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What is "Success" When You're an Art Therapist in Private Practice?

I started my art therapy private practice in 2020. My practice grew quickly, and within months I had a full caseload, a waitlist of clients, and enough income to meet my financial needs. My grandma told me she was shocked by how well I was doing. Another family member said they were delighted by my “success.”


But what defines success?


Especially when you’re an art therapist in private practice?


Is it a full caseload of clients?


Having a waitlist?


Having clients stay with you for a while?


Having clients conclude quickly because they feel better?


Not needing to market because your practice is so full?


Your profit margin?


By all the above measures I was “successful.”


But I was also stressed.


And exhausted.


I was seeing 25-28 clients a week, with a total caseload of 40.


No amount of self care was helping (you can read more about my thoughts on self care here).


If the “success” I experienced was tied to the mental and emotional exhaustion I was experiencing, I didn’t want it.


So I made changes. I decreased my client caseload. I joined supportive programs (shout out to Tiffany McClain). I raised my fees. I changed my schedule to my ideal hours. I only accepted clients who were a good fit for me. I stopped trying to help anyone and everyone. I put in policies and practices that honored my needs.


Over time, my load gradually lightened.


As it did, I noticed shifts. I stopped thinking about clients outside of work. I felt more centered and prepared for each client. I had more energy for my friends, families, and hobbies.


I had the time to add beneficial things to my life. I moved a piano into my art therapy studio so I could play between clients. I adopted my dog, Egon, and he began coming to work with me and going to the park afterward.


I would have been too exhausted for any of that before.


I’m not saying all of the changes were easy. And I’m not saying I’ve reached the “perfect” place, but it certainly feels much better.


I’ve created my own version of what success as an art therapist in private practice looks like.


For me, it’s that I look forward to going to work. I enjoy my clients. I show up rested, ready, and in my power. I spend time reviewing our session and recentering myself afterward. I research and self-educate on topics relevant to my clients. I consult and commune with other therapists. I do my job well, and have the time, energy, and money to enjoy myself outside of work.


For me, that’s success.



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