Counseling Business Plan FAQ's

Starting your own counseling/therapy practice?


Here is a list of common issues and questions regarding starting and managing your own counseling practice. Click on the topic/question below for more information.  If you would like to contribute a question please contact us.


Are there forms to fill out for the supervision hours and if yes, where can I get them?

Yes, there are official supervision forms to track hours that the state will require you and the supervisor to record. It would be prudent to become familiar with what each person is responsible for by perusing our section on responsibilities during supervision for licensure.


Business support services for your counseling practice:

We have a “therapy village”, a community of referrals! All persons listed here are recommended by other counselors who have used them and recommend them to other counselors.


Creating a “Client Disclosure Information Form"

Before you start seeing clients you will need to prepare a Client Disclosure Information Form and have copies printed to give to the client and to put in the client file--after they have read and signed them.

For how to handle these processes online, see: Telehealth. How can I do online mental health counseling? Advice for Counselors. 

Finding resources & books when starting your private practice:

There are many sites on the internet aimed at helping counselors/therapists start their private practice. We suggest using this phrase "the business of counseling: Planning and establishing a private practice" in the Google search engine and you'll find many results.

Also, visit the American Counseling Association Website.


How can I get onto the insurance company panels of preferred providers for reimbursement?

You can go through CAQH, a Universal Credentialing Data Source. [The following is adapted from "Private Practice in Counseling" a column by Robert J. Walsh and Norman C. Dasenbrook in Counseling Today, a American Counseling Association monthly publication, in the June 2006 & August 2006 issues, and updated by this webmaster December 2007.]

The Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare, 1-(888) 599-1771, provides a way for licensed counselors to "submit their credentialing information to CAQH once, and it will then be made available to more than 100 insurance and managed care companies." [NOTE: To go through this process, you must already have your CAQH number, which is obtained by being approved as a provider by at least one of the participating insurance companies!]

Identification Number Is Needed: "A counselor who is already a provider for any of the insurance or managed care companies listed on the CAQH website can call CAQH and see if s/he already has a provider identification number. If so, CAQH will send that counselor a 'welcome packet' with information on how to apply...."

Or, With Your ID Number in Hand: "Go to the CAQH website and complete the credentialing process online. If you have trouble completing it online, call (888) 599-1771 and have the credentialing packet mailed to you. Once completed, fax the necessary information to CAQH at (888) 293-0414...use the fax cover sheet provided by CAQH instead of your own.... Once processed, you should receive a fax or e-mail that your new status with CAQH has been provided to all participating insurance and managed health care companies."

If You Don't Have the ID Number, “Go through Aetna's Credentialing Customer Service Department at 1-(800) 353-1232 and ask to be referred to CAQH to receive an identification number. Aetna also has a "Behavioral Health Professionals Application Request" form that you can complete and submit online. Because Aetna is so willing to accept applications, there is a big processing backlog (think 6 months.)

Some other insurance providers are faster but have higher requirements, including requiring a particular number of years of experience beyond licensure. United Behavioral Health requires two years of post-licensure experience and CIGNA requires at least 3 years. Both are very fast to process applications to become a network provider.


Is private practice insurance needed?

Whether you are employed or self-employed in private practice, you need professional liability insurance.


Is there any peer support such as with case consultation?

Licensed counselors and registered counselors in private practice often meet together and go over client cases in a case consultation peer group where they get the benefit of clinical feedback from fellow therapists as well as a forum for discussion of common private practice problems. Case consultation peer groups provide opportunities to network and to get input from the experiences of other professional counselors.


Are You a Licensed Associate?  Looking for supervision?

As a self-employed registered counselor in private practice and working toward licensure, you need supervised hours and may need to pay a licensed health care provider for supervision. Counseling Washington has a list of qualified licensed supervisors to choose from. Some licensed counselors still chose to pay for supervision and professional consultation.


Office share with other counselors:

Part-time office space can be an expensive starting point for a new practice but here you may find shared space that helps keep monthly costs down. Counseling Washington promotes office space listings that have full and part-time space available for rent. Counselors and Therapists or counseling-related entities are looking to sublet their space to professionals such as you.


Planning to use a name other than your own full legal name?

Our recommendation is not to however, it is your choice. Go to this site to register your trade name.

For more information on starting a business, see Doing Business in Washington State.

You will find the following:

1. Start a Business - Plan a business, steps for starting a business, find business registration requirements and more.
2. Licenses, Permits and Inspections - license your business or yourself, check a business or license status.
3. Licenses, Permits and Inspections - license your business or yourself, check a business or license status.


SBA check list for starting your new business:

Small Business Administration (SBA) Check lists:
1. Plan your business
2. Launch your business
3. Manage your business, etc.

More at:


Telehealth Implementation Guide for Washington State Counselors

Washington State has specific requirements for counselors wishing to conduct client appointments using online audio/visual programs and applications.  See the Washington State Telehealth Implementation Guidebook here for details.


What address should be used for your business address?

We recommend that if you rent part-time office space, do NOT use that address for your mailing address. When many counselors use the same suite of offices, the US Post Office often will not accept change of address notices. The counselors remaining in the space after you are gone are expected to forward mail to the departed counselors. But they don't know you or have your new address. The State of Washington, health insurance companies, and other essential business contacts may continue to send mail to your former part-time business address for years without you being aware of it until it gets you in trouble. If you are unwilling to use your home address as a business mailing address, get on the waiting list for a post office box.


What are "indirect counseling experience hours" and where are they mentioned in the WAC?

The rules do not limit the services that can be counted as part of the total post-graduate supervision experience, nor do the rules discuss or define “indirect experience.”

In order to qualify for licensure as a mental health counselor, an applicant must have completed the following supervision requirements:

• Minimum of 36 months of full-time counseling or three thousand (3000) hours of postgraduate mental health counseling under the supervision of an approved licensed mental health counselor or equally qualified licensed mental health practitioner in an approved setting.

• At least of 100 hours must be in immediate supervision with an approved licensed mental health counselor or equally qualified licensed mental health practitioner.

• At least 1200 hours must be direct counseling with individuals, couples, groups, or families.

"Mental health counseling" means the application of principles of human development, learning theory, psychotherapy, group dynamics, and etiology of mental illness and dysfunctional behavior to individuals, couples, families, groups, and organizations, for the purpose of treatment of mental disorders and promoting optimal mental health and functionality. Mental health counseling also includes, but is not limited to, the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental and emotional disorders, as well as the application of a wellness model of mental health.

The post-graduate experience is intended to prepare you to practice as listed above, any experience that aids in that, may be counted towards the post-graduate supervised experience, so long as you are under the supervision of an approved supervisor.

Webmaster's interpretation: The answer to the original question is "No." The term "indirect hours" is an invention of the practitioners and supervisors and is not a part of any official regulation. However, it is a useful tool to describe those hours of counselor activities in support of direct counseling experience such as time preparing a client chart, writing in the client chart, telephone calls to and from the client, time preparing invoices or reports for the client. Your records should clearly indicate whether the counseling hours were to individuals, couples, groups, or families. Note: an hour of group counseling is one hour of direct counseling experience, not an hour credit for every person in the group, but you may have additional indirect hours for recording group attendance and participation notes in each participating client's chart.

Recommendations: Each time you meet with your supervisor (after every 20 hours of direct counseling) you should present a report listing the clients seen during the reporting period, the number of direct counseling hours and the number of "indirect counseling" hours relating to each client served. Sign and date your activity report. Give the supervisor one copy for his/her records and have the supervisor sign your copy to acknowledge receipt. This is recommended to create a duplicate copy of your supervised counseling experience hours as backup in case of fire, flood or other disaster that might destroy your supervisor's records.


What does 'Telemedicine' mean?

"Telemedicine is defined as “the delivery of health care services through the use of interactive audio and video technology, permitting real-time communication between the patient at the originating site and the provider, for the purpose of diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. “Telemedicine” does not include the use of audio-only telephone, facsimile, or email.” (RCW 70.41.020)"
" care professionals offering telemedicine prior to January 1, 2021, have until June 30, 2021, to complete the telemedicine training. Health care professionals offering telemedicine services for the first time after June 30, 2021, are required to complete telemedicine training prior to offering those services."

Source: Washington State Hospital Association; See details and discussion

Info on training courses at: "Washington State Healthcare Professional Telemedicine Training


What is an unlicensed person with a Master’s Degree in Counseling allowed to do in the state of Washington?

Counseling opportunities for a graduate who hasn't completed the experience hours for full licensure:

1. You CANNOT do counseling for a fee, WITHOUT A LICENCE.
2. You could get a job as a counselor in a licensed mental health agency as an Agency Affiliated Counselor.
3. You can apply to be a “licensed associate” (3 categories) such as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHCA).
4. As a LMHCA you have the option to do private practice counseling for a fee, under supervision, (that you would pay for yourself), OR you could get a job as a LMHCA in a licensed mental health agency and after three years of full time counseling, you could become fully licensed as a LMHC (best option, if you are a mental health counselor and you can find a job opening.)  Other Associate categories (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker-Associates) do not have different supervision requirements.

Links to application forms and to more information is on the Washington State Counselor licensure requirements web page.

The ideal system for producing new, highly qualified counselors would be for graduates of Master's Degree in counseling programs to be employed in mental health agencies, where they would be paid, get free supervision, exposure to a broad range of clients and client problems, and earn the experience hours needed for full licensure.


Register your Private Counseling/Therapy Practice in the Counseling Washington Counselor/Therapist Directory

"WA State's most trusted Counselor/Therapist Directory," An Exclusive Directory for WA. State Licensed Counselors/Therapists/Phycologists/Social Workers.

You will want to appear in the Counseling Washington Directory, with over 17,000 backlinks to search engines, universities, and other sites around the world. It offers the most effective, least expensive advertising a therapist could wish for. Start your listing here.


What is the federal “Red Flags” Rule?

The Red Flags Rule is a federal law the FTC has begun to enforce starting August 1, 2009, requiring certain businesses and organizations, including many doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other health care providers -if they are “creditors”, to develop a written program to spot the warning signs or “red flags” of identity theft.

Note: "Health care providers who require payment before or at the time of service are not creditors under the Red Flags Rule. In addition, if you accept only direct payment from Medicaid or similar programs where the patient has no responsibility for the fees, you are not a creditor. Simply accepting credit cards as a form of payment at the time of service does not make you a creditor under the Rule."

[Floyd Else, MA, Webmaster]


How to List Your Private Practice on Counseling Washington - Benefits, Costs, etc.
Mental Health Articles
Additional Private Practice Information
What is a Licensed Associate -- in WA State


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