By: Kate Alson, MSW, ACSW
Book review of
The Therapist’s Starter Guide: Setting Up and Building Your Practice, Working with Clients, and Managing Professional Growth, by Mark Lanci & Anne Spreng, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, 2008, 359 pages, $40.00.
The Therapist’s Starter Guide: Setting Up and Building Your Practice, Working with Clients, and Managing Professional Growth is one of the more comprehensive books out there that I’ve seen on this subject. Whereas other books focus on the considerations of building a private practice, or becoming a successful therapist without burning out, this book effectively talks about both topics in conjunction. It is a paperback and is a hefty 335 pages, with an additional 10 pages of useful references and a helpful 12-page subject index.
The authors describe the main purpose of the book as “to provide new psychotherapists with a means of transitioning from graduate student interns to working practitioners at the start of their career”(preface, p. xiv). I agree that it may also be helpful to those mental health practitioners or clinical social workers that are in the first few years of private practice, and for those who wish to revitalize their practices. A regular gripe heard from fellow clinical social workers in private practice is that graduate schools of social work did not adequately prepare them for the business of private practice. The book may be used by social work educators to give a taste of what lies ahead, should the students chose the path of private practice.
The guide is divided into three sections. The first section is about how to set up and build your practice and includes information on purpose, ethical and legal issues, and the importance of documentation. The second section focuses on working with clients, including the therapeutic relationship; client interactions; understanding the change process; and the beginning, middle, and end of treatment. It covers working with common therapy themes and with challenging cases, managing adverse events, and understanding medications and the effect of medical conditions. Section three deals with managing professional growth, mentorship, burnout and vicarious trauma, clients’ influence on the therapist’s development, and finding the clinician’s niche.
Some of the important heavier information, such as the ethical and legal considerations, is dense, but the authors have made the content more accessible. The layout includes bullet points about what you will learn, exercises to help you interact with the subject, tip boxes to highlight key points, and a summation at the end of each chapter. Concrete examples and vignettes are used throughout the text to illustrate the ideas being presented.
The guide offers a collection of tools and information for those new to private practice issues and is a valuable reference and reminder for veteran practitioners. I find it refreshing for a handbook to exist that combines coverage of professional growth, working with clients, and setting up a private practice in a single volume. All in all, this is a helpful resource for social workers in private practice, as well as educators and students interested in this area.
Reviewed by Kate Alson, ACSW, MSW, Associate Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Torrance, CA. http://www.katealson.com.