Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Los Angeles Chapter — CAMFT
LMFT, NMP, CGP
What’s Your Ideal Schedule?
Have you seen the posts on Facebook asking, “How Many Clients Do You See Each Week?” This question feels like a competition and implies that we all have the same capacity for our work. Someone who has been a therapist for over 20 years may be fine with seeing thirty clients in a week, while a newer therapist may feel good seeing ten or fifteen. There are other contributing factors like health, age, and personal responsibilities; a parent of a toddler might make different choices than someone who has no children. An older therapist with an established practice might choose to work a few days a week and travel during her off time. (This is my ultimate goal!).
One of my favorite phrases is “Compare and Despair;” and comparison is the essence of social media. When I compare myself to others, I notice that I’m not working as many hours as many of my colleagues, this is a sign of good self-care for me! When I was a child, my mother ran our household like a technology startup, each of us had chores and we were highly invested in being productive; high productivity was a way to earn approval.
This pervasive culture of “busyness” has been passed down through generations in my family. Self-esteem got coupled with accomplishment. My early years prepared me for a successful career managing large technology projects, but it didn’t teach me much about rest and recreation and eventually I hit a bottom with overworking.
I enjoy my work as a therapist; when I notice my desire to do more, I can no longer blame a boss or my mother. It’s important to me to be intentional about my time and capacity. I want to be present for my clients and have energy for myself at the end of the day. I see clients four days a week and use Fridays as an administrative/networking day. Ideally, I prefer not to schedule more than five individual clients in a day. Four individual clients and one group is an ideal day for me. I feel the most energetic in the mornings and early afternoons, so I try to schedule most of my clients during that time. I work late one night a week and I start my day later that morning.
One useful tool I have discovered is using a paper “map” that displays all my client slots and I utilize this in addition to my calendar. I am a visual person and I keep my map nearby when I’m returning calls to potential clients. The map keeps me honest and prevents me from impulsively creating new timeslots which might not work best for me.
We all have different capacities on different days and I regularly check in with myself to notice how I am feeling. If a client is in crisis, I do my best to get them scheduled but I have to make sure I have enough “gas in my tank” to accommodate them. I have two “flex” slots in my schedule that I keep open for this purpose.
I’m fascinated with the relationship between time, earning, and workaholism. In my prior career in technology there were always emergencies and we worked exceptionally long hours; the culture rewarded workaholism. Therapists also experience emergencies—and sometimes we overschedule ourselves to accommodate our clients. When this happens on a regular basis it might be workaholism. The 12-Step Group, Workaholics Anonymous, LA offers some good literature on workaholism. They offer 20 questions you can ask yourself about your work habits. Their website is https://workaholics-anonymous.org/. Here are two of my favorite questions.
Is work the activity you like to do best and talk about most?
Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?
I’d love to hear about your ideal schedule. Feel free to reach out to me on social media, or via phone or email.
Maria Gray, LMFT, NMP, CGP, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Los Angeles. She is a Brainspotting Specialist who specializes in trauma and addictions. Maria is a Certified Group Therapist and currently offers three online groups in her practice. She enjoys working with adults who grew up around mentally ill or addictive family members. To learn more, go to www.mariagray.net.
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