A Comparison of Solving Problems and Improving Leadership in Private Practice versus Government Agencies

Within the field of social work and psychological practice, there are two popular types of work environments. These are private practices and government agencies. Private practices are offices set up by psychologists, therapists, counselors, or social workers who are self-employed. Private practices are not controlled or funded by the government or any larger organization, meaning they are allowed more flexibility in their daily functions. Contrastingly, a social worker, therapist, counselor, or psychologist who works in a government agency is considered a state employee and has stricter guidelines and standardized procedures to follow. The main difference in these two types of work environments is the difference between the public sector and the private sector. While employees in a public sector, such as a government state agency, could serve a greater number of clients and perhaps, less financially stable clients, they are usually underpaid and overworked. On the other hand, employees in private sectors might have more flexible pay and working hours, however, they tend to see fewer clients and require a high cost of care. The differences between these two work environments can be clearly seen when comparing how they work to solve problems and improve leadership. 

One of the individuals I interviewed was Dr. Sean Hiscox. He is a forensic psychologist with his own private practice known as the Somerset Psychological Group located in Pennsylvania. He shares his private practice with other managing partners. Dr. Hiscox conducts forensic evaluations, provides testimony, and works as a consultant for juveniles and adults in a wide range of criminal areas. Given that his workplace environment falls under the private sector category, he is able to be more flexible in working to solve problems and improve leadership in his private practice. He praises this as one of the benefits of working in the private sector. When faced with an organizational problem, he and his team are able to talk through issues and combat them at a more proactive and collaborative level. Without bureaucratic or administrative barriers, he and his team are able to be more productive when tackling any issues in leadership. 

Alexis Dixon, on the other hand, works in the public sector in the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) as a Education Program Development Specialist. The JJC is a state-run government agency for juveniles who are in the system. Given the nature of her work environment, she must follow strict rules and regulations set forth by the state law. For example, if a child with behavioral issues is acting violently and is a threat to his/herself and others, they might have to be restrained and an injury may occur in this process. If this occurs, there is a very lengthy, but necessary, procedure of reviewing the incident and reporting the findings to the state agency. Documentation and review processes are important in working to solve problems in the public sector which could stifle more creative means in solving problems. While both private practice and government run agencies have their benefits in terms of solving issues and improving leadership, neither private nor public sectors are “right” in the way they handle these issues. How best to solve problems and improve leadership within an organization is highly dependent on the culture of the organization and the people involved. 

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