How to open a private counseling practice

Written by matthew schieltz
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A growing number of counsellors work in private practices and are self-employed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook. Opening your own private counselling practice allows you to set your own office hours to accommodate clients and operate your own business the way you want it to be run. However, starting your own private counselling practice also requires advertising dollars to make yourself known and build a clientèle.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Meet your state's requirements for being a certified counsellor. Most states require that counsellors hold a master's degree from a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP). The CACREP organisation maintains a list of all accredited programs and those seeking accreditation on its official website at

  2. 2

    Take the state-recognised exam to obtain a counselling license to practice in your area. Obtain special licenses and take separate exams, if applicable, for speciality areas such as marriage and family therapy or mental health counselling.

  3. 3

    Locate private office space in your local area from which you can operate your counselling practice. Sign an agreement with the property owner and pay any fees for the rental of the office space.

  4. 4

    Pay for a professional office sign to be made. Hang the sign in front of your private practice office building. Use your name and credential initials (i.e. M.A. for Master's, Psy.D. for Doctor of Psychology) to indicate that you are a certified, licensed counsellor.

  5. 5

    Decorate your office space to help your patients or clients feel at ease when they come to your private counselling practice. Add comfortable sitting arrangements such as couches and oversized chairs to the counselling room. Add pictures to the walls to brighten up the space. Make reading materials or activities available in the waiting area.

  6. 6

    Publicise your private counselling practice to generate awareness about your services. Pay for a listing in a public telephone book. Write an article or have a press release submitted to the local newspapers announcing who you are, where your counselling practice is located, and the type of counselling services you offer. Arrange to be listed to be listed in online directories of counsellors.

Tips and warnings

  • Obtain certification as a "National Certified Counselor" from the National Board of Certified Counselors; some states exempt counsellors who obtain this credential from taking the state certification exam.

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