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How to Collect Hours While Rising the Career Ladder


The path towards licensure looks different for every MFT registered intern. Some interns focus on the type of setting they want to work in, while others look for the most clinically challenging placement, seek out jobs with great benefits and pay, or focus on a combination of those areas. There are many roads an intern can take to accomplish their career goals. One thing that most interns do have in common, however, is the focus on getting to the 3000 hours in the most efficient and practical way possible. Because of this focus, there are times when interns do not look for or apply for positions outside of the completely clinical 1:1 client service setting, out of fear that they won’t be able to collect hours in supervisory or operational level positions. I’ve used various strategies, both when I started my career and in my current role, to gain hours, experience, and make good money. These strategies helped me accomplish my goals, and they could help you accomplish your goals, too!


When my previous practicum site (and employer at the time) was mainly providing me with children and family hours, I knew I had to diversity my experience to gain more 1:1 individual hours. So I found another placement at a non-profit that allowed me to get more 1:1 sessions and supervision. When you are looking for the “one place fits all” site, you may have a harder time than finding one core site and then adding an additional site for evenings and/or weekends to get the hours you need.

By diversifying where you can get hours, you increase the ability to take on higher level positions that are not strictly clinical because you will have other avenues for collecting hours.

Focus On 1:1 Supervision

It’s harder to get the 1:1 supervision that’s required by the BBS, so try and find any place that can offer it. Seems like an obvious point; however, many agencies only offer group supervision. So if and when you consider a site, find one that offers 1:1 supervision. When I was hired by the county, my program manager was able to provide the 1:1 supervision. Even though the majority of my work for the county is performed at a supervisory level, hours such as CCA, trainings, etc. are counted and individual supervision is offered, giving me the needed 1:1 supervision requirement for the BBS. My other site provided the supplemental clinical hours and group supervision needs.

Bust Your A$$

Sorry for the word I chose – but it’s true. Internships are the time to get after it. Working one job and slowly collecting hours is one way to go. But if you are like me and want to make money while collecting hours, then you may need to work even harder than you think. I worked two jobs and often did not get home until 8-9 PM, but I was also collecting hours and working in a career that I wanted. You’ve got to commit to putting in work if you want to make a decent living, let alone collect hours.

Be Flexible

When I worked for a crisis agency, I was in a direct clinical role. I thought I’d stay there for my practicum and internship. Then I was promoted. Then I thought I’d be there for my internship and until licensure. Then I applied for the county and was hired. Then I thought I would work both at the county and a non-profit to continue collecting hours. Then I became a dad. All in all, I had to remain flexible. Plotting the “perfect” plan didn’t work for me because life happened. Be flexible and willing to let your skills and interests guide you. Don’t avoid looking for a promotion out of fear of possibly not being able to collect hours. Adjust like we would in session and see where your journey takes you.

Lastly, here are two things to ask while you explore placement options.

Ask Employers: “Is it possible to receive supervision at this site?” Professionals in this field are usually flexible! You’d be surprised what asking for help can do. I’ve asked all my employers to help me navigate this process because it ultimately helped them, too.

Ask Yourself: “What is my goal? Do I want to be a supervisor some day? Is career ladder climbing important or not? Do I want to go into private practice? What do I want to do with my license or degree?” Setting a goal helps lead you in that direction. It does not have to mean that’s the only direction you can go in. Asking what your dreams in the field are is not a bad place to start. Knowing what your interest and end goal is helps you work towards it, even if your end goal changes over time.

I hope you have gained some insight into how you can make collecting hours and rising in your career work for you. Good luck, and have fun!

Do you dare to dream of something better for yourself, now that you’ve read this article? Share your realizations and/or reservations below!

About the Author

Steven Swink is a Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern and currently supervises adult mental health and substance use programs for Placer County Health and Human Services. Previously, Steven has held positions as a Program Director for a crisis intervention agency and has worked for a local non-profit counseling agency providing counseling services to individuals, families and children. Steven has seen both sides of the hiring table and knows what works to land a great job as a mental health professional. Steven most recently launched MFT Intern Jobs, a website aimed at helping other interns land great jobs as interns.


  1. Steven, thank you for your pointers! After receiving an offer for a full-time position back in May- I found it difficult to return to this site as I was no longer in search of a paid mft internship. Your post along with others on this blog (thanks Robin) make it worthwhile.

    I received a similar suggestion from my own therapist. She suggested that I go into this job working for a Department of Mental Health contracted agency with a plan for what I want for my career. By doing so, I could have a clear(er) idea of what I want for myself. But, like you said, life happens and it’ll be important to be flexible.

  2. […] don’t have a choice due to your current work-related circumstances, then be sure to check out our article written by guest blogger Steven Swink! He provides ideas on how to accrue hours toward licensure when faced with dilemmas like this […]

  3. Susie Molina says:

    Steven, Thank you for the great suggestions! The questions rolling around in my head are geared towards this very topic. I cannot afford to quit my job while in school and I wonder how I can fulfill the practicum hours. Are there agencies that will allow someone like me to work during later afternoon / evening hours and / or weekends? How did you manage this while in school? It seems as though when you reach an internship level, that one can find a paid position. This is my hope when I reach the intern level.

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