How to Become a Private Psychologist

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Breaking out into private practice can be a daunting adventure for psychologists, but it can be a great experience, for both the psychologist and the clients. Postgraduate school students are increasingly pursuing the private practice route, with an estimated half of those working in the mental health field find themselves working in an independent setting.

Private Psychologist

Working in a private practice can be a challenge, as client base may not be as vast as when working in a community setting, and also requires both proficient counseling skills as well as business know-how in order to succeed.

Psychologists work in either group or individual sessions with clients in order to address problems, such as stress, anxiety, substance abuse, and depression. As a psychologist, you will usually employ a variety of tactics and approaches to assist clients in modifying their behavior, including psychotherapy, behavior modification, and homework exercises.

Work Environment for a Private Psychologist

As a psychologist working on your own in a private setting, your work environment can vary, depending on your preference, for both location and client specialty. Some psychologists prefer to work out of their home, allowing for a more intimate setting, while others enjoy the separation between work and home that an office building can provide. If you want to practice out of your home, it is important to make sure the environment is safe, welcoming, and childproof if working with children.

Another option includes working on a contract basis, which could allow you to work in a variety of settings, acting as a specialist or consultant. Such variety offers psychologists a chance to become a valuable player on a team, allowing a great opportunity to showcase specialized skills.

What are the Requirements to Become a Private Psychologist?


One of the first steps in becoming a psychologist in the private realm starts with earning an undergraduate degree in psychology, social work, or other related field, which will provide you with a foundation to build upon. While obtaining a 4-year undergraduate degree in an unrelated field will not prevent you from becoming a psychologist, it is useful to have some experience in the social sciences. Make sure to keep your GPA high while working on your undergraduate degree, as that will open up more opportunities for attending graduate school. Additionally, forming positive relationships with your psychology professors will increase their likelihood of writing a positive letter of recommendation for graduate school entrance applications.

After completing undergraduate coursework, students must obtain a master’ degree in psychology. Some schools require students to take the Graduate Requisite Exam, which includes a special section on the psychology subject matter. It is important to check the requirements for individual graduate school programs to avoid any surprises.


Licensing requirements for private psychologists varies depending on the state in which you desire to practice. After completing graduate school requirements, many states require you to complete supervised residency work, which is usually one to two years, in which you will gain valuable experience which can help your future endeavors. Upon completing the residency requirements, you will need to pass the written and oral exams to obtain licensure to practice in your state.

Skills and Qualities

In addition to the intellectual ability and interpersonal skills it takes to become a psychologist, if you want to pursue private practice, it would be important to have savvy business skills as well. Active listening and critical thinking are also valuable skills for you to develop as a psychologist when working with clients. Adept reading and writing skills are also necessary, as you will often find yourself reviewing current literature regarding the breakthroughs in the mental health field. Self-care practices are essential when working in private practice, as you may not have the support system present as those who work in more traditional settings may enjoy.

What is the Salary for a Private Psychologist?

The salaries for private practice psychologists vary depending on the number of clients, the state in which you practice, insurance regulations, and even specialty can influence the income levels. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of psychologists in 2010 was $68,640, or $33 per hour, with psychologists specializing in industrial-organizational and clinical psychologists among the top wages.

What is the Job Outlook for Private Psychologists?

As the increasing needs of qualified mental health workers continue to increase, the job outlook for private psychologists is expected to increase, adding an estimated 37,700 jobs by the year 2020 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is faster than average. Job prospects are best among psychologists who hold a doctoral degree in a specialized area of practice.

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