Finding a Job as a Counselor
Planning Your Job Search
- There are Georgia-specific licensing issues as regards suitable work as a social worker, marriage and family therapist or counselor. It can’t be just any counseling work. It has to meet certain criteria. Definitely read my companion article on how to select a directed experience site or a work setting acceptable to the board, Get That LPC Application Approved. The link will open in a new window. The board rules differ for Georgia marriage and family therapists and social workers, but find an established organization that is structured and provides oversight. It can be a government organization. It can be a private non-profit setting. It can be a private clinic. In some instances, employment in a small private counseling center is be acceptable.
Hire a Professional Resume Writer
I can't stress this enough. You don’t do your own brain surgery–pay a professional to write your resume. You are not simply seeking a job. You are pursuing a career that requires a state healthcare license. Also, therapists often devalue or are overly modest about their achievements. You are in a highly competitive industry.
Now that you have put together that killer smash-hit plan, what next? Networking with other mental health professionals.
In fact, let's use an alternative term to networking because it can be intimidating. Make professional friends. One of the most greatest returns on your investment is allowing others to put a face to your name. For example, have you ever bumped into a familiar face in a public place and realized it is a Facebook friend you have never met? It's almost as if they are a celebrity!
Check out those after hours "come tour our practice" events. Sometimes they are hosted in the relaxing environment of a restaurant. You don't need to even focus on selling yourself. Talk a bit about your specialty, but simply get acquainted with the individuals in that practice. You will be surprised at how often they will tell you they would like to discuss joining their group.
Join therapist listservs in your area. Employers advertise job openings in these groups. If you are a Georgia counselor seeking empployment, join GTNetwork (Georgia Therapists Network). –an outstanding networking opportunity to meet peers.
Social Media and Other Web-Based Employment Resources
Sites like Indeed.com are their own mini-search engines. Resumes need to be optimized to defeat their automated screening processes. Another advantage of hiring a professional to write that counseling resume is they know how to load it with key words. So now that you have that mind blowing resume that will rank highly on the job search sites, develop a LinkdIn profile. Upload your resume to Indeed.com and similar websites. The advantage of internet based networking is that you are reaching thousands of employers. It is an efficient means of putting your name out there.
How do I find a job that will enable me to get licensed when all the jobs openings advertise that I need to be licensed?
That’s impossible, right? No. Many organizations will hire you unlicensed, but make arrangements for you to be the eligible work setting that you submit to the board for your LAPC. In this scenario, you are hired unlicensed under the condition that you are license eligible. Also, it is in their interest to facilitate your obtaining that license so it can be a win/win situation.
State and private psychiatric hospitals
These are excellent clinical experience settings since you will encounter a range of psychosocial concerns including severe mental illness, addiction and homelessness. Many of the public community service boards are operated by private mental health organizations that contract with the state to provide services. Without a doubt, these work settings will give you the best clinical experience. Creating a framework for diagnosing will be much easier. You will learn how to quickly assess for addiction, psychosis, psychiatric symptoms related to medical conditions, and so on.
Private Non Profit
There are a number of private non-profit counseling centers that are funded through donations and provide services to patients on a sliding fee scale. Often training and internship sites, they are also employment opportunities.
Private Psychiatric Practices
This is one of the most overlooked job resources. It has been increasingly difficult for psychiatrists to survive in the world of managed mental health. In that respect, their situation is worse than yours. It is extremely difficult for a physician to survive through solely providing direct treatment. They have enormous malpractice insurance premiums and other associated costs of a private practice physician that are beyond comparison with your costs.
For these reasons, they develop multidisciplinary mental health practices which allow them to in effect see more patients. They compensate additional psychiatrists, advanced practice psychiatric nurses and psychotherapists either through W-2 employment or 1099 independent contractor agreements. They often employ provisionally licensed clinicians– LAPC, AMFT and LMSWs. They usually provide the necessary structure you need to become a well-rounded therapist. Usually the most accessible contact point is their office manager or on-call nurse. Email a resume and be persistent. Contact them frequently. If your focus is art, body or equestrian therapy that is great. However, when approaching psychiatric practices be sure to highlight any clinical mental health and addiction experience in your application or resume. Your chances of being hired are usually better if you know a colleague who works at the practice. Begin by contacting the larger practices in your area of Georgia. Determine whether they currently employ therapists. If they already employ therapists, they may be trying to expand–good opportunity for you!
Getting on Managed Care Panels
Another great advantage is it is often easier to get onto managed care contracts or “panels” when you are working with a physician who operates a high volume practice. The insurance companies- BCBS, Aetna, United Healthcare, Cigna–consider them a high priority referral source. It is a ‘one stop shop’ for medication and therapy. Managed care companies favor these clinic settings. You can also hire someone to assist you with the managed care credentialing process. One such company that help you get on managed care panels is ThriveWorks.
Working in private psychiatric clinics can be a good way of jump-starting your private practice. Once you are credentialed, if it is an independent provider contract (not a group contract through the psychiatric practice) it is portable. You may open your own office and receive direct referrals through that same contract.
Hint: Open your office in an area where managed care companies provider networks are open. These are sometimes distant Atlanta suburbs-- Lawrenceville, Rabun County and far north or south Georgia. Should you need to relocate, your managed care contracts are portable.
Smaller Private Counseling Centers
More great job resources for therapists. Caveat: these settings must be employment type settings and are often rejected by the Composite Board of PC, SW and MFT as acceptable work settings. Your director/boss is required to attest that your work will have direct oversight in formal employment arrangement. Some private practices provide more structure than others. It is also wise to confirm whether their office has been previously accepted by the board for an approved LAPC worksite.
You must be creative and think outside of the box if you want to make it in mental health. If you put into action the above tips and tricks, you will find your job search as a professional counselor or social worker to be more productive and less frustrating. This article has helped others obtain jobs as therapists.