Last Month, a soon to be associate therapist from a Texas Graduate School contacted me regarding some questions she had about life as a real day-to-day therapist in Austin. I had so much fun writing her about what I do, so I thought maybe clients, other therapists and colleagues, or other students might be interested as well. 

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What is the range of salary for Licensed Marriage and Family Counselors in the San Antonio and Austin area?

    I don’t know San Antonio, but I’m pretty sure in Austin area you can make anywhere from 30k-170k just depending on what you do: community health vs private practice, and then if you add in groups, speaking engagements, podcasts, being an author, etc., I am sure the benjamins could really add up!

– Is there a demand for LMFT’s?

I definitely think that while Austin is saturated with therapists (LMFTs, LPCs, LCSWs Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Family counselors, Pastoral Counselors, etc, I do also believe that there is a demand for certain nitches here. When I look around the therapist network and community, EMDR gets requested a lot, DBT groups, LGBTQ therapists, therapiss who specialize in Eating disorders, Couples, Addiction, Christian Counselors, etc. If you have a good specialization here, you are golden.

– What is your perception of availability for job opportunities?

There are good opportunities if you market yourself well. I do know that people who are trying to get into community health gigs rather than starting their own private practice find it hard to find a good paying gig. Also, if you are trying to see how private practice might work out for you but don’t network or market, the chances of building a successful practice are slim to none.

– What and who are some of the resources you refer your clients to for other services?

Psychiatrists, Nutritionists, NAMI, Al-Anon, TimberLine Knolls Residential in Chicago, EMDR and DBT- out of my scope of practice, ERC

Also, Books: “Intuitive Eating”, “The Power of Now”, “How to be an Adult”, “Eating in the Light of the Moon”, “Too Good to Leave/ Too Bad to Stay”, etc.

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– What type of professionals do you refer clients to?

Psychiatrists, Nutritionists, other LMFTS, sometimes LCSWs and LPCs if I have built a relationship with them and trust them.lucy.jpeg

– What do you enjoy most about being a counselor?

Watching people Heal and learn to love their body and accept themselves as a whole package. Decreasing their anxiety and depression. Watching them thrive. After 7 years in community mental health and 55 hour weeks and tons of paperwork, I also love creating my own schedule and being financially fruitful.  

– What does a session typically Cost?

This is a tough question because I do believe that if you are paying something for your therapy you will value coming and getting something out of it much more. However, I do believe there are people who couldn’t otherwise afford coming without a very minimal fee and I want to honor those who are struggling. I truly believe that’s what Jesus would want me to do. So I have a handful of my lowest fee clients that are paying $30-$50, while most are somewhere between $80-$120. My initial intake is a flat rate $150 because it is a full 90 minute assessment (30-40minutes longer) where there is prep paperwork, post paperwork, a full assessment, discussion of a treatment plan, and possible referrals and resources given.

In your opinion, what is the most rewarding and the most difficult part of working in this field.

Two sides of the same coin.

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Clients remind you how important it is to be well balanced and healthy. To take care of yourself and be 100% authentic and honest in your own relationships with people. Helps you remember the own internal healing work you have done to get here.

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At the same time… Self Care is difficult at times when you are caring for everyone else. Also therapy does a good job of stirring up your own sh*t.  When clients bring up your own stuff, your own insecurities/ self criticisms, marital problems, or lack of self care (I think you know this is called “COUNTERTRANSFERENCE”) It can be rough. But clearly you have to hold it together in the room, be authentic in the therapeutic relationship that you are not perfect, and then talk with your own therapist, colleagues, friends, etc. about it so you don’t let it effect your work. Doesn’t mean you are a bad therapist if you have countertransferences. It is natural. Just not one of the easiest parts about therapy.

– Working in a field where your job is about helping others with their problems, how do you deal with the emotional toll it takes on you and practice self-care?

good follow up to my last answer.

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Good Friends, Datenights, alone time, working out, eating balanced (mostly healthy with some small indulgence(s) every day), GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP!!, faith, prayer, a consultation group I built with some other colleagues that are also starting out private practitioners, Every once in a while a good Netflix binge 🙂

– What made you decide to become a Marriage and Family Counselor?

1) I was working at a summer camp and there was a girl with an eating disorder and a messed up home life. I wanted to help, but all I knew to do in that moment as a 21 year old was to hug her, tell her that Jesus loves her and it will all be okay! That’s nice, but not necessarily that helpful practically for her. So I knew I needed to gain more tools. So i did.

2) I was a missionary in El Salvador working at an orphanage with a ton of kids that were there because of broken family situations. I wanted to help more and again just didn’t know really what to do. After grad school and trainings now I do. It’s a cool feeling.

– What licensing and education did you acquire in order to become an LMFT?

Masters in MFT at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena California

Lots of Curriculum Courses, Extra Psychopharmacology Course from an online University, National Exam and Jurisprudence exam for Texas Board of MFT, Seminars/Conferences in both CA and TX

3000 hours of Supervised Therapy

EBP Trainings: MAP, TFCBT, EMDR Basic (not fully certified so, NO, I don’t do EMDR ever in sessions), Seeking Safety

California Written MFT exam and California Vignette MFT Exam

BOTH CA license and TX licenses

– What was it like for you when you first started out as a graduate? 

I was young, 23, and I didn’t really have a major college freedom experience, so at 23, I was going to class and doing my work, but also being very social and mingling with the cohort. I was also healing from my own eating disorder, so I was growing and healing and finding myself during that time. I think I really grew up in the year/years post graduation in 2010- now. I feel in the past 3 years like some how around 27-30 years old I just became a full fledged adult.  The school piece was always pretty easy for me. It was the real world experience where I really grew up and learned to be a great therapist. I had to learn especially about self care, and about not letting every traumatic story sit inside my heart and mind for too long. I grew some healthy armor. I am present completely in the moment with that client. Sometimes I will even cry with them, but at the end of the day, I put all those client stories in a “box” and leave it in my therapy room. It’s too much to take home with you every day.
I am so glad I am still a therapist today. I think it is a perfect job for me and I really feel blessed with the clients that I work with, the company I keep, and the God who has blessed me with the gifts, heart, passion, and talent to be an effective therapist. 
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