If you are a prelicensed marriage and family therapist, associate clinical social worker, or a clinical supervisor, you may be wondering about this topic. In short, the answer is yes, but. I know, I know, we have heard those "Yes, but" answers from clients forever! Hopefully the Q & A section below will help you to understand why it is, and where the but comes in!
Can a MFT Intern, ACSW, etc. start a website before they are licensed?
Starting a website is not regulated by the Board of Behavioral Sciences. What is regulated is advertising. The BBS has strict rules about advertising. In addition, your employer may have rules or strict agreements about ways you may advertise the work you provide.
However, is a website necessarily advertising? While a website is an excellent way to advertise, it isn't the only thing it could be used for. You may have an interest in alternative or complementary treatments for cancer. As an intern, you could start a blog or an entire website about the topic. If you don't list your license status, services, or solicit business it isn't advertising.
However, could it be used in job interviews, as a future portal where you COULD advertise in a permissable way in alignment with BBS regulations and your employers rules- absolutely! In addition, if it is something you created before you went into the position, you could clarify that the ownership for the site remains with you- so it also leaves with you!
Can I start a blog while in school?
Again, you can start developing your internet presence whenever you choose. In fact, you may be inadvertently starting your internet presence right now! Are you on Facebook, Yelp, MySpace, Twitter, and so on? How are you protecting your reputation? Are you developing a professional reputation? Or, are you tweeting about calling in sick to your job to go skiing? I have found that students and prelicensed professionals who are savvy make a quick shift in controlling exactly what information is seen online- and making sure that it gives the message that they want future employers and clients to get.
What are the benefits of starting early?
A big benefit of starting early is getting the hang of it. I know that sounds silly, but practicing early when the stakes are lower is a lot easier than later when you are depending on your blog or website to put food on the table. In addition, websites are graded on how often they have been around, how useful they are, and how much good content (writing) is on it. Hopefully, as you learn more about this process, your website will continue to evolve at a pace that works for you so when/if you convert it for advertising you will be ahead of the game. You could even be getting a list of newsletter or blog subscribers as a student or intern that will be a part of who you announce your future private practice too! Blogs and websites usually work best if you have a focus. You may find this is a good arena to practice exploring what you are passionate about.
What should I avoid as an intern?
Just as you could be getting great newsletter subscribers, a place on the web, and learning some great business and marketing skills- you could also be shooting yourself in the foot! If you use a blog or website for political purposes, rants, raves, unprofessional talk, etc. you could really tarnish your reputation before your business even starts.
What if my private practice supervisor doesn't want me to have a website?
Remember, your private practice supervisor is your employer. Ultimately, they do decide how you advertise your services in print on the web, etc. However, I would imagine if they had an issue with a blog- they should verbalize that before you are even hired- when you are interviewing. Most private practice supervisors understand the value of marketing- even if they are less technically inclined or comfortable. Other times, supervisors are simply worried you might poorly reflect on them with something you would post online. An established, professional blog can actually help to alleviate some of those fears! In addition, you may want to seek out potential supervisors who are more comfortable with technology as it gives you additional opportunities in being successful with your private practice internship!
Can I have my own private practice before I am licensed?
It seems like everytime I speak about pre-licensed private practice, this question comes up. It is important to know in California, you may NOT have your own therapy business prior to independent licensure. You may be employed in a private practice, as an intern or associate, during the first registration of your intern (about six years). After that you cannot be employed in a private practice setting. If you want help with getting licensed and some of those other questions- visit Miranda at http://mftguide.com
What about a coaching website as an intern?
Great question! What about a website that is in human services, but isn't officially providing "psychotherapy" services? Tread lightly. You will need to take extra care to make it clear to potential clients the difference, and you may still be at more risk. I highly recommend the free legal consultation that comes as a part of your CAMFT membership if you are planning to get licensed in Cailfornia.
I'm sure you have a million other questions related to websites and pre-licensed folks. Would love to hear them in the comments section.
Until then, Zynny Says: "The early bird gets the fabulous website."
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