When I watched this scene from Season 9 of Shameless, my first reaction was a little mental caption: “Tell me you’re a therapist without telling me you’re a therapist.” It was one of those moments when you literally laugh out loud. All alone. Then, you keep giggling in little spurts for a good twenty minutes afterward. But, you know, while it’s a damn funny joke, it was not even the comedy that kept cracking me up — it was the idea that helping others become better therapists really must seem that simple, yet it is so much more complex.
My Journey to Becoming an LPC-S
I’m Heather, and I’m the owner of The Feelings Healers. I’m also an LPC-S, and I became a supervisor in order to support other clinicians in developing for themselves a way of providing therapy that is driven by authenticity. If you’re a clinician who’s considering becoming an LPC supervisor, you’re probably up to your eyeballs in Scope of Practice requirements, but how do you know if it’s actually the right move for you? And what’s life like for a clinician who provides LPC supervision? Here’s my story.
I majored in psychology with a minor in theology at the University of St. Thomas. Afterward, I began an absolutely great job at The Menninger Clinic working directly with patients at the inpatient level in a multidisciplinary team approach. From there, it took me four years to earn my MA from University of Houston Clear Lake (hello, working full-time!). After I did an internship as a Primary Therapist at the Houston Eating Disorders Center with Dr. Terry Fassihi, I continued working there as an LPC-A and was supervised by Rachel Eddins, LPC-S. I had such an incredible training experience with them and learned so much about what it means to be a great psychotherapist but also best practices for supporting others now that I’m a supervisor. From there, I joined Micki Grimland, LCSW, at Southwest Psychotherapy Associates.
So, how did I get where I am? Genetics and life experience created a curiosity about human behavior. School gave me the knowledge and a solid foundation to start as a therapist. Terry, Rachel, and the treatment team at the Houston Eating Disorders Center trained me well, clinically speaking. Micki and the group practice showed me how my training translated into an outpatient setting, but perhaps most importantly how to lead and inspire. My job history isn’t a résumé — it’s an homage to all the incredible supervisors who inspired me to push myself.
What Qualities Make a Good LPC-S?
You could probably make an argument that my entry into becoming a psychotherapist was a natural result of my curiosity about people. You see, I originally wanted to be a journalist. I was on the newspaper in high school, and I was always interested in the stories of other students’ lives. Then, I took a Psych 101 course my senior year of high school. My psych teacher was a former stand-up comedian, and he made the class so much fun. It was a no-brainer for me from there — I could be a therapist and really get to know the stories of people’s lives — and maybe help along the way.
What Are the Benefits of Being an LPC Supervisor?
Being a supervisor means
- helping more people
- staying relevant, and
- diversifying my work.
I just don’t have a selfish perspective on hoarding clients, and unfortunately, psychotherapy is not one of those fields where you have a limited number of clients available, anyway. Hey, I would love it if the number of people who need psychotherapeutic support was so small that we had to draw straws to work with them, but that’s sadly not the case. My practice can provide low-cost services to those who can’t afford therapy otherwise because of my supervisees.
Becoming an LPC supervisor meant that I could participate in the expansion of a field that seems to be more important all the time. It also allows me to use my strengths, and it challenges me to stay on top of my field and continue to be open to new ideas and developments in evidence-based practices. I learn so much from my supervisees! They keep me on toes as far as new modalities, latest trends in counseling practices, and marketing approaches.
Being a supervisor also helps me diversify my work. As a therapist in private practice, we can get bogged down by seeing clients day-in and day-out. Being a supervisor allows me to mix things up and do something different. Income-wise, it’s not as lucrative as seeing clients, but the work is different, which I love!
How Long Does It Take to Become an LPC-S?
I went into private practice in 2017, which grew into The Feelings Healers in 2020. By this time, people had been asking me for many years if I was going to become a supervisor, and I was finally able to receive my LPC-S license in 2020. Becoming a supervisor was a natural outgrowth of my vision in building my own practice. I wanted to provide an environment where organic, fruitful connections could develop among the therapists in our office and surrounding community. I became successful because of what I learned from others but also because being in a community of other professionals meant I constantly had an opportunity to flex my skills, whether it was working with a challenging client or providing consultation to another clinician.
Unfortunately, I also have heard plenty of stories about less-than-stellar supervision and even clients telling me about bad experiences with other therapists. While sometimes, it’s just a matter of a bad fit and not poor skills on the part of the therapist or supervisor, I want to do what I can to prevent that from happening, which means I had to become an LPC-S. Since we have to be fully licensed for five years before we can become a supervisor, I had to wait for about three years after striking out on my own before I finally could do it.
Growing into TFH meant that I had the physical space to take on LPC-As. And let’s get real — there was a very real need to pay the rent! So, yes, becoming an LPC-S was partially a financial decision. Shit, yeah, the idea that I could invest in my skill set and passion and turn it around into something that could help pay the bills was inviting! So, there really isn’t a story of The Feelings Healers without the story of my decision to supervise LPC-As, and there wasn’t any one moment where the lightbulb turned on. I’ve been presenting for years, and people always would approach me afterward wondering if I could supervise their hours. I had such a great supervision process with Rachel, and I wanted to provide that to others.
What Does an LPC-S Do?
What don’t we do?! Aside from the joy that comes with working closely with others who share your passions, becoming an LPC-S means that you get to contribute to the development not just of individual counselors but to the mental health system in Texas as a whole. Texas lags far behind other states when it comes to mental health services, but there is hope, especially in our region. Harris County, for example, had only eight (you read that right) provisionally licensed counselors per 100,000 residents in 2010, but that number has grown — to 12 counseling interns (now called associates) per 100,000 residents. While that might seem low, it shows that more people are choosing to enter the field, and that’s a good thing for us.
As a supervisor, I have three clear avenues of support I provide all my supervisees:
- Development of their therapist voice
- Practice of evidence-based therapy approaches (and fine-tune those skills!)
- Mentorship in the business side of having a counseling practice, including helping them create their brand
Few graduate programs prepare therapists for “life” as a counselor, especially the business side of things. Many programs never even show their graduate students how to write progress notes! And because a lot of new practitioners start out in agencies, like I did, they may not ever get a sense of what it’s like to have to develop their brand. They never get the opportunity to market themselves to build a client base, develop community outreach from the ground up, recruit clients appropriately for group therapy, develop their subsets of skills in their areas of greatest passion, find great CEU opportunities, or develop an understanding of the day-to-day mechanisms of running a business.
What Are Some Barriers to Supervision Success?
Don’t collect LPC-As. Many people who take the initiative to supervise are driven, dedicated, and skilled — but sometimes, we don’t know our own limitations, and burnout is very, very real. Taking on more than you can handle is not fair to your supervisees, your own clients, and it’s definitely not fair to yourself.
Be mindful of who you take on as a supervisor. Ultimately, we are largely responsible for the services supervisees are providing, even if the legal and financial responsibility shifts. We really need to feel the responsibility of what we’re doing — we’re providing training to new therapists, and they’re going to have a huge impact on people’s lives, for better or worse. We need to make sure we are OK with signing off on LPC-As becoming LPCs. They’re going to be on their own once they’re fully licensed, and we need to make sure we are cultivating skilled therapists who do no harm.
Recognize your value. Proposed new rules will allow LPC-As to accept payment on their own, and it will reduce the responsibility placed on the supervisor for the LPC-A’s actions. That is great news for getting more therapists into rural and other high need areas of the state, as Kate Walker points out. However, that doesn’t change the immense value that we provide to new therapists, the clients who work with them, and the shifting tides of mental healthcare work. Don’t gouge your supervisees because they’re desperate, but don’t shortchange yourself either. Your time is valuable, but so are the relationships that you can build through the closeness of a supervisory relationship.
Making the decision to become an LPC-Supervisor is a big decision, and it’s not one to take lightly. It’s not easy money, and you carry the weight of a whole other client load on your shoulders, whether the state says so or not. For me, private practice fed naturally into supervision, but that doesn’t mean either supervision or private practice is easy.
In fact, going into private practice as a therapist is so different from many other types of self-employment because there are so many different ways of structuring it. Some practitioners choose to own or lease an entire office. For the most part, therapists in private practice choose to lease office space from in larger settings or, as we have seen these days, more and more are choosing not to office anywhere at all. Some even just rent space by the hour on an as-needed basis. At The Feelings Healers, we offer all these options to other therapists, even ones I don’t supervise. Sure, it helps pay my rent, but it also means that I am upholding my ethical obligations as a therapist and an LPC-S by making mental health care more accessible in my community.
The thing about going into practice for yourself is that you have the opportunity to create a place for yourself in the world, but it also means that you have a responsibility to make sure you’re taking up space with authenticity, and that you’re doing it skillfully and passionately — that is the belief that drives my work and that I work to foster in the clinicians I supervise.