Top 2023 Guide for Managing, Growing or Starting Your Own Private Practice Social Work


2023 Guide: How to Become a Social Worker in Private Practice, and how to Grow Your Existing Practice

Disclaimer

In this guide on private practice social workers, we’ll go through those considerations, including the definitions of indirect and direct service social work. We’ll also discuss the difference between LCSW private practice salary and the average salary for non-clinical social work practice.

Have you been thinking about starting a social work private practice? Do you currently have a practice you would like to grow or effectively manage? Have you been unsure about licensing requirements or fees? Need direction on what private social workers should consider when starting their own practice or growing their practice?

If so, this guide on private social worker practice should help answer many of your questions.

starting your own private practice social work

Starting a Private Practice LCSW Social Work Office

Private practice social work can be a very rewarding career option once you’ve gained experience as a social worker. Not only do you get the autonomy of working for yourself, but you may also find that you make more money and have more growth opportunities than you would being employed by an organization.

Someone considering becoming a private social worker should have a general idea of which type of social worker practice they are interested in pursuing. But the sky is the limit. Because social workers in private practice are their own bosses, they aren’t bound to stay within one specialty area of social services.

Several considerations go into a private social worker practice. For example, whether to focus on indirect or direct practice social work, and if specialist or generalist practice social work is most comfortable. And whichever you choose, do you have the right credentials?

Social-Work-Practice-Toolkit

See Also: What Does It Mean to Be a Freelance Social Worker?


Table of Contents: Social Work Services in Private Practice

Keep on scrolling down this page to read each section or click any link below to go directly to that section.

  1. What Is Social Work Practice?
  2. What Are Two Types of Social Work Practice?
    1. What Is Generalist Practice Social Work?
    2. What Is Specialist Practice Social Work?
  3. Indirect vs Direct Practice Social Work
    1. Direct Services Social Work
    2. Indirect Services Social Work
  4. What Is Social Work Private Practice?
  5. How Do I Become a Social Worker in Private Practice?
    1. What’s the Difference Between a Private Practice LCSW and LPC and LMSW?
  6. LCSW Private Practice Salary Average
  7. LPC Salary Private Practice Average
  8. Social Work Private Practice Fees | How Much Do Private Social Workers Charge?
  9. Conclusion | Private Social Worker Practice Guide
  10. FAQ | Private Practice Social Worker

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What Is Social Work Practice?

Social work practice involves applying the principles, methods, and values associated with social service work. To be considered a social worker practice, it means the professional application of social work, so the social worker needs to have adequate education and training.

Social work practice is about helping people through counseling, psychotherapy, resource allocation of tangible services, and more to improve their well-being socially and mentally.

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), a social worker practice requires, “knowledge of human development and behavior; of social, economic, and cultural institutions; and of the interaction of all these factors.”

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Do you have questions about LCSW hourly rate private practice or how to start a private practice LCSW office? If so, contact the Social Work Portal Team.


What Are Two Types of Social Work Practice?

The medical and mental health fields have both generalists and specialists. For example, a family doctor is typically a generalist, meaning they need to know how to spot a wide variety of symptoms so they can diagnose and treat a condition.

If someone has a specific issue, for example with their GI tract, then the doctor may send that patient to a Gastroenterologist, a specialist that only focuses on that one area of the body.

Social work also has this concept, and it’s one you want to consider when starting a private practice social work office. Social workers can open a generalist practice social work office or become a specialist in a single area.

What Is Generalist Practice Social Work?

Generalist practice social work will revolve around treating the whole person. This type of social worker must know about many different types of disorders and potential treatments so they can identify them when working with clients.

You can think of generalist practice social work as a “jack of all trades.” This could be someone that provides psychotherapy services to all types of clients.

What Is Specialist Practice Social Work?

The specialist social work practice is concerned with one specific type of social service work. The specialist will specialize in that area and usually will know more than someone in generalist practice social work about that specific thing.

An example of specialist practice social work would be someone that did couples counseling only or substance abuse treatment only and didn’t work in other areas of social services.

Another example would be trauma informed practice social work, where someone specialized in identifying trauma in multiple forms in patients. This type of social worker may become a specialist expert consultant on trauma identification.

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Do you have questions about the social work practice definition above or how to find “private practice social workers near me” on a Google search? If so, contact the Social Work Portal Team.


Indirect vs Direct Practice Social Work

We’ve discussed how someone starting private practice social work can choose to be a generalist or a specialist. Now, we are going to look at another decision point when starting your own social work practice, which is whether to work directly with clients/patients or be more of a policy maker.

Some social workers in private practice prefer a hands-on approach, working directly with clients (direct). Others prefer working at a more macro level in policy-making, community building, and research (indirect).

Direct Services Social Work

Direct practice in social work involves directly assessing, diagnosing, and treating a patient. This means you are face-to-face with your clients and working with them directly at the one-on-one or group level.

Examples of direct practice in social work include counseling, being a psychotherapist, working as a child mental health consultant with schools, and working directly with patients to diagnose and treat substance abuse or other mental health disorders.

Indirect Services Social Work

Unlike direct social work, indirect social work does not involve direct contact with clients or patients. For example, an indirect private practice social worker may be a consultant for government and non-profit agencies helping them craft effective social services programs to address needs.

Another example of indirect social work would be those who review research and write reports or that write grants to help organizations earn funds for social services programs.

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If you have any feedback on how we can improve this private practice social workers guide, please let us know. Contact the Social Work Portal Team.


What Is Social Work Private Practice?

Social work private practice means working autonomously as a social worker and not as an employee of another organization. Being a private social worker provides more freedom to pursue the areas of social service that are most fulfilling to you. It also means more responsibility.

For example, if you are starting an LMSW private practice, you need to set up an office, ensure you have the proper independent social work licensing for your area, and handle the administrative and billing areas of your practice.

That being said, social workers in private practice aren’t held back by an organization in the same way employed social workers are. As a result, can often make more money, have more work/life flexibility, and work in the social services area they enjoy most.

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How Do I Become a Social Worker in Private Practice?

To become a social worker in private practice, you will need to follow a few steps:

  • Earn your bachelor’s degree in social work or a related human services field.
  • Earn your master’s degree in social work or a related human services field
  • Work as a social worker in an organization to gain work experience (required for obtaining an independent social worker license)
  • Register for any necessary business licenses
  • Obtain certification in your state or jurisdiction as an independent social worker
  • Make sure you have the appropriate amount of business liability insurance

You can find more guidance on the steps to opening your own social worker practice from the NASW Private Practice Manual

What’s the Difference Between a Private Practice LCSW and LPC and LMSW?

When deciding on independent social worker assessment fees to charge clients or the type of salary to expect doing generalist practice social work privately, you’ll need to know the difference between various designations.

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): A social worker in LCSW private practice has a clinical designation that allows them to diagnose and treat patients and provide therapy independently.
  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC): A social worker that becomes an LPC has met the educational and experience requirements to provide mental health and substance abuse care.
  • Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW): Someone in LMSW private practice can provide clinical therapy and mental health services, but they must do so under the supervision of an LCSW, or licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.

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LCSW Private Practice Salary Average

Because of the additional ability to do clinical work independently, the LCSW private practice salary is higher than someone without that clinical certification.

A private practice social worker that is an LCSW can expect an average salary of $72, 602 per year.

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LPC Salary Private Practice Average

A private practice social worker that is a licensed professional counselor can expect to earn an average LPC salary private practice amount of $55,641 per year.

The range for the expected LCP salary is $50,306 to $62,612 per year. The variation depends on factors like experience, education, and certifications.

Social-Work-Practice-Toolkit

See Also: How to Become a Children’s Social Worker


Do you have any questions about trauma informed practice social work or other types of private social work practice? Contact the Social Work Portal Team.


Social Work Private Practice Fees | How Much Do Private Social Workers Charge?

Setting independent social worker assessment fees and session fees can be a challenge for those just getting started as a private social worker. It’s a good idea to check out other social work private practice fees in your area to give you a good baseline on what you can charge.

Social worker practice fees can vary depending on the services provided and the location of the practice. Private practice social workers also may want to offer telehealth services, which may be charged for less due to being virtual.

Here are some estimates on private social workers’ fees from Zencare:

  • Therapy session average: $100 – $250 per session
  • Average therapy session cost by provider type:
    • Counselor: $150
    • Social Worker: $200
    • Psychologist: $250
    • Psychiatrist: $400

Because social work private practice fees can vary a lot by city and by certification, it’s important to do your research before you set your pricing. You can also always adjust your fees as you go along and gain more social work private practice experience.

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Conclusion | Private Social Worker Practice Guide  

If you want to be successful as a private social worker, then it’s important not to rush into putting up a website and opening your doors to clients. You want to ensure you have the proper licensing, insurance, and any other business needs in place before you begin.

Many in private clinical social work practice enjoy the freedom to pursue their dreams and the flexibility that working autonomously provides. So, if you’ve been a social worker for a while and have a good deal of experience, becoming a private practice social worker may be a great next step in your career.

Social-Work-Assessment-Software

Related: Social Worker Guide for Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Addiction Social Workers


FAQ | Private Practice Social Worker

What are private practice social workers?

Social work private practice means working autonomously as a social worker and not as an employee of another organization. Being a private social worker provides more freedom to pursue the areas of social service that are most fulfilling to you. It also means more responsibility.

How do I become a private practice social worker?

To become a social worker in private practice, you will need to follow a few steps:

•Earn your bachelor’s degree in social work or a related human services field.
•Earn your master’s degree in social work or a related human services field
•Work as a social worker in an organization to gain work experience (required for obtaining an independent social worker license)
•Register for any necessary business licenses
•Obtain certification in your state or jurisdiction as an independent social worker
•Make sure you have the appropriate amount of business liability insurance

What are two types of social worker practice?

Two types of social work practice are indirect and direct practice social work. In direct service social work, social workers are working with clients/directly. Indirect social work is at a level separated from the individuals being helped, such as those creating public policies to shape community social programs.

What is the difference between specialist and generalist practice social work approaches?

Two types of social work practice are specialist and generalist practice social work. A generalist is like a “jack of all trades” and works with clients of all types to assess and meet their social and mental health needs.

A specialist social worker specializes in a particular area of social work, such as substance abuse or geriatrics.


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