It’s hard to believe it’s June already and summer is upon us (at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). As we move into summer I wanted to share some of my thoughts about summer in private practice with you.
How does your business or workload change during the summer?
Do things tend to slow down or is it just as busy as Spring and Fall?
I know many therapists in private practice get anxious about the so-called summer slump. It’s true that clients take vacations (sometimes long ones) over the summer months and children are out of school and not following their regular routines. However, in my experience private practice isn’t necessarily slower during the summer — it’s just different. I think that with the right combination of creativity, flexibility, and planning, you’ll find that summer can be a productive and profitable time of year in your private practice as well.
6 tips for a successful summer in private practice
Summer is a natural transition time
Just like December and January, summer is a natural time for people to make a shift in their schedules and goals. Sometimes this means that clients are ready to complete their therapy or just want to take a break. But I also find there are others who are looking to start therapy during the summer — when their workloads are lighter and their schedules are more flexible. So, expect that there will be some attrition, but new clients will continue to call.
Offer different kinds of services
Summer is also a good time to think beyond the 50-minute hour. As I mentioned, some people may not be able to come to therapy every week over the summer due to vacations and holidays, but they might be interested in some extended sessions or workshops. Below are just a few general ideas. You can be creative and consider the population you serve to come up with your own ideas for different types of therapeutic services you might offer during the summer.
- A time-limited group (maybe 6 weeks or rework an eight-week curriculum into an intensive group that meets twice a week for only four weeks)
- Marriage intensives or couples weekends
- One-time workshops (could be anything from an educational workshop about addiction to a healing through yoga class to a half-day confidence-building workshop for women)
Help kids prepare for school
Some kids don’t need as much support when school isn’t in session. So, instead of focusing on helping kids cope with school-related stressors or challenging behaviors, you might focus on helping them prepare for the next school year. This can be especially helpful for teens who are transitioning to middle school or high school and students who will be heading off to college.
Another idea is to market your counseling services to college students who are home for the summer. I’ve already had several calls from students who had a difficult freshman year of college and are looking to process and prepare themselves emotionally to move forward.
Increase your self-care
We all know how important self-care is for therapists! We work hard and need to take care of ourselves. So, if your schedule’s a little lighter during the summer, be proactive and use some of that time for more self-care – maybe plan your own vacation or day at the beach. And, if your schedule is full or extra stressful, you need more self-care, too. Personally, having my kids home from school all summer is stressful, so I know I need to account for that in my self-care plan. You can find more of my ideas for summer self-care here.
Consider rearranging your schedule
For me, one of the joys of private practice is the ability to set my own schedule. Another way to deal with a summer slow-down or a shift in your caseload is to implement a “summer schedule”. This could be leaving early on Fridays or cutting back on afternoon or evening appointments (this can work well if you see children or teachers who are out of school for the summer). If you’ve got some gaps in your schedule, see if you can consolidate your sessions giving yourself larger chunks of free time. I know, sometimes it’s challenging or anxiety provoking to ask clients to move their appointment times to accommodate your schedule. Generally, it’s OK to ask this on occasion and trust your clinical judgment as to which clients it’s appropriate to ask.
Use non-client time to develop additional streams of income
It’s always a good idea to have income from other sources – not just income from seeing clients. We can only see so many clients per week and it’s reassuring to have income coming in even when we’re sick, on vacation, or when business is slow. Deciding on and implementing another stream of income can take considerable time and energy to get started. So, it’s a great use of your time when you’re clinical schedule isn’t so busy. My additional streams of income center around writing: I blog for PsychCentral and write other articles on occasion for compensation. I’ve also written some e-books that I sell on my website and I’ve got a new book being published at the end of the year. I also teach an online blogging class for therapists. These all work great for me as I can do them anytime, anywhere, as long as I have my laptop. But, writing isn’t for everyone, so tap into your skills and passions and see what you can come up with. Here are a few ideas that I’ve gleaned from colleagues:
- Teach at a local college or online university
- Write an ebook or traditional book
- Develop an online class
- Sublet your office when you’re not using it
- Have a side hustle like selling essential oils or something totally unrelated to psychotherapy
- Create and teach continuing education seminars
- Provide clinical supervision
- Lead wellness seminars for businesses
- Host retreats
- Develop an app, game, or other therapy-related product
I’d love to hear what summer in private practice is like for you. If you‘ve got some tips or suggestions to share, leave them in the comments. I hope you have a great summer with just the right mix of rest, fun, and productivity.
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