Defining a Full Practice

By Allison Puryear, LCSW, CEDS on April 21, 2021

"How do I know my practice is full?" This is one of my favorite practice building questions, because the answer is so simple: it's however big you want and need it to be for it to be sustainable. Research says that 25 or 26 sessions per week is the cut-off for burnout, so I always recommend less. However, I also know some people who see 30+ clients a week and are loving life. Additionally, I know others who couldn't see more than 15 clients without feeling drained.

Questions like this are why I love private practice so much you're in the driver's seat, and you've got the map. I don't mean this in a dread-inducing, "it's all on you, kiddo. Don't screw it up!" kind of way, but rather a freeing way; nobody is standing between what you want and can have.

So what does full look like for you? There's so much out there about work-life balance, but not a lot of advice or acknowledgment that creating a work-life balance takes setting boundaries and sitting with discomfort for a little while. I promise that it's worth it in the end.

When I had a baby, a chill dog, and was renting a house with my little family, 24 clients a week was my sweet spot. Now that I have another business, another kid, a puppy, and home renovations going on, 24 clients a week would send me into panic attacks.

If you've been working 40 hours a week at an agency (let's face it, probably more), any number under 40 clients will likely feel like a vacation. So I'd recommend wading into your caseload and find what feels right. You won't get a full caseload immediately anyway. Take some time and as your schedule starts to fill, see what feels right and adjust from there. You'll know when it feels right when:

  • You're not worn out or feeling crispy.
  • It doesn't feel like you're taking a hit on your personal time every time you fill a slot.
  • You're not scheduling people on nights or weekends out of fear (unless you want to work nights and weekends).
  • You're not feeling rushed or behind on your notes or any of the non-clinical admin tasks in your schedule.

You can get clear on the hours you want to work and still be great at your job. If that's fewer hours than expected, you can raise your rates to accommodate what you need to make. That's allowed.

Getting full is part of building the right practice not a practice that kind of works for you, stresses you out, makes you worry, or a practice that feels like agency all over again. If you want help building your practice in a way that feels authentic to you, check out the Abundance Party!

* The content of this post is intended to serve as general advice and information. It is not to be taken as legal advice and may not account for all rules and regulations in every jurisdiction. For legal advice, please contact an attorney.

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