Thinking of starting a private practice as an LCSW but don’t know where to start? Confused about licensing, insurance, or legal issues? Although there are many things to consider when starting a private practice, the process does not have to be overwhelming.

There are a variety of resources to help you along the way, including a reference manual published by the National Association of Social Workers. Short on time? Here is a summary of things to consider when starting a private practice as an LCSW:

Licensure and certification

Every state has its own licensure requirements for social workers who wish to practice independently. Some even use different designations– for example, LICSW versus LCSW. Most states require a master’s degree, a passing grade on the ASWB exam, and a minimum number of supervised hours post-exam. You can read more about your state’s specific requirements here.

Business structure and legal considerations

Once you’ve verified that you are licensed to practice independently, it’s time to think about what type of business structure makes the most sense for your practice. There are different legal considerations for a sole proprietorship versus a partnership, LLC, etc. A business lawyer can help outline the pros and cons of each.

Insurance and liability

While liability insurance is not required by all states, the NASW recommends it for all therapists. Liability insurance protects you in the case that you are sued for malpractice. Without liability insurance, you could spend precious time and financial resources defending yourself, even if the claim is ultimately dismissed. The NASW offers low-cost liability insurance to its members.

Office space and/or telehealth

Office space is another important consideration when starting a private practice. You want a location that is convenient for both you and your patients, welcoming, and confidential. Depending on whether you are also planning to work from home via a telehealth platform like, it may make sense to sublet a space part-time instead of committing to a long-term lease. Keep in mind, however, that many insurance companies require that you have access to a private, physical space for emergency assessments.

Fees, billing, and insurance panels

If you are just starting out, it can be difficult to figure out what fees to charge for your services. While most therapists charge between $110 and 200 per session, you may want to survey your colleagues to determine the “going rate” in your area. Whatever rate you choose, make sure you establish a process for billing and collecting payment. Online services like Simple Practice allow you to bill through their secure portal, but there are also HIPPA-compliant apps like Ivy that allow you to bill independently. If you are planning to join insurance panels, keep in mind that most will not pay your full fee.

Marketing and networking

You will need to spend some time (and money) marketing your practice. This is a good time to determine your niche and/or ideal patient. Consider what age groups and/or issues you would like to focus on, and market to those groups. Making a profile on Psychology Today is a good place to start, and most therapists also have individual websites. Social media can be a useful marketing tool, as can a private practice blog. Sites like Belongly can help you network with other therapists who could be potential referral sources.

Professional development

In order to maintain your license, you will need to complete a certain number of CEUs each year. Attending professional conferences is also a good way to connect with other therapists in private practice.

Time management

Decide what hours you will be available to see patients, setting aside some time for administrative tasks like billing and writing therapy notes. When you are trying to build a caseload, it can be tempting to flex your hours to accommodate patients’ requests or availability, but this can ultimately lead to burnout.


Private practice offers many benefits to LCSW’s, including flexibility, control, and independence. But just because you are your own boss doesn’t mean there are no rules! Following the steps above will help to ensure a smooth and successful transition to private practice.

Share your thoughts and comments.

Our members are talking about this article on Belongly.
Register today and join the conversation.

About the Author: Belongly
The community for mental health professionals. A free, secure space for mental health professionals to collaborate with and meet new colleagues, support each other through referrals and stay connected to a trusted network of peers.

Keep Reading

Want more? Here are some other blog posts you might be interested in.