Finding the right MFT associate for your practice or agency takes time, but it can be well worth the effort, says Carla Becker, LMFT, LPCC, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist in private practice. “It’s a relationship that you’re forming. You want to make sure you know who you’re hiring,” she adds. Becker, who has hired and supervised more than 100 MFT trainees and associates (formerly called interns) throughout her 25-year career, provides a 5-step process to help supervisors find the right fit.
Step 1: Know why you’re hiring an associate.
You can’t find what you need if you don’t know why you’re looking. Although associates can generate additional revenue, making the decision to hire one shouldn’t be based on finances alone, says Becker, “Supervising is a meaningful experience for me because I get to be part of the development of new therapists and contribute to the field I love.”
Other reasons to hire an associate could be to expand the populations you’re able to treat or attract and retain clients who might need a sliding scale fee. It’s also a good move in terms of staying relevant with cutting-edge theories, says Becker. “The associate can keep you fresh and open you up to what’s happening currently in the field,” she adds. Many therapists also find that hiring an associate inspires them to consolidate their knowledge and fine-tune their own work.
Step 2: Make sure the timing is right.
LMFTs in California must be licensed for two years before they’re able to become supervisors. However, not every LMFT is ready or would be qualified to supervise others, says Becker. “For example, learning about marketing and building a practice should be one of the things you are offering,” she says. “If you’re struggling with that, then I’d say join a consultation group or get your own mentoring before you take on an associate.”
Supervisors must be up to date on all the requirements to supervise MFT Associates per your state’s laws. “It’s a big responsibility to take on the teaching, mentoring, and supporting of a new therapist,” Becker says. “You’re responsible for their development, and you’re ensuring the delivery of competent, legal, ethical, compassionate care.” It isn’t something that a supervisor should take lightly, and it requires self-reflection to determine whether the time commitment is even feasible, she adds.
Step 3: Know where to look.
You can recruit associates through local colleges and universities as well as the local chapters of American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT), or similar organizations in your state. Many of these organizations have discussion boards and job posting boards that can serve as resources. Networking at local and regional conferences can also help identify associates looking for work.
Step 4: Be patient.
The biggest mistake that supervisors make is not spending enough time during the interview process to assess whether the associate is a good fit for the practice or agency, says Becker. Too often, individual supervisors and agencies rush to hire without truly assessing the fit.”
Consider bringing candidates in for at least two interviews, one of which could also include other therapists or associates already employed by the practice or agency. During the group interview, Becker says to look for listening skills, inclusive behavior, and an overall awareness of self and others. “The group interview can tell you a lot about the relational skills of the applicant, which is vital,” she adds. “You can see a really amazing resume, but it might not translate as a good fit when you are face to face.
Step 5: Do your homework.
Prior to the interview, brainstorm a list of questions to ask potential hires. Consider asking the following:
- What motivated you to become a therapist? “I’m looking for passion. I want to hear about passion for personal growth, as well as, genuine concern and generosity towards others,” says Becker.
- What’s your preferred theoretical orientation?
- What’s your general work style?
- What do you do for self-care? “I’ve found that the work is greatly enhanced with associates who are actively engaged in their own therapy and regular self-care practices.”
- What’s your availability to see clients? Are you available during my normal office hours, or are you unavailable on certain days or at certain times?
- What are your long-term professional goals?
- What types of clients or presenting issues are you most interested in, and why? Do you have a desire to specialize in any particular populations or modalities? What clients or presenting issues would make you uncomfortable?
- How do you handle stress? How have you handled a conflict with someone at work or school? “You’ll want to know how regulated they are when in a stressful situation, or a challenging phase,” says Becker.
- Why are you interested in working with me?
- Evelyn Pechter, PsyD, another supervisor Becker works with often asks, “What would be valuable for me to know about you that’s not on your resume?” “It’s amazing what you get—or don’t get—when asking this question,” says Becker. “How much do they let you in? It is invaluable to hire associates who can freely express themselves because your license is essentially on the line. You need someone who isn’t afraid of the truth and of being seen.”
Remember that job interviews are always a two-way street. Be ready and able to answer these questions that associates may likely pose:
- Why did you become a therapist?
- Why did you decide to become a supervisor?
- What’s your therapeutic orientation?
- What do you expect in terms of the length of commitment? Might there be space for full-time employment in your practice after licensure? Or space rental after licensure?
- Will you refer clients to me, and if so, how many? Will you require me to market my services and attract my own clients? How much training will you provide on marketing a practice?
- What are the specifics of our financial arrangement? What does the financial split look like, and when does that split take effect?
It’s rewarding to supervise when there’s truly a good fit with the associate, says Becker. “Much like what we offer our clients, if you like to provide safety, support and feedback, assisting in a therapist’s development is really a gratifying experience.”
Download our Hiring Checklist for Supervisors to help you identify the desired traits, ask the right questions, and know where to look to find the absolute best candidate.
Carla Becker, LMFT, LPCC has hired, trained and supervised MFT trainees and associates (formerly called interns) for 20 years at Women’s Clinic Counseling Center. She works with individuals and couples and is a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. Her private practice is located in West LA and she can be reached at 310-205-2663 or carlabeckermft.com.