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Career Story: Mental Health Counselor In A Private Practice

Mental Health Counselor In A Private Practice

Job Title: Counselor

Education: Boise State University - BS in Psychology •• Wheaton College - MA in Clinical Psychology •• Certification as Drug and Alcohol Counselor

Previous Experience: Supervised Child Protection, Juvenile Justice, Mental Health and Adult protection for Rural Health and Welfare office - State of Idaho.

Counselor in adolescent sex offender treatment program

Private Mental Health counseling Practice

Therapist in psychiatric hospital for mentally ill and Chemically dependent patients

Job Tasks: I am currently in a solo counseling practice so I am responsible for scheduling patients, consultations with other providers and physicians, individual, marital, and family therapy sessions. I also provide educational talks on teen issues in the community for local school counselors and clinicians.

I am also responsible for writing accurate notes on each session, developing appropriate written treatment plans and maintaining legal documents and records on each patient. I do my own billing which requires data entry and submission of bills to insurance companies. Many of these require follow up phone calls with insurance companies, since it is their job to find ways to keep their money and sometimes mine, to see that I am paid for appropriate services to our mutual clients.

I also provide some case management services for clients by coordinating care with psychiatrists, primary care providers, teachers, school counselors and treatment facilities. My job requires that I take an additional forty hours of training each year in order to maintain my counseling license and Drug and Alcohol certification.

In doing private practice and being my own office manager, I have a greater amount of administrative duties, which provides variety in my day. I have to collect co-pays and send statements to clients, have had to learn to pay quarterly taxes to the multitude of government entities that demand money, and rely on my accountant to keep me out of jail. The IRS can be very sticky about being paid the right amount at the right times.

Each insurance company requires its own application and contract with each clinician, and they all offer different rates of reimbursement, that has nothing to do with your fees. This is extremely time consuming to complete these applications and the recertifications every 1-3 years, but completely necessary.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts are being my own boss and being able to schedule people when I want to work. The worst part is definitely all the paperwork, since counselors as a group are usually not highly detail oriented. There is also no paid vacation, since no client that hour means no billing and no money.

Job Tips:
1. Work with agencies or facilities for a few years after you complete school, because whatever you think you learned in school is only a fraction of what you need to know.

2. Find mentors and always have colleagues that you can staff cases with.

3. Don't be afraid to mix therapy techniques as they make sense to you. For example, I am a family therapist by training, and I use a lot of cognitive/behavioral techniques within that framework.

Additional Thoughts: You will never get rich as a counselor, but the rewards when that "aha" moment becomes visible in your clients expression is worth a million.

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