This is a story about control
Control of what I say
Control of what I do
And this time I’m gonna do it my way –Janet Jackson
If you have been working for an agency, hospital, or school, you can certainly appreciate Janet Jackson’s need for control. How you spend your time professionally is liberating. It’s one reason many therapists choose to start a private practice. Setting your own schedule is one of the biggest perks of working for yourself. Setting and sticking to a schedule can help clients know what to expect and also help you maintain balance in your life.
Gauge your client base to figure out when your ideal clients are available. If you work with kids, you will need after school availability. Therapists who see executives know lunch time slots will go first. You want to fill your practice? Offer weekend appointments. They will be a draw for clients who work full time and cannot easily take time off. Create a schedule where you have openings at peak appointment request times.
Account for the therapeutic need of each client. Not every client needs a weekly appointment. Ideally, your clients will become more self-reliant and confident. As they change and grow, adjust the frequency of appointments to fit their ongoing needs. I’ve had plenty of clients who moved from weekly appointments to a monthly check-in to stay on track.
It may take some time to figure out what schedule is going to work best for your life while keeping clients in mind. Give yourself permission to create your schedule in a way that works for you. You are not just a therapist—you are a mother, a friend, a son, and a teammate. It’s OK to keep those exercise classes, tennis matches, and coffee dates on your schedule—that’s important self-care time.
Let go of the guilt you feel when you can’t accommodate a client’s schedule (this is easier said than done). There might be a week or two that your schedules don’t jive. If you have created a trusting relationship, clients will not find a new therapist because of scheduling. People find time for things that are important and valuable.
My first summer in practice, I stressed all of July about not having clients and thinking my new business was tanking. I learned this was the natural cycle of working with kids. During slow seasons, change up your schedule. Because I work primarily with children and teens, summers (especially July) are much slower. I cut back from four days a week to three. Now, I schedule at least a full week off during July for vacation. During holiday weeks, I offer appointments on one or two days (usually Monday and Tuesday) and take the rest of the week off.
Take Janet’s words to heart and capitalize on the benefit of being your own boss by taking control of your schedule. Stick to the limits of your availability, and set boundaries so clients know what they can expect of you.