Congratulations on graduating! For most, it seemed like graduation day would never come. Now for the next seemingly unattainable goal: licensure. And with that goal comes the seemingly daunting task of earning thousands of hours as you navigate that process. At this point, little thought is often given to the fact that those hours can look very different depending on the venue in which you earn them. Although at the end of the journey to licensure everyone states that they have achieved the required number of direct hours (often around 1500), it’s important to consider that all client hours are not the same.
Even though everyone will have around the same number of hours when they apply for licensure, the type of hours they earned may have a huge impact on their future careers. Some folks graduating from programs in the mental health profession aspire to become private practitioners. Some others may opt for working in the social service sector. Whatever route you take, consider that during your supervised internship, all hours are not created equal.
Many, if not most who desire to be private practitioners, will not earn hours doing that type of work. Many will work in agencies doing intakes or assessments. And most often if hours are earned in an agency setting, even if the hours are doing actual therapy, the sessions are often extremely limited in number. The work in 12 sessions or less, for example, will be very different than in the private practice setting where you may work with clients for years. You may also work with a specific population while earning hours, which may not be the population you work with after licensure. You may be performing structured intakes or assessments that you may never do again in a private practice setting. On the other hand, you may only have a handful of clients in a private practice setting for a long period of time and not get the breadth of different types of clients in an agency setting.
None of this is a bad thing, or to say that any hours earned aren’t useful in forming whom you will become as a therapist. But when your focus is just on accumulation of hours, take a moment to consider the hours themselves, and that although they may count the same, how they mold you as a clinician may be significantly different.