Podcast: How to Leave Your Full Time Counseling Job

how to leave a full time counseling job

Today’s Private Practice Podcast Sponsor:
simple practice


What you’ll discover in this podcast

2:52 What happened with the girl I used to snowboard with

4:47 What I learned from my full-time counseling jobs

7:50 How I tracked my counseling income and why that matters

8:34 My last day in my full-time counseling job

10:31 Why getting rid of debt was key to leaving my full-time counseling job

12:01 How to leave a full-time counseling job work with exact numbers

21:08 Your next steps


Resources from the Podcast

Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step Plan

How to Become a Consultant Podcast

How to Leave Your Full-time Job Worksheet

Music from the Podcast

Silence is Sexy


WHY I LEFT my full-time job



Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

Joe Sanok is an ambitious results expert. He is a private practice business consultant and counselor that helps small businesses and counselors in private practice to increase revenue and have more fun! He helps owners with website design, vision, growth, and using their time to create income through being a private practice consultant.

Joe was frustrated with his lack of business and marketing skills when he left graduate school. He loved helping people through counseling, but felt that often people couldn’t find him. Over the past few years he has grown his skills, income, and ability to lead others, while still maintaining an active private practice in Traverse City, MI.

To link to Joe’s Google+ .

Photo by woodleywonderworks

Here is the Transcription of This Podcast

How to Leave a Full-Time Counseling Job

This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast, Session 71. Well, welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok. Today is a very, very exciting day. So, today, when this podcast goes live, it’s Tuesday in early March and I’m probably preparing to board an airplane for Orlando for the American Counseling Association Conference and I’m so excited to meet so many of you that are planning on going to that conference. These last few podcasts have just been awesome. We had an interview with Julie Hanks, and then we had a three-part series with the ladies, Julie Hanks and Miranda Palmer and Kelly Higdon that are helping me put on The Most Awesome Conference and then last week, we had an interview with Brighter Vision, one of the sponsors of the conference and this week I’m just going to be talking to you.

So, this week’s podcast sponsor is again, SimplePractice. SimplePractice offers just amazing practice management solutions. Next week, we’re actually going to be talking with Howard about that and about SimplePractice a little more in depth because it is just such a great practice management software and they’re doing so many great things to just help private practice owners organize just little tasks that often aren’t just like a good use of our time if we’re not organizing and we just waste a lot of time around it.

Next week, I’m super excited to share that interview with you, and this week they are also our sponsor, so super cool. But let me tell you why I’m so excited. Last Thursday which for me, I’m actually recording it today is Wednesday, so tomorrow is my last day at the community college and this is just crazy for me. Those of you that are newer to the podcast, let me tell you just a little bit about my story because I think that when you hear my story you’ll realize that it’s probably pretty close to your story if you’re like most counselors that jump into private practice.

In 2004, I graduated with a double master’s degree in counseling psychology and community counseling from Western Michigan University. I have always kind of been a dreamer, someone that kind of thought out of the box, I had really got into experiential approaches to therapy, so just like high ropes courses and team building. I had worked at a residential facility for kids that wanted to run away and this was an alternative for them to go there.  I worked all through undergrad and grad school at this place and it just really helped me learn how to work with angry kids and their parents.

What happened with the girl I used to snowboard with

So, in 2004, a graduate and a girl that I used to snowboard with in high school and I got married. In 2004 my actual graduation date and wedding date were the same day so I got to walk early in the spring before I finished my internship. We moved up to Marquette for her to finish her degree and Marquette’s like way in the north of Michigan. If Traverse City is cold and blustery, Marquette is just like the Arctic Circle of Michigan.

We moved up there, and I got a job at a place called Teaching Family Homes and it was great. It was a first job. I started at 30 grand a year. It was a non-profit. I got to work on some of like my licensure things because I had two supervisors, one that was a psychologist and one that was a counselor, so I got those out of the way, but had to drive like 45 minutes each way to work. It just felt like this is not going to be the way that I go. My big kind of dream at that time was some day, I want to work at a community mental health or a college and get State benefits. Like I want a secure job.

My wife and I decided you know, it’s time to move like we just didn’t want to stay after about a year and we moved down to Kalamazoo, where I had to gone to school and she was thinking about going to occupational therapy school. She starts working on prereqs and I start at a private practice down there that I was connected through my intern supervisor and just great experience. Larry Beer, who, and I think it was like episode 49, I interviewed him. He’s got 40 plus clinicians that work for him, just an awesome guy. So, I worked there. While I’m down there, I worked at a residential facility again and I’m hired full-time, have huge pay bump to like 40 grand a year. I’m thinking, holy cow! Life is good.

What I learned from my full-time counseling jobs

Three months later, they close and I go into unemployment. I’m like, “Oh my gosh.” Luckily, the head of that program felt really bad and connected me with community mental health and I got a temporary full-time gig and then that turned into a full-time gig and I worked in a program called Wrap Around where we went into family’s homes and created teams of people that were natural and professional supports for the family and it was just, it was awesome. I got to do this group called the Adventure group where we took kids that had been kicked out of programs, and we took them like out kayaking and doing high ropes and camping and it was all therapists that run the program.

Really, I get to build my skill set but I was still doing 40 hours a week plus you know, probably five or six private practice sessions and a lot of it was insurance-based. I’ve told the story many times about how I was on an insurance panel that paid $53 per session. It only authorized 3 sessions at a time so I’m making $160 or so for every three sessions. Then there’d always be a no-show that I couldn’t bill for and I’d fight on the phone for an hour. For five hours of my time I’d get $160 which even at that time I was like, “This is just so much work for hardly any money extra.”

So, my wife and I then decide to move to Traverse City in 2009. She’d finished up her master’s in occupational therapy. We took some time off before she had to start her internship and we took a six-week road trip out west. We visited friends in Colorado and family in Colorado, family in Utah, went down to Sacramento, made our way through the national parks through like Redwoods and all the way up to like Coos Bay and Seattle and Portland and Vancouver and then made our way kind of back through visiting friends in Idaho and Wisconsin and then we took the SS Badger which is a beautiful old coal boat across Lake Michigan. And so I had this like epic six-week road trip before we kind of dove into what we thought would be and think will be kind of where we kind of land and that’s Traverse City.

That’s 2009. I helped launch the sailing program and this whole time I’m thinking you know a community college. The community college here is like my dream job. It’s going to be more than most counselors get paid in town. It’s going to give State benefits, it’s going to give State pension. That’s going to be my job like for the rest of my life. You know, they even have like pension retirement. Like who has that anymore?

I get a job as a foster care supervisor and I did that for about 13 months and a job opens at the college and out of all the candidates, I end up getting it. I had Mental Wellness Counseling always kind of going on the side with a handful of clients but — so that’s 2010. So, 2012 I launched Practice of the Practice and with the idea that you know, if I can create a website that just offers really good content and a handful of things that I can monetize, whether that’s a consulting or affiliate links or maybe eventually sponsors, boy, like that could be some extra revenue that I don’t feel the same pressure, never thinking that that would like the jump out of a full-time job.

How I tracked my counseling income and why that matters

Well, in 2014, I — well let me take you back. So, I’ve been tracking my income since I launched Practice of the Practice and that first year, I want to say I brought in like six grand total outside of my full-time job. Then in 2013, I want to say it was like 20 grand and then — and you’d have to go back to the articles where I break down the numbers. I’m just kind of going from memory.

Then last year, it was just over $100,000 outside of my full-time job. And so just huge growth and that’s before expenses. So, after my expenses, it was probably 70 grand, I want to say. But still, like holy cow! Like that’s more than most counselors make just in any full-time job.

My last day in my full-time counseling job

So, today, I want talk about how on Thursday, tomorrow or last Thursday when you’re listening to this, that was my last day at my full-time job. And I want to talk about how I did that. I want to talk about how you can strategically plan because inside of me, I’m pretty darn risk-averse. And I have a hard time when I’m the only income earner and you know, I have lots of health issues. My family’s had lots of health issues. You never know what’s going to happen like leaving this full-time job.

It’s been, at least, probably a year of solid thinking about wow I could actually leave my full-time job. This is crazy. But I watched the numbers. I did a number of things.

I want to take you through kind of step-by-step. I’ve been kind of framing this and thinking about it and I actually have a blog post that went live last Thursday called Why I Left My Full-time Job, and I’m going to have a resource for you that’s going to be worksheet that you can kind of walk through that’s going to be in the show notes. And that’s practiceofthepractice.com/session71 and you could start putting your own numbers in there for your full-time job to look at like what you would need to make outside of that full-time job to make up that difference and how many sessions you would need to do. Like for me, well I won’t tell kind of how I figured all that out yet. Let me take you step-by-step through.

Kind of my first step really was we looked at our home and life expenses. Really, since 2004, my wife and I have really taken a pretty diligent approach to just reducing our expenses. That first year of marriage, I was making that 30 grand but we paid off $10,000 in student loan debt in that first year and granted we didn’t have kids at that time but we paid cash for my wife’s college, we paid down $10,000 in student loan debt and lived off of about 10 or 15 grand. We lived in this cheap apartment, we had $100 amount in food expenses, we lived super — you know, that looking back on it seems like super low income but I never felt like we were lacking.

Why getting rid of debt was key to leaving my full-time counseling job

We were smart about it and we tried to have fun doing things that are free or were cheap like having friends over for game night and having fun, do parties, and things like that.

Our first kind of thing before we start paying off debt was to save a $1,000. If you follow Dave Ramsey or I mean, of his work around financial planning, that’s kind of the approach that we took. So, we saved $1,000 first so that if we ran into any troubles like we wouldn’t have to take on extra credit card debt. Then we just started paying off our debt and doing kind of what Dave Ramsey calls the debt snowball and so we paid off our smallest debt first and then just kept working up from there and so every month we paid the minimum on everything and then attacked that smallest debt and we had student loan debt, Cristina had a car payment, I think there was a little bit of credit card debt. So, we put everything on — paid everything up-to-date and then put any extra money on to that smallest one.

Say the smallest one was a hundred bucks a month minimum that we were supposed to pay, once that’s paid off, we’d apply it to the next one and the next one and the next one. We did that and it just you know, by making those decisions early on to pay down our own personal debt, I think it freed up later that we just didn’t have those expenses.

After we did that you know, I started my counseling business a few years later. And this is something that you can totally do on the side when you have a full-time practice whether that you do it on your lunch hour, whether you do it a little bit on a Saturday, you do it one evening a week, most counselors aren’t working 120 hours a week and their offices are empty the majority of the time.

How to leave a full-time counseling job work with exact numbers

So, if you talked to five or so counselors in your town that have private practice and just ask, “Hey, can I pay you 20% of what I bring in towards rent if I can use your office like one day a week? If I see three people at this rate, you know that would be about this much a month. I’d love to do it as kind of a percent of what I bring in.”

And it’s amazing how people that aren’t bringing in that extra money, they’ll say, “Sure. I don’t want to have people in my practice. I’ll just rent this out. That’s totally fine.” So, then starting your private practice, getting it going, looking at your rates. For me, getting off of insurance panels and not being on insure panels and building kind of my image around angry kids, frustrated parents and distant couples, that was kind of my clear niche that I was helping families but I wanted to make it even more clear than that.

There were a few things I did early on that at that time I didn’t realize how smart it was but I think that in retrospect I was doing a lot of things that now I’m teaching. And when I first moved back to Traverse City, I had an opportunity to be on the radio with this lady Mary Rogers who actually, she and I are now working together in a consulting relationship where she’s going to be launching some really interesting things towards people in their 50’s, and she was at this radio show called Mary in the Morning. She had me on to talk about a sailing program where I took at-risk kids out sailing. We did therapy on the sailboat.

So, she had me on once to just talk about this program. I said, “You know, if you ever want a therapist to come in and weigh in like you know, every week or every other week, I’d love to do that.” She said, “Sure, sure. Yeah, just send me some ideas.” So, I sent her like five ideas, and they were kind of catchy things like, Seven Things About Teenage Girls that You Wouldn’t Expect or like, Three Ways to Improve a Marriage in Twenty Minutes or Less a Day.

She was interested and she emailed me back. I still remember the email. She said, “Wow! I want to have you on for all of these. Why don’t we schedule you every other week? We’ll work through these like five ideas, and then we’ll kind of revisit it at that point.” So, I would come with show notes where I say, “Here are kind of my main points” so I could help her sound smarter, give her those notes, and I give her assistant those notes so they could say, “Hey, isn’t there a Harvard research study that says this or didn’t this parenting book say this?” Then they could sound smarter. I made their job easier to interview me and to talk about these issues.

So, I started getting some clients from that, and I think that counselors just often don’t reach out to the media.

So, next, I think really that next step is starting to examine your financial viability in regards to leaving your job. And this where really kind of that numbers worksheet is going to help you if you go to practiceofthepractice.com/session71 and evaluating what your final take-home pay is from your full-time job.

For example, a full-time job maybe that is like $50,000 a year, after taxes and they pay for your medical expenses and all of that. Maybe you take home like $1,300 every other week. So, let’s use that as a 40-hour a week example. So, you’re taking home a check for $1,300 every other week in your full-time job. That means, you’d need to have about $33,800 per year that you’re taking home to match that salary. Okay, so for most people, depending on their tax bracket and State, you’ll want to divide that number by 0.6 to get the amount of money that you actually need pre-tax, and so if we divide that by 0.6 by 60%, that would mean that you’d need to actually bring in about $56,333.33.

Of course, talk to an accountant or you can get a more exact number if you’re working with an accountant but I’m just kind of starting with — that’s just a rough estimate of how we need to kind of figure this out. So, that’s 56,000 bucks you got to bring in to take home that $33,800.

So, then we got to look at how much would those benefits cost. Some things to remember is how much would comparable health insurance cost, how much would comparable life and disability cost, how many sick days do you get, how many vacation days do you get, what retirement’s covered, what technology do they provide? Do they give you a cell phone? What are other benefits of that job? So that we can compare apples to apples. Because once we do that, then we can say, “Okay, I’m willing to take you know, not as great health insurance or I don’t need to have that much life insurance or you know what? I can get a cheaper cell phone.” But first, to just say how much to have the exact same job do I need to bring in?

In my situation, it is based on working the 48 weeks a year. So, for vacation time, sick time, you know it’s about a month off that I would get in my full-time job. I would say looking at the health insurance, that’s about $20,000 a year to have family health insurance that’s going to be exactly the same as what my full-time employer gives. It’s going to be about $2,000 extra per year for life and disability insurance and retirement. I’m not counting in my equation because it’s a pension-based system, and as I look at that every single year, the amount that goes into that from my salary was not equal in the amount that I would get out and so I think over the long term putting money into a roth IRA would actually be better and so I’m not counting on really getting any of that other than what they give me as cash out. I’m not vested or any of that.

So, then that replacement cost for health insurance, disability — oh dental is about I think $1,500 a year. So, that’s about $23,500 so we would add that to that $56,000 and then we’d also want to look at what benefits are already being paid for? So, the health insurance and HSA contribution, I personally, out of my paycheck, because every paycheck you’re getting a certain amount was paying about 5,000 bucks there. I was putting in about $300 a year for life insurance, I was putting in $4,300 towards the pension that I didn’t get, and I was putting in about $1,000 into dental.

When I looked the total I already paid to the full-time employer was around, not around. It was $10,678. Then we looked at that full amount and subtract the replacement cost so that $23,500 minus the $10,678 so to replace all the benefits that provided for me that was going to be $12,822. Now, let’s take that amount, add it to that $56,000 so to replace my full-time job with $69,155.33 to replace that exact job. Now, like I said, you can always kind of tinker with the numbers. Say, what if we did different health insurance, what if we did different dental, what if we did whatever, but the exact replica of that job is about 70 grand.

If I divide that out by that 48 weeks because I got four weeks off from that other job, that means I need to bring in $1,440.74 per week in order to just replace that job. Now, say you’re doing about $120 per session, that would be about 12 sessions per week so going from a 40-hour week job to a 12-hour week job but that doesn’t include any of your promo time or anything else. That would be just replacing it but then we also have to look at expenses. You’re not going to get rent for free, you’re not going to get all those other things.

So, step four is going to be looking at the exact expenses on top of that and so you’d want to add in how much is rent going to be, how much is internet going to be, any of those sorts of things to keep that business running.

I think that what happened is it became very realistic for me when I went through that process to realize, “Wait a minute. I could only see 12 people a week?” So, I’m thinking, “Okay, so my rates are higher than that $120 average so if I want to average more than that then I can either raise my rates above that $120 average or see more people.” But then what happens is you’ve that extra free time to be able to work on your specific kind of growing your business. How do you grow your business, how do you add people to the business, all sorts of other things.

For me, this year my main focus in the private practice is filling up my 1099 contractors making sure that they have as many clients as they want to see. If they want to see two people a week, awesome. If they want to see 20 people a week, awesome. But I want to make sure that they’re as full as they want to be. And we’re not there yet, but this is the number of strategies I’m using.

That’s kind of like my — how quick and dirty — I actually have a post that’s going live probably sometimes in the next week or so in PsychCentral’s pro section that walks you through this process also. So, I’ll link to that in the show notes once it goes live. I’m thinking that’s probably going to in like late March or so but I think that this discussion of how do you leave your full-time job is really important. It’s really worth thinking about if you want to, but also make sure you do it in a way that’s smart, that’s comparing the apples to apples.

Your next steps

Yeah, a couple of other things that I just want to remind you of, please if you are thinking about growing the consulting side of your business, I am continuing to grow the email list and we have an awesome Facebook group going. I mean, super active. I think two-thirds of the people that are on the email list joined the Facebook book, I want to say. So, if you go to becomeaconsultanttoday.com that’s a great way to get all the inside. I’ve been doing all of these video podcast interviews that haven’t gone live yet with people like Pat Flynn, Chris Ducker, John Lee Dumas. This afternoon, I’ve got two other people, just people that like Pat and Chris’ podcast just hit number 1 in iTunes of all podcasts. They’ve been ranking number 1 in business for a while, and so these are like big time consultants that we’re talking to, and so I don’t want you to miss a single aspect of that. I’m going to creating things off of those podcasts. I’m going to be creating all sorts of new, just ways to help you grow into becoming the consultant you want to be.

You may hear that beep in the back of my phone. It’s somewhere, and I left it on so sorry about that.

I hope that helps you at least start to dream about what it might look like to leave your full-time job. For me, it was just smart to stay in my full-time job for a while with all the health issues our family’s dealt with and having my wife stay at home, like now is the perfect time to leave. If I’d done it before now, I think that it would have been really stressful, and it wouldn’t have been that gift or that blessing that I wanted. It would have been really stressful and you know like a curse.

I think that those things are the things that are super important, and if you want any further advice, by all means, contact me through the website, Practice of the Practice. I’d love to talk with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

One last call to action before I send you off into your week. Please if you could go into iTunes and just give an honest review of what you think of this program, that’s one of the best ways that iTunes knows that people are listening, that people like this show. I would love for you to go into iTunes. If you’re not sure how to do that, I’m going to be coming out with a tutorial on how to leave an iTunes review.

I love having this connection with you guys. I love that you’re letting me into your ears and into your brain. It’s such an honor to be on this journey with you, and every week I get so many awesome emails from people just thanking me and it’s an honor. It’s a complete honor to be this virtual consultant to you, and I just really thank you so much and boy, as I enter this new chapter of not doing full-time work, I will definitely keep you posted on how it’s going and what’s going well and what I’m learning.

Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a fabulous awesome amazing impactful week, and I will talk to you next week. Again, thanks again for listening and SimplePractice, thanks for sponsoring. Have a great day. Bye.

Special thanks to the bands Silence is Sexy and Builders. We thank you for letting us use your music and this podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered.  It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher nor the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one. Have a good one.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.