How to Start a Private Practice in Graduate School | PoP 502

How to Start a Private Practice in Graduate School | PoP 502

Are you in graduate school and wanting to dive into the world of private practice? Not sure where to start? What are some of Joe Sanok’s best insights into how you can approach the plethora of topics that will prepare you for private practice.

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok talks about how to start a private practice in graduate school.

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In This Podcast


  • The initial phases
  • Approach initiating shadow work with a therapist
  • Marketing insights
  • From graduate school to private practice

The initial phases

  • In graduate school, many students jump into working with a specific niche from the get-go, Joe recommends that they try to do shadow work over a bunch of different specialties because this will inform you and educate you outside of what you have already learned and been exposed to.

This will help you with networking, may trigger different things you did not know, broadening your scope of experience outside of the classroom.

For grad students, you are so uniquely positioned that people want to see you be successful. So, now before you graduate is the time to make as many connections as you can. Those influencers, those people want to talk to you… but if they don’t give you 15 minutes or half an hour of their time, then they’re probably not the influencer that you wanna follow.

  • In grad school, you can start a website. As you write papers, think about how you could pull 20% of the information out of that paper, put it on a website, and build your SEO. Then, when you transfer this information into a clinical website, you will have a bulk of SEO to work from which gives you a significant boost.
  • Have external links from other people’s websites that connect to yours and aim to connect with websites that have high domain authority.
  • Check out HARO – help a reporter out.

Approach initiating shadow work with a therapist

Look up therapists in your area, or online, that are specialized in working with the topic you are interested in. Ask them if you could sit-in on one of their sessions with a client of theirs, with the consent of the client.

You may have 9 out of 10 people that will not respond, but do not take it personally because therapists can be very busy, but still email people and start the conversation.

Marketing insights

View marketing yourself on social media as practice – take a message, structure it well, and put it out there for people to interact with.

The act of telling your story when you market yourself and telling it in a concise yet self-aware way – is one of the most powerful things you can get good at. People do not always care about the initials of a type of therapy, people want to know how you can help them. The client cares about the pain, you offer the transformation and the tools to help them.

With branding, you want to talk about the pain that many people deal with to engage the audience. When you make a blog post or do a Facebook live, try this formula when expressing information about a specific pain-point:

  • First, identify the primary emotion: what might the anger be masking?
  • Second, use one of these tools and then
  • Three, use this step to transform.

From graduate school to private practice

There is a lot at the beginning at you may not know, but those first couple of years are about learning. Try not to let shame come into the equation, be curious about all the other things you can come to know throughout your career.

There is no reason that you could not start a private practice straight out of graduate school unless you live in some states that have specific requirements. There are many ways of doing similar work that will set you up for private practice.

For coaching in the here-and-now base, it deals more with the present than deep-diving into the past. With a coach, there is more of an accountability side to it than a therapeutic approach. A coach is more of a trainer than diving into the ‘why’ of it.

With speaking, it is a great way to level up. Speaking at a school, to teachers, and at a PTA are all great ways to get good referrals. Speaking comes out of the relationship that you build, so get to know the organization first can lead to landing speaking gigs.

To set up your own private practice, there are funding opportunities for specific things. Look at:

  • Local Rotary clubs
  • Local chambers of commerce
  • Research possible state grants and programs

View your private practice as simply the first step.

Books mentioned in this episode

Useful Links:

Meet Joe Sanok

private practice consultant

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

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This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 502.

When I was in graduate school, and actually undergrad, I worked at a place called The Ark in Kalamazoo, and it was a runaway shelter. They called it a runaway shelter, but really it was when teens were having a rough time and they were thinking about running away, they could stay there for up to two weeks and there was a grant that kind of covered their stay. And I loved it. For undergrad, as I was learning about all these different things, it was really helpful. And then in graduate school to just be able to apply some of what I was learning in the groups that we got to run, and just helping kids feel connected to people that cared about their success and to give them a vision of something different. For me, even though it paid, what, twelve bucks an hour, fifteen bucks an hour, it still was such a great experience for me to be able to apply that. But the things that I didn’t know about private practice, in grad school, you know, getting a job that applied somewhat to psychology, I knew that, you know, connecting with your professors, I knew that. But when it came to starting a website, I didn’t even know how to do that till a good five… Let’s see, I started my mental wellness counseling website, I think, in 2009, 2010. And I didn’t even know, like, I thought that that was you had to learn code and all this stuff. And I had a friend that said, no, it’s super easy. And I wish that I had taken the time to learn those things in graduate school. Back then it was a lot harder, because in grad school – that was 2004 I graduated – a lot harder to start a website back then. But now it is so darn easy. And so I actually had a group of grad students that reached out to me and said, would you talk to us about what you would recommend that we do during graduate school to set ourselves up for private practice, and we had five or six of these grad students who were part of a cohort come together. And it was awesome. So this was the recording of that because I think it’s really important to speak to people that are still in graduate school.

Now, of course, with licensure and ethics and all that, you can’t do counseling in grad school. But you can do a lot of things. You can set up a website, you can get SEO going, you can do coaching, you can apply those things you’re learning in graduate school to blog posts. And when we talk about a lot of those things that will position you, or people that you know that are in graduate school, better for private practice when you’re in grad school. So without any further ado, here is this panel discussion all about graduate school and setting yourself up for private practice.


Welcome, I am so glad that you are here. Today, we are talking all about what you can do while you’re in graduate school to prepare for private practice. This was initiated by Alexandria Stewart, who reached out to me and said, hey, we need more resources for people in grad school. And I was like, yeah, let’s do this. And so we’re gonna just be kind of talking, Q&A, framing out what you can do in grad school. Some of the issues around that, some of the licensing things, just to be able to know that you’re doing it right. So if you’re in grad school and you’re watching this, awesome, really glad that you’re here, it’s so smart that you’re spending time out of your day to learn before you even graduate. If you are a professor, I would love for you to share this stuff in your classes because so often in graduate school, we don’t learn the basics of business, or how to set up a private practice, or all those things that really do a disservice to our students if we aren’t teaching them. And so this is our little piece of the pie to try to teach how to kind of level up even when you’re in grad school.

So, Alexandria, I’m so glad you’re here. Why don’t we just start with why did you reach out? And what are some of maybe the things that you see just out there in grad school world that are some questions that you and your cohort have?

So again, thank you so much for being open to this. I think I was completely shocked by your responsiveness. And again, it’s very much appreciated. I think that I… Well, I don’t think, I know that I started listening to and checking out Practice of the Practice several months ago, as I kind of shifted from… so, just one step back, I am in a masters of social work program. And up until very recently, I was extremely focused and interested in macro-level work. So that’s like community organizing administration, process program development, etc. And just recently, as I was starting my clinical practicum, I realized how important clinical work is and how impactful micro-level practice can be. And so I started listening and realizing that most of the things I was hearing were where I could project myself, but only in a few steps ahead. So there wasn’t a lot for me to kind of be grounded in now. And I also was so excited to get this started that I think how I want to frame kind of the core of my interest is how do we get started now? And what can we do to set ourselves so far above the bar that we can, or set ourselves so far apart, that we distinguish ourselves not only as developing practitioners, but those that have something really special to offer? So not only what we can do to set ourselves apart, but if we do that, how do we then transition our marketing from that grad student persona now to a professional? So is there some type of things that we have to be aware of as we start marketing now as well? [JOE]:
Awesome. I just realized, I mispronounced your name. Alexandra, I imagine, instead of -dria, so, I’m sure you get that all the time and it’s probably annoying. So I am so sorry for that. People mispronounce my last name all the time, I just read it quickly. My bad.

So let’s just kind of start with just some basic kinds of phases of what I would say is going to best position you. So, in a sense, like, if you think about two lines that are parallel to one another, that are on kind of the same route, they’re going to stay equidistant for infinity, right? But the earlier on that you can kind of get away from that trajectory. If we look at it sideways, you know, that line that earlier on that you can start to make those massive jumps, you know, over time, you’re just going to be so much farther ahead of your peers or other people in the field. And so, initially, I think there’s a tendency to want to niche into one specific area, to say, I love trauma work, I love kids work, I love whatever. In graduate school, I would say you have a great opportunity to do, you know, shadow placements, to go ask those questions. It’s harder, you know, as someone when you’re licensed, to say, hey, can I come watch your clinical work? Hey, can I come sit in on your board meeting, can I come sit in on, you know, a child protective services case?

So doing even just a half-day shadow of a bunch of different types of specialties, even if you think that you’re going to be a specific way, what that’s going to do is it’s going to inform you outside of your own work. So you may stay with trauma, EMDR, whatever it is the thing that you want to do, but now you at least have a broader scope that you can speak to, which is going to help you with networking, it’s going to help you with being able to speak the language of a lot of those different areas, to even trigger some different things that maybe you didn’t know. And so in the same way, when you read a book, you know, usually I leave a book saying, oh, now I have three more books I want to read because they referenced these three books. That’s going to really help you just to have a broad scope of understanding and experience outside of just kind of the learning in the classroom. So I would start with that.

I would say that you’re also uniquely positioned, when you’re in graduate school, to buy somebody a coffee – outside of COVID, of course. So, you know, to even do a Zoom call with people if you’re in the middle of COVID, or pandemics, or whatever the future has for us. But, you know, why, when a grad student reaches out to me, am I willing, even though, as a consultant, I’m charging $1,000 an hour? Well, it’s because I want to help people that have that chutzpah, that have that energy, that say, I want to go after it. Like, I know a grad student doesn’t have any money, usually. And so it’s like, I want to give back. And so [unclear] if someone was just starting a practice, I’d say, you know what, you probably should join Next Level Practice and pay a hundred bucks a month for that. That’s what I’ve created for that phase. For grad students, it’s like, you are so uniquely positioned that people want to see you be successful. And so, now, before you graduate is the time to make as many connections as you can. Those influencers, those people like this, that you’re like, oh my gosh, I want to talk to you, I want to know you, want to pick your brain. If they don’t give you fifteen minutes or half an hour of their time, then they’re probably not the influencer that you want to follow. And so I would say, do that as much as you can.

And then I would also say, in grad school, you can totally start a website. There are people that have bachelor’s degrees, or don’t even have bachelor’s degrees, that are self-proclaimed coaches and experts in all these areas. They’re on podcasts, they’re blogging, they’re out there. And we often think, well, until that moment that I graduate, and I’m fully licensed, I can’t do anything. Well, the rest of the world is doing that stuff. And so, as you write papers, you know, think about, well, how could I take this paper and maybe pull twenty percent of it out and do it in a blog post, and put that on my website, so to build that SEO, because if you have a year or two of content that’s out there, when you actually transition that website over to being a clinical private practice, your SEO, your search engine optimization, is going to be so much better than someone that just starts right when they’re clinically kind of ready to do that. And so if you think – using the trauma example – you think, you know, you want to maybe go EMDR route, you could buy, say, And then later, you can do a permanent redirect to EMDRcounselingservices, or something like that. EMDR whatever. And so then you can be building out that content over years and years.

You can be also on podcasts, or on other things that are pointing back to that website. We want to have external links, so that’s links from other people’s websites back to your website. And you always want to really shoot for ones that have what’s called higher domain authority. So there, you can just type in, like, ‘domain authority…’ I think it’s like ‘domain authority scale’ or something like that. And there’s a bunch of them out there. And it’s a zero to one hundred scale. Most US government websites are, like, a hundred, or ninety-nine. Most big news, like CNN would be like a ninety-five. Huffington Post would be like, mid-eighties. Practice of the Practice, I think we’re around like fifty-five. So to go from, like, zero to twenty is really easy. It’s, like, you go from launch to you’ve been around for a year. Going from twenty to thirty, that’s a little bit more. Going from thirty to forty, it’s harder. And so as you get up higher, it’s harder and harder. And so having websites that you write for. So, for example, Practice of the Practice, we have a bunch of writers that write from their perspective and, you know, they get backlinks to their website because it has higher domain authority. So even saying, hey, I, once a month, want to write a blog post on Practice of the Practice and have that link go back to my own website. That’s going to help your domain authority go up because you have one with higher domain authority that’s referencing you. So things like that.

Even going on to Help a Reporter Out – so HARO – that is an amazing resource. And so if you are on Practice of the Practice…

Help a Reporter Out? [JOE]:
Yep, Help a Reporter Out. So, three times a day, reporters say, I need a quote from somebody that says this. So, I’m doing a thing on anxiety, and so it’s, you know, we’ve got Cody who’s doing his, you know, postdoc in this or, you know, he is a master student and also a coach and has this website. Here’s what Cody Glover says. Okay, here’s his exact quote, or, you know, here’s what Tina says. And so it’s one of the primary ways that we’ve been quoted by Forbes, by Money, by Real Simple, all these other magazines came through Help a Reporter Out. It’s this secret that even therapists don’t really utilize. And so, getting quoted, I mean, think about if you even just went into a job interview before you did private practice, to say, yeah, I’ve been quoted in Real Simple, and Cosmopolitan, and Forbes magazine. I’ve been doing this work throughout grad school around foster care advocacy. As someone who has hired people, if you said that in an interview, it’d be like, okay, you get the second interview, for sure, just for the chutzpah that you have there that you put into it.

So I’d say those are some of the kind of basic things that I would say, like, if you did that, you’d be front of the pack, not just in your own school, but front of the pack across the board in regards to private practice. I’m gonna take a breath, and a sip of coffee.

That’s great. [JOE]:
If there’s any questions or follow up. [ALEXANDRA]:
I think that, um, yes, and yes, and definitely for this little secret undercover resource that I’m going to have to Google as soon as we’re done. [JOE]:
And actually, let me find a HARO and, like, we can talk through how to respond to it before we dive in too deep, before we get away from this topic, and I’ll do a screen share. All right, is that coming through okay? Just give me a thumbs up if it is. Okay. Cool. And so, you literally get three emails a day, so it can be annoying. I have my assistant check it, but it’s, you know, the morning, afternoon and evening. So, like, let’s just look at yesterday evening. So I just subscribed to the general one; you can subscribe just to biotech or just to business, but I think it’s good to see kind of what trends are happening.

So, untreated heroin addiction. So, WebMD, let’s just click on that one. So say you’re doing an addictions kind of angle in regards to it, this person is writing a short article on the long-term physical and mental health impacts of untreated heroin addiction. So say that you are… So, you do want to read this, so, only wish to speak to licensed medical professionals, substance abuse counselors or substance abuse treatment professionals. So they’re saying, like, I don’t want a life coach. And it’s WebMD, you know, so I would expect that out of them. And so I wouldn’t even waste their time. But as soon as you’re licensed, things like that you could respond to. So let’s look at another one that you actually probably could respond to.

So, here we go. So, simple practices to create a mentally healthier workspace. Alright, so this is loosely related to mental health, but it’s also around kind of occupational therapy or, you know, design, so lots of people could respond. So, writing an article about some of the best simple practices to create a mentally healthy workspace. The only requirements they have is limited to a hundred and fifty to two hundred words, have a link to your LinkedIn and website. So that’s why you need to have an active LinkedIn, you need to have an active website. Those are the things that I would say are essentials when you’re in grad school, if you want to start to do this work to level up. So you would just write, you know, what is it that someone needs to do to have a mentally healthier workspace? And there are tons of these things every day that come through. And so a lot of these are just roundup articles, meaning that they’re gonna say, you know, Joe Sanok said this, and it’s a hundred words, you know, this other person said this, this other person said this, and it’s like, the title of it might be very, like BuzzFeed worthy, of twenty-seven experts weigh in on how to make your workspace more mentally easy for you. And then you’re one of those experts. And then you can say, I’ve been quoted on this website or in this magazine.

Alright. Follow up thoughts, questions. Yeah. And all of you can jump in, you can just raise your hand. So, Polly, I see you just unmuted yourself. Go ahead, Polly.

Yeah. Hey, hi, Joe. Thanks for this. I’m a grad student. I think I’m probably at VCU [unclear] Alexandra. So I’m a second-year grad student. I had a question about your idea about shadowing different specialties. So, what is the… My first question with that is, how do you approach someone and what should your expectation be, given HIPAA, and privacy, and liability, and stuff like that? If you’re interested in experiencing something like that in kind of an unofficial way, like, not through our official fieldwork, how would you go about approaching people? [JOE]:
Yeah. So like, what’s one field you would love to shadow? [POLLY]:
Um, let’s see, I would love to get in there and really understand CBT. [JOE]:
Okay. So I would look around for CBT therapists in your area. You know, right now, with COVID, and most of it being online, it’s gonna be even easier. It’s just you being in a Zoom call with them, potentially. So if I were a therapist, and you reached out to me and said, you know, Joe, I’m a grad student. I think I might want to do CBT and mindfulness-based approaches, I’m really interested in that. I’m sorting out whether or not that’s the direction. You know, would it be possible to potentially sit in on one of your client sessions, with your clients approval, you know, I understand it’s probably online, I can have my video off, I don’t want to be disruptive. So you’re kind of answering the questions for them that they might have, like, I don’t want to be disruptive, I’m not gonna say anything, it’s literally just observing, I want to connect with you as one of the top CBT professionals in the area. So, you know, fluff their ego a little bit, you know, that never hurts also. And then say, you know, if you have any HIPAA forms, or anything like that, that you need me to sign, I totally understand that. So you’re being proactive, saying, I know this needs to be confidential. I know that your clients also don’t want to be in, you know, maybe have me in there. But this is also part of the learning process.

And so, for example, and this is a little personal, like, after our second child, I knew I didn’t want more kids, my wife knew we didn’t want more kids, so I had a vasectomy. My doctor came in, in a very personal thing and says, you know, I have a medical student who’s never seen this before. Can he watch? And it’s like, I want there to be future doctors that know how to do a vasectomy and, like, yes, it’s awkward to have some doctor watching but, like, as the patient, I want the field to be better. And so in the same way, if someone has the guts to say, I think you’re really good at what you do and can I just watch to see what, like, for me, it’s Gottman level two, like, can I see what a Gottman level two session is like and see if that’s even the direction I want to go. Like, I want there to be more marriage therapists. And so you’re probably going to get nine out of ten people won’t even respond to you and just realize therapists are busy. They sometimes just don’t even return client emails, let alone, like, you know, grad student emails, so don’t take it personally. Is that helpful, Polly?

Yeah, that’s helpful. Thank you. [JOE]:
Go ahead, Tina. [TINA]:
So when I got out of grad school in 2010, when I got my PhD, part of the application process was shadowing for two weeks before we were even determined to get in with the agency. So as a practitioner who’s hiring people using CBT Mindfulness, I’m gonna want to see how people interact in a room, you know, warmth, things like that. [JOE]:
Awesome. No, that’s a good tip. Thank you, Tina. Yeah, I think, let’s talk a little bit about marketing. And so, you know, building your brand and kind of showing the behind the scenes as you go through grad school, I think can be really helpful. And so whether that’s through Facebook Lives or live Instagrams or building an Instagram account, I mean, you just look at how many people again, who are “influencers” that have never had more than a Psych 101 course. And if you follow any of these kinds of influencers online, like, they’re oftentimes saying good things, but it’s super basic. It’s active listening, it’s non-reactionary ways to talk to your spouse, it’s really fairly simple things. And so, already you have more skills than kind of the average influencer and what they know. And so picking some social media, picking, you know, whether it’s Pinterest, or Instagram, or Tiktok, or whatever that you want to start to practice your message. Just view it as practice. Be like, you know, I’m in grad school and I just learned this, and it blew my mind, and I want to share it with you, and would love to know how you’re going to apply it; here’s three ways that I think you could apply it. It can be that simple. Like, here’s the message, here’s three quick things, like, less than a couple minutes. [ALEXANDRA]:
That’s so interesting that I just wrote down marketing right before you said that. So I know the mirror neurons are working here, even though it’s across the country. So, with marketing, and I think this is something that I… not struggle with, but I’m trying to understand. So everybody has their own story, right? Everybody has their own story, their own experiences. And I was just checking out the website a little while ago, again, just to make sure I was aware of the resources you already had available for grad students. And there was one write up on like self-disclosure. So kind of along those lines, how do we develop a brand? Do we use…? How much of our story do we use in our brand? And if that brand is developed upon a grad student kind of platform, again, how do we kind of… How do we build that anticipation that we are currently a grad student, this brand is being built, we’re gathering this following, but we’re eventually heading here? And, yeah, how do we kind of build-up that momentum, but then not lose people or not gain people just because we’re grad students, if that makes sense? [JOE]:
I wouldn’t have even the grad student thing be, like, front and center, like, I wouldn’t have it be your main tagline. Because it’s like, there’s plenty of people out there that, you know, they’re just talking about minimalism, they’re just talking about, like, the mental health benefits of minimalism and getting crap out of your house. There’s people that are talking about, you know, how to stay married to people, and they’ve just read a couple books, and they just start talking about it. And so I think, in your bio, you can have that. But the self-disclosure side, I would say, for one, like, don’t disclose anything that if a future client found it, you’d be like, oh, that really affects the therapy. And so if you’ve had something traumatic happen to you, and you’re okay with the world knowing that, that’s totally fine. But if you’re like, oh, I hope just a few people see this. So like, I don’t ever want to put out content that if my parents see it, it’s like, oops, I don’t want them to know that about me. Um, so I kind of use that as some rules of thumb.

I do think the more story-based and the more kind of personal it is, though, the more we know that, you know, neural mirroring happens when you tell a story and someone is absorbing that story. And so story is one of the most powerful things that you can get good at. And, you know, we can go through some of my favorite books at the end of this, and kind of say, here’s some books that will really help you kind of fast forward your progress. But, in regards to branding, the biggest thing is – and we teach this in Podcast Launch School – is finding the pain and what’s the transformation? Finding the pain, what’s the transformation? So, if you’re helping people from a CBT perspective, most of the world doesn’t give a rip about CBT, or what all these initials mean. They want to feel less stress. They feel like they’re in the middle of a pandemic, they’re worried about all the protests, they’re worried about the election, and they drive down the street, and they, you know, forget their kids at home. And they’re like, my mind is like, everywhere, I need to calm down because I am just freaking out about this. And then they drink too much.

And so, CBT is one way that you overcome stress, and you get a better handle on your emotions, but the client cares about, I am losing my mind. And that’s the pain. And so what’s the transformation? The transformation then is, you feel more grounded, you feel like you have some tools. And that’s just one tool that if it doesn’t work, you’re just lost, you have a bunch of tools. You feel like you can identify emotions when they pop up and not attach to them. So that’s the transformation that happens. And CBT just happens to be the way you get there. Mindfulness just happens to be the way you get there. And so your branding then if you’re entering into, say, a Facebook Live, you want to talk about that pain. And so, just say, a lot of people I meet are dealing with these types of things, you know, maybe that sounds familiar to you, you know, put that in the comments [unclear], you’re engaging the audience. Or maybe you do it in a blog post. You know, a lot of people I talk to are this. They don’t need to know that you’re not a therapist. You’re not saying you’re a therapist, you’re not saying you’re a coach, you’re just saying that people I meet, they deal with this.

My recommendation for my research and for my studies, you know, is these three steps. So, first identify the primary emotion. Is that really primary? You’re feeling anger. Is that anger masking something deeper, like hurt, or loss? Second, use one of these tools. So deep breathing does this and, you know, neurofeedback does this. And then, number three, here’s the last step. I mean, you’ve got a great blog post there, you’ve got a great Facebook Live there, and you’re building your branding of that you’re someone that helps people go from pain to transformation. And so whether it’s an email, blog post, you know, Facebook Live, having that pain transformation formula really helps you structure out where people are at, and then where they want to go. Other questions?

Like, new topic questions or questions [unclear]? [JOE]:
Any question, whatever. No, I mean, we can just kind of answer questions. [POLLY]:
Um, I just have kind of a general question about moving into private practice. I guess I’ve kind of worked out in my mind that in order to move into private practice, I have to first get some really good experience so that I know what I’m doing once I’m alone in a room with someone in a private practice environment, or, you know, whether I’m doing it on my own or with a group or whatever. Do you have a recommended, or maybe just like some ideas on different paths people take from grad school to private practice? Is it possible to just go straight into it? Or is it better to, like, jump into a community-type agency or something and get some experience under your belt before you move into private practice? [JOE]:
I mean, I think there’s benefits to each. Having an agency-based job definitely helps you meet people in the community that maybe you wouldn’t normally meet, and you can get paid to sit on the, like, I was on the Suicide Prevention Committee, I was on the Poverty Reduction Initiative. I was on, like, all these committees, and someone was paying me to sit through these boring meetings. So that’s awesome, even if you get it part-time, while you’re building your practice. But just statistically, the day you graduate, only eight percent of the US has a master’s degree. And so if there’s a room of a hundred general US citizens, eight people will have a master’s degree or higher. And of those eight, we think about how many are medical doctors, attorneys, a CPA with a masters, you know, different occupational therapists, physical therapists, all these different things. Most likely, in any given room of a hundred people, you are going to be the top mental health person. At any party, unless you’re hanging out with therapists, you know, in any community thing, you’re gonna probably be the smartest mental health person in the room. So from day one, most of the population is going to think you are a genius when it comes to mental health.

Now, that’s kind of scary. But it also, then, I mean, I remember when I was going through my internship, my supervisor said, at first you don’t know what you don’t know, then you know what you don’t know, then you don’t know what you know, and then you know what you know, and that’s stuck with me, where it’s like, yeah, there’s lots at the very beginning that you just don’t know that you don’t know. It’s like, I remember when I first learned about CBT and I was like, wait, was this covered in grad school and I just, like, fell asleep that day or something? Like, what the heck, how did I miss that? Or, um, you know, just learning all sorts of things in those first couple years. And so I would say, don’t do it from a shame perspective, like, oh, I should have known this. Just do it from a curiosity perspective, like, oh, okay, I have a client that’s dealing with parenting issues. I didn’t realize there’s all these great curriculums out there I could have accessed. Now I know that; now I’m a better therapist. It took me ten years to get Gottman certified. And I had been seeing I don’t know how many couples and it’s like, well, yeah, maybe I did them a disservice by not knowing that stuff. But also, like, I had basic skills also. And so you kind of do your best throughout, and you continually learn.

So I would say there’s no reason to not start a private practice right from the beginning, unless there’s some sort of regulation, like, some states have it that you can’t do a private practice when you’re pre-licensed or unlicensed. Or some states have it that your supervisor has to physically be in the office, maybe not in the actual setting, but they have to physically be there. And I mean, to find someone that for twenty hours a week is going to sit around in your office, like, that’s probably not going to happen, unless you’re at an agency, you know, where that person is physically in the building. I think because of COVID, a lot of that’s changing where they’re making exceptions where it’s like, you can’t have someone physically with you; you have to check in with them. But I mean, I think that’s the biggest thing is if your state has any sort of like hard and fast regulation, like, you don’t want to get in trouble with them. But I also would say, there’s plenty of ways to do similar work. Obviously, therapy and coaching needs to be very different. You don’t want to just call it coaching and be doing counseling. But there are ways that you can be doing work that sets you up for a future practice that, you know, would be outside of the counseling world and still helping people.

Can you talk a little bit more about what your perspective on coaching would consist of, and how we can differentiate that at this point? [JOE]:
Yeah, I mean, I think that for coaching, you’re really looking at more, like, in the here and now outcome-based, you’re not really diving into as many of the past issues as much. I think you wouldn’t be using as many of the therapeutic techniques in it. But you know, one on one coaching, that’s gonna be where you’re at here, what do you want to get done in the next week? Like, how do we kind of like, stay on you to keep doing that? You know, oftentimes, people have more of an accountability side to it with a coach. So if you kind of think about it, like, a fitness trainer, like, a fitness trainer isn’t saying, like, why are you working out? Is it because of, like, your mom didn’t hug you enough when you were a kid, and then you eat too much in the evening? It’s like, they don’t go into all that. They say, go run a mile and then when you’re done with that, I want you to come over here, and we’re going to do some strength training. And it’s like, here’s what you’re going to do now, come back next week, or go drink that green smoothie, and then I’m going to kick your butt. But I would say that’s kind of the mindset of more like a trainer, than kind of diving into the why behind it.

All right. In Ohio, there’s specific qualifications for coaching and the businesses must be separate from counseling at the PhD level, at least. Yeah, so that’s another thing to look at, is some states have started to do, say, coaching. And there’s some states also, and this is where even early on, it’s important to probably talk to an attorney, where if you are licensed as a counselor and you’re doing coaching, they hold you to the counselor ethics, even if you’re doing work separate from that. And so, because, you know, there’s fifty states and in every state, there’s four to five licenses, that’s hundreds of different licenses for us to keep up with. I would say, it’s really important to just talk to an attorney in your state just to make sure, or even call if you’re part of ACA or, you know, your state, whatever your state thing is, to just talk to them and their ethics branch, like, you’re a grad student. And usually, if you aren’t a member yet, they really want to get you as a member as a grad student, it’s usually pretty cheap. So you can often access their attorney through that. So for the cost of joining the state membership, usually, it’s cheaper than even hiring an attorney, and you get access to their attorney frequently.

That’s great to know. And I think for social work, or any SW. [JOE]:
Yeah, yeah. So if you became a grad student national member, I would just make sure that you can talk to their attorney, or at least get just some ethics direction with things. And then you have it in writing, so if something comes back, you can be like, hey, their attorney told me this. And I mean, you don’t want to have any sort of, like, ethical violation before you even get licensed. [ALEXANDRA]:
For sure. How do you feel about speaking? [JOE]:
Yeah. It’s important to craft your message. The more of an audience that you already have, the easier it is for people to want to hire you to speak. But I would say, especially early on, get as much free speaking experience. If you want to do speaking, it’s a great way to level up, it’s a great way to meet people and to get known in your community, and a lot of therapists just don’t do it. So when we’re back to, if we are ever back to it, if we’re back to more kind of in person, you know, speaking at a school to, you know, teachers or the PTA, we got tons of referrals that way. There’s three books that I would highly recommend if you’re interested in speaking. It’s like the trinity of speaking books. The first one, the first two are written by Carmine Gallo – Talk Like Ted and Storytellers’ Secrets. And then the third book is Michael Port’s Steal the Show. So those are three really good books. Um, other books that are good. Those are three for speaking. Yeah, I’ll wait for questions about specific topics that I can tell you books that are helpful in those areas. Yeah, go ahead. [CODY]:
Yeah. Sorry. I have a brief question, and I got kind of a good answer from Tina. So I approached graduation pre-licensure in Texas. You can’t have your own private practice yet. With the state, I was able to reserve a business name, but I can’t form a PLLC yet because I don’t have that license. So, the basis of me being here because I’m kind of cheating because I’m not in graduate school. I apologize. [JOE]:
No, that’s all good. [CODY]:
The basis of the question is as I go through the cohort blueprint, you know, one, I worry about how good of an accountability partner I will be for whoever I get paired up with, like, I feel kind of bad for them already. The second part is what kind of further modifications would I need to make to the blueprint or do I need to re enroll when I’m closer to that stage? [JOE]:
Yeah, great question. So what Cody is referencing for those of you that aren’t in Next Level Practice, Next Level Practice is our membership community. Right at the beginning, we have blueprints based on your phase of practice, and it kind of says, this month, watch this video, do these things, this month, do these. We have so much content we found people were getting overwhelmed with, like, where do I even start? So we put together these blueprints to say, okay, here’s the small bite-size kind of pieces. So I would say, when you meet with Jess, for your fifteen minutes, just make sure you tell her kind of your phase. And say, as an accountability partner, I feel like I’m pre-license, I’m going to be launching my practice and the next whatever. I would look into, specifically, like, your website. I mean, are you allowed in Texas to have, you know, whatever – it doesn’t have to be ‘counseling solutions’ or ‘counseling’, but to just have a website that later on, you can do a permanent redirect, and it’s super easy to have an IT person do that so you don’t lose your SEO. Because, I mean, you could be building tons of SEO content, you could be doing videos, you could be speaking, like, all these things that would be more kind of grad school stuff. I think your professional career kind of falls into still the grad student recommendations. So I would be out there meeting as many people, either online or in person when that’s safe again. I would be out there kind of shadowing people, getting to know people in your specialty area. With your private practice, what do you think some of the specialty areas would be for you? [CODY]:
Well, so for me, that’s kind of easy, it’s how I got into counseling. It’s actually my second masters. I’m kind of an odd person, and I hang out with a lot of odd type people, specifically kind of marginalized, well, for a better term, LGBT, kink, ethically non-monogamous, those kind of communities that I have been with people who went through therapy, they had amazingly trained, experienced therapists. The entire first session was teaching them vocabulary about whatever their lifestyle was and it’s very hard to build rapport that way. And so I saw that my people, my fun weirdos, lacked counselors. And it was a challenging bar for them to receive therapy that they very often greatly needed since they don’t operate within the mainstream. I have a theory that I want to research in a PhD program, I think there’s greater incidences of mental health issues within fringe or marginalized communities – I don’t know, working on that – and so I definitely know who my people are. I know where I want to niche. I’m actually going through Gottman training right now. So I know who my people are. [JOE]:
Yeah, sorry. Go ahead. [CODY]:
I’ve done work with them before. I volunteered as a peer group facilitator for about three years. I actually established the largest poly community in Houston. And just stepped back from that because I want to avoid the dual relationship issues that can come from that. So I know what I’m doing. I have a very clear vision. But it’s the have I put the cart before the horse? [JOE]:
So, first, that work is so important, and it’s such an underserved community that I feel like your ability to level up is just immense. And so I don’t want you to play too small, like, I think, yes, locally, yes, within Texas, but even just thinking about, like, what would consulting with other therapists or trainings for other therapists around that look like for you? And so it could be that you start a website similar to a Practice of the Practice, but that it’s aimed specifically at doing trainings for therapists around language, around supportive communities that help therapists within that, to navigate that, because I think that I’m seeing that as a growing trend. And I mean, I just would say, like, really continue to create content well before your practice launches. Because if you’re known nationally as someone who’s kind of a consultant in that area, like, that website could then be a huge feeder nationally for your counseling. Yeah, I mean, ecourses, podcasts, all those things could be so helpful for that community of therapists but then also that community.

Cool. Other questions? Probably fifteen more minutes. At the top of the hour I’ve got a podcast that I have to make sure I am all set for, but about fifteen more minutes.

I have a follow-up question, Joe, about… and I just got a question sparked in my mind from Cody’s comment, but this is just a yes or no answer, is the reaching out and kind of initiating, speaking, like, for free anywhere, schools, um, you know, faith-based organizations, wherever – is that the same type of networking that you kind of described before, which was just kind of coming at it humbly and outreaching and kind of marketing yourself and initiating it? Or are there other routes we can take for…? I know that there are some searches or some platforms that seek speakers, but I don’t have a lot of experience. So how do I start that? [JOE]:
Yeah, more times than not the speaking comes out of the relationship first. And so I would say, really getting to know the person or the organization as a referral source, and really the pains they’re going through. So for example, there was a local church that I was talking to when I had my practice and hearing about just basics of kind of couples work, like, their community life director had no… like, they were doing more harm than they were doing good. And so, they invited me to actually speak from the stage at this three thousand person church, to just be able to say, like, here are just basics of things that, you know, any therapist should be walking you through. And then there was someone that kind of co-taught with me and then did, like, the biblical kind of here’s these verses and things that support it. But I think it wasn’t me saying, hey, can I speak at your church? It was, you know, just working with the community life person on referrals, and helping them understand without saying, this is damaging what you’re doing. But to say, here’s some kind of research-backed things that would also help your community.

Most of the local speaking, like, I remember I did a series for parents at this charter school. And it was really well-attended. I mean, I was shocked at how well they got parents there. Usually those things, it’s like, if you get fifteen families, like, that’s awesome. But I think we had like fifty or sixty people. It was just getting to know the principal and realizing that, like, they had a farm on campus, they had chickens on campus, they went for hikes. And first I worked with their teachers for kind of just behavior issues kind of thing. And then their teachers were like, oh, my gosh, the parents need to hear this. And so when I came and spoke, I brought… I had four clinicians at the time in my group practice, and I did the whole speaking and then at the end, I said, okay, Steve is really good at substance abuse and toxic family situations. So, say you have that uncle who is an alcoholic, and your son or daughter doesn’t know how to process it. Afterwards, I say go talk to Steve. Jessica is really good at, you know, working with women in transition. So women who are recently divorced or, you know, who are changing in some way. So she’s really good at that kind of thing. And then, Sarah is great with teen boys and girls, she’s a snowboarder, go talk to her if you want to talk about your kids. So it was a good way for me to be the speaker. But then as I have my group practice, to kind of get them involved, too.

And so, in general, I’d say, with your speaking, just start with that relationship and the potential referrals. Offer value to their staff, or, you know, whoever it is that you’re talking to. And those doors continue to open, and then you can start to have a list of kind of speaking you’ve done. If you can get some of it filmed, even if it’s, you know, just part of it, that’s great for social media, if it’s not, you know, too grainy. You want it to still look good. Yeah.

Joe, would you say something along the lines of maybe starting with the communities that you’re already involved in, like, if you have a church community, or if you’re involved in the PTA, or your kid goes to a school with a PTA, kind of reaching out in those communities where you already have like, some representation, you’re already kind of there or a known person, and starting with something like that? [JOE]:
I do think it’s good to start there. I also, you know, there’s kind of the saying, like, a prophet in their homeland isn’t accepted. So it’s like, oh, that’s just Polly, you know, I mean, and so sometimes it can actually be harder. And so I just want to say, if people don’t accept your invite, like, just realize that. It was interesting, in my daughter’s school, they brought in these therapists that, like, they had had kids at the school, but it’s like, I’m like, I have a whole counseling practice, I could have, like, helped you guys out with this, but it’s just that idea of sometimes they worry about the dual relationship too much too. So I would just realize that, you know, offer it but then also realize that they sometimes have a hard time kind of bringing in someone they know as much as an outside expert. But yeah, I mean, I think those connections can open up, like, say you have a church that you’re connected to, to ask the pastor, like, do you know other churches that might be interested in this? And then they could do sort of an introduction as well. Sometimes that’s a little bit more successful, too.

Yeah, go ahead, Tina.

So there was a question about elaboration. So during COVID, I actually attended some webinars that were offered over the summer for parents at a school that worked with children that had ADHD, executive functioning difficulties, dyslexia and related concerns. I attended a behaviorally-based one with people that I would connect with and then commented and was a part of that. And then connected with the admins on social media, on LinkedIn, and then had a conversation. They contacted me two weeks later to speak. So I did a mindfulness presentation with a local school psychologist, during COVID, as a webinar, and they want me to do one for staff, parents, stuff like that. [JOE]:
Yeah. That’s great. And I think that the more that you can take your blog posts and repurpose them in LinkedIn, because within LinkedIn they have sort of a blog section. LinkedIn really has become kind of where professionals hang out. And there’s lots of professionals groups that you can look for local therapist groups. If there aren’t those, you could always start one of those. It’s nice to ride other communities’ coattails without just directly promoting yourself too much, too. Yeah. Other questions? [ALEXANDRA]:
Are there any financial – and I don’t even know if this is real or possible – but are there any financial resources for clinicians who are developing or building their own private practice? Any funding, any, I don’t know, grants or something that you’re aware of for that specific… for us, basically? [JOE]:
Yeah, no, great question. It’s really region-specific. And so, I know in Michigan, there’s some kind of tax deductions and grants for female-owned businesses. I know that we actually have some consulting clients that their local Chamber of Commerce sends us a check for consulting and, like, a hundred percent covered. And so usually, it’s for a specific thing. I mean, I would look at your local Rotary Clubs, look at your local Chamber of Commerce, your local SCORE – that’s a bunch of retired people – it’s a great way to meet local people, and it’s free. So they’re retired business owners that want to help local businesses start. I would say, what I found with SCORE was they have an old-school way of thinking about business. And it’s very, like, what’s your business plan? And it’s like, you got to get funding, it’s, well, I don’t want to take on debt. I think I could do this without it. But they give some good kind of basic things, and to be able to, like, send texts to those people and say, hey, do you know anyone that might be able to help me in this area? They’re usually pretty well connected if they’ve been in your community for a while.

And then, like, funding wise, those are the biggest ones, like, the local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, and then also kind of some state grants as well. Also, during COVID, I’m sure there’s got to be some other ones that we haven’t even looked into. So like, we applied for the payroll protection program and that, you know, covered all of our staff, employee wages for two months, pretty much. And that’s going to hopefully be fully forgiven. There’s bound to be more things, I think, in the rebuilding after COVID, too. So honestly, I feel like people starting a business in the middle of a recession or pandemic, like, that’s when I started Mental Wellness Counseling, and you’re just so much more nimble, you don’t have hardly any overhead, like, you’re adding expenses, and you’re evaluating every single one of them that usually, like, just your time that you can put into it is just, you can do more creative things. And so it’s great that right now, you’re kind of coming out of grad school pretty soon.

Hey, Joe. Do you have any online resources for someone who’s interested in private practice, but has no background in…? Well, I guess I have a little background in business, but no, like, real formal education in business? Is there, like recommended online resources? [JOE]:
Yeah. I would say, I mean, our website, we have thousands of articles on there. So The podcast, we’re almost at five hundred episodes. So we cover a lot of those kind of things, if you haven’t checked those out. Other ones, I mean, there’s other really good sites like Brighter Vision, they do websites for therapists, but they put out a really good podcast also, that covers kind of the business side of it. They’re doing this whole ‘Fall Into Cash’ theme this coming month and they’re actually doing a bunch of giveaways. So I would sign, I mean, we’re giving away three tickets into Podcast Launch School, which are each $1,000 each, and that’s just what we’re giving them. So they’re giving away tons of stuff in that. So, let’s see.

So also, Sam, one of our staff, she has the How to Market a Private Practice podcast. So she’s specifically from the marketing angle. If you have a faith-based practice, Whitney has the Faith in Practice podcast. That’s really good. Let’s see, what else is out there? There’s a lot of other consultants that are out there that are writing about these things, but I’d say, we try to really bring it all together. Next Level Practice is really like our membership community to help people that are from the moment they want to start a practice until they get to six figures. And so we have small groups, we have over thirty ecourses, we have live events every month, online. Like, Q&As similar to this only it’s all around just like private practice and launching your private practice and growing it. So, if you go to, that’s where you can get that? Or if you wanted to get in, we just had a cohort open last week and close, if you did want to get in. Are you in that, Polly?

No. [JOE]:
Okay. Yeah, if you’re interested in it, you can read about it on Just send me an email and I have a secret code to get you in, even though it closed last Thursday because we aren’t opening till next January. So if that’s something that seems like a fit. Any other resources that the rest of you tap that have been really helpful for you? Yeah, go ahead, Tina. [TINA]:
The APA. If you go to an APA accredited PhD program has areas that are low population, and they need certain resources, usually the rural communities, so you can get a lot of funding that way. You can actually get student loan forgiveness. And then there’s also a lot of resources in Ohio for nonprofits. [JOE]:
Cool. Thank you for that, Tina. Sweet. We got about five minutes left or so. Any other questions? Yeah, I’m glad you all came. And Alexandra definitely was the brains behind this and made it happen. So thanks so much. [ALEXANDRA]:
I really appreciate it. Um, I probably have a thousand more questions, but I’m going to dig into your website more and more and see if I can find them and continue listening. And I want to thank Cody because he brought up this interest that I have in developing my own theory. And so thank you for that, and how you kind of made me feel like it was more possible, especially in our position. And thanks, everybody for kind of being interested. [JOE]:
Yeah. Kind of the final words I want to leave you with are to view your private practice as just the very first step. You have skills similar to what… I just saw Polly’s kid, love when that happens. But similar to how Cody kind of brought up this idea, and it’s like, wait, this is something not just Texas needs; this is something the world needs more of. And so even if right now it’s like, okay, I just got to get a practice going, that’s awesome. Spend your time on that, get it going, get it financially where you want it. But don’t lose sight of that there’s ways to get to that next level, there’s ways to kind of grow into a group practice, there’s ways to grow into a consultant, into a podcast, or into someone doing ecourses. It’s not just based on you showing up and you getting paid. Because, yes, that’s kind of the first phase of private practice. But that’s giving yourself a job. And you know, to build a business, you want to build streams of income that go beyond just your individual time. And so that could be group practice, that could be doing actual groups for people, so it’s more scalable. It could be launching membership communities, all sorts of things. And so even though that may be, you know, years down the road for you, don’t lose sight of the skill set you have and how much the world needs it because sometimes – not sometimes – a lot of the time, a therapist in particular just plays so small. And there’s just so much opportunity out there to grow and scale, even beyond just your clinical work. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, everyone for coming. Have a great day. Stay in touch. And I’ll talk to you all soon. [ALEXANDRA]:
Thank you. [JOE]:


You know, it’s just, I wish I had had guides like there are now, back in grad school. I mean, I guess you can wish all sorts of things. But I think it’s really important that as we learn things, as we get to a different level, as we really disrupt the world of private practice, psychology, counseling, what it means to be a social worker, an MFT, that we share that with people that are coming up, because there’s an opportunity there. They have new eyes, they have push-back. And when I was in graduate school, when I was early in my career, more times than not I heard, we do it this way because we do it this way. And that’s just no longer acceptable in so many arenas in life, whether it’s politics, or whether it’s the way we view race relations, whether it’s, you know, there’s so many things. If we think about just that idea of we do it this way because we’ve done it this way, that is not the kind of world, or podcast, or movement that I want to be a part of. And the energy of new learners – and this could be a sixty-year-old person that’s going to grad school because it’s been a dream of theirs – those new eyes provide so much value. And rather than just see them as a limited license that we need to supervise, I think we need to cultivate them to be changers in the world of private practice, in the world of mental health, in the world of what we can do as professionals because they have ideas that will reshape the world that we’re in. And if we can be a part of that, then instead of them being an opposition to the old way, it’s the old way or the established way moving in a new direction. So I just want to encourage you, wherever you see grad students, wherever you see people that are unlicensed, pre license, limited license, whatever your state calls it, take them under your wing, help them grow and guide them while also learning from them. It’s so important.

If you have found value from this and you are starting a practice and you need an electronic health records, TherapyNotes is the best one out there. Use promo code JOE to get two months for free. As well, if you are a Next Level Practice member, which we have more cohorts coming out all the time, you could actually sign up for those over at But make sure that you use that promo code and if you’re a Next Level Practice member, you get six months for free. Just forward your receipt once you sign up to me and then I’ll send that on to the marketing director. It’s just too valuable of a coupon for them to have floating around out there. So thanks so much for letting me into your ears and your brain. Have an amazing day. I’ll talk to you soon.

Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music; we really like it. This podcast is designed to provide accurate, authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.

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