How to make 100k as a counselor (no side hustles needed)


There were three things which pushed me to start my own counseling practice.


First, I was having some issues at my group practice. I just couldn't work there anymore.


This is not uncommon. Tons of counselors have bad bosses and stressful work environments. A buddy of mine works at a group practice where he has to get his own clients.


He, like most therapists, knows nothing about getting clients. So he muscles through all the networking and calling psychiatrists and marketing and at the end of it he still has to pay the group practice 40% of what he brings in.


It's a strikingly common story.


We therapists often feel group practice is the promised land, the way out of the slog of agency or community based work. And it is, but only if you get a good practice.


And good group practices are hard to find.

 

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What's a counseling private practice salary?


The second was a conversation with Wesley "Spoon Boy" Little where she walked me through how much I could make in solo practice.


The math is surprisingly simple.


For example, nationwide, insurance pays 130$ per counseling session.

  • So if you see 20 clients a week,

  • for 48 weeks out of the year,

  • for 130$,

... you'd make 128,800$ a year


Here in Arkansas, where I live, insurance pays 155$ on average.

  • So if you see 20 clients a week,

  • for 48 weeks out of the year,

  • for 155$,

...you'd make 148,800$ a year. [1]


Running the numbers with Wesley blew my mind.

See, I remember the Monday, years ago, after successfully defending my dissertation. I'd just taken a job at a psych center and still had some paperwork to finish.


After answering a few of the HR ladies questions, I muscled up the courage to ask, “what’s the bump for having your doctorate?”


She looked at me confused.


“Bump? There’s no bump.” She said. “We pay based on your license. You’re an LPC, so it’s 21$ an hour.”


I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.


She asked me a few more HR questions and I mumbled a few answers, all the while hoping she didn't see how sucker punched I felt.


A few days later I was talking with my cousin. He'd dropped out of college and had started working in a warehouse, and he let it slip that he was making 25$ an hour.


My cousin, the college drop out, was making more then me, the Ph.D.


4 years of college. 2 years of grad school. 4 years of Ph.D work. Struggling through statistics. Failing comprehensive exams. Finally passing comprehensive exams. An AAMFT fellowship. 3000 hours of client contact. Paying a supervisor for 300 hours of supervision. A dissertation use statistics when I didn't understand statistics. Finally understanding statistics. Finally graduating.


And none of it, in a very literal sense, was paying off.

So that conversation with Wesley blew my mind because it felt like, finally, all my hard work could pay off.


The benefits of having your own counseling private practice.


The third was a conversation with my friend Paul W. Peterson. Paul's a bit of a wonderkid. Least among his accomplishments are he graduated from his masters and immediately started his own practice.


No full license.

No agency work.

No billing insurance.


Greater among his accomplishments is the fact that he was recruited by the CIA because of his ability to rapidly learn foreign languages.


He turned down the job. Obviously.


So I'm talking to Paul and he's telling me I should start my own counseling practice because the sense of freedom is amazing. He works when he wants, takes off when he wants, and makes plenty of money to take care of his wife and kids. His time is his own. He can never get fired. And with a 30+ client waitlist, he could literally take off for a month and just pick back up with clients if he wanted.


All the while making over 6 figures.


He was pretty convincing.


And he was right.


This past week my wife had a friend from Alaska come within 2 hours of us. They really wanted to meet up, but we were also potty training our son.


So I looked at my wife and I said, "I'll just take off. You go have fun with your friend."


And that was that.


No boss to guilt trip me for not working more. No HR to get my hours approved through. No worrying about money because I already make enough.


My wife can just have fun with her friend and I'll potty train the kid.


'Cause in private practice your time is your own.

The feeling of freedom when I started my private practice

You should consider starting a therapy private practice.


I don't know if starting your own solo practice is right for you. I know I couldn't have done it without people like Paul and Wesley. Honestly they've held my hand through the entire process. I'm incredibly grateful to them.


But, if it is right for you, I think you should take the leap.


You should take the leap because at some point someone you love will need something, and you should be able to be there for them.


You should take the leap because you did a ton of work to get to where you are and your potential should be realized.


You should take the leap because if agencies knew counselors would leave and start their own practices, they'd treat their counselors better.


You should start your own practice because there's some young counselor stuck in a bad situation who needs a mentor to hold their hand and walk with them to freedom.


Which is why you became a therapist in the first place.


Best,

Jordan (the Counselor)

-Fin-


[1] Some will say, "yes you make 148,8000k, but after taxes and expenses you took home much less than that." Yes. That can be true. However, there are many different ways to either lower taxes/expenses or make more money that you could probably still end up taking home 100k. For instance, I started a type of business called an S-Corp, so I pay less taxes than most salary employees. I also only see clients via telehealth, so I don't pay rent on an office space. In fact, my home is now a tax write off, because it's my place of business.

There are many more things you could do.

 

If you liked this post, consider reading this next. I think you'll like it ;)

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