states are due every 2 years. If one has a membership with the ACA, that leaves $330 a year, or $660 every 2 years for continuing education–this won’t afford you a fancy out of town conference, but will get you your CEUs. In addition, you can note that we also added an additional section titled “Other Miscellaneous”, and padded expenses with an additional $540.00 a year. So there should be no issue here (note, we are also pinching pennies, relatively speaking, when looking at the big picture numbers. “Bob”, we really appreciate you reading our articles, and providing your thoughts. I hope you will give us a chance for an open discussion with you!

    • Thriveworks says

      Hi Ward,

      Yes! We are writing an article now about that. Also, Thriveworks can help you get new clients in your office! Stay tuned for the next article, or if you’d like us to actively help you, give us a call at 1-855-4-THRIVE! Sincerely, Dr. Anthony Centore

  124. says

    I appreciate your advice & especially the breakdown of the numbers. I’ve run similar numbers myself multiple times to determine the profitability of a private practice. What I’ve found is that it is indeed possible to break the six figure mark (I factored in $85 a session & as much as $850 for rent), but it all depends on how many clients you see each week

    • Thriveworks says

      Thanks Paul, I appreciate your comment! And I agree with you, the numbers only work if one is able to consistently book enough clients. It seems that low client volume is perhaps the hardest part of the equation for most counselors…

Add Comment Register



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *