When I was initially burnt out as an art therapist in private practice, I knew I needed a different way.
For me, that included decreasing my caseload, raising my fees, and putting in more policies and structures that supported my well-being (you can read about the full journey here).
For example, I implemented a commitment policy. Clients commit to coming to weekly therapy, and they may not cancel an appointment. With 48 hrs notice, they can reschedule the appointment, but that appointment is happening. This policy ensures my clients get the frequency they need for internal growth, as well as ensures I have a consistent, reliable income. Another benefit of this policy attracts clients who are committed to the process of therapy (I also wrote an essay about why I require weekly therapy).
When I first started implementing policies like this, I felt like an outlier in the therapy world. I knew what I was doing was outside of the norm, and it felt very uncomfortable. I felt like I was on the defensive, and I sometimes didn’t want other therapists to know what I was doing. I feared their judgment. I feared not being liked or respected.
I was very nervous to tell other therapists my fee, which was well above the average fee in Tucson (I charge $300/80 min, btw).
My lifeline became an online program of like-minded therapists, led by Tiffany McClain. Within this group, I could be my full self and brainstorm even more ways to live my fullest life as a therapist.
As I began implementing all of the changes to my business, I met with a new local art therapist.
I enthusiastically shared what I was doing. I overshared. It’s a behavior I fall into when I am feeling defensive - when I want to make sure someone fully understands me, doesn’t judge me, and sees who I fully am (and of course assesses that to be good).
That’s a lot to ask of a person. It’s also impossible for me to control. Even the best explanation does not ensure another will understand or have agreeable feelings.
Luckily, she was very kind.
I continued implementing my changes (it was a process of months), which meant increasing fees with existing clients, introducing new policies, downsizing my caseload, and refining my speciality.
There were a lot of growing pains. A lot of questioning myself. A lot of fear.
With time, it did work out. It is working out.
In fact, I grew in confidence and self-trust so much that I shifted from providing sessions at $200/50 min to $300/80 min. I now only accepts clients for 80 min sessions because I know that 80 min is more effective for my clients and the kind of therapy I provide.
I’ve had lots of practice enforcing my commitment policy, and each time makes me more and more grateful it is in place.
I feel more and more grateful that I only accept clients who match my speciality.
The extra time in my schedule has enabled my therapeutic work to become more powerful, as I have extra energy, preparation time, and self-education.
It is finally beginning to feel more natural.
I didn’t realize this until yesterday, when I met up with my local art therapist friend again. Sitting across from her, I didn’t feel the same drive to over-explain and overshare.
I no longer feel like I’m doing something abnormal. Or that I’m out there doing something crazy.
Instead, the feeling has switched. I feel that what I’m doing is normal, and that some of the common business practices of the therapy field are abnormal and deleterious for art therapists.
It’s why I write essays like this one.
I want art therapists to know there are other options (you can hear more about my dreams for art therapists in my essay What I Want for Art Therapists).
If you'd like to make changes to your private practice and feel extra support would help, I provide consultation to therapists creating their ideal private practices.