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How Much Does a Therapist Make?

How Much Does a Therapist Make?

Whether you’re a couples therapist, family counselor, or a psychotherapist specializing in a unique niche you likely entered your career with one primary goal in mind: to help people improve their lives.

Although money wasn’t the driving motivation behind your pursuit, paying bills is a reality nobody can avoid. So there’s a lingering question.

How much does a therapist make? And beyond that, how can therapists supplement their salary to make more money?

This post details the salary range of various therapists (including private practice therapists)—and provides four crucial tips to help you start making more money down below.

Therapist Yearly Salaries

*All salaries below are taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; they display median pay and reflect the year 2017 unless otherwise stated.

But How Much do Private Practice Therapists Make?

Salaries for Private Practice therapists vary wildly. Some articles report an average salary of $150,000 per year, while others claim that a licensed professional counselor working in Cambridge, MA, grosses $39,778 annually. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

Based on user-submitted data reports that Licensed Professional Counselors earn, on average, $61,232 annually.

But averages only say so much.

If we return to the BLS page for mental health counselors we can see that salaries differ quite depending on state, sector, and years of experience.

Top Paying States for Mental Health Counselors (Mean Wage)

Map from the Bureau of Labor Statistics detailing the annual mean wage of mental health counselors and therapists by state
t’s interesting to note that mental health counselors are currently paid the most in states outside of major metropolitan belts. This is likely due to fierce competition in populous communities. The laws of economics hold even for therapists.

States with the Highest Employment for Therapist: (Mean Wage)

Bureau of Labor Statistics map detailing employment of mental health counselors and therapists by state from May 2016
As expected the highest rates of employment is in states that have high populations, with California being the most populous state in the union. The other states below:
The BLS predicts that demand for mental health counselors will continue to increase in the coming years.

That applies particularly to rural communities that have so far been underserved by the profession.

Wages by Sector for Mental Health Counselors (Mean Wage)

The sector for which you perform your duties is fairly large determinate of your average salary, although it does not have the final say or stop you from earning more—or less for that matter.

Years of Experience

As with any occupation the more experience you bring to the table the higher your salary. For private practice therapists, this often means honing your business instincts along with developing yourself as a therapist.

Job Growth for Therapists

It’s interesting to note that the BLS predicts extraordinary job growth for many types of therapists.

Marriage and Family therapists are expected to grow by 23% between 2016 to 2026.

Meanwhile, Psychologists are growing 14% year-over-year, while School and Career counselors are growing by 13%.

Average job growth from one year to the next (that includes all occupations) is only 5 to 9%.

But Many Variables Affect A Therapist’s Income

Something to keep in mind is that while statistics provide insights into the general picture of therapists’ income, there are many variables at play for any particular individual.

Working Part-time vs. Full-time.

Many private practitioners work flexible hours at hourly rates.

Full-time work will typically yield a higher income: promising a workweek between 32 to 40 hours on average. Whereas part-time work falls under 32 hours which on paper has a lower average income; although technique and efficiencies can make up for less hours.

Working at various places.

When therapists are new to private practice, they often supplement their income by working for agencies or schools, while maintaining a part-time position in their private practices.

Hourly fees.

Some of the “high end/boutique” therapists I work with charge $250/hr. I have one therapist client who charges $450/hr for phone conferences. Plenty of others charge $100-120/hr while seeing between 23-28 clients/week.

Marketing strategy and website.

Having a strong marketing strategy often results in more clients and higher wages. Supplemental online courses and webinars. These allow therapists to continually supplement their income.

A Final Note on Therapist Salaries

Before jumping to conclusions, it’s important to consider the elements that factor into the above figures. With any statistical data, these numbers are meaningless unless you understand what elements generate the sum.

Remember, there is no set-in-stone salary. Some therapists make $30,000 a year while others fill their bank account thanks to a six-figure salary. The variations can be extreme. And are dictated by whether or not a therapist works for the government, a hospital or other healthcare facility, or has their own private practice.

How much you make isn’t dependent on data, but on you.

There is a Wide Range of Earning Potential for Therapists

How much does a therapist make
The question, “How much does a therapist make?” is, therefore, more complicated than it appears on the surface. The meaningful question should be: “How much money can I make moving forward?”

To increase your income you need to begin learning how to successfully market yourself.

By developing a solid marketing strategy—or by hiring a reputable, effective marketing company such as Counseling Wise—your income and practice can grow exponentially.

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9 Tips For Transitioning from Paper to Private Practice EHR

9 Tips For Transitioning from Paper to Private Practice EHR

So you’ve decided to finally take the plunge and transition from paper to electronic records? Congratulations! Your administrative work will be more streamlined and less heavy (Literally!).

However, that doesn’t mean you can push a button and magically everything will come together. If you’ve been maintaining paper records in your practice, consider the following tips, for they can save you a lot of time and headaches before you make the change.
1. Try out as many private practice EHRs as you can with free trials or phone tours. This will help you determine whether or not electronic records will meet your needs before you make the big commitment.
2. Outline your intake workflow. Usually, this is the area that causes the most confusion in the beginning. So, take 30 minutes to write out the process in which your new clients go through. What forms do they complete? Do you write them up together? Do you exchange emails? How do you both sign documents? Do you spend time after your initial session reviewing forms or completing assessments?

Having a clear understanding of your current process will help you decide which private practice EHR platform will best meet your needs.
3. Make sure your paper files are organized so you can easily transfer things over. Do a review of your files ahead of time. Schedule one to two hours, depending on how many files you have, to make sure everything is complete and up to date. Putting in the time now will better prepare you for the transition and it will make logistics much easier, especially if you decide to scan any current documents and upload them to your new EHR.
4. Decide whether you’ll have a “start date” or just upload everything and trash the paper. If you choose to simply keep all your old paper files and start with the EHR on a particular date, print out a sheet that clarifies something like, All records electronic as of xx/yy/zz, and put that disclaimer in your existing paper files. And after that date, store all files electronically. If you want to get rid of all your paper stacks, scan all your current files into the EHR and then shred everything. Depending on how many files you have and how long you’ve been seeing those clients, this may take a long time. However, this method can potentially save a lot of frustration down the line.
5. Decide if you’ll scan everything or have certain things (like drawings or narratives) maintained in paper files. You may choose to ditch your large file cabinet but keep a small, locked drawer for items that you want to keep confidential but not maintained as part of the client record.
6. Inform your clients of the change. Your clients have a right to know how you keep their records. Most clients will not be too concerned, but it’s respectful to notify them if you’re making a transition and to open the door for any questions or concerns. This is especially important if you choose a system that integrates scheduling and appointment reminders.
7. Allow yourself extra time when you first start. Using an EHR will inevitably make things more streamlined and simple, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy in the beginning. You will likely feel as though certain things take longer at first, but after about a month that should dissipate.
8. Have the EHR’s helpdesk information easily available so you can quickly problem solve. It’s best to plan ahead for any potential problems. These are often things that are minor and fixable, but unfamiliar to you as you learn the new system. Having a life-line will alleviate some of the stress of the transition.
9. Remember what you did on paper. When you find yourself confused about a situation, ask yourself, What did I do when I used paper? And go from there.
Above all, be open to trying out new ways of organizing. Change is scary, but also allows for growth and new possibilities.

In my experience, therapists who are open to adjusting their current workflows to improve efficiency are happier with their administrative work compared to those who decide to do things the way they’ve always been done. So, let go, try something new! Reach out for support and enjoy all the benefits technology has to offer.
About the Author:
Maelisa Hall, Psy.D. specializes in teaching therapists how to connect with their paperwork so it’s more simple and more meaningful. The result? Rock solid documentation every therapist can be proud of! Check out her free online Private Practice Paperwork Crash Course, and get tips on improving your documentation today.

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Time Management: One Psychologist’s Experience

Time Management: One Psychologist’s Experience

Chances are, you have struggled with time management at one point or another in your life. We sure know we have. Because we all could learn how to manage our time a little better, we invited James Davidson, founder of Davidson Counseling Group, to share his experience with time management.
My adventures with time management began with my first job after leaving graduate school. The ink was still drying on my diploma and psychology license when I started my career evaluating the effectiveness of mental health and chemical dependency agencies. It was a challenging task, partly because program evaluation was a fairly new concept at the time, and partly because my clinical skills and knowledge were minimal. I was a newbie in the field, and I was supposed to inform my colleagues about the effectiveness of their treatment programs! Are you kidding me?

I embarked on the task with a deadly combination of enthusiasm and vigor. Meet and greet providers. Read books. Study the research. Construct surveys and implement ways to gather data. Work from sun up until sun down. Then repeat the next day.

My office looked like that of a deranged professor: books and papers everywhere. My calendar was filled with meetings and appointments. The harder I worked I realized how little I knew. Life was becoming increasingly miserable. It just wasn’t fun. And it didn’t seem very productive.

My Time Management ‘AHA’ Moment

And then I read an article in a newsletter entitled Boardroom Reports about time management. It recounted the struggles of an executive buried in mail, memos, reports and more – and how one day, fed up with the all the busywork, he dumped everything into the trash. He figured that if the problems were important, he would get a phone call.

So I dumped almost everything in my office into the dumpster, waited for the phone to ring (it didn’t), and decided to refocus on figuring out what was truly important to work on in my new job. The process led to an enduring battle to simplify complicated situations, work efficiently, and write clearly.

Time Management Principles That (I Found) Work

Several time management principles emerged over the years, many of which are based on Stephen Covey’s management books (7 Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, etc.). Here’s the short list:

A Time Management Must: Delegation

Delegation is an interesting area for effective time management. After leaving my first job, I’ve been in a group private practice for my entire career. My wife is a clinical psychologist as well, and we’ve practiced with multiple providers and support staff for most of our careers. I learned to delegate to people to have good communication and consistency in our practice.

But even more important, I learned to delegate to technology. Way back in the dark ages of clinical psychology in the 1970s, insurance forms were filled out by hand or using a typewriter. I began using computer based practice management systems in the 1990s with the advent of the PC. A website was established in 1997. The fax machine went out the back door with the development of web-based fax shortly thereafter. Thousands of patient records were scanned using a Fujitsu ScanSnap a decade ago and stored in the cloud, as well as backed up with physical media. Online appointment scheduling was added to the website in 2006. A system was then added to convert voicemail to text emails. The computer based practice management system was dumped in favor of web-based practice management in 2009. Online intake forms were added a few years ago to the website that “bounce back” to the practice. Our legacy “informational” website was converted to a marketing based website in 2014.

The result of delegating to technology? My office is paperless. Part-time help is occasionally employed. Clients schedule and complete forms online. Practice management tasks take a few hours a week. Records can be accessed anywhere.

Simplifying Life to Manage Our Time

It takes effort to simplify. But today, the practice structure is simple. The back office tasks are easy to manage and the goal of being in practice – to help people – is easy to keep in focus.

Famed management guru Peter Drucker noted, “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” Perhaps it’s time for you to clear everything out of your office like I did decades ago, and make the limited time you have work for you.
About the Author: James Davidson is a licensed psychologist practicing in Plano, Texas. In over 30 years of private practice, he has evaluated the effectiveness of mental health agencies, conducted numerous psychological and forensic evaluations, and served as an expert witness on various issues. He has special expertise in treating teen issues, sexual abuse victims and couples counseling.

You can learn more about James and his private practice at

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