© Catherine L. Waltz, PhD, LCSW
October 19, 2014, revised October 29, 2014

I’ve been licensed and working for a while but I really want to be in private practice.  What do I need do first?  I’m a Registered Intern; can I have a private practice?

These questions and others have been posed to me over the years.  This commentary was previously published on October 19th.  Subsequently, the writer learned the text of a proposed law change that will eliminate the possibility of Registered Interns having an independent private practice.  This post is being re-edited on October 29th to remove potentially inaccurate information.  Please see the next blog post for the updated information.  It is imperative that the clinician seeking to establish an independent private practice become familiar with topics related to “formulating, developing, and maintaining business savvy in the provision of professional services” (Woody, 2013).  Some specific costs and procedures related to an independent private practice business are identified to prompt you to consider.

Let’s look at the Florida statute regarding independent private practice.  The quote is from the section of law for social work practice and we can substitute marriage and family therapy or mental health counselling as the wording is the same.

What are the costs associated with private practice?

Here are some of the costs and procedures that come immediately to mind as I started writing this article.  It is by no means a complete list of things to consider and prepare for.

Legal and accounting services – I cannot emphasize strongly enough that having the ability to consult with an attorney about all manner of legal questions as needed is a boon to the entrepreneur.  There are some questions that only an attorney should address.  An accountant may help with understanding some of the tax implications related to independent contractor (1099) status versus being an employee (W9) in a practice.

City/county licenses – City and county jurisdictions typically require a business license.  Licensed professionals (contractors, plumber, doctors, and mental health practitioners should check within their county and city offices for information about the fees associated and procedures and documentation required for the license.  Some institutions have indicated that they do NOT provide business licenses to unlicensed individuals, so Registered Interns should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in Florida

Malpractice insurance; general liability insurance – Registered interns and licensed individuals should strongly consider securing the protection offered by malpractice insurance.  If you have had your policy for a while and secured it while working for an agency or other business you should contact your provider to determine whether or not independent private practice is included in your current policy or be added to the current coverage.

General liability insurance – if you are renting space from another practitioner or other situation it is advisable to determine if that ‘landlord’ maintains general liability insurance for the property.  If not, you may want to consider seeking office space elsewhere.  What would you do if one of your clients were injured on the property?

Developing policy and procedures including forms and documents for completing client files – This particular procedure deserves some additional attention and I will write about it in the future but policy and procedure manuals need to include many issues including but not limited to: confidentiality policies related to all means of communication (phones, email, text, social media, releases of information; your availability; how crises will be addressed; billing and fee collections procedures and more.

Once you have adequately developed the plan for your practice and ensured that you are meeting all legal requirements, you can begin to attend to some of the more creative and fun aspects of entrepreneurship.  Please feel free to send comments or questions about this topic directly to Dr. Waltz.

– Catherine L. Waltz, PhD, LCSW is an adjunct professor in the graduate program of the School of Social Work, Barry University.  She has been a continuing education provider in the state of Florida for more than 10 years.  She provides courses on professional ethics, laws and rules, supervision, mental health error prevention among other topics:  http://drwaltz.corecommerce.com/Workshops-At-A-Glance-15.html

The educational commentaries provided by Dr. Waltz do not constitute a legal opinion.  If legal advice is needed, it is recommended that contact be made with an attorney qualified in the jurisdiction in which you practice or is applicable to your case.  We recommend that you use your knowledge of the law and your code of ethics in conjunction with this information (and any other) when deciding upon any course of action.