I still remember my first summer in private practice.
I was finally getting the hang of everything and ready to start busting my sweet little ass.
Then, completely out of nowhere, the phone stopped ringing.
At first, I didn’t really notice (OK, maybe a little bit).
Then the panic set in.
Ohmygod, what’s happening?!?! Is this my life forever??!
Even as I’m typing this, I can’t help but smile and shake my head at how naive I was. Silly Laura…
If you’ve been in private practice for any meaningful amount of time, you’ve probably experienced the seasonal ebbs and flows of your caseload, as well as the manic-depressive episodes that often come along with them.
I think of private practice like the stock market: When things are flowing, we tend to think that things will continue in that direction (“Oh HELL yeah, another new referral! I’m gonna buy that fancy new office chair! Damn, I’m such a freaking badass. Buy buy buy!”)
But when we start to experience an ebb, sheer panic ensues as we start mentally preparing for what we are sure is going to be the end to our PP dreams (“What am I gonna tell everyone? I shouldn’t have bought that damn office chair. Everything must go! Sell sell sell!”)
We’re such drama queens sometimes, aren’t we?
|For this two-part blog series, I’m going to give you some ideas to help put an end to your summertime sadness. I’ll also resist the temptation to lecture you on the importance of having an organized system in place so that you don’t freak the fuck out next time your caseload starts to take a nosedive. Instead, I’ll just leave this little gem right here (spoiler alert: It’s an article I wrote where I laid out the exact financial system that I use to keep my bank account happy even when my caseload is lower than usual).|
First and foremost, it’s important that you understand that this is what you signed up for when you started your PP. No practice is 100% full 100% of the time, I don’t care how seasoned, niched-down, or in-demand you are. Every business experiences ebbs and flows, and private practice is no different. Recognize that this shit is par for the course and does not mean that your practice is doomed.
It’s also important for you to realize that the dwindling of your caseload is not only temporary, but it also has nothing to do with you. Believe it or not, your clients have lives outside of therapy, and you are not the center of their universe (I know, it’s hard to believe).
During the summer, families go on vacations they can’t afford to visit with other family members they can’t stand to take pictures of memories that didn’t actually happen they way they want the world to believe. All of these together create the very situations that land your clients right back in your office when they return. #jobsecurity
Most therapists have so much anxiety when their caseloads thin out in the summer that they make themselves too available out of fear that their practices are about to get flushed down the toilet. Then they end up with a schedule that looks like this:
Great, I have just enough time in between sessions to get on Facebook and bitch about how all of my clients are cancelling on me.
My solution to this is a pretty simple one…
Chunk your clients.
What’s that, you say?
Chunking is what you do when you start to notice that your once-full schedule is starting to dwindle during slow periods. It entails re-arranging your schedule so that you’re only seeing clients during certain chunks of time each day, preferably times when you do your best work. Chunking your clients requires a little finagling, but it’s absolutely doable and well worth the effort it takes. All you have to do is adjust your clients’ appointment days/times slightly.
I find that when I do this, my clients don’t mind a bit. They either have more flexibility than usual in their schedules because of summer, or they don’t and I then try to rearrange my other clients around them (or just move them to another day when they’re more available).
At first, I was worried that my clients would think I’m being flaky, but since I don’t do this often, they usually don’t give a shit. As long as they still get seen, they’re fine.
Check out a schedule that has successfully been chunked:
Ahhh, it’s so beautiful. And LOOK! A day off!!! #summertime
By chunking your clients together, you’ll be able to be productive as fuck AND still have time to take full advantage of the flexibility you always said you’d have when you started your PP (but never actually allowed yourself to use).
With all the extra time, you can:
- go to the pool/beach/lake
- grab a beer (before 5pm? *gasp!*)
- get a mani/pedi
- Read a non-therapy/business book
- Take a nap
- Go for a walk
- Meet a friend for lunch
- Go to the movies
- Take a yoga class
- Go to a coffee shop and get yourself something fancy
- Take a pretty drive
- Binge-watch a new show on Netflix – guilt-free!
- Take a stab at a new hobby
- Take a freaking day OFF for once!
You can, ya know, do that whole “self care” thing you’re always preaching about to your clients.
In the next part of this series, I’m gonna give you the quick-n-dirty rundown of all the other shit you can be doing during those client-less hours this summer. Until then, try chunking your clients for the next few weeks and watch the magic happen.
Comment below and tell me 1 thing you’d like to do this summer if/when you experience an ebb in your caseload.