6 Tips – New Therapist’s Survival Guide – Part I


Advice For The Beginning Mental Health Professional

Congratulations! You have finished your Master’s Degree and you are ready to become a therapist.  All of the work has been turned in.  Internships, practicums and finals have been completed.  You have your degree in hand! You have done it!  The big question looms in your mind…Now What?

The daunting world of licensure requirements and job opportunities looms ahead.  Believe me, we have all been there.  Often, after completing an academic program we are still left with additional questions of how to go forward.  What do we do next?

So, we have gathered a group of therapists to provide some tips on licensure, credentialing, interviewing and life as a new professional that will hopefully put your mind at ease a bit and set you on the road toward a successful career.

First, let’s address applying for licensure.

What are some steps to take to guide you toward being able to collect your hours toward an independent license?

There are various levels of licensure for pra6 Tcticing professionals.  While national certifications are available to obtain and often helpful to a resume, the important licensure comes from the state you will practice in.  If your goal is to be an independently licensed therapist, you will need to start by registering with the state and meeting certain requirements in order to start collecting clinical hours that will apply toward independent licensure.  This process usually takes about two years of full time work post Master’s.

1. Get to Know the State Requirements.

Get to know your state licensing body and understand their specific requirements.  Requirements vary from state to state.  Some states require certain continuing education units be completed in areas of abuse and domestic violence prior to applying for a provisional license.  There may be preliminary exams to take. There are supervisory requirements that vary by state as well.  The better informed you are of your state requirements, the smoother the process will be.

 2. Register with the State to Start Collecting Hours.

Complete your state application as quickly as possible, paying attention to details (i.e. notarized signatures, fingerprints, documents signed by potential supervisors).  If you have questions on sections of the application, contact your state board.

3. Keep Written Records of Communication.

When communicating with your board, keep records of all correspondence.  If possible, turn in your application to the board in person and have them date and sign a receipt of the application.  If you are unable to deliver your application in person, send your application certified with a return receipt requested.

4. Make Friends!

Find a connection within the board and make friends!  Follow up with that same person to check in.  Friendly follow-up doesn’t hurt and you will be able to clarify any questions with that person.

5. Don’t Get Discouraged.

Expect that something may go wrong with the licensing process.  There is often a hiccup one way or another.  Never fear, it will work out.

6. Consult Other Professionals and Utilize  Resources.

Talk with licensed professionals in your community or your local chapter of ACA, NASW or AAMFT.  To make the process smoother, here are some links to websites to help you negotiate the details.

Social Work Licensure

Counseling Licensure

MFT Licensure

Bonus Tip: Join HealthShire

As a new therapist, joining an online network (such as HealthShire) is a great way to network with other professionals and present yourself to potential clients.  So register in 5 min. for a Free Therapist Profile.

Here’s to a smooth transition from student to professional!

Lisa Sutter, LISW




Lesley McKinney, LMHC

Andres Duran, LMHC

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