Can a Social Worker Go Into Private Practice?

socialworkerBefore going into mental health social work, it is imperative that you do as much research into the field as possible. One question that many people interested in mental health social work often ask is whether a mental health social worker can go into private practice after graduation from a MSW (Master's of Social Work) program. This article will not only answer this question, it will highlight some of the professional responsibilities of a mental health social worker in private practice.

How Does a Social Worker Get into Private Practice?

The first thing that you should know is that mental health social workers can, and often do, go into private practice. It should be noted that the National Association of Social Workers recommends that mental health social workers obtain a minimum of two years of post-graduate clinical work in a supervised setting. To go into private practice, you must also become licensed to practice in your state. Before you start the process of going into private practice, check your state's licensing board requirements.

Just because you start a private practice does not mean that your days of clinical supervision are over. The National Association of Social Workers recommends that mental health social workers who are just opening their own practices should continue receiving clinical supervision. This recommendation is in place so that mental health social workers can work on their clinical skills under the careful supervision of a psychologist or psychiatrist.

What Are Some of the Hurdles for a Mental Health Social Worker Who Wants to Go Into Private Practice?

As a social worker with a private practice, the first thing you will need to do is buy liability insurance. The National Association of Social Workers Insurance Trust sets their minimum amount of coverage at $1 million per lawsuit with a yearly cap of $1 million, regardless of the number of lawsuits to which you are a party. The National Association of Social Workers recommends buying $2 million worth of coverage for every $2 million of malpractice insurance you receive.

Most of the other hurdles involve getting actual clients into your office. Since you are not working in a mental health clinic, you have to actively seek out referrals through a variety of means. Some methods you can use to get your first clients for your private practice include:

  • Facilitating training sessions in your community
  • Public speaking engagements
  • Participating in fundraising activities in your community
  • Referrals
  • Publishing articles in magazines, journals and websites
  • Teaching classes at the college level

Even though getting into private practice may seem prohibitive, it can appear less so if you research state licensing requirements, follow due diligence in buying liability insurance and become proactive when seeking out new clients. Going into private practice is an often arduous journey, but the road will be a little less rough if you make all of the necessary preparations beforehand.

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