I feel that this is a personal decision and the answer will be different for everyone. However, there are some things to consider when deciding what number of private practice clients is best for you.
Over the last three years as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor I have learned that LESS is MORE.
Scheduling Private Practice Clients: Quality Over Quantity
If I want to be the best therapist that I can be for myself and my clients, I need to schedule less clients rather than more clients. From a business point of view, this means increasing my full fee to see less clients and finding a balance as a therapist. Yet overall, I will feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically seeing fewer private practice clients per day.
On average, I see 15-20 clients per week with at least a 10-minute break in between clients. I work a 4-day week taking off Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays. Early on in my career as a therapist, I knew that I didn’t want to work weekends as I worked over this time in my first career in broadcast journalism. I have not swayed on this decision since being licensed in December 2017.
During my intern years as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I wanted to get as many face-to-face hours as I could as quickly as possible for licensure which most interns/associates want to do. I would see on average 25-30 clients per week. I felt I pushed my limit. By pushing my limit, it meant that something else had to give.
See Less Private Practice Clients and Focus on Finding Balance as a Therapist
What gave was my emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Had less time and patience for my family and for myself. Gave the best part of myself to my clients, which was great for them, but not for me and my family. I felt unbalanced. I burned out. The advice I gave to my clients, I didn’t give to myself.
Take care of yourself first, so that you will be around to take care of other people. The analogy of putting an oxygen mask on yourself first before others, is the advice I had to institute for myself.
Control the Number of Private Practice Clients You See, and Control Your Overall Well-being
Once I started putting myself first for self-care, my overall well-being took a shift for the better. I felt that I had control over my life instead of my life controlling me. I learned how to go about finding balance as a therapist by settings boundaries and say “no” to what is “too much” for me, and “yes” to what is “just right” for me.
My Advice for Newly Licensed Therapists and Associates on finding balance as a therapist.
When accumulating hours for licensure shape your ideal workweek as early in your career as possible. Also, know that things will change and happen during your career as a therapist. Your schedule can change too if you decide. Consider your schedule a living document. Be flexible, but do not give in to things that you don’t want to give up. These are things like time off, days off, mornings off, evenings off, etc. Your mental, emotional, and physical well-being is worth giving and paying attention to them.
Note: A previous version of this article was originally published at Practice of the Practice in January 2021.