Professional Development When in Private Practice

One of the most serious downsides of private practice is the lack of spontaneous intellectual adult learningexchanges with colleagues and the loss of agency-sponsored in-service training and support.

When we work as solo practitioners, there are no colleagues in a break room with whom to debate a controversial article. We don’t bump into another therapist in the hall who is bubbling over with enthusiasm about experiences from a recent conference. There aren’t opportunities at staff meetings or in-house trainings to enrich or expand our knowledge base.

Unless we’ve contracted with an independent supervisor, we lack supervision prompts to consider a recent study in our work with a client.

None the less, to operate ethically it’s essential to stay current with research and the evolution of best practices. Studies in neuroscience, medicine and therapeutic techniques are providing new information at a dizzying pace.

What we thought was true only a few years ago, for example, about the safety and efficacy of various psychotropic medications is now being called into question. Some techniques that were thought to hold promise have been shown to be more a triumph of marketing than helpful.

The digital age is creating new challenges for individuals and their relationships and spawning new ideas about how to provide treatment. How do we stay, if not on the very cutting edge, at least not years out of date in our thinking?

Personal In-Service Schedule

With no one prodding us but ourselves, those of us in private practice are obligated to develop a personal in-service schedule. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to stay intellectually stimulated and to keep up with developments in our field. Institutionalizing it by scheduling a block of a few hours a week for intellectual growth ensures that we’ll do it.

The following lists are not intended to be comprehensive but a friendly reminders of the types of opportunities that are available for a personal continuing education program.

 Eight Options for Professional Development:

  1. The various professional organizations regularly publish journals. Don’t let them accumulate for “someday when I have time.” Set aside regular time to read them and think about how the research could influence your work with specific clients.

Consider bookmarking sites like the following in addition to the sites available through your profession: (Please note: This list, and those that follow, is not an endorsement of sites by PsychCentral; but rather is a list of sites I’ve found to be helpful.)

And don’t forget to regularly visit PsychCentral Pro.

  1. Sign up for Webinars: Professional organizations now offer regular in-service webinars. Get on the listserves to be notified about when they are available.

In addition, consider webinars that are offered by such sites as:

  1. Create a professional support/reading group with other solo practitioners in your area. Such groups operate very much like any book club. Members meet once or twice a month to discuss a book or articles or a recently published study. Some groups also like to watch and discuss DVDs from conferences. Unlike a supervision group, the focus is not on case-sharing but rather on developments in the field.
  1. Expand the agenda of your peer supervision group: If you already belong to a peer supervision group, schedule some of the time for individual members to present an article or book of interest for discussion.
  1. Attend the annual conference for your profession. Build at least one regional or national conference per year into your budget. You will obtain the CEUs you need to maintain licensure. More importantly, conference presentations and workshops provide an overview of developments in your field. Go every year and you will soon develop a group of conference buddies who share your interests.

Yes, conferences can be expensive for those of us who aren’t sent by a school or agency. Fortunately, they move around the country so we can limit attendance to those that are closer to home. Many conferences offer a reduced registration fee in exchange for volunteering.


Professional Development When in Private Practice

Marie Hartwell-Walker, EdD

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. is an author, licensed psychologist, and a marriage and family therapist who has been in practice for more than 35 years. She is a regular contributor to Psych Central and one of the therapists who answer questions at Ask the Therapist.


APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2016). Professional Development When in Private Practice. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 28 Mar 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Mar 2016
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