Finding Your Ideal Work Schedule as a Therapist
I’ve been playing with my work schedule ever since I had the freedom to do so.
It started during my counseling internship. My supervisor said I could work whenever I wanted. It was a beautiful opportunity to explore what I liked and what I didn’t.
I tried working weekends (to make it more convenient for clients), but I didn’t like being busy when my friends and family were free and wanting to spend time together.
I tried working evenings (again, to be more convenient for clients), but I felt a little scared being alone at night at my internship site.
I tried working eight hour days so that I could work less days total. My body ached from sitting too long, and it was mentually and emotionally grueling. By the end of the work day, I had no energy to do anything else.
When the pandemic hit, I tried working hours spread throughout the day, with lots of breaks between.
By the time I was back seeing clients in-person, my internship was over and I had started my own private practice (which I wrote about here).
Having clients spread throughout the day was not convenient when I was at my art therapy studio. It was difficult to make the time between clients productive and it stretched my work day out longer than I wanted. I decided I no longer wanted large gaps in my schedule and started grouping clients together.
When winter approached and the days were shorter, my later evenings started ending when it was dark outside. I disliked ending my work day in the dark, and so I began shifting my schedule again.
All of this experimentation was rooted in an immense amount of privilege, freedom, and flexibility. My internship and my private practice gave me the time to get to know myself. It also helped me realize that I could fill my therapy schedule with clients, no matter the schedule I chose. I did not need to tailor my schedule to what I thought would work best for clients.
I could construct my schedule for what worked best for me. At this time, I also restructured my business so that I was seeing less clients in general. This new flexibility gave me an opportunity to tailor my work schedule to me.
I now choose to keep most mornings to myself. That is when my creative brain is most alive. I’m awake and ready to write. I then I go into work in the afternoons for 2-3 clients. I work Monday-Thursdays and give myself extended weekends.
So what do all of these shifts have in common?
One, they were tailored around ME and my needs and desires. If you are opening a private practice, you can set a schedule based on what is best for YOU (instead of thinking you have to live by what might be best for clients).
Second, it took time to figure out my ideal schedule. I needed to live it and experience it to know what I did and did not like. If you are unsure what is best, take your best guess. Try it out and see how it goes.
Third, my schedule continues to evolve. It’s okay to let your schedule shift with time. You don’t have to stick to one schedule simply because it’s what you originally told clients. You are human and you are allowed to change your mind, as long as you provide ample time for your clients to adjust.
Sometimes, when we start our private practices, we want to have it all figured out right away. We want to do it “right” (it’s part of our fault-proof therapist mindset). But that way of thinking can trap us.
Instead, we can choose what seems to be the best fit, and let our ideal schedule evolve with time.
I provide consultation for private practice therapists who want to honor their needs.