Entering Private Counselling Practice

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Most of this section of the site is aimed at the practitioner already in private practice, or looking to build up a larger practice for which they are responsible. But some practitioners will just be considering the move into working privately and will be wondering whether they are ready for taking that plunge. In my view, the main differences between private and organizational counselling practice have very little to do with actual counselling ability and everything to do with the environment outside the counselling hour.

Received Wisdom About Entering Private Practice, and Getting the Context Right

Some professional counselling and psychotherapy organizations actively discourage newly qualified practitioners from entering private practice. But consider: whatever the organizational context, the actual experience of counselling still takes place between two people, working together with nothing but what they each bring in terms of personal resources, character and integrity. No organization participates, and no organization could turn an ineffective counselling session into an effective one. Indeed, if the recommendation against entering private practice had anything to do with actual counselling ability, the admonition should surely be against counselling at all, not merely against counselling privately.

Rather, the recommendation is justified out of concern for the existence of an appropriate environment outside the counselling hour — including relevant supervision and other professional support, as well as a sound business infrastructure. The primary question for counsellors considering working in private practice has almost nothing to do with when they qualified. It has everything to do with whether they can bring to bear the right organizational and business skills to create and maintain such an environment. In fact, this question applies every bit as much to the more experienced counsellor as to the trainee or the newly qualified.

Unfortunately, counselling training itself rarely provides the opportunity to acquire such skills; indeed, one might view the cautious attitudes toward entering private practice as a tacit admission that training programmes almost universally fail to deliver much of significance in this area. Even working as a counsellor or therapist within an organization rarely provides opportunities to learn explicitly, and gradual osmosis seems to be the primary means whereby counsellors gain the skills they need to create an effective environment for private practice and business survival.

Tools for Taking the Plunge

To be sure, entering private practice may be a big leap from providing counselling or therapy services within a larger organization! But by investing some time to acquire appropriate business and organizational skills, that leap can at least be made a little safer and a little less daunting.

This section of CounsellingResource.com offers just a few small bits of that overall set of tools you may need to call on as you make the move from an organizational setting to your own private practice.

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