© Catherine L. Waltz, PhD, LCSW
October 29, 2014

This post updates the information previously posted on October 19th based on statutes that are in the process of being changed.  Registered Interns should read this commentary thoroughly.  The prior post has been edited and out-dated information deleted.

I’m a Registered Intern; can I have a private practice?

This question and others have been posed to me over the years.  Let’s look at the Florida statute regarding Registered Interns and independent private practice.  The quote below is from the section of law for social work practice and we can substitute marriage and family therapy or mental health counselling as the wording is the same.

Chapter 491, our practice act states this:

491.005 Licensure by examination.
491.005(1)(c) . . . “The experience requirement may be met by work performed on or off the premises of the supervising clinical social worker or the equivalent, provided the off-premises work is not the independent private practice rendering of clinical social work that does not have a licensed mental health professional, as determined by the board, on the premises at the same time the intern is providing services.”

So, what are the ramifications of this statute?

The fact that a licensed professional must be on premises at all times that the intern is seeing a client automatically makes it quite impractical for an intern to own a practice.  They would have to pay a licensed individual to be present at all times they meet with clients or hope that the professional happens to have their own clients concurrently (private communication).

HOWEVER, don’t get too excited Interns.  This next part is also very important.

The Florida Administrative Code/Rule 64B4-2.003 now states,
“Supervision provided by the applicant’s therapist, parents, spouse, former spouses, siblings, children, employees[emphasis added], or anyone sharing the same household, or any romantic, domestic or familial relationship shall not be acceptable toward fulfillment of licensure requirements. For the purposes of this section, a supervisor shall not be considered an employee of the applicant if the only compensation received by the supervisor consists of payment for actual supervisory hours.

Hiring someone for you practice who can be present, see their own clients and/or otherwise participate in the functioning of the practice and then provide your supervision is prohibited as that represents a conflict of interest (private communication)”.

This current law is being revised and the proposed language is this:

“So in order to legally operate a private practice, one would need to hire a licensed professional to be present at all times that you are seeing clients and then you would need to have separate person serve as your qualified supervisor.  Of course, there are folks out there who defy these laws and rules. The state is well aware that this nonsense is happening regularly and so just this year, moved to clarify the law so that those who want to stick to technicalities and ignore the spirit of the laws and rules would be without excuse.  The text of the proposed 491.005 (4) (c) reads (copied directly from the bill):

111 A licensed

112 mental health professional must be on the premises when clinical

113 services are provided by a registered intern in a private

114 practice setting. A registered intern may not engage in his or

115 her own independent private practice The experience requirement

116 may be met by work performed on or off the premises of the

117 supervising clinical social worker or the equivalent, provided

118 the off-premises work is not the independent private practice

119 rendering of clinical social work that does not have a licensed

120 mental health professional, as determined by the board, on the

121 premises at the same time the intern is providing services.

Any Registered Intern who is contemplating even a “technically legal” arrangement for private practice will find themselves clearly on the wrong side of the law when this revision is passed (private communication)”.

- Catherine L. Waltz, PhD, LCSW is an adjunct professor in the graduate program of the School of Social Work, Barry University.  She has been a continuing education provider in the state of Florida for more than 10 years.  She provides courses on professional ethics, laws and rules, supervision, mental health error prevention among other topics:  http://drwaltz.corecommerce.com/Workshops-At-A-Glance-15.html 

The educational commentaries provided by Dr. Waltz do not constitute a legal opinion.  If legal advice is needed, it is recommended that contact be made with an attorney qualified in the jurisdiction in which you practice or is applicable to your case.  We recommend that you use your knowledge of the law and your code of ethics in conjunction with this information (and any other) when deciding upon any course of action.

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© Catherine L. Waltz, PhD, LCSW
October 19, 2014, revised October 29, 2014

I’ve been licensed and working for a while but I really want to be in private practice.  What do I need do first?  I’m a Registered Intern; can I have a private practice?

These questions and others have been posed to me over the years.  This commentary was previously published on October 19th.  Subsequently, the writer learned the text of a proposed law change that will eliminate the possibility of Registered Interns having an independent private practice.  This post is being re-edited on October 29th to remove potentially inaccurate information.  Please see the next blog post for the updated information.  It is imperative that the clinician seeking to establish an independent private practice become familiar with topics related to “formulating, developing, and maintaining business savvy in the provision of professional services” (Woody, 2013).  Some specific costs and procedures related to an independent private practice business are identified to prompt you to consider.

Let’s look at the Florida statute regarding independent private practice.  The quote is from the section of law for social work practice and we can substitute marriage and family therapy or mental health counselling as the wording is the same.

What are the costs associated with private practice?

Here are some of the costs and procedures that come immediately to mind as I started writing this article.  It is by no means a complete list of things to consider and prepare for.

Legal and accounting services – I cannot emphasize strongly enough that having the ability to consult with an attorney about all manner of legal questions as needed is a boon to the entrepreneur.  There are some questions that only an attorney should address.  An accountant may help with understanding some of the tax implications related to independent contractor (1099) status versus being an employee (W9) in a practice.

City/county licenses – City and county jurisdictions typically require a business license.  Licensed professionals (contractors, plumber, doctors, and mental health practitioners should check within their county and city offices for information about the fees associated and procedures and documentation required for the license.  Some institutions have indicated that they do NOT provide business licenses to unlicensed individuals, so Registered Interns should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in Florida

Malpractice insurance; general liability insurance – Registered interns and licensed individuals should strongly consider securing the protection offered by malpractice insurance.  If you have had your policy for a while and secured it while working for an agency or other business you should contact your provider to determine whether or not independent private practice is included in your current policy or be added to the current coverage.

General liability insurance – if you are renting space from another practitioner or other situation it is advisable to determine if that ‘landlord’ maintains general liability insurance for the property.  If not, you may want to consider seeking office space elsewhere.  What would you do if one of your clients were injured on the property?

Developing policy and procedures including forms and documents for completing client files – This particular procedure deserves some additional attention and I will write about it in the future but policy and procedure manuals need to include many issues including but not limited to: confidentiality policies related to all means of communication (phones, email, text, social media, releases of information; your availability; how crises will be addressed; billing and fee collections procedures and more.

Once you have adequately developed the plan for your practice and ensured that you are meeting all legal requirements, you can begin to attend to some of the more creative and fun aspects of entrepreneurship.  Please feel free to send comments or questions about this topic directly to Dr. Waltz.

- Catherine L. Waltz, PhD, LCSW is an adjunct professor in the graduate program of the School of Social Work, Barry University.  She has been a continuing education provider in the state of Florida for more than 10 years.  She provides courses on professional ethics, laws and rules, supervision, mental health error prevention among other topics:  http://drwaltz.corecommerce.com/Workshops-At-A-Glance-15.html

The educational commentaries provided by Dr. Waltz do not constitute a legal opinion.  If legal advice is needed, it is recommended that contact be made with an attorney qualified in the jurisdiction in which you practice or is applicable to your case.  We recommend that you use your knowledge of the law and your code of ethics in conjunction with this information (and any other) when deciding upon any course of action.

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New Course in November – Grief and Mourning

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