Top 10 Tips for Finding a Private Practice Internship

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In 2014, the job market is tough for pre-licensed LMFT, LCSW, LPC, and Psychologists looking to find paid jobs. Many of the agency jobs, non-profit jobs, and county positions have lost funding. So, pre-licensed mental health professionals are not only struggling to gather the hours needed to apply for licensure, but they are struggling to get paid doing what they love.

Smart pre-licensed therapists are breaking away from the pack, and looking to create their own positions through landing, or creating, private practice internships. Let me be clear, these internships are few and far between! However, you might be surprised that you may be able to create the perfect opportunity for you.  

Tip #1: Be on the lookout for positions.

Do you have a Google Alert set-up? You can put keywords into Google for MFT positions and have them e-mailed to you as soon as Google finds them. If you get a daily digest (one e-mail per day), you will be able to easily sort through and find the new options in your area, or even around the country.

Tip #2: Market yourself as a professional.

A professional who is career oriented hones their craft, builds connections, and develops a clear plan of action whether they have a position or not. If you want to be successful in this market, sit down and develop a clear plan of action. Make a name for yourself with or without a position.

You can build a website, start a blog about your passion, and begin getting ranked and noticed before you ever start a paid position. There are paraprofessionals out there blogging left and right. Don’t list yourself as a intern in those places, just list your qualifications- your training and your degree and provide value for people.

Tip #3: Build real relationships.

Go to networking meetings inside and outside of the field, get to know people, make it about them. Do NOT make it about you looking for a job initially. Use this as an opportunity to build a network of people to refer to currently and in the future. Make a list of people in your community whom you respect. Start to reach out to them. Don’t ask to “pick their brain,” offer a cup of coffee in exchange for professional consultation, etc. Do share the benefit for them, get to know them deeply, and find out how you can help. Most private practice internships arise out of real, strong knowing and connection.

I was referred for a wonderful position while in graduate school from my boss, an insurance agent, who provided insurance to the non-profit that had the open position. Most of my classmates had unpaid positions, while I had a paid position through grad school.

Tip #4: Learn to share what you are passionate about.

What do you do? I’m a trauma therapist who helps people heal from horrible experiences. Wow! Tell me more. Tell them about your work, your passion. Do NOT lie or make it seem you are licensed. However, most people don’t understand the issues of licensure, and they don’t need a 5 minute lecture at the beginning of a networking conversation. Start in non-therapy circles just be being clear about your career. And, make it about the other person. Get to know them deeply during that time, and follow-up with them.

Tip #5: Get comfortable speaking in person and online.

Learn what you are passionate about, and learn ways to teach and train others. You will help your community, your colleagues, and become a resource and reference for years to come. You don’t need to be licensed to speak to your community. When you speak, be sure to invite people to provide their contact list for future trainings.

Tip #6: Start building a clear contact list with people you meet.

Whether you start a newsletter through mailchimp, or you learn to use LinkedIn effectively- have a clear way to stay in contact with people over time. Even a short note to tell someone you are thinking of them, share an awesome ted talk, or check-in can do wonders to help people see you as a resource and the person they want to contact when they need support.

Math Moment: If you started collecting just 30 e-mails a month over the next 3 years of wonderful people whom you meet and keep in contact with, you will have 1080 contacts. 1% of that list is 11 contacts. If just 1% of people respond to your private practice launch- you could have 11 clients! Versus contacting 100 contacts. If you have a 2% response rate, that is just 2 clients.

Tip #7: Start developing a business plan.

If you want to create a private practice internship, you want to be able to show your prospective employer that employing you will be beneficial to them, that it will be easy, and that you will be paid. If you aren’t sure how to develop that business plan- start learning now. It is incredibly beneficial to understand the ins and outs of running a business.

Did you know that chiropractors have an average salary of over $130,000? While psychologists average a bit over $80,000, and MFTs a bit above $50,000? Why are chiropractors, who have spent significantly less time in school making so much more income? Is that people value chiropractic care more than mental health care? Maybe.

I have a completely different hypothesis. I was speaking to a colleague who told me about chiropractic school. They said that the bulk of study in traditional chiropractic schools was focused on the business aspects of running a practice. How much time is spent in mental health degrees talking about the business of running a private practice?

And guess what, there are many clinical issues that can arise if you don’t have a solid business model. I see the same clinical mistakes happening over and over again, with really wonderful clinicians. They just were not properly trained and prepared for the business of running a private practice, and how to deal with the unique clinical issues that arise when running your own business.

Take ownership of your future today. Start to spend time honing your craft, building your network, and learning about the business of psychotherapy. Want great articles delivered directly to you?  Grab some training over at

This guest blog is written by our trusted partner – Miranda Palmer

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