As a private practitioner, one of the most important things you will need to do when you launch your practice is to outline the boundaries you will have with your clients and the boundaries that will be in place to protect your personal time as soon as possible. Oftentimes, therapists venture into private practice without these boundaries clearly identified and communicated which can result in burnout, client resentment and even loss of profit.
The boundaries you establish in your practice will reflect your values as an entrepreneur so they may differ from the boundaries of your colleagues or peers. The benefit of running your own practice is making your business work to support your life and goals.
It’s important to establish boundaries from the time you launch your practice (or as soon as possible if you are already open for business) because it ensures that your and your clients are on the same page when it comes to your business policies, how and when they can communicate with you and more.
Here are 3 ways to enforce boundaries with your clients in your private practice:
Remember, running your private practice entails more than holding client sessions. This means that as an entrepreneur, you need to think about the best interest of your business and establish policies to protect your time and money.
By having documented policies, you can be sure that each client you onboard receives all of the pertinent information they require to enter into a working relationship with you.
There are some typical policies that you should have and consistently enforce in your practice.
A cancellation policy clearly identifies what fees you will charge to your client in the event of a cancellation or a no-show — and how you will charge the fees (i.e. keeping their credit card securely on file).
Your payment policy will outline how and when clients can make payments. This is where you will document if payment is required prior to a session and if payments can be made via cash, e-transfer, credit card, etc.
You may also want to include a policy that outlines session ‘best practices’. This will outline what you expect from your clients during your time together (i.e. no cell phones) and what your client can expect from you.
Above all else, establishing these policies early on and communicating them to clients as soon as you begin working together is the best way to ensure that you can enforce your boundaries in instances where your policies are not being adhered to. Having documented policies can make tough conversations with clients go more smoothly as you will have an official document to reference if required to reinforce your boundaries should issues arise.
Communication and Time
As previously mentioned, one of the easiest ways to enforce boundaries with your clients in your private practice is to ensure that you communicate those boundaries clearly. It is important to avoid ‘grey’ areas on matters such as when clients can contact you, and how or outlining your official office hours.
When you begin working with a client, ensure that you outline how and when they are permitted to contact you. You may find it helpful to utilize a separate phone line, a designated work email and reinforce your office hours by including them in your email signature. You may also opt to include details regarding your typical response time to give clients peace of mind knowing when they can expect a response from you.
While therapy at its core is about providing support to your clients, you are not expected to be available to them 24/7. There may be some exceptions, but generally, this should be communicated to your clients as soon as you begin to work with them. One way to ensure that your clients respect your communication boundaries is to redirect them when they contact you outside of their session (if not an emergency) by simply stating (or responding to their email with) “I hear what you’re saying. We’ll take a look at that and discuss it further during your actual session later this week”.
As a business owner, it can be difficult to log off for the day when your to-do list feels endless but it is important to establish regular office hours and to designate time for client sessions, administrative tasks and strategy and growth planning. By ensuring that your client sessions are booked only during the time you have designated, you are able to keep your commitment to yourself and your business.
It is also important to honour your office hours to ensure that your personal life is not eclipsed by your work. While it may be tempting to waiver and book additional clients during your administrative or personal time, this may quickly lead to feeling burnt out and may even result in feeling resentful towards your work and clients who continually push your boundaries.
Channel Your Entrepreneurial Mindset
In order to run a successful business, policies need to be adhered to and boundaries need to be respected. If a client is consistently showing up late or cancelling at the last minute, that may negatively impact your relationship with them, as well as your revenue. Clients who continually miss payments leave you working additional hours to track them down and collect on outstanding balances.
Ultimately as a business owner, your goal is to provide an excellent client experience and earn a profit. Clients who make this more difficult by ignoring your policies and stretching your boundaries may not be the ideal client for you. It is important to ensure you are working with clients who respect your boundaries.
For further support on establishing and maintaining boundaries in your private practice, or for in-depth business coaching, CLICK HERE to learn more about how you can work with me.